Tech & Work

Vendors bypassing the CIO: Six ways to stop it

When a vendor goes straight to the end user with the sales process, it puts IT in a bad position. Here's how the CIO can stop this behavior.

I'm convinced that vendors hate it when IT becomes involved in the sales process, particularly in organizations that do not have strong IT governance or software/service acquisition policies in place. By going straight to the end user, the vendor is more likely o sell the product on that product's merits alone without having to go through a pesky check of requirements or integration possibilities.

This sometimes results in a software purchase being made and IT being to "just make it work."  It's a bad position for the CIO. It's a bad position for the company. And, ultimately, it's a bad position for the department that actually buys the software. They're left with a system that may or may not integrate into existing processes, that may not be able to be adequately supported by the IT department and that may result in establishing a "data island" that confuses or disrupts decision making.

How can you - the CIO - stop this behavior?

It all depends on what kind of organization you work for and what your goal is. If your goal is a strict command and control - you're the gatekeeper and there's no two ways about it - you're probably fighting a losing battle. The goal is not to simply say no. The goal should be to ensure that solutions that are ultimately implemented in the organization are properly evaluated to make sure that they meet the needs and overall requirements of the organization. These requirements may include provisions that require all service to meet certain specific data integration standards.

Be transparent. The more transparent you are in your work, the more that people will trust you to do the right thing and for collaboration. Now, if a vendor calls, it's more likely that you'll be pulled into the discussion at the beginning rather than having a blow up at the end. Be approachable. If you're not approachable, people will work hard to go around you. After all, the path of least resistance is human nature. If people don't feel comfortable working with you, they'll just work with the vendor and find ways to "beat the system" rather than working with you. Forge strong relationships. The better the relationship that you have with your executive peers, the less likely it is that sneaky stuff will take place that affects your success. People will see you as a trusted colleague and bring you into conversations sooner, heading off what could be a nasty surprise down the line. Work with finance. Eventually, everything costs money. Create a policy and process that requires finance to verify that IT has been involved before officially committing funds to a software or service purchase. If IT hasn't been involved, payments are stopped. Be proactive. Work with individual units to determine needs and, together, identify solutions that can meet those needs. The unit will determine whether or not a solution is viable and the CIO will determine whether or not a solution can be grafted into the existing architecture. Take the hard line. I include this here for completeness, but consider it the "nuclear option" since it can have long-lasting consequences and may not be good for your reputation. Make it known that vendors that simply refuse to engage the CIO are blacklisted. Inside the organization, make it known that services acquired without input from the CIO will be ignored, even if they're already paid for. The downside here is that a good solution might be thrown out or ignored.

Let your reputation precede you

As I mentioned, I'm not a huge advocate of taking the hard line unless it becomes absolutely necessary. I'd much rather see an organization in which the CIO's reputation precedes him and he's seen as a collaborative, resourceful partner in business that is respected enough for business units to make sure that IT is involved in new initiatives from the beginning. Regardless, make sure everyone understands just how important it is for the CIO to be involved in services acquisition in order to retain order whenever possible.


Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

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