Have you outgrown your software partner? Are you dissatisfied and wonder if there might be a better fit? There are many reasons to re-evaluate your business partnerships, and you should do it regularly. As the VP of Sales and Marketing at Western Computer, I often talk to customers and prospects about their motivations to change partners. Here are five of the most common reasons for changing software partners, and some tips on ways to resolve issues before making a difficult switch.
1. Lack of Skills
Perhaps you are planning for a major upgrade to your system and you’re not sure your current partner has the skill set needed to meet the new requirements. Worse yet, you are not happy with the skill set of your current team and their support of your existing system(s). This is an excellent time to talk to your partner about your concerns. Ask for information such as number and type of certified professionals and their experience with similar environments. Perhaps there are other technicians that would be better suited for your company and projects.
2. Slow Support / Response Times
I often hear customers complain about the lack of responsiveness to their problems. This is worthy of both attention and measurement. Have your team track the specific support issues and the corresponding response times. Is it over the industry average? Does your contract include details about the service level agreement? A good partner will offer a structured process for project management and support.
3. No Relationship
Do you have the right contacts to ensure a healthy and strategic relationship? Is your main point of contact an account manager (who is incented to keep you happy) or a sales representative (who is incented to move on and find new customers)? Are you getting what you expected? Would you prefer more checkpoints, more high-level consultations? I am always dismayed with how many customers come to us because they felt neglected and had little to no relationship at all with their partner.
4. Leadership Changes
It’s inevitable that company leadership will change – both within your partner’s organization as well as your own. If the change is having a negative impact on the relationship, that should be dealt with as soon as possible. It is common for a new CXO to want to “put their stamp” on the organization which may include which business partners and what kind of contracts are in place, as well as the systems used. It’s important for both parties to be upfront when this happens and set realistic expectations for the transition of leadership and what changes will follow.
5. Overall Value
It’s easy to think you are overpaying your partner, but how do you really know if the costs are reasonable? Sometimes it’s worthwhile to issue a request for proposals (RFP) or otherwise test the market before renewing your existing contract. In fact, many organizations require an RFP for larger projects. A good partner welcomes the opportunity to map services and associated costs to the value derived by the business in performing their activities as well as across the enterprise value chain. Be sure to understand the entire “value” of the partnership and costs beyond the technology, including licensing, support options, total cost of ownership, experience and skills, response times, etc.
There are many good reasons to leave a partnership, and many ways to take action so you don’t have to. Make sure you perform regular check-ups of your business relationships and don’t be afraid to question any areas of concern. If you do choose to transition to a new partner, you’ll want to check out my next blog, on how to make a smooth transition. Stay tuned.
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