In many enterprises, IT folks decide what they want to buy and who they want to buy it from, but Procurement negotiates the contract, manages the relationship, and has significant influence on renewals. Right now, especially, purchasing folks have a lot of influence, because they’re often now the ones who go out and shop for alternatives that might be cheaper, forcing IT into the position of having to consider competitive bids.
A significant percentage of enterprise seatholders who use industry advisory firms have inquiry access for their Procurement group, so I routinely talk to people who work in purchasing. Even the ones who are dedicated to an IT procurement function tend not to have more than a minimal understanding of technology. Moreover, when it comes to renewals, they often have no thorough understanding of what exactly it is that the business is actually trying to buy.
Increasingly, though, procurement is self-educating via the Internet. I’ve been seeing this a bit in relationship to the cloud (although there, the big waves are being made by business leadership, especially the CEO and CFO, reading about cloud in the press and online, more so than Purchasing), and a whole lot in the CDN market, where things like Dan Rayburn’s blog posts on CDN pricing provide some open guidance on market pricing. Bereft of context, and armed with just enough knowledge to be dangerous, purchasing folks looking across a market for the cheapest place to source something, can arrive at incorrect conclusions about what IT is really trying to source, and misjudge how much negotiating leverage they’ll really have with a vendor.
The larger the organization gets, the greater the disconnect between IT decision-makers and the actual sourcing folks. In markets where commoditization is extant or in process, vendors have to keep that in mind, and IT buyers need to make sure that the actual procurement staff has enough information to make good negotiation decisions, especially if there are any non-commodity aspects that are important to the buyer.