It is an important responsibility for business process owners to run health checks on all applications at regular intervals — a minimum of once in a three-year period. By doing that, process owners can decide if an application still provides the desired value. The outcome of this exercise is to decide if an application should be retired, supported or replaced with an alternative.
However, change can be difficult, especially when updating current systems or switching vendors. Having been on both sides of the fence, I have experienced situations where change was much more challenging than staying with a current vendor, but it was a necessity to grow the business or simply to stay competitive. Similarly, I now work with companies that have been using broken or manual systems for years for that very reason: fear of change.
In general, people simply enjoy their comfort zones and do not want to leave — it’s human nature. But, like in many situations, as Forbes contributor Ann Latham writes, getting out of your comfort zone “won’t be as bad as you expect.”
Why Businesses Should Continually Re-Evaluate Application Vendors
In the pharmaceutical industry, for instance, technological advancements are constantly evolving to effectively bring life-changing therapies to market. In the past decade, the number of clinical trials registered to ClinicalTrials.gov in the United States has skyrocketed, from around 66,000 clinical trials in 2009 to more than 293,000 in 2019, proving a rapid uptick in pharmaceutical research and innovation.
Pharmaceutical companies evolving at that rate should look at the best practices of application life cycle management to explore options that may turn out to be more cost-effective or cost-efficient or include value-added options. Some IT vendors are active in educating their customers about this as a best practice.
When I have spent time mentoring up-and-coming executives, the same question always arises: “How do I know when it’s time to switch?” My answer is sometimes you don’t know, but the way to find out is by going through the application life cycle management and performing health checks on key applications.
Sometimes organizations are pushed as price increases, customer service begins to lag, competitors begin doing something different, they have a feeling that things could be more efficient or the relationship with the vendor may just be stagnant. That is why continual re-evaluation of all vendors is paramount.
Questions To Ask Yourself During A Re-Evaluation
When re-evaluating a current vendor, there are plenty of questions that may come up — and many that should be pondered internally, including:
• Is the vendor bringing incremental value to your business year over year?
• Is the vendor listening to your company’s needs and behaving like a partner?
• What is its growth strategy: good salespeople or good solutions?
• Do you feel that the updates bring tangible value to processes and user experience?
• Can the vendor respond quickly with updates based on user experience?
• Is security designed in the product, or is it an afterthought?
• Is the vendor transparent, and does it regularly communicate road maps?
• Has the support team been consistent, or is turnover an issue?
• How often has it updated or invested in its system?
• Has it proactively brought solutions to the table?
• Does it value and listen to customer feedback?
• Is this vendor involved in the industry, and does it keep up with the latest trends?
• Has it answered why it’s better than its competitors?
Depending on the answers to this sampling of questions, it may be an easier decision to change vendors and tools. If that is not enough, gathering additional measurable data can help to formulate a decision. Metrics based on current deliverables should already be in place. Reviewing these and evaluating how the vendor scores should occur at regular intervals, if not monthly.
Ensuring A Smooth Transition Between Vendors
If the decision is made to end a current relationship, the next phase of the vendor displacement process is to forge a new one and engage with all business process owners to start the transition process. To properly transition vendors, there may be a period of overlap that needs to occur depending on the severity of the change.
Nevertheless, when embarking on a relationship with a new vendor, it is recommended that all goals, deliverables and expectations with specific dates are set in advance. This will help safeguard against any miscommunications, keeping both parties happy if the course is maintained.
It is equally important to have an internal team monitor the relationship, especially in the first six to 12 months. In my role at TrialAssure, our business centers on transparency and compliance in the pharmaceutical industry. Thus, when establishing a new relationship, I take it upon myself to educate product solutions managers and implementation leads on the importance of upfront and open communication at every client touch point. I have been on the other side, and that is what I expected then, so that is what I do now.
Vendor and application management is no simple job. The long hours and energy used to create, maintain and/or forge new relationships can be a painstaking process. On the other hand, a well-managed vendor relationship can create positive results for your organization, including reduced costs, increased client satisfaction and better service or products.
To achieve these results, it takes the right vendor displacement strategy to make sure that a vendor is earning the company’s business every day.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” If a vendor is simply behind the times or is under-performing, it is time to reconsider the relationship. Change should be embraced, not feared, in all levels of business in order to move forward.
Originally appeared on Forbes.com on