Since the emergence of the digital era, commercial economies have seen considerable growth and we now live in an age where almost every workflow is assisted, or even dependent on, software.

It would be impractical for every organization to have an internal technical team developing sophisticated custom software. This has evolved a market where outsourcing complex technical work is a common approach for most industries. Outsourcing, by its very nature, relies on strong and productive relationships with external technical vendors to be successful.

As with every flourishing sector, the development market has become increasingly competitive and commoditized. This has resulted in every vendor positioning themselves and their solutions as the “best in class” for “boosting your business and meeting your digital needs”. There are numerous cases where these early promises have not been realized, with vendors being accused of not meeting quality, timelines or budgets and clients accused of being vague with their requirements or continuously changing them. Project deliverables and payments or often withheld as a result of deteriorating relationships.

So, why does achieving a successful client-vendor relationship appear to be so challenging?

Clients’ expectations of vendors, a lack of understanding of the market challenges and insufficient technical knowledge are often the underlying causes of incomplete project briefs, and it is these briefs coupled with the fact that vendors operate in a commoditized market, that cause the vendors to misinterpret the needs of the clients. This results in mismanaged expectations, budgets and timelines being exceeded and a breakdown of the relationship.

These are the limitations of both the parties involved.

Vendors are:

Clients are:

What can clients do to make the relationship thrive?

Clients need to understand that it is a commoditized market with vendors competing on price. Because of this, estimates are often based on the least costly implementation looking only at the functionality that has been specifically briefed. There is often an assumption that vendors will be consultative, but this is a luxury that cannot be afforded when competing on price. To level the playing field between the vendors and to ensure realistic estimates the client needs to improve their brief, their vendor evaluation and selection process, and their communication.

What can Vendors do to make the relationship thrive?

Vendors need to stop competing on price. Which, I know, can be difficult when you are fearing for your business’ future but the current market is unhealthy. Vendors can do more to educate clients on quality and they need to be more transparent.

Bad relationships and failed projects are not pleasant for either party. After a bad experience, they both move on with a more cynical approach to the next project and more likely to start from a position of mistrust. There is always a better way of doing things to be more effective. We must understand that no system is perfect but if the shortcomings can be identified and addressed, and both parties can learn to work with each other in a different, more transparent way, things can certainly improve for clients and for vendors alike.

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