IT Vendors and Heroes

Rob Enderle
Slide Show

Top Predictions for Enterprise IT in 2014

We often focus far more on the vendors and people who don’t do what we expect than we focus on those folks who actually seem to care about the outcome of our problems and the success of our purchases. Some firms are founded on the idea of service and measure themselves aggressively on not only your satisfaction but your advocacy, treating you as well or better than you treat them. Other firms mine their clients for money and lose interest once they have it.

We spend, in my opinion, far too much time talking about the latter (and not doing much about it) and far too little time praising the former. I’ve also noticed that with the increase in social applications, ranging from Facebook and Twitter to Glassdoor, we have a far deeper insight into what is going on inside these firms than ever before. Perhaps reviewing some of this should be part of our due diligence.

Yesterday, as I listened to President Obama speaking at the dedication of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum about heroes, it reinforced for me how valuable it is to focus on the positives in a situation.

Bad Behavior and Good

The problem with focusing on the bad behavior more than the good is that it can cause that bad behavior to resonate, particularly if there are no repercussions. That’s not good for you or me. Firms that are clearly being run to take your money to create executive palaces and buy islands should likely be avoided like the plague because, if they are successful, that behavior will spread like a disease and then that wouldn’t be good for any of us.

Here’s a contrast, for example. I’m fascinated by how many tech firms are now eliminating Forced Ranking (which focuses behavior on internal competition and creating false appearances rather than customer needs or even long-term growth) but are not using metrics like NPS (Net Promoter Score, which measures customer advocacy) to measure their executives.

I believe we would all rather work with people who are motivated to make us into advocates rather than folks who are motivated by the cash they mine from our pockets. This is because, in the first instance, their reward is in line with our own success; in the second, it is decoupled. In fact, when a firm is cash-focused, it tends to be very tactical, taking more interest in making the sale than in ensuring the thing you bought actually works. I remain surprised that firms that have practiced drive-by selling (they basically collect your money and vanish, wishing you an insincere “good luck”) not only still exist after years of doing this stuff, but they actually flourish.

Social Network Information

One of the reasons Ombud was created was to deal specifically with this problem at scale. It networks the purchasing departments together to do a better job of selecting and managing vendors in a large enterprise. That way, if the firm gets screwed in one deal, the entire firm runs away from the vendor. If a vendor performs well, it is fast-tracked to more business, which is the way I think it should be.

You can also look to social networks, specifically those that monitor employees, like Glassdoor, to get a sense of what is going on inside the firm. Be aware, others are doing that with your firm as I speak. Employee and customer posts across the spectrum of these new social services are providing insight into both our vendors and our own firms and are showcasing problems that likely are being ignored internally. I recall, years ago, after seeing a particularly compelling briefing on DEC workstations, being told candidly by my escort that most of the folks I just met were looking to leave the company. As a result, instead of recommending the purchase of DEC workstations, I recommended against them, which turned out to be prophetic.

Personally, I think it is both self-serving and healthy to prefer firms that treat their employees well over those that do not, firms that care about what I think as a customer and that want me as an advocate over those that just want my money, and to spend at least as much time recognizing those that help me as I do those that screw me.

Wrapping Up:  Focusing on Positive, Productive Relationships

I’m not really a touchy-feely person. But I do think that at times when we are remembering heroes, it would be a good practice to remember and thank all the folks who have our backs, whether they are vendors, co-workers or even relatives. We spend so much time thinking about folks who have harmed us. Maybe a little extra time focused on those who help would create more of that sort of positive relationship. And perhaps, tomorrow, coming up with a plan to get rid of the jerks wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

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