Part of ranking vendors (and their products) involves attaching a certain level of priority to the different categories you judge them on. Everyone is going to value different elements of a supplier relationship differently, so the items on my list should be considered to be "in no particular order." I leave it as an exercise …
You forgot the shiny! I am sure (judging by a lot of purchases I have seen) that many people choose their vendors based on the shininess off them rather than what they do.
Isn't this covered by "having the best technology"?
Sure your vendor did better in some made up test sponsored by the vendor but that's the same as the "best technology" isn't it?
Well look how shiny the new kit is then....
Nice list. How about how much the vendor's sales staff annoy you? For example, making multiple calls every week to check on progress...
Working for a Vendor sales team I represent that comment! So how are you doing with our product today!
Completely agree. I'd add to that the sales guys who insist on speaking to you on the phone rather than just replying to an email. I can understand the whole "it's more customer friendly", but if I'm asking for specific information and I've already asked you to email then JUST EMAIL! I know my boss has ditched at least a couple of suppliers who figured it was better to interrupt him than simply email like he'd requested.
The other big thing for me is honesty, not in terms of those mentioned already, but simply the willingness to admit when you've done something wrong, or when you don't know the answer. We all make mistakes, and I'd much rather know about it quickly re-arrange timescales etc accordingly, than live in ignorance until a deadline has been missed.
"The other big thing for me is honesty"
I'm not a buyer of any sort (though I have a little influence) but I'll always be happier and more at ease with people, at a personal or business level, who can raise their hands and say 'mea culpa'. Likewise those to whom I can admit the same and know it's not been stored under 'for backstabbing later'.
'you are not my friend'
Yes, when a salesman calls me because he or she loves vocal and thinks they are 'people persons' and wants to bind me into some personal 'relationship' with them and thus secure that social-moneky connection, when all I wanted was info, I become less social-monkey and more ape-sh*t.
Re: "The other big thing for me is honesty"
Mea culpa? Most of the places I've worked, that will get you fired or badly treated by the team as it's a (perceived) show of weakness.
Yeah, I've worked with a lot wankers. And learned this the hard way. I can only dream of a team that is honest and actually works together.
Now imagine these same people picking vendors.
Me at the end of every week. ------------------------------------->
Important for our large company is whether they have been previous suppliers within the company.If yes,
- they understand our (strange) terms and conditions,
- we can find out if they are helpful,
- we get a feeling of if they will take it in the chin, for the sake of a longer-term connection
License and support costs? What about some years down the line? Will they make stupid changes to the rules of how it is calculated?
Here I am thinking of Oracle "you are a hostage, not a customer" style of business.
Oracle also fail massively in getting things fixed in our experience. This is in spite of (or because of?) the size and budget for their support organisation. File a bug for, say, one of their storage products? Several years and counting :(
Stability of supplier
Is the product (or support for the product) likely to disappear due to the supplier going bust ?
For software products - are the sources available in case of the supplier going bust or deciding to discontinue the product.
For larger software suppliers - what is the tone of comments on their user groups - and does the supplier seem to have useful interaction with complaints.
Does the supplier have a history of raising maintenance charges ?
Re: Stability of supplier
Came to say exactly the same:
Longevity/stability/outlook is terribly important.
Integrity too. Do they have form for bizarre licensing shenanigans, lock-in traps, etc? What's their record/reputation for meeting specifications, quotes and deadlines...
You've missed one very important factor -- the C-level approver...
Interesting article I can certainly identify with having been both a vendor and a customer.
You failed to add "Who does our CIO/COO/CFO/CEO play golf / sports with".
TIme after time decisions on purchases are swayed by the C-level exec's out of hours relationship OVER their own teams' recommendations. One cannot stop the practise nor control the variables if that person who ultimately signs the PO isn't on-board, you're screwed.
How do I choose?
Will another vendor provide a larger crate of Stella / holiday vouchers / bigger TV than my current reseller delivered to my home address...?
Anon for obvious reasons! ;)
Small ones are more grateful
As an applications manager for an investment manager I deal with vendors and application support daily. I would add
"bulliable". It is important that the customer (me) is able to bully the vendor to do what I want, not what their marketing or sales people want or our competitors using the same product. Particularly around future functionality or fixes. When I say bully I mean persuade or work-with, but in reality it can just revert to bully. This leads to the next point.
"Size". I prefer small-medium size vendors with a maturing product line. Big enough to deliver the services promised with that small business service, but lacking the bureaucracy, slow time to market and impersonal service that large vendors specialise in. And small ones are more grateful.
Re: Small ones are more grateful
I agree that you have to get your own agenda in place of their agenda, but i actually don't trust a vendor who allows scope-creep and beens over a little too far. At some point, I stop respecting them. And I stop trusting them, because they will screw themselves allowing me to screw them, and their failure will hurt me. I once had C-level people require me more-or-less to 'break' a vendor to get our price and delivery time met. I felt I had to act without integrity. The firm went bust, thanks to us. And who paid the price? Them -- and my (former) employers. If we want our vendors to be honest, trustworthy and have integrity, we have to be the same for them.
1. Do they offer bribes, sorry incentives?
2a Are they the cheapest out there, regardless how shit their product is?
2b Are they the most expensive out there, regardless how shit their product is (see 1.)?
3. Do they promise everything, but are capable of delivering nothing?
If so we'll take it....
Why has no one mentioned the blue-eyed blonde bombshell on the vendor's sales team, doesn't matter what they are selling, the C-Acronym executives are willing to teach golf.
The vendor that tells us we're doing it all wrong, and we should up-end our entire workflow to shoehorn into their inflexible system.
Re: Instant 'No!'
Gods help me, I work(ed) for one of those types. Nothing but rage.
What is the company name?
If the name has "Solutions" in it, keep away.
If the name is one of those silly twisted-words, keep away.
If they have a mission-statement type slogan under their name, stay away.
If their sales people talk as if any of the above was true, then even if they are called A B Smith & C D Jones --- stay away.
All of these hints (especially the one about "solutions," Beware that word above all else) will help buyers to live a lower-bullshit-level life, which is much to be desired.
Unless those buyers are equally full of bullshit, of course. And, sadly, there must be plenty of them, judging by many of the apparently, but unbelievably, successfully sales people I've met.
Financial stability of vendor
Existing customer testimonials (believe me they aren't always good even if chosen by the vendor)
End user test-session feedback (if applicable)
Evidence of product roadmap
Vendor Stability, Meeting Prior Commitments
A great list, for me vendor stability is also critical in a IT environment of accelerating and constant change as follows;
1) Does the vendor meet and honour prior roadmap and deliverable commitments over the long haul
2) Does the vendor have the fiscal and human resources to achieve this, are these aligned to my scale
3) Is the team assigned aligned to my business into IT strategy and objectives over the long haul
4) Will I have to burn scarce IT resources and time managing churn in people, coverage or product terms
In summary is it likely the vendor will sustain a competitive advantage tomorrow as well as today.
How do I choose a vendor?
When I get to choose a vendor, I use most if not all the criteria in the article although I rend to simplify it by research on performance, price and service.
When it's a boss, it's usually about kickbacks and brother-in-law/school tie deals or favors owed or what his boss told him to use, for pretty much the same reasons. In other words, "Dilbert".
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