As BI becomes a mission critical business application, the importance of partnering with a BI vendor who understands your business and has a vested interest in ensuring your BI success is increasingly important. Why is it, then, that some BI vendors still have a hit and run sales approach?
As coincidence would have it, on a long plane journey back from San Francisco New Jersey
So I asked “does that mean customer account management isn’t important to you?” He replied, “It’s absolutely important. I don’t want to pay my maintenance bill and am already thinking about what leverage I have at renewal time. But switching vendors at this point seems impossible.” While switching vendors could be an unfortunate consequence, the other is that this customer concedes they are not getting the full value out of the product that they could. Ditto for much of the industry where BI adoption on average is only 25% of employees (according to results from book's survey Successful Business Intelligence).
Part of the issue here is the way BI has changed. When you’re buying BI as a point solution or department purchase, the idea of a customer-vendor partnership may not matter. When you’re buying for the enterprise, it should. I would say that while BI software has become enterprise class, BI account management – for the most part – has not. A number of vendors recognize this and have efforts underway to improve the situation, but vendor acquisition and fierce competition with customer-facing personnel routinely dismissed or job hopping make it a tough situation to turnaround.
What can you as the customer do? As you buy, ramp up, or standardize on BI, make partnering with the vendor a priority. Engage your purchasing department in the process early on to develop service level agreements, including how often your account team will either visit with you or have regular conference calls. (Tip: ask your account team if they are measured on these aspects or if they are only measured on sales quotas). Understand the role of technical support and the degree to which the account representative is kept in the loop of critical problems. If you are already stuck in an “underperforming” situation as my flight companion was, express your frustrations to your vendor’s senior management. Recognize that others may be better partners in your BI success, whether it’s user communities, other customers, or a third-party consulting firm.
How important is partnering with the BI vendor to you? Is your vendor a partner or only interested in a quick sale? Share your opinions in the comment box below (without naming specific vendors). If you have comments about specific vendors, please send via a confidential email to email@example.com.
Cindi Howson, founder BIScorecard.