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No Substitute for Spending Time in the Field . . .

by Debbie Wilson  |  September 19, 2011  |  1 Comment

Last week at the Gartner IT Finance, Procurement and Asset Management conference in Florida was a blast.  I always learn so much when I get the chance to “live” with end users for days on end.   I had two amazing moments in the conference that I just had to share. 

My first favorite moment occurred at breakfast one morning.  I filled my plate and grabbed my coffee, and then sat down at a table of four people that seemed to be very engaged in an animated conversation.   It looked like a great opportunity to just sup and listen.  I was glad I chose that table, because they just happened to be discussing one of my favorite topics – how to measure supplier performance. 

The specific item being discussed was the credibility of vendor managers. All at the table agreed that vendor managers often seem too vendor oriented, defending and promoting their vendors to the point of nauseousness.  Their point was whether to include vendor managers’ input in supplier performance ratings.  One of the fellows at the table piped up, saying that he had solved this problem by getting the vendor managers to put their ratings in writing, in a format that made their ratings and comments visible to the full team.  By requiring the input to be in writing, the fellow said that the vendor managers were much more likely to provide fair and defensible input because they knew others would be looking.  What an awesome idea – I know providing openness and transparency internally at Gartner is a key way that we promote integrity and objectivity.  I saw the clever fellow the next day.  I happily complemented him on his creative approach and learned even more about his philosophy on metrics. 

The second totally interesting moment was when I met the CEO of the company E-Cycle, a Columbus-Ohio based IT hardware recycling vendor.  E-Cycling’s specialty is buying used Blackberries.   What amazed me was when the CEO said that the price tag for used Blackberries back could be $100 or more each.  I had not realized that a Blackberry would fetch that much, especially since most mobile programs I’ve seen offer the blackberry free or for a few hundred dollars.  But according to E-Cycle, these agreements are highly subsidized in terms of the hardware, and devices like an I-Phone might cost, on a stand-alone basis, as much as a PC.  He continued to explain that in other countries, customers have to buy the mobile device at full price, and so many are more than willing to purchase a refurbished device rather than buy an expensive brand new device.  Who would have thunk it?  From experience, I know procurement can often make a lot of money on selling excess materials, so ye in search of new sources of savings, consider this!


Deborah R Wilson
Research Vice President
8 years at Gartner
15 years IT industry

Deborah Wilson, a Gartner research vice president, covers procurement strategies and applications. Her areas of interest include procure-to-pay, e-marketplaces, e-sourcing, spend analysis, services procurement and supply risk assessment. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on No Substitute for Spending Time in the Field . . .

  1. Mike Kanze says:


    Great stuff here, as always.

    >By requiring the input to be in writing, the fellow said that the vendor managers were much more likely to provide fair and defensible input because they knew others would be looking.

    We used to take this a step further when I was at Procter & Gamble. Instead of a vendor manager ginning up a stand-alone written assessment (which then becomes a big fat target for every sniper in the organization), we would do a team assessment across all areas of P&G business having a stake in the outcome. Everyone had skin in the game and everyone was heard and could hear others. This process was especially great when making vendor selections, and when the occasional failure happened, finger-pointing was minimal.


    Mike Kanze

    Robert M. (Mike) Kanze, MBA
    CPSM, C.P.M., A.P.P.
    Cornerstone Services, Inc.
    Half Moon Bay, California, USA

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