A quick acid test for whether a vendor has your interests at heart or their own
A few years back i was asked to advise how a company could prevent its clients from using third party consultants and software providers. I remember the looks when I said I wouldn’t advise that at all (for the record they were not eye lashes fluttering looks)…
I did however go on to explain that as the provider of the software and with a in-house team of consultants that they had the home field advantage and if they used it to deliver the best service and solutions then they wouldn’t need to put restrictions on who their clients used.
Because the clients would have no reason to choose anyone else, ever.
At the time I thought okay – surely that attitude must be a complete outlier in this industry.
Fast forward a few years and government is pushing open data, platform as a service is a thing and everywhere you look in the private market applications provide SDKs and full APIs as the norm. Surely now this type of thinking is buried under mature oak trees in the nearest public park.
So imagine my surprise when a friend in the Government sector forwarded through an email they received yesterday from their ERP provider (for the sake of this post lets called the provider ‘Entitled Ltd’) saying:
‘As a valued customer of X software, we would like to reaffirm to you Entitled Ltd’s continued commitment to enhancing our products and supporting our customer base. We continue to develop our software products to meet the evolving needs of our customers, as well as enhancing capabilities in software integration, consultancy, application managed services, and hosted managed services.
We understand that our customers operate in multi-vendor environments, with various service providers contributing expertise in different facets of the IT environment. Entitled is by far the leading expert in its proprietary software products. We are in an ideal position to assist our customers with software customisation, enhancement, integration and much more.’
I read the above and thought – awesome this is great of course you are.
What you do has the ability to completely change how government can deliver business. I was excited and then I read on…
‘If you are looking to engage third parties to provide services which require the third parties to access software X, your licence conditions generally require you to seek Entitled’s prior consent. We will review each request with due consideration, taking into account each customer’s business requirements, the nature of the third party’s business and business practices, and any potential impact to Entitled’s intellectual property rights. Any consent given will be subject to the third party signing a confidentiality agreement on terms acceptable to Entitled. If you are not the best person in your organisation to review this message please forward on to them. Any questions please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.’
My excitement faded…into a disbelief. What did I just read? But it didn’t stop there….
‘We appreciate your understanding and look forward to continuing our partnership to support your business.’
Actually nope. I don’t understand..not at all and lets look up the meaning of a partnership shall we.
Seriously – I kid you not.
This a provider to government – which as a sector gets a pretty raw deal in my opinion for money spent on IT vendors vs realised benefit to the rate / tax payer and the email didn’t even have a persons name on it.
Now you might agree with this approach and that is a discussion I would love to have but I don’t agree – at all.
I think there is so much inherently wrong in this at so many levels (even just sending an email that talks about a process but does not actually provide any information regarding the process).
And look I know that the money involved is big so when consultants etc start to nibble at your revenue as a big traditional player you might get protective but if this was a personal relationship I would be packing my bags and out the door.
No vendor has the right to tell you they control your data and place restrictions on who you can engage to work on it.
I think it is bad enough when vendors charge unreasonable fees for simple data extracts let alone try to control what you do with it.
So lets unpack this a bit because in a way I get the place they are coming from. They develop and supply a product, so really they should know it better than anyone. You would hope that third party providers don’t have access to the same level of information in house consultants do and therefore could provide an outcome with less benefit to the customer.
But what I don’t get is the rest of it.
Because if this is the case, surely all you need to do is use the advantages you already have and the market will decide the rest. After-all if you provide the best service, product and outcomes then you won’t need to try to force your customers to come to you. They will do it.
I am not sure if anyone purposely, when wanting to explore and idea or solve a problem begins by saying ‘lets get the person(s) who can provide the worst outcome possible‘.
I think it should be on every vendor to remind themselves that there is no entitlement – especially with public money – to having an organisation as a customer (despite the way procurement seems to work). I include us in that as well.
Rate payers and government money is not a vendors by right – or force. It is real money that should be spent wisely and for the greatest benefit.
A vendor should be that benefit and let be judged on fairness and openness.
This type of thinking is why I think the sector needs to change – we allow ourselves to force our customers to stick with us by relying on the wrong things. Protection of egos as no one wants to admit they choose the wrong software or vendor, irrationality over sunk costs – it is easier to spend more money trying to make a square peg fit a round hole than chuck the peg out and get another that will fit, by complicating supply, by enforcing licencing periods and terms. The list of wrong things is a subject in and of itself.
When really all we should be doing is our best.
Our best to deliver the best return, the best outcomes, the best service.
Because that way you don’t need to force anything.
People want to stay with you because you are actually their partner and enabling them to succeed on their own terms not yours.
So how do you know who is getting helped?
In this day and age of open data, open software development kits, extensive application program interfaces, not to mention platforms and software as a service, any vendor should be supporting its clients to embrace technology advantages not hindering them.
No modern progressive company supplying data should be thinking how can I force my customers to only spend their money with me. They should be thinking – how can I act so my customers always come to me first for any idea or opportunity they have.
Because I think working out if your vendor is helping you or hindering you is pretty simple.
You just need to ask if they cause you pain or make your life easy?
So on that note.