How Relevant Is Forrester’s 2010 Sourcing and Vendor Management Roadmap?
I’m always interested in the professional analysts’ take on sourcing and vendor management. Paid pundits who spend as much time with paying buyer customers as they do with their pandering vendors’ analyst relations teams should have an interesting look on the industry, right? For the moment, we’ll ignore the ability of analysts to be objective (such as the alleged charges against Gartner or the open hiring of analyst relations professionals with the intent to “get better placement on key reports”) or the desire by analysts to replace superstar sensationalists with “ambitious” replacements. Let’s look at the work they intend to do in the vendor management space. And, since Forrester was kind enough to openly ask for feedback on their 2010 Roadmap, they get my constructive feedback.
In a nutshell, Forrester has four goals: “what’s new”, “next level” governance, improving category expertise in particularly narrow IT areas, and building tools and templates following the hit “Vendor Scorecarding” template they published this year.
We Care About Developments
I definitely am interested in new pricing models, models of service level agreements, and emerging vendors. The more we can learn about this, the better. However, I wonder how “new” these items could be. While there is definitely a shift to transaction-based pricing in BPO and outcome-based pricing in ITO, I’m not really certain there is going to be something downright innovative about pricing in 2010. The same goes with SLAs. Frankly, this sounds like the potential for a more rehashing of what we already know. Emerging vendors, on the other hand, sounds like a great topic. However, does the Forrester have more of an appetite for plotting emerging vendors in a competitive light than Gartner’s legendary Magic Quadrant analyses, that rarely paint an emerging vendor in an extremely positive manner?
Governance, Governance, and Governance
Getting the value from an outsourcing relationship is definitely a hot topic we should all care about. In addition, we should care about how we organize around ensuring vendors’ performance meets expectations. The more metrics, the merrier. Anything that advances the cause of vendor management as a profession and core skillset is good for everyone. Of course, I’m skeptical about highlighting IT organizations’ outsourcing governance efforts, as this is the area that needs the more help. However, sharing best practices is a good thing. Forrester: give us governance research.
Do Not Bore Us With Uninteresting Topics
Outsourcing professionals shouldn’t care about telecommunication, software, and hardware contracting. Instead, get your procurement team to hire an expert or bring in an advisor or consultant to handle telecommunication and hardware contracting – items that should be done once every year or so and then simply tracked against contract goals. You simply wont source enough of these contracts to beat an expert in this area. Software? Hire a software procurement hire an expert and a good lawyer. Forrester, publish some outsourcing contracts if you really want to provide some value to outsourcing professionals.
Templates, Why Not?
Personally, I prefer to use trade organizations to swap templates. If you’re part of IAOP, use LinkedIn, or are an active networker, you should be able to get what you need – with enough variety to illuminate interesting areas and different approaches. However, it never hurts to have another template. However, I wonder if this is more about Forrester providing tangible value to their customers – a template spreadsheet is more useful than an article on as scintillating a topic as getting more value from offshore vendors, but only allocating 3 pages of content to it. Sure, its good to provide templates. It’s just not differentiating. Heck, the Forrester vendor scorecard template is a mere 178k size Excel file. How great could that be?
Definitely Not For the Business Process Outsourcing Professional
To be clear for those who don’t know, Forrester’s SVM team is decidedly focused on IT with a rare focus on BPO. In fact, one could even question how much true vendor management research Forrester even publishes. Check out the last 10 posted articles from the SVM team:
- Cut Mobility Costs By Classifying Users (12 pages on cellphone and data card usage)
- Sourcing Professionals Need To Understand The Changing Requirements Of Users (a 11 page look at smartphone and computer usage)
- Sourcing Pros: Don’t Forget About Your Friends In Enterprise Architecture (7 pages on enterprise architecture vendors)
- Status, Challenges, And Near-Term Tactics For Cloud Services In Enterprise Outsourcing Deals (13 pages on cloud computing)
- Do Your Software Contracts Permit External Use? (8 pages, with the presumptive answer of “if not, they should”)
- Looking Beyond Global Providers For SAP Services (6 pages on SaaS)
- Refresher Course: Hiring VARs (12 pages that outsourcing professionals don’t need to read)
- Top Strategies To Ensure Continued Value From Offshore Services (a 3 page research article priced at $499 – how good can 3 pages be?)
- The Forrester Wave™: Oracle Services Providers, Q4 2009 (probably a lengthy, uninteresting article on Oracle SaaS and integration vendors)
- European Offshoring Shows Moderate Growth (5 pages of IT-related content that only a vendor could care about)
That’s almost entirely technology focused. Admittedly, there are some other articles older than these that could be interesting, but they are decidedly IT-focused and likely not of interest to BPO vendor management professionals. Exactly how committed to BPO is Forrester? It is not. However, ITO vendor management professionals could benefit from some of Forrester’s analysis, for sure.
What I Want From Forrester in 2010
Here’s what I want from Forrester as it relates to vendor management and outsourcing:
- BPO – Damnit, cover the area will you? Call centers, data entry, backoffice data entry and transaction processing work. Industry solutions, functional solutions, countries of choice, and political landscapes. Someone needs to…
- Driving Innovation – Take a leadership position in ensuring that outsourcing relationships focus on evolution and innovation, lest they run the risk of being terminated for questionable value in inflexible contracting.
- Professional Development – Research how to develop a vendor management professionals, provide guidance on sources of knowledge, and advise us on how to take career operations and IT managers and transform them into vendor management professionals.
- Transparency – Publicly share the revenues you collect from vendors. I dare you to make us less skeptical of your potential economic biases. Cloud computing, SaaS, mobile computing, and web 2.0 are at the zenith of the hype cycles – why? Props to Vinnie Mirchandani’s comments on the topic.
- Connecting Customers – Use online forums, moderated Q&A, in-person conferences to create networking opportunities for buyers to connect with other buyers, vendors to connect with other vendors, and everyone to network with each other with a strict non-solication policy.
- Benchmark Key Contract Provisions – Service level risk caps, termination options and costs, key vendor personnel,innovation, intellectual property ownership, and price benchmarking clauses. That would be interesting to outsourcing professionals.
- Update Your Outsourcing Tools – Not one useful “Offshoring Tool”, “Outsourcing Tool”, or “RFP and Vendor Selection” has been published in 2009. Actually, only two items were published in these three categories in 2009, and neither is useful unless you work for one of the last companies that haven’t used a managed service provider to manage contingent IT labor. And, is that really outsourcing or temp labor?
- A Vendor Management Forum – There isn’t a single forum scheduled for 2010 that could be of interest to a vendor management professional. Although, I will note that in the one forum which could be of interest, the 2010 IT Forum, at least in terms of what’s available online as of the date of this posting, you’ve done a fine job scheduling vendors to deliver key presentations despite not scheduling any customer-led talks….
Forrester Research is a fine firm, but the 2010 roadmap offers little for the BPO vendor manager. For the ITO vendor manager, Forrester could address the high level items fairly well, but Forrester has some room to grow still – maybe their 2010 roadmap ought to address some additional areas? Frankly, if compared to the Gartner’s outsourcing analysis, Forrester may have some very insightful analysts, but their offering isn’t as compelling.
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