Vendor vs. Partner – Yes Virginia, there is a difference

Five Keys to Discovering a Partner vs. a Vendor

It’s important to note at the outset that I’m somewhat allergic to the word “vendor.” It makes me itchy and nervous when I hear people use that word within the IT industry. It might be that I have been spoiled throughout my career by great relationships, but I truly find the word to be very discouraging.

For the sake of definition, a vendor is traditionally known as a person or company offering something for sale. A vendor establishes a very simple relationship, where they give you a certain amount of resources in return for a dollar figure. Because of this, the term “vendor” represents numbers, and a vendor often prices themselves into low margin categories, unable or unwilling to scale, because they have little to no room for investments.

Partners, on the, other hand, focus on having a meaningful impact and on adding value. They are strategists, capable and willing to invest in the long-term relationship, often at the expense of today. Partners focus on building trust and transparency.

While you may be the MVP in your industry, partners are experts in what they do. They’ve had their share of successes and failures throughout the years, through exposure to numerous different projects, collecting invaluable experience. They are used to working with various time zones, the early or late calls, cultural differences, etc. Partners are probably also accustomed to being treated as a vendor by their clients.

Lessons in Establishing Mature, True Partnerships – The Gaming Industry

In terms of establishing the right partnerships, gaming companies have an advantage. Even though they’ve just started establishing partnerships in the last 10 years or so, they’ve gotten really good at it. The main reason for this is because making games is becoming more and more expensive, therefore they had to start by establishing the right partnerships from the get-go. Some companies were more visionary than others and started years ago, while others are just joining the party, but all of them understand that a solid partnership is what will drive a successful relationship.

Keep in mind that making games is not as simple as making a website. That’s why there are hundreds of agencies that can build you the latter, but there are only a handful of companies that can actually help you make games. That’s because it takes investment and hard work on both sides to get there. But don’t just take my word for it. Here is a good article from Jason Harris, a leading figure of External Development within Gaming.

What’s the main reason for gaming companies’ success? They understand that they need to establish a “one team” mentality and invest time and effort in their partners. They focus on training their managers in being up to the task.

RFPs and the Five Keys to Discovering a Partner vs. a Vendor

Paraphrasing our CEO, Andres Angelani, in his article Driving Innovation and Transformation with Open Partnerships, RFPs are the most inefficient way to select vendors. Running a pilot program instead is a much more effective way to gauge the value of a prospective business arrangement.

That being said, for those unable to change their process, there are some opportunities and watch-outs related to the RFP process. Remember the definition of vendors vs. partners? Don’t just look at the pricing, remember that you are playing the long-term game here.

The following represent the positive habits of a potential partner. Partners will:

  1. Never use the word “vendor” in any context.  They won’t refer to themselves as a vendor, because they place greater value in the relationship and skill set they bring to the table.
  2. Ask you for an in-person or over the phone Q&A session. They will never send questions over email.
  3. Request that you to bring the right people to the call. They value their time and yours.
  4. Challenge your designs and decisions. You want their best thinking, and if they don’t agree with your strategy or direction, hear them out.
  5. Without you knowing it, make you rewrite your RFP document. A little insight and experience goes a long way, and while the RFP you’ve created may seem sound, new thinking will make it even better and set you up for success.

 

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