When Switching Technology Vendors Makes Sense

Ann All

For a while now we've been reading articles offering advice on how to get a better deal out of existing technology vendors, with the idea that the down economy should make it easier to get more favorable terms. Talking to other vendors is important. It helps you find out what other kinds of deals are available so you know what to ask for, and lets your vendor know it will need to haggle if it wants to keep you..


Of course, looking at other vendors may make you realize that it's time for a change. That's what happened at the Seattle Times, a company that could no longer justify keeping its Oracle database after three years of steep cuts in its IT budget. The company's CIO told SearchCIO.com:


Across the company, as we consider vendors and products, instead of always looking for the best, we are looking for good enough. And that is a reflection of the economy.


Switching to a different database saved the company $100,000. Now the company is exploring leasing its copiers from another vendor when its contract expires next month. Some tips gleaned from the article:


  • A switch in services providers or software resellers will be less complicated than swapping out major foundational software, such as the newspaper did with its Oracle database. Discrete niche products such as a travel expense management program will likely be the easiest change, easier still if delivered via a software-a-s-a-service model. (Keep in mind there may be a few strings attached with SaaS applications, though.)
  • Consider a partial switch to a cheaper solution. When I interviewed Google Apps users for a story earlier this year, Sean McGonagle, vice president of IT for Cultural Care, a global provider of au pair services, told me his company hoped to move most, but perhaps not all, of its 200 full-time staffers onto the the Premier Edition of Google Apps. "We want to be in a position where we aren't automatically buying Windows licensing for every single user," he said.
  • When considering costs, remember to account for any integration work that will need to be redone, as well as user training for new products. The cost reduction enabled by a new product must justify using the amount of resources needed to make a switch. Also try to factor in the possible "opportunity costs" of any projects delayed during a changeover.
  • Find out what new vendors can do to help mitigtate the risks involved in a switch, and make sure it's spelled out in the contract.

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