As technology zips ahead with promises of efficiency and innovations, enterprises can struggle to keep up.
Will new offerings from established vendors improve business operations? What about the new kids offering brilliant solutions and the promise that they're just as worthy as long-established vendors?
A streamlined selection process is crucial as technology spend spreads out. This has lead to a disconnect between departments under the CIO purview. Only 8% of marketing decision makers say their CMOs and CIOs are strategic partners in developing technology-driven solutions, according to Forrester's 2019 Global Business Technographics Marketing Survey.
Vendors are trying to make the selection process easier for enterprises, Abhijit Sunil, Forrester analyst in infrastructure and operations, and author of the study, told CIO Dive.
Vendors want customers and potential customers to know what they have to offer. At the same time, IT decision makers can take proactive steps and look for red flags so they don't get burned by a bad — or unsecure — deal.
Clear warning signs can emerge. Here are four types of vendors not to trust:
- Vendors who put all their products on the table.
- Vendors who cannot provide one hand to shake.
- Vendors who want to change everything, very quickly.
- Vendors who get outed on social media.
Vendors should give specific options, not a Cheesecake Factory menu
Tech vendors can sell a bevy of products to different kinds of customers. With so many options, sales require customization.
That's why enterprises should be wary of vendors who throw all of their products on the table, said Sunil. This is a sign they're not considering what the organization really needs.
Complicated portfolios are like "being handed down a menu from the Cheesecake Factory, where there is a variety of options and the customer has to go back and connect the dots between what is being offered and how that helps them achieve an end state," he said.
Vendors should show customers and potential customers specific products and services they offer that will help organizations meet their stated targets.
If a company's goal is edge computing or improving customer experience, a tech vendor should present options that specifically help the enterprise achieve that goal, Sunil said. "If the vendor does not help the customer do that, the customer has to go back and do it all themselves."
In the same vein, venders should also make an effort to give enterprises one hand to shake, and not send them down a rabbit hole of account executives, sales people, product managers and more.
Organizations should be wary of vendors who want to change too many things too fast, Sunil said. Not only can that lead to overspend, but it also means employees need to quickly relearn everything or risk falling behind.
Don't nix startups, but look closely
Startups are offering exciting options, but they require more vetting, Justin Donato, vice president of IT at Nintex, told CIO Dive.
Nintex has formalized vendor management guidelines that any company it partners with must meet. For newer companies, the scrutiny goes deeper.
"When you're looking to partner with them at a deeper level, security and maturity always come up," Donato said. "It's just the reality that a newer, more startup-based organization just doesn't have those deeper levels of maturity."
Donato wants to know more about how they're going to deal with extraneous circumstances, when things go wrong, and how they would cover a failure. "There are some really cool and really good startups out there so we don't want to cut them out of the race, so to speak," he said.
Brian Wilson, CISO of SAS, cited the infamous 2013 Target hack on why this is so important. That attack was done through a compromised refrigeration vendor.
"That's really lead a lot of companies into trying to understand what sort of access a third-party needs, if a third party needs access at all," Wilson told CIO Dive. Enterprises should question vendors about the true requirements they need in order to do their jobs, and if that requires access at all.
Get references — from colleagues and social media
While vendors will offer references, and enterprises should follow up on them, Wilson asks colleagues about their experiences, especially with newer companies.
"I know a customer isn't going to give you a bad reference," Wilson said. Instead he looks for peer reviews and peer influence "to drive me in a different direction."
Wilson also scopes out what people are saying on social media.
"If you search for them and the only thing coming up is people complaining, that's a red flag," he said. "We want to make sure that we're going to pick a company that's going to follow through on their promise."
While Wilson interacts with his peers on LinkedIn, "for public information and if you're doing research on what people are saying about a company, I use Twitter," he said.