Top Mistakes Clients Make with Tech Suppliers and How to Fix Them
Recently, we sat down with information technology thought leader Jim Ditmore to discuss the top mistakes customers make with their suppliers and how to fix them. With decades worth of experience as an executive, Jim has the inside track on what suppliers and clients need to know to guarantee successful projects.
The Silver Bullet Problem
Chief among the challenges both suppliers and their customers face is the notion that there is a “silver bullet” solution. The silver bullet is the single technology solution that will solve any (and all) problems in an operation.
Be wary, Jim advises, of the vendor who promises “the next big thing” that is the answer to every question you ever had. On the client side, too, Jim cautions against being on the lookout for that elusive silver bullet that is right around the corner, able to solve every problem you ever had.
The Hype Cycle Challenge
Jim points to Gartner’s idea of the Hype Cycle similarly. In the “Hype Cycle”, the latest technology is often overestimated and not mature enough to adequately solve typical enterprise structural issues. While the latest technology can be applied to solve specific problems, practically speaking, in most cases, he explains, there will always be a range of issues that one technology alone cannot solve.
Why? Because medium and large organizations over time introduce technical debt, often have inadequate process discipline, or organizational culture or agenda mismatches, resources shortages, and other issues, that together create layers of complexity that make it impossible to leverage one technology alone as a solution, enabling rapid, easy improvement.
This is why as a client, you should be wary, when consultants or vendors say “all we need to do is introduce this one piece of new technology and you will be first to market, you will immediately beat all your competitors, etc.” Falling into the hype cycle trap often leads to problems in the supplier-client relationship. And those problems threaten project success.
Strategic Planning Matters
Failure to include strategic planning into project development also threatens successful outcomes. Jim points out that poor strategic planning leads to clients with too much on their plate and suppliers who bear that burden. In cases like these, the suppliers run around doing too many things, without actually being productive.
So, what should strategic planning include? For starters, it involves planning for the customer journey and the adjunct development that helps focus technology initiatives in the right place at the right time. Again, deliberate strategic planning prevents clients from chasing silver bullets. Instead, it enables them to be thoughtful, focus on strategic goals, and prioritize accurately.
This sets the stage for a productive supplier-client relationship and project success. By using strategic planning to define their own customers’ needs, the supplier’s client is able to understand what they need to build, then source the right technology from the right supplier team.
Stop Chasing the Latest Trends
However, many clients are tempted, instead, to chase technology’s latest trend. And lesser suppliers are content to capitalize on that mentality. Clients need to hold their suppliers, vendors, and consultants responsible for providing their best service, not for offering flashy, flash-in-the pan technologies that serve neither the client nor the technology industry at large.
Both clients and suppliers must be measured in their approach to modernizing their technologies to be more competitive, while warding of the temptation to make “silver bullet” sales (or silver bullet purchases). Often, as Jim reminds us, this starts with the suppliers themselves carefully considering the real issues and challenges that their clients face.
The vendor who comes to a client meeting selling the proverbial hammer, who sees every problem as a nail, is not approaching sales or service correctly. Instead, the supplier who connects current technologies to a client’s problems, and develops effective, sustainable solutions, is starting off on the track to project success and a productive relationship.
As Jim summarizes it, “If you can find a vendor that understands your challenges and goals, and is willing to drive those first, these are the vendors that are much more valuable, trusted, and can be partners as opposed to [just] suppliers.”
It is a rare vendor, says Jim, who “cares as much about your objective and bottom line as they do about theirs.”