Making a Microsoft Relationship Work: Page 3

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Relationship Ownership

With any vendor someone needs to own the relationship. When I’ve seen problems with a vendor it has often resulted from the fact that no one actually owned the relationship. With Microsoft this is somewhat more difficult because they often are not the folks actually providing the complete solution. Nonetheless, given the level of commitment firms often have with the company I believe that the relationship still needs to be owned.

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The relationship owner is not there to keep Microsoft happy; they are there to make sure that the firm’s needs are met with regard to what Microsoft is supplying. They need to know who to escalate to, they need to maintain personal relationships that enable that escalation, and they need to have open lines of communication so that if fixes or problems are coming, the firm can take advantage of the first and avoid the last.

This is often not a trivial job and it should have measurements and be a large part of someone’s compensation plan. It often strikes me that a firm might have a multi-million dollar financial relationship with a vender but then gives the physical relationship less focus than the local coffee shop probably gets.

When I’ve done causal analysis on firms that are very pleased with Microsoft and those that feel the firm cannot perform, the result has often come down to the strength of the relationship. Those that have a strong one are generally very happy, those that don’t, aren’t.

I’ve seen this same cause and result across a wide variety of vendors so it suggests a rule that should be enforced: if you have a significant vendor commitment, someone should have a significant focus on maintaining the resulting relationship on both sides. This also suggests that vendors who won’t do their part should be avoided as well.

Talk to Them

Microsoft is clearly having issues, but one big one, in my view, is that the folks who should be talking to them aren’t doing so effectively.

This is a relationship issue and if you stand back and take a look at your financial commitment to Microsoft, and what it would cost to displace them, maybe it’s time some resources were put on making things better from your end, rather than just complaining internally about what they need to do. At the very least, you are more likely to get Microsoft to listen and you might even move the ball.

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