Make Vendors Partners for Center of Excellence Success

Ann All
Slide Show

Real Questions for BI Vendors

Click through to see the questions Ann discovered that can make a tangible difference in your diligence.

Many organizations are trying to winnow their technology suppliers down to a handful of so-called "strategic partners," to reduce the expense and cost associated with vendor management, to earn better deals by purchasing in larger volumes and, in theory, to leverage vendor insight and experience. Yet the latter point often gets little more than lip service, said Neil Ward-Dutton, research director for MWD Advisors.


When I interviewed Ward-Dutton about business process management centers of excellence, the subject of a new MWD Advisors report, he told me, "A lot of times when people say 'strategic vendor,' what they really mean is 'we want to reduce the hassle.' "


Yet working closely with vendors offers several key benefits, one of which is keeping those running CoEs in the loop as to which projects might benefit from their services. Ward-Dutton shared the example of a large French bank where due to the distributed nature of the organization, the vendor sometimes hears about new projects before the CoE. And, he said:

When the vendor gets a call from someone looking to add new licenses, they will send them to the CoE. If you're really talking about a strategic relationship, it's perfect. If the CoE is doing its job well, it's going to increase the chances for project success-and that reflects well on the vendor.

The CoE's ability to demonstrate its value grows along with the number of projects with which it's involved. Yet many CoEs struggle with marketing their own services to multiple lines of business. Vendors can help, by raising BPM's profile with different stakeholders within an organization and providing those "referrals" to CoEs. This kind of marketing is important for any center of excellence, but it's essential for technologies like BPM that should cut across individual projects and departments. Explained Ward-Dutton:

... The head of customer service isn't going to say, "I've got a BPM project." They'll say something like, "We've got a problem with order entries." So part of it goes back to that internal marketing, mentioning those initial project successes in conversations. You need to let people know you've now got this competency - and you don't need to call it BPM - that will enable them to improve their way of working.

Other reasons to look for opportunities to leverage vendor relationships:

  • Vendors are sometimes willing to provide training collateral and access to domain experts to help CoE leaders expand their knowledge.
  • Some vendors offer "preferred" customers early access to new releases, enhanced access to support staff and opportunities to influence future product roadmaps.

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