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Working with your vendor

Many associations struggle with the relationship they have with their software vendor. There are many reasons for this, but a primary one is expectations. Too often, associations expect immediate response from their vendors, and perhaps more importantly, they expect immediate resolution to their problems.

Rob Gates of SHRM recently posted the following note to the TMA Resources users group forum, and with his permission, I'm re-posting his thoughts. (Thank you, Rob.)

Rob was responding to a question about how quickly TMAR responds to customer issues. I think Rob has hit it right on the head with his thoughts about how to work with your AMS vendor. (Note: I've edited his post for clarity.)

While the initial response and the resources devoted by TMAR to fix our issues has almost always been at a reasonable level, the actual resolution times have at times been much longer than one would hope.  We have a high level of complexity in our setups and operation which has made resolving issues a lot more complicated than for many customers.  So while TMAR has responded quickly, that doesn't mean issues have been resolved quickly. 

What has been very helpful for us has been maintaining very strong lines of communication with our account rep – adjusting priorities, working together to resolve things, negotiating workarounds, etc.  Also, being thorough in your issue reporting speeds things up – providing specific examples of the issue, details of screen names or tables affected, patterns you've identified, processes involved, details on any environmental changes, etc.  The more information provided up front, the less time will be spent going back and forth to gather than information. We've also often had faster responses on workarounds than on actual solutions – and if your organization can be comfortable with workarounds (scheduled data correction scripts, etc) and more patient for root cause fixes, that will make life smoother for your customer service experience.  Finally, being fair and balanced in your rating of issues helps.  Labeling every issue you report as critical or catastrophic when they may not really be such in the bigger picture makes it hard for them to know when an issue really *is* critical or catastrophic.

Rob highlights some important points, including:

  1. Communicating clearly to the vendor what the issue is, including providing specific examples, screenshots, patterns, etc.
  2. Being flexible enough to accept workarounds when necessary.
  3. Being far about what is critical vs. what is merely nice to have.

Long-term success with your AMS is in very high degree dependent upon a positive relationship with your AMS vendor. Rob's tips are worth serious consideration.

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1 Comment on "Working with your vendor"

Mia - 19 July 2007 Reply

Without an efficient software infrastructure, we could not have coped with the expansion of the past 3 years. Previously, financial accounting and e-commerce were accommodated by stand-alone applications. A custom interface supported communication between the two applications, which meant that data had to be captured twice or imported a second time. We realized that at some point in the near future, this type of data handling and storage would no longer support our expanding business and would render the system too inflexible to support the expanding number of product variants. This led to the decision to implement a new solution that could handle everything – now and in the future. The Patients Advantage (www.thepatientsadvantage.com) is an online meeting place for cosmetic surgeons and their patients based in San Diego. We wwere paired up with a company called Tryarc (www.tryarc.com) a premier SAP business partner based in Los Angeles. While our first impression was SAP is too much for what we need, Tryarc turned us onto the SAP solution for small and midsize enterprises; it's called SAP Business One. A subsequent presentation of the product had us convinced. SAP Business One was implemented in just a matter of weeks – in part because the standard functions of SAP Business One matched 90% of our business processes. We implemented an interface to our Web shop using SAP Business One Software Development Kit, enabling incoming Internet orders to flow automatically into the business software. Now, all enterprise management functions are accommodated in one system. SAP Business One provides entirely new opportunities. The only alternative would have been to invest considerable sums in additional stand-alone solutions. Our infrastructure made this pointless. In addition to being the more economical solution, SAP Business One is more comprehensive. It plays its part in making the processes in the company much more transparent than before. Purchasing and sales processes used to be separate, manual transactions supported by paper forms that were stored in file cabinets and forwarded by hand when required. Today, when an order is created and confirmed, a delivery note and invoice are automatically generated. Finally, each department can access this system and exchange data with the other parts of the company. The result is a significant improvement in the internal information flow. This is particularly important for an enterprise like ours that covers all of the e-commerce steps – from search engine optimization and lead generation to sales and technical support. Today, the time between placing an order and delivery averages less than 24 hours. The improvements delivered by SAP Business One lay the groundwork for the continuing growth of our company. The enterprise wide system is an investment worth it's weight in gold. We could not be happier with SAP and the people at Tryarc who helped us get up and running.

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

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Tim Wilson
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