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Executive Insight:

The Hidden Value of
Strategic Partnerships

Jim Metzler
Ashton, Metzler & Associates

InternetWeek logo          February 8, 1999

See also:
Electronic Commerce (eCommerce)

          Many of my clients find themselves in a situation best described by the phrase, "So many vendors, so little time."

          Whether it's for network hardware, professional services or carrier services, these clients are besieged by vendors trying to get their most precious commodity: time.

          Having networking alternatives is a good thing. However, organizations that don't focus attention on a small number of strategic partners are doomed to spend more time and get less value from their vendors.

          One of the powerful effects of strategic partnerships is that it tends to eliminate the adversarial nature of many customer-vendor relationships.

          One of my clients recently told me of his effort to significantly reduce the number of vendors supplying products and services to his company. The primary motivation was to reduce the time spent on vendor management. However, he was pleasantly surprised to find that he could now regard his company's strategic partners' employees as his company's own employees.

          To create a relationship with a vendor that is truly a partnership, you must ensure that there is something in it for both parties. From the vendor perspective, this is relatively straightforward: It wants a continued revenue stream. The vendor should also look to the IT organization to provide meaningful feedback on the vendor's vision, strategy and products.

          For an IT organization, the value is more varied. As a starting point, the IT organization should expect operational excellence. The IT organization also should expect that the vendor is not intending to end each conversation by closing a sale.

          In addition, strategic partnerships should foster a free exchange of information and ideas. For the sake of example, I will use quality of service (QoS). At a minimum, the IT organization can expect that the vendor will educate it on the basic concepts of QoS, the underlying QoS technologies, as well as the vendor's product and service strategy. The vendor should also make the organization aware of best practices in deploying QoS.

          Given the highly varied nature of IT organizations, it is difficult to say how many strategic partners make sense for any given organization. However, I would like to recommend the approach taken by another one of my clients: When asked how many strategic partners he wanted to have, he responded, "As many as I need, and as few as I can get away with."


Jim Metzler is a principal with Ashton, Metzler & Associates, a consulting firm that focuses on leveraging technology. He can be reached at:
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PO Box 1640
Sanibel, FL 33957

Dr. Jim Metzler
Voice: 239.395.3152 -- Facsimile: 801.760.6433

Sarah Ashton
Voice: 239.395.3142 -- Facsimile: 801.681.5497

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