How to handle pesky IT vendors

IT shops, weary of cold-calling sales reps, are introducing some nifty techniques of their own to manage pesky IT vendors.

Analysts have seen the appointment of dedicated IT staffers that take on the role of being a single point of contact for organisations that want to manage vendor relationships.

Speaking at IBM user's conference, Interaction 2003, in Sydney last month, IBS Australia business development rep Stephen Matthews, said an 'information lieutenant' can be appointed to oversee the barrage of e-mails and phone calls received from vendors.

The lieutenant then regularly reports back to the rest of the IT team with product information that has been received.

Matthews said cold-callers are simply advised to send an e-mail with product information that is kept with all the other pitches and a brief e-mail reply message is sent back to the vendor to confirm all correspondence.

"Retain the e-mail as a matter of record and present what has been collected to the rest of the team; if the vendor abuses the privilege by resending old stuff then contact ends," Matthews said.

"The phone problem is also alleviated by this approach; the call is immediately taken care of, because the vendor has a central address to send information."

Matthews said this process may be just a matter of information collection, but it means contact is more effectively managed and the product pitches can then be evaluated.

Organisations can set up a mailing list for vendors that have made contact in the past advising them of forthcoming projects the organisation is planning.

Matthews said vendors can then pitch for the projects and the info lieutenant would undertake initial assessment of the submissions and conduct preliminary research by identifying vendors that could meet the organisation's needs.

"If you want to buy a server you just look at what is in the inbox from eligible vendors and go from there," he said.

Gartner analyst John Roberts has seen the emergence of a chief sourcing officer in Australian organisations to manage vendor contact.

"Managing IT vendors is a necessary competency for every IS organisation so a strategy and policies need to be in place," he said.

The first step is to have policies in place for all staff about reporting vendor contacts.

"Then the IT shop needs to decide whether to have a vendor panel based on shortlisting," he said.

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