Project Management

Open letter to tech vendors: Stop circumventing IT consultants

Tech vendors should focus on making quality products and offering good service rather than circumventing IT consultants in an attempt to increase the vendor's revenue stream.

Dear technology vendors,

Some of you are circumventing the IT consultant and attempting to upsell, renew, or seize the relationship with the end user with whom the consultant originated the vendor's business. I've seen three vendors bypass the IT consultant recently in an ill-conceived attempt to directly increase the vendor's revenue stream. This is unconscionable behavior.

Ultimately, the IT consultant's customers seek and require their expertise reviewing needs and dependencies, designing and architecting solutions, determining which technologies, products, software, devices, and equipment will best meet the customer's needs and implementing and supporting the solutions. The consultant subsequently invests significant energy researching and identifying the hardware, software, network, and equipment products, gauges how well the devices fulfill their promises, spends time and money to educate and certify its engineers on those product lines, and establishes a partnership with the vendor. These are traditional business methods and processes that are proven, work well, and best meet the needs of the end user, the consultant, and the vendor.

You must learn that such predatory behavior doesn't work. In fact, this cannibalistic behavior leaves the vendor looking troubled, confuses the client, and angers the consultant. Instead of eliminating the consultant (who best understands the client), the client's business, and the client's business needs and requirements, you should invest time building better products that operate more consistently, fail less often, and perform as promised.

If you continue to engage in such alienating behavior, your distribution channels will dry up quickly. All of the IT consultants and professionals I've spoken to about this issue agree that you should focus more effort on building better performing products and offering better support for your technology partners.

Frustrated consultants are turning their back on several major vendors for well-known competitors. As those new consultant-vendor relationships are developed, you can guarantee consultants will share the factors prompting the new relationship; vendors acquiring new partner accounts will be well advised to heed the writing on the wall. There are plenty of hardware and software providers, but the client typically looks to a small and tight cadre of trusted IT professionals for guidance and expertise.

Poll for IT consultants

IT consultants, has a tech vendor ever bypassed you and gone directly to the end user?

If you answered yes, please share your experience, including what you said to the vendor and to the client, in the discussion.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

11 comments
ananthap
ananthap

If you are really indispensable, then the buyer will check with you before purchasing. And he will tell the vendor to get a confirmation from you. In India, there is a class of people who are in this position. Unfortunately they are not IT people but accountants and engineers. I suppose that when IT really becomes a part of the management, it will happen. How does IT push the process? If a vendor bypasses you, then you should never, ever, take the responsibility for or commit IT resources to support these vendors. If you are consistent and makin a mark in your key performance areas, then eventually the management will come to rely on you. Also, you should find out which is the recalcitrant user group that seeks to bypass IT and address their concerns. OK

eazypos
eazypos

maybe vendor need more money for itself. but do not appreciate partner

robertparten
robertparten

In my career I have seen this behavior far too much from all kinds of vendors. I don't think there is once single vendor who doesn't do this to their VARs. I am not going to point the finger just yet at the vendors; however, I feel more confident pointing the finger at the people with whom the Vendor hires per region. I have seen some regional sales people really work with their VARs because they understand the relationships that are formed and the deep technical expertise that exists within the VARs. I recently worked with one of our VARs and she was more than willing to give us business once she knew that we would push their product line and make her job just that much easier. Once again, I think ALL vendors do this to their VARs, some more than others. It really depends on the corporate culture and the people in the field.

mrbledso
mrbledso

For many years, our company recommended Dell as a hardware provider. When Dell started calling our customers directly, we got calls from our customers wanting to know why Dell was calling them. For this reason, we are using HP for our hardware vendor.

Greg Miliates
Greg Miliates

Typically, I've seen that vendors don't always offer the best service--even when their clients are paying big money for service contracts. And turning around poor service at most vendors takes time, and is seen as a huge cost with little to no payoff. As a result, that poor service opens up a great market for consultants who can easily fill the gap to an established market who've invested big money for the vendor's product and who need support. That's essentially what I've been able to capitalize on in my consulting business. I've been in business for over 5 years, focusing on a single vendor who's owned by a large comparny--Thomson Reuters. The service offered has steadily declined even as vendor sales have grown. As a result, my business continues to grow consistently and I have more financial security. So, while some vendors--even the one I work with--try to squeeze out 3rd party consultants, it's difficult for them to do since the reason for consultants is poor vendor service--something the vendor is unwilling to invest in since they see it as a cost without benefit. Greg Miliates StartMyConsultingBusiness dot com

mdwalls
mdwalls

The best consultants do not sell or otherwise benefit financially from a client's purchase of Product X. Any other relationship makes the consultant's advice suspect, however good it might be otherwise. As such the consultant is supporting their client with technical expertize and cumulative experience. Smart vendors and/or a vendor who works for the client's success will work to establish a three-way partnership with client and consultant, for mutual success in the system implementation. Both consultant and vendor need to keep in mind that "success" only comes when the client successfully implements the new system -- becoming a "referenceable account"!

Marc Jellinek
Marc Jellinek

When vendors are reliant on consultants to sell, implement and support their products; don't screw the consultants. It's called biting the hand that feeds you. Remember a company called "Novell"? Bypassing the consultants that built the company (as Adornoe points out, who didn't work for Novell) was one of many mistakes that resulted in the demise of the company. One of the reasons Apple has never been a player in corporate IT (iDevices aside, a consumer oriented and relatively recent development) is they have regularly screwed their partner channel. Remember the first Linux IPO? It was from a company called VA Linux. They screwed their channel. RedHat didn't. RedHat is still in business. VA Linux now runs the ThinkGeek catalog. A paper catalog. Think about it. Companies regularly court the consultant and partner channel for a very simple reason: a channel is MUCH less expensive than building, managing and staffing an in-house sales and consulting organization. Again, Adornoe states "they don't work for you". But if a vendor is going to rely on and benefit from the channel, do not abandon, circumvent or outright screw the channel. It's bad business.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Mr Eckel doesn't believe in the free market! Damn commie! :D

dogknees
dogknees

IT Consultants should stop trying to tell vendors how to run their businesses. They don't work for you.

mckinnej
mckinnej

I admit freely that I don't live in the commercial world of vendors and consultants, so this discussion is somewhat of foreign language to me. I don't really get why dogknees is being voted down. Unless the consultant has some sort of partnership with the vendor, what dogknees stated is a fact. Unless the consultant is signing the checks, the vendor has no requirement to go through them to talk to the client. Their goals are not the same either. While it would be nice if the two could play nice together, it isn't a requirement, UNLESS THE CLIENT MAKES IT SO. IMHO, the client is where the problem sits. Now that Captain Obvious has left the building, there is little the consultant can do if the client chooses to work directly with the vendor (other than find another client). If the client is dumb enough to pay a consultant and not use them, well, the consultant should either end the relationship or enjoy the income while it lasts. Getting frustrated and ticked off won't help, so either work with the vendor via backchannels or suck it up and move on.

dogknees
dogknees

At the end of the day the person who chooses what to buy and where to buy it is the customer. No ones holding their hand and forcing them to sign an order.

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