Agony list – Managing vendors can be painful

Part of my job involves managing vendors.  These are software vendors who provide some type of software services to the company I work for.  I manage a development team and instead of creating everything ourselves I pay companies to provide either software packages or software developers to complement the work we do in-house.

This week, the vendors are on my agony list.  Should feel like this… 

but really feels like this… 

Three distinct and equally painful, irritating, and ongoing issues:

1.  Vendor A is supposed to provide me a framework of metrics that I will publish to prove the value of the services my team deliver.  They presented to me months ago, talked about this great service they have, and have not given me anything to get started.  In the meantime, I have to explain why I can’t show the value (in metrics, as I can describe it in words) and I am losing my mind.  I have now told vendor A that I will go to another vendor as of date x if they have not delivered all the things they promised.  Now the guy from vendor A shows up to talk to me, explaining all the reasons they haven’t done what they said they would, and on, and on, and on…  And I listened with a blank look on my face while I spent time inside my head thinking about whether I would eat dinner before martial arts or be able to wait until after class.  I knew I was hungry and would have a hard time waiting until 9:30, but then again every time I eat before class I regret it….oh, he is still talking, I better tell him I heard him and don’t care about any of that (since I’m not sure what all he said) and that I just want the stuff he promised by date x or I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  Done with that one.

2.  Vendor B gave me software in Dec 2009 and part of it doesn’t work, and they don’t know when they can fix it.  We talk about how I pay them money to purchase their product that doesn’t work, and then I pay them money to maintain it (which makes no sense because they can’t even get to maintaining it until it works).  The guy tells me they are working on it 24 hours a day and paying ‘extra’ attention to our account because of the frustration I have expressed.  This does not make me feel better and so the words that come out of my mouth are “you must have the worst damn programmers in the world if they are working on my problem 24 hours a day and can’t fix it.”  He asks what he can do to convince me they are working on the problem, and I say I want to talk to the boss of the programmers so I can ask him why they aren’t smart enough to fix the problem.  Meeting is set for Monday.  Should be interesting.

3.  Vendor C sells me a software product that works great in their offices, but they can’t make it work in our offices.  We work through this for several weeks, and finally decide to change a component and it is now working.  The problem with this is the component we changed costs a lot of money and now I have to pay for something – option (2) that wasn’t planned unless they can make option (1) work.  In a call today, we discuss whether they should stop working on option (1) because they are not confident they can make it work. (yes, it’s in the contract)  Of course, I want to know how much they will compensate us for having to go to option (2) before I make the decision, and they want to know how much I want compensated before they will make the recommendation to stop working on option (1).  Round and round we go…my head is spinning….and they don’t know vendor A and vendor B have used up all my ‘give the vendor a break, they are trying to do their job, they really don’t mean to cause me pain’ goodwill.  Next meeting is set for Tuesday.

All this agony, and what do I get for it?  More meetings next week to talk to them again.  Maybe I should give vendor A’s problem to vendor B to see if he can fix it….then give vendor B’s to C, and then give vendor C’s to my 14-year-old son….wait, that’s not what I meant….or maybe it was.  Couldn’t feel worse at this point.

These are global, billion dollar companies that know how to create and deliver services.  It’s pure agony to realize that every transaction really just comes down to talking to the right person who can make things happen, and sometimes that person isn’t the one talking to me.

One more vendor call tomorrow.  This one is making progress on all the issues we have so I hope to gain a half hour back if they are still committed. I’ll get through that one, then my team lunch, and I’m done for the week.  Peace.

My team, the employees, the company are counting on me.  I’ll be back in fighting condition for Monday so watch out vendor B.

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One Response to Agony list – Managing vendors can be painful

  1. John Erickson says:

    Hello! Sorry to be late to this story, I only recently “found” you (I know, YOU knew where you were all the time!) over on TheIdiotSpeaketh. (Sorry, don’t know everybody’s name over there yet.) This particular post caught my eye – before my migraines settled in for good, I was on both sides of the software-vendor issue. I worked on a package, back in Chicago, with our supplying vendor in Florida. Joys – not! I’m sure you know this, but “paper” has to be your byword. If you get promises over the phone or in a meeting, they’re hard to enforce with the vendor. If they’re willing to sign something, they will (usually) bust hump to meet that paper, even if their staff have to become Trappist monks! Sometimes I miss the whole programming world – but only sometimes. (I miss not being able to work almost every day, but I do what I can within the confines of being legally stoned 24/7). If you ever need an I/T experienced ear, even just to gripe, fire me off an Email. And you were the lady with the husband who keeps screwing up the laundry,no? Did my suggestion work? Or does your husband now want to hunt me down? 😀

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