Partnerships—vendors, partners, even supply chains—within the industry have had a restructuring of late. Technology leaders, braced with the sea change of 2020, reframed their partnerships to counter the challenges of a global pandemic—and they won’t go back to what they had before. And in a restructuring environment, it’s important to debate what is lost as well is what could be gained.
Mark Chillingworth, Technology Journalist and Editor, moderated this discussion that focuses on how the pandemic upended technology and vendor relationships, and what it takes to curate a truly valuable trusted partnership today. Johan Arts, SVP Sales, Equinix; Paul Coby, CIO, Johnson Matthey; Hernando Celada, CIO, ChenMed, compare and contrast their relationships.
“It’s been a very tumultuous year,” said Johan Arts, as he began the debate, describing the variable shifts present in the market since March 2020. “I read an article in McKinsey on the situation and they detail, in fact, that between seven and 10 years of acceleration and digital transformation has occurred.”
That pace of change is undoubtedly impacting the relationship between vendors and service providers. Companies have pivoted hard and fast, and moved quickly in new trajectories; their ability to do that very much depended on their networks, the roundtable heard.
“That relationship [between vendor and service provider] is determined by the timeline of events,” Arts continued. “The period between March and June  was a drastic, reactionary period; from Summer to December, people caught their breath and pivoted to new initiatives; and in the third phase, in the new year, new budgets that were made available drove sustainable accelerations.”
From Johan Arts’ perspective, different vendors found themselves in one or more of those phases depending on the products and services they provide, and realizing where you yourself were helped you navigate the year with your clients much better.
Over at global manufacturing giant, Johnson Matthey, Paul Coby agreed.
“There’s a world of difference between a supplier and a partner—and there’s far more of the former—but certainly the last year or so has been met with different waves of feast and famine.
“At the outset, we cut 33 percent of the IT budget to conserve capital. We then turned to our suppliers and partners to reduce their charges by 10 to 20 percent, but maintain volume and quality of service; we went on the strategy that partners, those businesses who truly valued us and saw our long term strategy, would consider it.”
Johnson Matthey are not alone in using the pandemic to also test the mettle of its partner ecosystem. Later on in the debate, Hernando Caleda articulated a trend he had noticed within vendor training manuals he had come across.
“More often now I’m seeing the phrase, ‘We’re a partner, not a vendor’,” he said, “and history is helping with that. Technology sales has not been around for that long relative to the age of industry and we as a community are seeing the benefits of taking the partner approach.
“The younger generation have seen that just selling isn’t playing the long game; it’s not about solving problems today…”
…It’s about combining strength, intelligence and technology to solve problems tomorrow, together. Although the roundtable covered deeply the depths to which the pandemic has upended traditional relationships, other parts of the debate touched upon other drivers of change, such as purpose and missions. Socio-cultural trends present within the B2C community, and within national and global politics—are also beginning to feature within the agreements of business to business.
Like any other senior executive, CIOs and the rest of the technology function have a belief in their brand and in the mission of what they’re trying to achieve. Suppliers who want to become partners must keep this in mind alongside their spiels on innovation, transformation and digitization. What’s most interesting, however, is that the opposite is true too: partners proving their value are able to carefully choose the businesses they work for, and that balancing of the relationship may spur on some added competition in the industry.
This roundtable is in partnership with Equinix.