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What Vendors Wish Their Users Knew

by Scott Nelson  |  August 2, 2011  |  Comments Off on What Vendors Wish Their Users Knew

Years ago, I left Gartner for a short while to be a vendor. It didn’t work out for me, but I often refer to it as my “period of deep vendor research”. Why it didn’t work is only marginally interesting. More interesting to me is what I learned about being a vendor. I had been an end user all my career, and then had learned how to be an analyst, but I didn’t know the world of vendors from personal experience until that tour of duty.

When I returned to Gartner, I wrote two notes. One was entitled “What Vendors Wish Their Users Knew”. The second was “What Vendors are Glad Their Users Don’t Know.” I was rereading the notes, and thought there was some value to reprinting a bit of what I wrote about back then. This is an except from the first note. Tomorrow I will have some of what I learned from the second note.

Truth No. 1: Vendors do not have all of the resources they need to do what you want.

 Vendors in many markets tend to be small. As such, they are stretched to the limit in such areas as research and development, staffing and support. In many cases, they would do more if they could; however, they are usually at capacity in most areas and tend to be engaged in a balancing act to meet all of their conflicting needs. Unfortunately, all users do not always receive the highest priority, which can be a major problem. However this tends to be inevitable in this market, and complaining is not the best way to have the problem rectified. Instead, working with the vendor to set a realistic time frame that meets the needs of all concerned is the superior approach. 

Truth No. 2: Bad references are often (although not always) explainable.

Vendors are absolutely terrified of bad references. Where the vendor made a mistake or simply failed to live up to sales promises, it should be. However, in many cases, the reference itself can be to blame for the failure. An enterprise’s failure to allocate resources, its political infighting and its unrealistic expectations can all doom a project, but to the outside world, the vendor may look like it deserves the blame. User enterprises should do their best to look for the real reasons behind failed implementations and be careful not to blame the vendor when the client was actually at fault.

Truth No. 3: Vendors really do try to do all that they can to make their clients happy.

Clients can be very demanding, and they have every right to be. After all, they are footing the bills, and failure can be very visible, as well as expensive. As a result, most vendors try to move heaven and earth to help their clients. In many cases, this goes on in the background, without clients seeing their efforts. Nonetheless, clients should work with their vendors on their requests, setting demanding, but fair requirements, and recognize when the vendor has made a strong effort to comply. In many cases, the customer’s demands are so great that no vendor could hope to achieve what has been asked of it.

Truth No. 4: If a vendor hasn’t done something, it’s usually because it hasn’t thought of it.


Clients often overanalyze the direction of a vendor’s product; i.e., they see something missing and then jump to the conclusion that the vendor has no desire to support it. In fact, in many cases, it simply means the vendor hasn’t gotten to it, hasn’t been asked for it by a client or simply hasn’t thought of it. Therefore, before users come to the erroneous conclusion that a particular vendor is no longer planning to meet their needs, they should stop and ask the vendor about it. In many cases, users will find that they were the first to pose the question. Going back to Truth No. 1, the vendor still may not be able to support it, but that is qualitatively different from thinking that it has simply chosen to ignore a market demand.

 Truth No. 5: No software works as promised at all times, in all situations.

No one is shocked to discover that a vendor has “over promised” during the selling process — that is, unfortunately, part of the game. However, clients tend to become unreasonable about what software can and cannot do as delivered. Many kinds of software are complex, enterprisewide solutions, and in many cases, and may still be relatively immature in its level of stability. As a result, some things will not work as promised. Vendors should have the opportunity to deal with those issues. Users have a right to receive software that works and meets their needs; however, vendors have the right and should be given the opportunity to adjust to the needs of their customers. The failure to give vendors such as opportunity represents a missed opportunity”

Is this an exhaustive list? Hardly. But I think it is a point to start some meaningful discussion between users and vendors

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Category: vendor-contracts  

Scott D. Nelson
Managing VP
12 years at Gartner
18 years IT industry

Scott Nelson is a managing vice president in Gartner Research. He is responsible for managing research in the area of CRM. His particular research focuses on CRM vision and strategy.

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