Friday, 18 December 2020

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

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Over the last few days I have watched the Brexit mood music go from hopeful, to not so much, as the UK divorce from the EU plays out in the open. At the time of writing, the interplay continues….

Lots of folks I have worked with on big transformation projects will recall my analogy on procurements and long term relationships with software suppliers. Most commercial relationships with software suppliers, last longer than many of our personal relationships. They also need to nurtured by both parties, encouraged to work, effort from all sides are needed. So there are lots of parallels there.

Initial warming up of clients is like those first flirts. An initial demo of the solution is like a first date. Everyone on their best behaviour. Don’t crash the demo system, hide those errors, everything must be pristine and magical in software demo land.

ITT time is a bit like some initial dates. Still everyone on good behaviour, but a few slips of the mask. A bit like breaking wind occasionally or leaving the toilet seat up. In the real world, we have all been there.

By the time we check out the reference sites, its close to being able to checkout some ex’s. Did ex or current long term partners have a good experience, although encountering a few rocks in the road? How did the supplier smooth out those rocks in the road? We will only get offered the better ex’s though. OBVs. Old ex's will be rewarded too, by suppliers, but that does not mean if the right questions are asked, they will be open and honest.

Once we have made our choice, implementation may be 6-18 months, we might be tied in for five, maybe ten years. Go-Live is not the destination, its just a first stop on the journey. A healthy relationship with your software suppliers is essential. Its up to everyone to work at that, to get best ongoing value for money.  

Breaking up, is hard to do, if it comes to that.

Much like Brexit, if two sides are far apart, language can be harsh and the co-existence can be uneasy. Generally in real life, a solicitor might be the neutral third party that highlights where both parties are being silly and where reasonable compromises should be considered.  

I start with many of my clients, asking me, “Tony Can you help us get rid of x and replace it with y”? I think that’s always the wrong place to start. My instinct is to re-engage with their software partner, which I would guess in about 70% of situations, leads to some ‘Marriage Guidance’. That’s not so easy to get your head around in real life, so I understand reactions to that suggestion.

One of the biggest objections I experience, is the cost. “My supplier will want to charge me £1,000 to book time to do that, and it will take 5 weeks to set it up”. My stock reaction is “Really”? I often encounter suppliers wanting to charge clients for scoping something they are actually going to sell them. Go figure on that one, its pre-sales matey, if you are going to charge us to find out our requirements, take that off the selling price (FFS).

I may have the magic touch, I don’t know, (I doubt it), but no supplier I have ever engaged with, has ever charged for a ‘Marriage Guidance’ session, with one of my clients as yet. That’s probably something to do with the thought that if issues are not solved, I will be providing lots of available practical alternatives. Most issues are solvable and divorce lawyers would agree, keeping a line of communication open, is always the way forward.

Chances are too, that successful resolution of issues with your software supplier, will be good for you and them. After all, switched on suppliers want to have happy customers, paying annual maintenance for a long time into the future. Why would they not?  

So, the thought I would leave you with, is that perhaps an exit, might not be best for all. Get a trusted third party to introduce a neutral view, that might unlock the situation.

Related Post: How good are our primary suppliers at managing their third parties?


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Utopia - The Marriage of Heaven and HellUtopia - The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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