Sunday, January 15, 2006

CIO Expectations from Vendors

The New Year brings much joy. Many a resolutions made as the year turns over fall by the wayside by this time.

A global software major famous for its blue sky invited me to speak in their sales conference recently. They wanted their corporate sales team to get first hand feedback on what a CIO expects from them and a large software vendor.

In an interaction that lasted twice as long as anticipated, there were many a questions on how a typical CIO decides on which vendor to do business with and which ones to discard. The discussion veered into Corporate buying realities and how decisions are made on which system, which technology and what budgets. But the big question was the CIO's mindset. That set me thinking and attempted an analysis of what mindset does a CIO have today and how does one influence it ?

Every CIO gets calls from plethora of vendors attempting to sell media, consumables, packaged solutions, hardware devices and trinkets, customized solutions, ERP systems and many more. In this flood, the challenge is to separate the cheese from chalk. Few are brand conscious and thus limit their interactions to the larger brands across this variety and a few are value (read cost) conscious which results in focus on the lower end of the pyramid with vendors who may not differentiate from one another but offer acceptable service at low investments.

So what do they expect the vendors to do ?

1. Understand the business problems faced by their companies and industry
2. Address real life problems with their solutions
3. Deliver their promises (time, cost, value)
4. Educate on future trends and experience from other engagements
5. Communicate the bad news in the same way as they do with good news

Coming back to the interaction with the vendor's team, one question raised was "How does a CIO decide which vendor to do business with ?". My answer revolved around the 5-point agenda illustrated above and whether the Account Manager has been following these principles.

How do you decide on which vendor you want to do business with ?

In the following days I escalated an issue with the same vendor to their senior management (who were present during the event). The learning did not seem to translate into action and it took some effort and follow-up to ensure resolution. I guess we have a long way to go !!