I’m sure I don’t need to set out the political and economic issues we currently operate within. I certainly have no intention of commenting on them, except to highlight that uncertainty seems to be everywhere. In an uncertain world, certainty is exceptionally valuable and there are opportunities here.
One of those opportunities is to review your existing software portfolio and assess your relationships with software vendors. In my experience, the social housing sector has long-standing relationships with key software providers to the sector. Many of these relationships still operate on an annual renewal basis and on old terms and conditions dating back to original investments many years ago. I suspect that there are those among you who are also keen to not rock any boats here in case ‘procurement’ demands a lengthy procurement process.
I won’t mention OJEU here, but I am thinking about this from a supplier relationship management perspective. Software suppliers are as uncertain as any other supplier and might value an opportunity to shore up their customer base in order to gain some certainty over the short to medium term. I suggest that there is quite likely to be value to both parties in considering your positions with your software suppliers. If you consider that your HMS provider is a critical supplier to your business, then perhaps this is a good moment to reflect that in a commercial agreement and support them through commitment; in my experience, certainty of your commitment as a customer is likely to be rewarded financially or via other benefits.
I also know that many housing providers transact their software licences through resellers and consider that they are getting good value via that channel. While there are some excellent resellers, there is no substitute for a direct relationship with the software vendor itself. Even software giants who trade their licences via partners are open to a direct relationship and are quite often prepared to support their partners in agreeing terms or additional value, such as social value, roadmap and/or strategy sessions, executive-level engagement or purely financial terms.
I’ve discussed that ‘relationships really matter’ many times before. And at this time, when the balance of power is arguably more skewed to the customer who controls certainty with their suppliers, I would encourage all CIOs, IT directors and finance executives to consider taking action now to ensure that their IT supplier relationships are right and that both parties have suitable terms based on appropriate levels of certainty; all very valuable commodities in this uncertain world.
Some final tips to help you gain from the current economic and political uncertainty:
- If you need help, reach out to your procurement teams and ask them for their support.
- Use portfolio analysis to consider the relationships you should be targeting in consideration of your organisation and IT strategies.
- Develop a priority action plan and invest the time into your key IT supplier relationships.
- Identify the certainty you need, and therefore the certainty you can offer, and make sure the value of it is recognised by your IT supplier(s).
Chris Cliffe is a director of CJC Procurement.