Tuesday, June 16, 2020

“Vendor SLAs” - Customers VS Vendors 

(battle or partnership?)

Image is found at
My experience on both ends of enterprise IT should allow me to elaborate on the topic a little bit. It has come up recently in multiple public and private forums – the customers are not very happy with vendors and term “Vendor SLA” has been born. The term basically means – the technology vendors should be (financially) responsible for what was promised but not delivered due incompleteness of the product, bugs or wrongly set expectations.

There are my own clear memories of the days when our IT Department receives a shiny slideshow overview of the product, we setup PoC, test all features in our non-prod environment and let the vendor know that we’d like to proceed with the implementation but want to be cautious of the cost. Product arrives, provides basics and we ask for additional functionality that was described and demoed to us – we receive those “ah’s”– (a) ah it’s still in development, (b) ah it’s a separately sold functionality, (c) ah you need specific technology, hardware etc in your data center to take advantage of this. 

Obviously after awhile going via these experiences you learn how to better navigate via vendors marketing content but still it’s far away from perfect and makes it difficult to smile at vendors instead of expressing your real emotions.

On another end I’ve been working for the vendors and can see how (especially in startup environments) there is simply not enough resources that would allow in no time to bring the product to its perfection in terms of bugs and features. Sometimes a team of several people work for multiple weeks to deliver "an absolutely needed feature" for the specific customer use-case. The feature released and six months down the road you learn that there is no plans for customer to use the feature. Also because of its specifics the functionality can't be used by other customers and increase the value proposition of the product.

Would Vendor SLA help here – a customer was misled in regards of the timelines, quality of the product, functionality – they come and ask Vendor to pay. Lets say Vendor pays monetary amount for the impact to the customer business. Now - to recover its own financial impact – the vendor cuts more resources – that slows up development process and number of bugs will grow, number of features growth will slow down or stop. Who’s the winner?

I’m not saying the vendors are not responsible or innocent. Yes the vendors are bloody guilty on overstating the product ability to deliver everything. And unfortunately it’s how the technology revolution works since Edison selling light bulb long time before he could deliver it, same story with Elon Musk’s enterprises, same story but different ending with Theranos startup.

It comes back to the layer 8 of OSI model – human interactions – if vendors were open and transparent with customers and the customers had solid picture that they are investing in the future – we could move much smoother forward. However in today world it’s very difficult to trust each other and move forward. Unfortunately today the biggest successes are based on customer-vendor lies instead of productive relationships. Will we be able to change that ever and "break through to the other side"?

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