Vendor Management Job Descriptions
Job descriptions are difficult enough to write when roles are clearly defined. The ambiguity of vendor management organizations and the fuzzy lines that separate them from procurement, finance, project management, business analysis, and operations organizations make vendor management job descriptions many times more difficult to write. The importance of attracting and selecting the right talent to manage major outsourcing or service vendors is essential for the well-being of a company.
This article covers the details of vendor management job descriptions.
One of the nuances of vendor management is that not all roles are the same. Some vendor managers have responsibility for operational day-to-day tasks. Other vendor managers are responsible for outsourcing strategies and governance. Some vendor management roles are responsible for implementing new programs. Others vendor management roles are responsible for training. This domain focus is an important area, but it’s not the only area to include in a job description.
The categories below address the major areas of any vendor management job description:
Contract Management – One of the prime responsibilities of any vendor manager is to manage the vendor to the responsibilities outlined in the contract and statement of work. At times, vendor managers will be responsible for authoring contract documents, including service level exhibits, statements of work, and examples. If you remember your college entrance exam, you’ll surely realize that reading comprehension is a difficult skill – and vendor managers need to be excellent at this skill. Furthermore, vendor managers need to be well versed in key terminology associated with contracts and understand how they interrelated. Examples include indemnification, intellectual property, force majeure, and amendments/exhibits/SOWs. Finally, good vendor managers understand that they must manage the vendor to the contract and be creative when contracts don’t address certain issues (no contract covers every possible event). You do not need a loose cannon in a vendor management role.
Financial and Quantitative Analysis – Fundamentally, vendors are suppliers of services and products. Understanding the financial rationale for “make versus buy” decisions and extrapolating internal and vendor costs to develop this analysis is a required responsibility of a vendor manager. While it may not seem relevant for a vendor manager responsible for training, even this vendor manager must understand the financial repercussions of effective training on vendor operations. Furthermore, vendor performance is fundamentally a measurable service. Measuring the quality and timeliness of delivery, as well as understanding core operations management variables and calculations is essential to ensuring the vendor is effectively delivering services.
Relationship Management – While much of a vendor managers’ responsibility is related to controlling and regulating vendor performance, any client should strive to be a vendor’s most valuable customer. This may include early adoption of vendor service offerings, co-development of functionality and operations, or simply being an advocate of the vendor internally for the company. This level of relationship management with external partners is a difficult skill to develop. Salespeople are excellent at this skills, but most operations managers are unfamiliar with the importance of developing a deep, strategic relationship with a vendor. This is a relationship that the client can leverage when needed most.
Strategic/Big Picture Thinking – In a normal operation, your operation management or project management personnel have a detailed understanding of all aspects of the business because your employees are performing the service. When a vendor performs the services, it is easy to loose sight of the details that drive success. An effective vendor manager understands how the interrelationship of processes, technologies, and people create results. An extremely effective vendor manager understands how to create mutually beneficial opportunities for his/her company and the vendor using this information. A strategic, broad thinker is essential in a vendor management environment.
Team Leadership Experience – While a vendor management role could possibly be an individual contributor, understanding the vendor’s operation requires previous leadership experience. Understanding personnel management, managing upwards, managing downwards, and attracting talent is fundamental to operations management. While the role of a vendor manager may have no direct reports, the vendor manager is in fact frequently indirectly managing teams of several hundred vendor employees. The mistake many companies make is asking business analysts to fulfill vendor management roles. Ultimately, these companies have difficulty with consistent vendor performance because the vendor manager doesn’t have the experience to manage hundreds of vendor personnel.
Domain Expertise – This area is specific to the vendor management organization – if a vendor manager is expected to perform a particular task, such as quality management, RFP development/vendor selection, or service level measurement, the vendor manager needs experience in this skill. Most importantly, since vendor managers rarely have direct reports, the vendor manager needs to have high competencies in the area. Time and time again, we see companies ask project managers to take on vendor management responsibilities. The project management discipline is significantly different from running day-to-day operations, and operations run as projects frequently lack the discipline to drive continuous improvement initiatives.
Finally, there is the question of seniority of vendor management positions. It goes without saying that vendor management done well drives performance for the company. Given the impact of failure, which could include contract terminations, vendor abandonment, and poor customer satisfaction, it is not a place for rookies. While having junior personnel around to take on reporting responsibilities is the norm, placing anyone less than a true, experienced manager in the role of a vendor manager could have dire consequences. In fact, companies consistently under invest in vendor management personnel, either in terms of quality, development, or quantities. These companies are the ones that have challenges created by their own decisions.
Do you look for other key requirements of your vendor managers? Include your thoughts below or send us a note.