by Michael Friedenberg

Customer-Vendor Alignment

Jul 23, 20092 mins

Customers and vendors need to work together to align strategies and strengthen partnerships.

In my recent visits with CIOs and executives in the IT vendor community, I keep noticing how we’re still “so close, yet so far away” from one another.

Sorry for the Hall and Oates reference, but it’s remarkable to me how the IT press writes so much about business-technology alignment yet so little about vendor-customer alignment.

Maybe this topic is lurking beneath the topsoil. Maybe it’s time to till that soil and see where some common understanding might grow.

Cloud computing would be a great place to start. One CIO recently told me that purchase opportunities must now be evaluated through three lenses: 1) Build it in-house; 2) Buy and house it; 3) Buy and put it in the cloud. At the same time, vendors are jumping aggressively into cloud offerings. Amazon, EMC, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft and many others are marketing cloud “solutions” meant to serve customers needs.

But if there’s true alignment here, I’m not seeing it. CIOs want a hybrid environment that combines on-premise, internal applications with cloud solutions. Yet vendors seem to all be saying they want to put everything in the cloud. That’s missing the point customers are making.

A second area where I see customer-vendor miscommunication is in compliance. With massive amounts of regulation as the reality now—and more coming on the heels of rising privacy concerns and federal stimulus dollars—CIOs would welcome guidance on how to manage it all at the right level of investment. Vendors have incredible insight and knowledge in this area, based on the number of customers they serve. Shouldn’t these two worlds be aligned? This is a great opportunity for vendors to become strategic partners providing value beyond their product lines. Some have absolutely stepped up their game in this area (such as Microsoft, CA and Accenture).

Lastly, the realm of information management feels ripe for more customer-vendor alignment. CIOs are perpetually working to better leverage data and turn it into business knowledge, while keeping pace with ever-stricter e-discovery rules. True alignment between suppliers and their customers could deliver so much mutual benefit here, ultimately creating a more genuine partnership on both sides.

Isn’t it time we moved the alignment conversation to new ground?