Vendor Value 2009: IT Vendors Deliver More

Tough times create opportunities for those resourceful enough to react.

That’s forcefully evident in the results of our 2009 Vendor Value Study, where vendors could not maintain their positions if they were only able to maintain their customers’ satisfaction levels and not improve them.

From 2008 to 2009, a vendor had to move up to keep up: Even accounting for the remarkable performance of vendors that appear for the first time this year, the only sure way for a seller of technology to keep pace on our list was to raise its scores.

The lesson for the CIO is clear: Ask more of your vendors now, and you shall receive it.

Among vendors in both the 2008 and 2009 reports, the average overall score was up four percentage points–71 percent this year from 67 percent last year. Scores improved for 22 vendors and dropped for only eight. If a vendor didn’t improve its score by at least four points, it was likely to fall in ranking.

It’s worth noting that higher scores are partly a result of the times, as firms jettisoned vendors when cutting spending or realigning IT strategies. The average number of vendors our survey’s respondents worked with was down slightly–from 12 in 2008 to 11 this year–creating some upward pressure on ratings. This is because we only ask respondents to rate vendors they currently use, and naturally firms have stayed with the ones they are most satisfied with.

Rookie Successes

The appearance of new vendors on this year’s list made a big difference in rankings as well, as most debuted in the top 20. Intel, which was included in our survey this year for the first time, has arrived out of nowhere to take the top spot, driven by a remarkable 93 percent score in quality, the highest reliability or value score we’ve seen in recent years. Intel’s 97 percent loyalty score, matched by Google, is also one of the strongest we’ve ever seen.

Other additions fared admirably as well. Siemens, tied with perennial favorites Google and Red Hat, would have done even better if not for concerns (by contrast to Intel) about quality levels. APC impressed respondents with its ROI proposition and its responsiveness to customers’ needs. NetApp, like Siemens, raised concerns about quality but plainly addressed users’ business needs with focused, right-sized offerings, while WebEx did well for inverse reasons–its high scores for quality and responsiveness offset issues customers had with its ability to meet commitments on time and on budget.

This kind of detailed data on vendor performance helps reinforce, with specific examples, the fact that recessions create buyer’s markets. It behooves organizations today to be demanding of vendors, and to work to get the greatest value out of vendor relationships.

Not only are many well-established vendors exerting themselves more than they ever had before to please us, newcomers are finding ways to make names for themselves. IT should take advantage of both of these situations to improve service levels while still meeting cost objectives.

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