Stakeholder management for valuable vendor relationships
August 17, 2022 |
8 min read
All frameworks for IT service management and project management make sense; it becomes complicated when adding people to the mix.
While it may be easy to design a process that makes sense to the designer, it’s not always so for the people who must follow it, see value in it and build it into everyday behaviours. At worse, it can be seen it as just “red tape”.
However, overlaying new processes, procedures and practices with stakeholder management helps people understand what’s in it for them.
The same principle applies when managing IT vendors – something essential to get the best value from external suppliers.
The importance of IT vendors to business operations
By leveraging vendors’ technology capabilities, it’s possible for companies to obtain a range of advantages:
Taking the approach of “buy not build” enables firms to acquire something that works off the shelf, first time, is more modular and can be replaced if the company’s strategic direction changes.
And this presents opportunities that don’t require the company to write its own code, host its own services or store its own hardware. Instead, vendors can provide an IT roadmap that complements existing platforms and offers future options, such as opening up applications hosted in the cloud rather than in a data centre.
However, a successful customer/vendor relationship needs managing effectively – and this carries several internal and external challenges.
Managing IT vendors and service owners
In my experience, I often hear too late that the business isn’t getting value from a vendor’s technology product, is working around it or has stopped using it altogether.
The challenge is trying to bring a company’s service owners into conversation with suppliers which makes it easier to identify pain points and see areas for improvement. Equally, service owners need to be reasonable if the company’s needs have changed but the vendor is still delivering on the original agreement.
If the parties can agree on what the requirements are and the related service, the next steps tend to be more positive. Achieving this agreement relies very much on the effectiveness of stakeholder communication and management.
This is a fragile thing, because missing out even one stakeholder risks someone being “out of the loop” and communication breaking down. When you’re in tune with stakeholders, it’s possible to “surface” problems and create opportunities out of them.
Adopting ITIL 4 approaches for stakeholder management
ITIL 4’s value streams concept and tailor-made communications are, I think, the biggest contributors to successful relationships with partners/vendors.
In addition, ITIL’s guiding principles are paramount to break down relationship barriers and develop greater honesty and transparency.
From a stakeholder perspective, the entire ITIL 4 Specialist: Drive Stakeholder Value book is important when tying in different service owners and levels in an organization that need clear communications and an understanding of their challenges.
In turn, there are elements of ITIL 4 Specialist: High-velocity IT that help to introduce partners early in the process of creating a service, based on their experience of working with hundreds of customers.
Putting people first to get service excellence
While the concept of outsourcing IT to vendors takes away the need to be experts in IT, the necessary skills are about bringing in the right people at the right time and being able to communicate requirements clearly.
It’s about trusting vendors and building a true partnership approach to how we look after our services – and that means prioritizing the people dimension which is often in contrast to the more traditional customer/supplier relationship. This enables us to take full advantage of the expertise and knowledge that would never be achievable in an internal team: in other words, getting people to care about how they support our organization.