Global Partners CIO Ken Piddington discusses how the company works with its vendors, especially its software vendors, and enlists them as strategic partners.
By Peter High
When Ken Piddington joined Global Partners as the firm's first-ever CIO five years ago, the energy supply business was already a Fortune 500 company. In the four years since, revenues have tripled, but his IT department remains lean. A key to his success has been better vendor management in general, and better software vendor management more specifically.
WHO: Ken Piddington
WHAT: An overview of his approach to software license management and the company’s Strategic Partner Program and Strategic Partner Summit
WHERE: Waltham, Mass.
CIO Insight: You were the first-ever CIO of Global Partners, a large company that has grown astronomically during your tenure. Naturally, as Global Partners has prospered, you've had to creatively leverage external partners. Can you talk about the way in which you have thought about vendor engagement?
You are right. When I joined Global Partners in 2009, our revenues were $5.8 billion. Last year, with the rapid growth we've experienced, primarily through acquisition and commodity diversification, we stood at $17.6 billion. We do not have any intention to slow down either.
We run lean, and with so many growth initiatives going on at the same time we had to better leverage our vendor partners in order to be successful. In my opinion, an organization receives the most value from its vendor partners when a real effort is made to build true partnerships. These are partnerships and relationships that are mutually beneficial. If you expect to always take from your vendor partners and never give anything back, the partnership and relationship will fail and the organization won't receive the expected value. This is the basis for our vendor management initiative that we call our Strategic Partner Program.
How did you develop the concept of the Strategic Partner Summit?
When we developed the concept for our Strategic Partner Program I didn't want to have to explain the details of the program to each and every vendor one at a time, plus I wanted our vendors to know that they had to compete and earn Global Partners' continued business. So I created the Strategic Partner Summit, which is a dinner hosted by me in which we invite all our vendor partners, and which is an opportunity for Global Partners to give back to them and at the same time lay out and reinforce the ground rules and expectations for being a partner of ours.
As we increasingly rely on our vendors to deliver key components of our technology, it is important that we be open with them about where we see the company going. Therefore, our CEO speaks at these events, providing insights about our corporate strategy, and then I speak to provide insights about our IT strategy. The key is to ensure that as they suggest solutions for us, that they do so with our plans in mind, not theirs. Companies that keep secrets from their vendor partners are developing a relationship that is all tree and no forest, so to speak.
Do you engage software vendors differently than you do hardware vendors?
Yes, we do, especially the software vendors that provide software systems specific to our day-to-day business operations.