Maybe it’s me

Picture of Matt Haynes

Matt Haynes


Did Henry VIII ever think “You know what, maybe it’s me?”

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a large organisation with complex business challenges, must be in want of technology suppliers. Ok, not quite as memorable as Jane Austen’s famous opening line but you get the point. 

I’m also not certain that Austen was specifically thinking of Henry VIII when she wrote Pride & Prejudice, presumably if she had been she would have written “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a large man, in possession of a dwindling fortune due to ever more expensive foreign wars, must, despite not being single at any point, constantly be in want of another wife”, but it broadly applies and admittedly her version is more catchy.

Question: What do Elizabeth Bennett, the Tudors, and technology have in common? Discuss

Answer: Unrealistic expectations, relationship disappointments, and the occasional success story, although there are fortunately fewer beheadings in most IT departments.

Clients view software vendors, System Integrators and Managed Services providers as somewhere on the positive/negative spectrum between a vital trusted partner to be welcomed and a money-grabbing necessary evil to be managed, but everyone accepts the necessity of the relationships.

And these relationships are ever more varied, and ever more complex. Businesses are constantly grappling with difficult choices as to the optimal model for working with technology suppliers – ITOs, disaggregated service models, SIAM, managing agents, IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and a number of others have all at some point been “THE ANSWER” to this perennial challenge, in truth there is no perfect answer; rather, organisations need to look strategically at where best to place the balance of control, risk and cost. However, there is more to it than this.

Getting the model right (or as good as possible) is certainly important. As is getting the right suppliers in place to deliver within that model. But too often the third crucial part of making a technology supply chain work is overlooked.

Regularly when Finyx gets asked to help a client define the requirement and the sourcing strategy for procuring technology services it is because the existing contractual relationship with a supplier has come to a natural end. Sometimes this is just a simple contractual thing, but often it is because the client’s needs have evolved while the legacy contract has not. These situations are normally both amicable and easy to navigate. However, occasionally we encounter something more hostile and deep-rooted, a relationship that has broken and where termination is unavoidable. This situation can lead to difficult conversations.

Inevitably, part of the work in a scenario like this involves working through contractual obligations, erroneous assumptions, failed dependencies and highly emotionally charged opinions (word to the wise, no contract is ever as unambiguous as exit management consultants would like). Almost invariably, there is some fault on both sides, and once able to be objective, the client (our client) normally accepts this.

The interesting thing, however, is what happens next. Clients in this situation rush to define a new model or a new requirement, procure a new supplier and start again. Very rarely is there much thought put into whether they themselves should do something differently to increase the chances for the new relationship to be successful. How clients engage with suppliers is at least equally as important as how suppliers perform. In fact, the two are symbiotic; if you don’t change the engagement you are unlikely to get a different outcome. As Einstein famously said about insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

We recently pitched to a client to help them reprocure some technology services. In our first meeting with the key team one of the senior stakeholders said, “It feels like we’ve worked with every supplier in the last few years and none of them are any good. We need you to help us create a contract where someone new will deliver properly”. Slightly awkward really. A bit like Henry VIII – if you’ve been through six partners in 10 years, perhaps it’s not them that are the problem.