How to Win at the IT Outsourcing Negotiating Table

If CIOs want to get the most from IT outsourcing deals, they need to treat negotiation as an organizational business process--with training, tools, and processes--rather than an IT purchasing arrangement.

Who's your best outsourcing deal negotiator—Hank, the 'people guy' that everyone loves? Is your negotiating tool kit limited to your RFP templates and supplier scoring sheets? Is your goal to get the lowest prices for the highest SLAs in the shortest span of time?

That kind of ad-hoc negotiating behavior leads to failed outsourcing deals time and again. But there's a better way—and one that should be natural for process-driven IT organizations. It's time to start treating IT negotiations as a business process that permeates the entire IT organization, says Jeff Weiss, partner at Vantage Partners, a Boston-based negotiation and relationship management consultancy, who also teaches the science of negotiation to cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and MBA candidates at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

And those skills, tools, and processes will reap rewards not just at the negotiating table, but in the complex day-to-day interactions the IT organization have with end users, customers, suppliers, and partners, says Weiss, who worked closely with the authors of Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In during his days at the Harvard Negotiation Project. talked to Weiss about how to build a business process that increases IT's return on negotiation. Why is it important for IT leaders to build negotiating capabilities at an organizational level? Isn't having a handful of skilled negotiators enough?

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