Strategic vendors don’t do small projects

I’ve been struck by how the most effective vendors at the bank have moved on from selling us gadgets. They’ve worked out that we hate it when they manage to convince us to buy stuff (with superior pricing or any of the other blandishments they have at their disposal) to have it sit on the shelf. Our most strategic partners hardly even talk about tech any more, they show up with solutions to specific problems and then provide a bus load of people to make sure that we don’t even see any implementation pain.

They know technology sitting on the shelf is a poison pill.

They also know that bus-loads of people have to be priced in such a way that we can still make the business case for a project to work.

Anyway, we’re presently doing a lot of work in the end user computing space. You’d be surprised how many huge business problems can be solved with a little workflow here, or a tiny database there.

But here, too, there is often a need for great services support from a vendor. The thing is that projects at this end of the spectrum are much, much more price sensitive. Its a place where vendors normally have difficulty going.

The deals are too small, or they need to impose a pile of management overhead in order to de-risk themselves. Or they try to shoehorn a major project architect into something that a 2 year graduate could do.

Anyway, they price themselves out. And that, in turn, causes a problem for us.

Often the projects are small, but incredibly visible, either because the problem they solve is significant or because the sponsor has specifically requested it and sits somewhere near the top table.

These are projects we want our strategic partners to be part of. We don’t want them going wrong. We also don’t want to make small projects big projects just to get involvement.

From an innovation perspective, the greatest part of what we do it extremely incremental. The systems work we need is almost always small-project in nature. I’d anticipate that the bank as a whole will do more small projects rather than large ones as we move forward.

So to continue to be strategic, our partners need to be looking at how they can retool themselves to handle these small project requests with economy. Because is they can’t help us, we’re forced to go to someone that can.

It is not ideal when the creator of some technology can’t be at your side when you try to use it. Most likely outcome: technology won’t live up to expectations and we put it on the shelf.

Another strategic relationship that isn’t, suddenly.

2 Responses to“Strategic vendors don’t do small projects”

  1. July 11, 2008 at 4:17 pm #

    James – why doesn’t the bank have strategic small vendors – who would regard smaller projects with a high priority? Its what many of the technology vendors do for (some of) their own internal systems.

  2. July 17, 2008 at 1:08 am #

    “I’ve been struck by how the most effective vendors at the bank have moved on from selling us gadgets. They’ve worked out that we hate it when they manage to convince us to buy stuff (with superior pricing or any of the other blandishments they have at their disposal) to have it sit on the shelf.”
    What would you say is the root problem is for the accumulation of this shelfware? Was it fixing the wrong problem to start with? Does the product purchased not deliver on the need to deliver business value? Or is the issue a lack of change management to ensure that people and processes adopt the new technology, and technology integration to make sure it integrates with existing software?

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