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How to Swap Out Vendors

An old song said it well: It's tough to belong to someone else when the right one comes along. But plenty of IT pros who "married" one key supplier early on have made the transition to another, often with a minimum of pain and disruption.

"It all depends on the kind of relationship you have," says the director of IT operations at a large San Francisco entertainment production company. When his team decided to swap server suppliers awhile back, they approached the situation head on. "It's best to be honest. The vendor was aware they could no longer do what we needed them to." With openness on both sides, the transition was made in an agreeable fashion.

In contrast, Steven Olson, infrastructure manager at Las Vegas Review-Journal kept his plans to switch his team's main tier 1 supplier of storage arrays a secret until the decision was made. As a result, the local sales team for the vendor that was replaced took the situation personally. That wasn't good, because Olson's team had other products from the same vendor they had no intention of ditching.

It worked out, but Olson learned a few lessons. "In hindsight, I may have been a little more forthcoming with all the vendors about which way we were leaning. Maybe then, the selection would not have come as that big of a shock," he maintains.

One expert suggests that any plan to switch vendors may best be undertaken with help, either from the new vendor or an IT consultant. "Make sure you have a well-developed plan of transition," says George Crump, founder of George Crump Consulting. In his view, it's important to set a cutover time and plan ahead on how best to move data from one system to another.

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