Is IT purchasing model broken?

IT managers without a clear purchasing model end up buying the vendor's strategy, but do vendors really understand your business?

Not according to a Computerworld US survey of IT managers who believe vendors lie to customers, refuse to share business risks, don't understand their business and are not in it for the long haul.

A CIO (who requested anonymity) from an Australian energy supplier agreed that vendors don't understand IT managers' business because "many of the people working for vendors, especially sales-oriented staff, are not experienced in either our type of business or what the challenges are of running an IT shop".

"That's why the CIO is there though. It is the CIO's role to understand the company's business and to interpret that into specific needs that the vendors can understand," he said.

"In my view, vendor relationships aren't meant to be strategic relationships. Once they become partners with you, then you can expect them to try and understand your business more and to share things with you, including risk, but a vendor is a vendor," he said.

The CIO also said his company's IT outsourcing company is "by necessity a partner with us".

"We do our IT strategy with the outsourcer's involvement -- though we still own the outcome -- we share risks and rewards insofar as we can work these things out.

"Microsoft, on the other hand, is not a partner with us. We are merely a client of the company and while its products are important to our IT infrastructure, it doesn't understand my business and I don't expect it of [the company]. It's possible that we don't even have a common language for communicating such things. It all comes down to what you expect, and indeed what can reasonably be expected, from certain relationships." The survey, conducted by Toffler Associates in the US, found 50 per cent of respondents spent more than half of IT spending on external suppliers.

An IT manager from a Queensland Government department, who also requested anonymity, said a clear buying strategy is always required because of the pressure placed on IT managers to deliver long-term outcomes, often with little funding.

Some IT professionals said success can be increased by working closely with their organisations' purchasing departments because of its experience in leveraging buying power across the company.

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