The first thing that should be considered as part of any IT procurement is whether or not the problem to be solved actually needs an injection of technology from a new supplier/vendor: outcome for end-users and customers is king.
As Jason Chester, channel director at statistical data software firm InfinityQS puts it: “Buyers are not in the market for technology. They are in the market for capabilities, or more specifically, what a technology enables them to do differently.”
At the start of any IT procurement, the desired capabilities needed to achieve operational and strategic objectives should be identified first.
And ultimately if what you choose to buy won’t be put to use, you are wasting your money. As Chester adds: “The features and functionalities of a technology solution [boil down to] how those capabilities are delivered; how easy or difficult it is to; set up and configure, for users to interact with, or integrate with other systems.”
Don’t Get locked In
Avoid vendor lock-in is also key. Many may be happy with a well serviced product from a large vendor, but when a licence audit lands unexpectedly and you find you didn’t read the small print, minds can change about that relationship fast.
Yet these risks are, arguably, diminishing as buyers increasingly opt to replace long-term contractual arrangements with more flexible pay-as-you-go Software-as-a-Service models.
That doesn’t completely mitigate lock-in risk, but particularly if you are using open source, if your team has built a skills
As Dominic Wellington, director of field initiatives and readiness at MongoDB has it: “With IT procurement, date your vendors…but never marry them.
“Your business must be able to run anywhere at any time so keep your options open and don’t get locked into one ecosystem. Especially when it comes to cloud computing. Why back yourself into a corner and miss out on a heap of features? Instead, migrate between clouds or mix and match as your circumstances demand.”
Open source options are increasingly seen as a way out of rigid marketplaces as is evident by the recent push by six UK local authorities to find a new open source solution to their costly and outdated Revenues and Benefits computer system.
The council’s issue was firmly with suppliers as they noted: “Current suppliers are resistant to interoperability and none have expressed an interest in developing a new core system…None of the existing providers have expressed any plans to develop new core systems to take advantage of modern technology.”
IT Procurement: A Partner, or Supplier?
In many cases – depending on the business needs – establishing a working relationship with a technology partner can be beneficial as it will grant you clear insights into the development and roadmap of the technology you are deploying.
A future focused partner can help you avoid price hikes, redundant software and help you mitigate any unexpected configuration or compatibility issues.
Andrew Peddie, MD of FHL Cloud Solutions notes that many UK firms are still taking a ‘hardball’ stance when it comes to IT procurement.
As he tells Computer Business Review: “At a time when owners and senior executives need to gain deeper insights into their operations and boost their organisation’s competitiveness, many are still largely concerned about the up-front software costs.
“The focus should be on finding a technology partner who can help the business address its specific business challenges; boost an organisation’s process efficiencies; improve customer satisfaction; or even to open new revenue streams in new territories.”