Vendor Management

I read a recent Gartner report on 3 Steps to Improve IT Vendor Management and decided to add my two cents. As an ITAM managed services provider, I know a thing or two about the topic, too.

You need IT vendors

According to Gartner, “Relationships with strategic vendors are increasingly key to business performance.”

I absolutely agree that vendors can bring valuable expertise and experience that companies are missing. In this fast-paced business world, vendors can immediately enhance performance by deploying capabilities and people and accelerating innovation. They can fill in critical gaps that you don’t have the time, resources or budget to build internally.

 

Managing vendors can be tough

The problem: “Many IT vendor management leaders struggle to compel their most important vendors to be proactive, collaborative and innovative,” according to Gartner Senior Director Analyst Joanne Spencer.  “When managed badly, large strategic vendors can become complacent, slow moving and intractable.”

For a start, it’s important to align the right vendor with the right business need. There are a range of vendor business models. If clients want partnerships that bring innovation versus firms that simply execute, they need to seek vendors that can deliver at a higher level. They need to put outcomes and expectations, such as collaboration, into contracts.

We are looking for those types of client relationships. We’ve put it right in our name: Re-Source Partners.

 

Improving oversight

How do you make sure your vendor partner stays on course to hit key performance indicators? Gartner recommends three steps:

  1. Vendor performance analysis
  2. Vendor performance reviews
  3. Vendor action plans for continuous improvements

The heart of these recommendations is about improving oversight. It discusses collecting vendor performance data and displaying it on a dashboard. The goal is to simplify tracking and processes so you can identify problems quickly and take swift corrective action.

 

Tracking vendor performance and hardware assets

That level of transparency is good for both clients and vendors. Interestingly, one of our key ITAM tools, AssetTrack for ServiceNow, gives real-time data about our activities to our clients.

In addition to simplifying and automating hardware asset tracking and management across the lifecycle, AssetTrack is a great vendor management tool. Maybe that’s one reason why it’s the leading ITAM app for ServiceNow.

With AssetTrack doing double duty, there’s no need to create new processes or applications to collect and analyze our performance to see if we are meeting our service agreement. You’ll see those meaningful results on a real-time dashboard.

 

Real-time data supports strategic flexibility

When we use AssetTrack during any lifecycle stage, it records our work in real-time in your ServiceNow instance.

Say you have set a target of 1.3 days for us to go from receiving an asset to deploying it to your end-user. Forget the lag time of quarterly performance reviews: You can track our performance daily or even more frequently.

Maybe 1.3 days is turning out to be too slow. We’re hitting the SLA but it’s not enough for you to achieve your goals, such as higher employee satisfaction or speeding up the refresh schedule. With real-time information, you spot the discrepancy early and work with us to recalibrate the KPIs.

 

Set up vendor for success

Beyond these Gartner recommendations, I believe vendor management should begin before you sign the contract. In searching for a good vendor fit, keep two considerations in mind:

  1. What level of service and customization do you need? This choice often comes down to specialists vs. generalists. You can find large companies that provide a wide range of IT services. They are better at some areas than others, and they sometimes rely on pre-packaged programs. Or you can opt for experts in one area that will customize services to your needs. They offer more handholding, teaching of best practices and higher levels of support.
  2. Be candid about your needs and issues. Some companies are deliberately vague when scoping projects and setting KPIs. Better to offer the full picture, including being clear about challenges, the true current state and other factors.  More transparency will better serve both clients and vendors and create a more realistic and achievable path to performance.

 

Overall, you should look for vendor partners who make you better. Seek out companies that have the tools, talent and practices to deliver your KPIs.  Plus, be sure they let you easily track performance along the way so you can collaborate to improve.

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