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More Vendors, More Problems

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Mike Berzins
Mike Berzins, Product Coordinator

When cities and towns use too many different technology vendors, too many problems happen. One of our customers talked to us about what it was like before we started working with their city. They previously contracted individual vendors for:

  • Troubleshooting
  • Data backup and disaster recovery
  • Document solutions
  • Email
  • Website hosting
  • Telecom auditing
  • Product management

Add 3 ISP providers to the mix and you’ve got vendor chaos! Because of too many vendors, the city grappled with problems that included:

  • A lack of a comprehensive document management solution
  • No overall, holistic vendor management
  • Uncertainty around federal and state compliance with laws
  • Lackluster support from their vendors—also known as finger-pointing

So why is transitioning from many vendors to one vendor so important for municipalities?

1. More vendors cost more money.

Each vendor will charge a premium for their service along with onboarding time, installation, upgrades, and maintenance. You’ll pay these costs even if there is overlap in services such as different data backup services for different products.

Generally, the fact that you have too many IT vendors suggests that costs have potentially spiraled out of control. It’s like when an organization is overstaffed with too many people serving in unclear, conflicting roles.

2. Vendors split across many functions lack an in-depth knowledge about your IT environment.

An email vendor wants to make a change to your software that has an unintended consequence elsewhere. Your data backup vendor isn’t aware of rules related to records retention. Your website vendor provides you features and functionality not compliant for local government. In these situations, you experience the result of vendors that make decisions without knowing your environment well.

A vendor that monitors and maintains your entire IT environment will know how to quickly and effectively troubleshoot problems, proactively fend off issues, and keep you in compliance. If they oversee all the different parts and pieces, then they will understand how email relates to compliance or how data backup relates to document management.

3. More vendors lead to chaos.

When you have seven different vendors, who is managing all of them? Often, it’s overworked municipal staff already strapped for time. Even in a stress-free environment, it’s difficult for non-technical staff to keep track of issues and to-dos related to seven different technology vendors.

In an environment without someone providing vendor management, mistakes happen. Things don’t get done. Vendors conflict with each other. Balls get dropped. Tempers flare. People point fingers. But when IT professionals oversee vendor management, many of these problems disappear.

4. Different vendors do not back up data consistently.

Your various software systems may have their own data backup and disaster recovery processes. These processes may conflict with each other or add up to an incomplete overall backup of your critical information. Who is testing these backups? What vendors are cooperating with each other?

5. Many task-specific vendors don’t understand municipal-specific requirements like compliance.

The city mentioned in our introduction noted that their email vendor was not compliant with open records and cybersecurity laws. This left the city open to liability claims and lawsuits. Other task-specific vendors for data backup, document management, and website hosting may also lack in-depth expertise about local government compliance and leave you open to noncompliance risks.

Studies show that many security breaches are the result of third parties. When many vendors are allowed to go into your IT environment without much oversight, they can be setting you up for noncompliance and introducing security vulnerabilities that may lead to a cyberattack. You need IT professionals to oversee vendors and the technology in your environment to make sure you’re able to handle open records requests, authorize access to information, and prevent most cyberattacks.

6. With many different vendors, you can’t see the big picture.

There’s a reason that IT runs best when it’s led and overseen by professionals who understand the business of cities and towns. Someone needs to assess your entire environment and put all the pieces together. That involves planning, coordination, monitoring, maintenance, upgrades, patching, support, procurement, and vendor management.

One of our colleagues recently told us a story about taking a four-hour bus ride between two major cities. At the bus station, the bus was outside but did not depart on time. People waited in line for 45 minutes, the bus driver stood outside, and no one communicated about the reason for the delay. When our colleague asked the customer service person why, she shrugged and said, “I can’t help it. It’s up to the bus driver.” When our colleague talked to the bus driver, he said, “I can’t help it. It’s up to the bus company.” Instead of accountability, there was inexplicable confusion, chaos, and uncertainty related to the departure time.

That’s what happens when too many vendors form a part of your environment. Why is email not working? Why did the website go down? Why can’t employees access documents? It’s often another vendor’s fault. There’s no central point of command.

One IT vendor should holistically oversee everything. For example, your document management system may involve data backup, storage, compliance, features, and functionality. Instead of a document management vendor blaming the data backup vendor, or vice versa, one vendor overseeing everything will be able to handle problems in these two areas simultaneously.

If your city or town struggles with too many vendors, then there is a better, more cost effective way. Reach out to us today through the form below.

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