Zen and the Art of Strategic Supplier Management – Part 1 (Specific)

Author: Steven Zolman

“The aim of Zen practice is to discover [this] Buddha-nature within each person, through meditation and mindfulness of daily experiences. Zen practitioners believe that this provides new perspectives and insights on existence, which ultimately lead to enlightenment.” –Wikipedia

Supplier Performance Management starts with understanding your supplier’s responsibilities in the relationship. The key to understanding those responsibilities is to draft and manage a solid contractual agreement. But if it was that simple and easy to do, NET(net) wouldn’t see so many of our clients disappointed in the service they’re receiving from their IT suppliers.

NET(net) is thus proud to announce the launch of our enhanced Strategic Supplier Managed (SSM) services. Combined with our core industry-leading IT Investment Optimization services, SSM offers clients cradle-to-grave relationship management and monitoring – starting with the creation of superior service levels and continuing with the tools and processes to administer them on a proactive and ongoing basis.

As silly as it sounds, the way to master service levels is to draft them over and over. Of course, this is the same way to get better at anything, contracts especially. But, service levels are a little unique. We think it’s because they’re going the way of the Dodo. As few people ask for them, even fewer know to even think about them. It’s the same cycle that increases the quality of service levels – just in reverse. Pirsig’s book was focused on trying to define “quality” and in the end, he settled upon a mix of rationality and romanticism.

To draft service levels, you merely have to remember that they need to be SMART (as made popular by Peter Drucker): Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound, blending the rationality and romanticism as we go. In this first of five-part series, we’re going to discuss the “S” – Specific.

Specific – Service levels start with an understanding of the exact quantities of some particular metric. This can really be anything, but tempered with the next quality, you have to be able to count it. Typically, most start with things that are time-related: up-times and down-times, repair times and fix times. Rationality wins here almost every day (the truly romantic notion is that service levels aren’t needed at all because everything’s going to work out as planned) – these things are really easy to measure and frankly, ease of measurement is necessary because the folks who will be monitoring the service levels aren’t really interested in tracking them. But why not be a little romantic, too? Pick something unique about the particular situation. Maybe you’re licensing software that processes transactions (so you’d count the transactions processed), or maybe you’ve hired an outsourcer to answer your support calls and service levels could be managed based on the number of successful versus unsuccessful customer service resolutions.

Specificity relates to supplier performance management on the whole, as well. All too often, NET(net) finds contracts that are vague in any number of vital areas. They leave out key information, tip-toe around who is responsible for various functions, and “forget” to include any type of monitoring. NET(net)’s SSM services combines four functions: Contract Lifecycle management, Financial management, Performance Management and Relationship management. The result is an end-to-end view of each supplier connection, filling in the gaps normally found in typical supplier relationships.

NET(net)’s Website/Blogs/Articles and other content is subject to NET(net)’s legal terms offered for general information purposes only, and while NET(net) may offer views and opinions regarding the subject matter, such views and opinions are not intended to malign or disparage any other company or other individual or group.

For more information on NET(net)’s Strategic Supplier Managed services, visit Managed Services

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