What are you doing to ensure your IT suppliers work for you?

Navigating the Complex IT Supplier Landscape in 2024

It is a truism that IT evolves rapidly, hence it follows that we need to reassess relevant strategies periodically to ensure efficiency. But, as my first boss told me back in the eighties, one thing never changes – the need to keep your suppliers on their toes.

Given the economic turmoil that we have witnessed over the past few years, it is no surprise that IT is faced with a range of challenges and opportunities. Recent research by Freeform Dynamics and The CIO WaterCooler shines a light on what CIOs expect to be doing in the coming year, particularly with regards to their IT supplier base. 

One thing the data makes clear is that a significant proportion of organisations are considering making changes to their supplier base. And the changes span almost the entire IT landscape, even including the relatively new area of Cloud service providers. Overall, nine out of ten of those surveyed expect to be making major changes to at least one area of their IT supplier base in the coming year.

The Risks of Inertia

As you know, your organisation is almost certainly supported by an intricate web of IT systems, software, and tools to service your internal and external customers. The complexity of your IT infrastructure reflects the diverse needs and challenges your business faces today, but there is an inherent risk in their incumbency.

The longer any solution is utilised without examination, the greater the potential of it contributing to IT, or even organisational, inertia where change can become difficult.  The familiarity of longstanding IT solutions often brings a sense of comfort, yet this very comfort can sometimes stifle innovation and agility.

Beyond technology, there are a couple of areas of inertia that are also likely to need attention – namely people and processes. While assessing the skill impacts of any supplier change is usually straightforward, associated process impacts can be substantial, especially given the interconnectedness of modern IT systems and the extensive use of APIs and data streaming.

The results highlight that we should not be thinking only about numbers or isolated changes, but looking at the impact that any decisions taken will have on the entire technology ecosystem. The research results make it evident that the broader implications of any potential supplier shift needs careful consideration of upstream and downstream impacts.

Seeing the Big Picture

When making any supplier decision, it is important that we have a good understanding of how the systems under consideration are interconnected. The rapid pace of IT change today can make this task less than straightforward. For instance, if upgrading a data management system, its impact could extend beyond the immediate domain, for example in areas such as data access, data protection and analytics.

Despite the importance of the big picture for supplier base changes, deep technical reviews of particular areas may sometimes prove valuable. Examining the existing infrastructure could reveal inefficiencies, security vulnerabilities, or cost optimisation opportunities exposed by the changes – especially if anticipating significant ecosystem-impacting modifications. 

However, the most important step remains considering the big picture, though finding time to do so can be difficult. Supplier optimisation means ensuring changes contribute positively to your organisation’s IT strategy and business goals, not just swapping vendors or chasing trends. But identifying impactful changes while minimising risk and avoiding unexpected ripple effects is often not straightforward

Looking Ahead

During 2024 optimising your IT supplier base will involve a blend of strategic business/tech considerations, substantial research, negotiation and potentially complex financial planning due to evolving vendor payment models.  

Just as the eighties saw mainframes make space for midrange servers and PCs, today’s IT landscape is shaped by many forms of  cloud, security, data, AI and more. As we seek to improve IT services, increase resilience and drive business innovation, it is essential that your IT strategies and supplier relationships remain as dynamic and adaptable as the technologies you manage.

By the looks of these results, 2024 is going to be an interesting year for both buyers and sellers of IT systems and solutions. But with careful planning and a holistic outlook, you as an IT leader can navigate the complex supplier landscape to ensure your organisation stays ahead of the curve.

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Tony is an IT operations guru. As an ex-IT manager with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, his extensive vendor briefing agenda makes him one of the most well informed analysts in the industry, particularly on the diversity of solutions and approaches available to tackle key operational requirements. If you are a vendor talking about a new offering, be very careful about describing it to Tony as ‘unique’, because if it isn’t, he’ll probably know.