Some of you may be old enough to remember the Paul Simon
song 50 ways to leave your lover. The chorus went something like this:
You just slip out
the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You dont need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You dont need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free.
Unfortunately in this day and age, leaving your lover just
might be easier than leaving your vendor, particularly if you have developed a
relationship over time and their product or products are intertwined throughout
your organization and infrastructure. This is something that vendors that are
trying to woo you often gloss over when they are offering you a competing
product at a bargain price. I had a vendor in my office just the other day, and
they were telling me just how easy it would be to transition from their competitor’s
product to their own. It sounded so simple and elegant, and they assured me
that they would be there for me to help me through the transition. Right. And
if I believe that, I should have all-day sucker tattooed on my forehead.
The fact of the matter is that making a significant change
in a product that is in use in your organization can be more difficult to
extricate yourself from than a tar pitparticularly if it means a big loss of revenue
to a vendor. A perfect example is the state of Massachusetts’ attempt to go with
an open document format. Clearly, Microsoft did not want that happening. But
this is certainly not limited to Microsoft. Any indication to a vendor that
they may be replaced can scale from verbal protests, to lawsuits to having your
service cut off. So, if you are considering such a shift, you’ll need to do a
lot of careful planning.
The first place to start is with your contract (if you have
one) with the particular vendor you now want to replace. We often tend to gloss
over terms and conditions when signing on the dotted line, but those can come
back to haunt you when its time to say goodbye. So get out the magnifying
glass and make friends with your general counsel to get their opinion on any
gotchas that may be buried in the contract.
Second, do a thorough in-house analysis of the reach of the
particular product or products that you want to sunset. Dont be myopic in your
evaluation by just looking at your department. You need to comb the entire
organization not once, but numerous times, to make sure that you know who could
be affected by the change.
Third, determine if the transition is going to be an all-at-once
transition or a phased transition. This can depend on a number of variables,
including the type of product or services being let go/introduced as well as
funding streams, organizational preparedness, the size of the undertaking, etc.
If it truly is going to be an all-at-once transition, you need to try and keep
things quiet to avoid pre-emptive strikes by your soon-to-be-spurned lover and
feel confident that you have the power to deal with any retaliation or
disruption that might arise from an unhappy provider. Here are a few tips:
someone to manage the transition project this is not a spare-time job.
with those who are going to be affected and get their input in the
the project plan and particularly stress looking for dependencies.
it again for dependencies and make sure you have done a risk analysis and
have identified contingency options for all possible behavior.
management sign off and move forward.
Even with careful planning, this kind of change can be
challenging at the least, and nightmarish at the worst. However, your planning
efforts should pay dividends in the success of the project. Thorough planning should
mitigate the worst problems (and something always seems to crop up that is
problematic), while lack of planning can get you into hot water real fast.
How long will the process take? It depends on the scope and
how intertwined the product is in your organization’s operations. Some things
can be done practically overnight and remain almost totally transparent to
users, while other times, it can take years to finally rid yourself of the last
vestiges of a vendor. The good news is that when you are done, you dont have
to pay alimony or maybe you do. How closely did you read your terms and