Did Vendors Learn Anything at All from the Great Recession?

By Guy Currier  |  Posted 09-14-2010

2010 Vendor Value Ratings

What do you value most about your information technology vendors? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Every enterprise has key performance metrics unique to its corporate culture and the industry it serves. However, over the course of more than five years spent examining how enterprises rate the value of their IT vendors, we've identified several universal factors that every organization must take into consideration in its vendor relationships.

In July and August 2010, 684 IT decision-makers at U.S.-based enterprises responded to CIO Insight's 2010 Vendor Value survey, designed, fielded and tabulated by Ziff Davis Enterprise Research. Of these respondents, 258 were from companies with at least 50 but fewer than 500 employees; 218 had at least 500 but fewer than 5,000 employees; and 208 had 5,000 employees or more.

We asked respondents to rate the vendors they work with on eight measures. The first four of these are classified as "value" measures:

  • helping their customers increase revenue
  • helping them lower costs
  • ability to solve specific business problems
  • delivery of appropriate service or support levels (new this year).

In addition, we asked respondents to rate their vendors on these three "reliability" measures:

  • product quality
  • delivery on time and within budget
  • ability to meet whatever service-level agreements are in place (new this year).

Lastly, we asked respondents: If you had a choice, would you continue to work with this vendor? For the purposes of this report, results in each category indicate the percent of respondents who rate a vendor as excellent or good in that category. Vendors are also ranked on their overall scores across all categories. Download a PDF of the complete CIO Insight 2010 Vendor Value Ratings.

Based on those overall results, we see significant movement in the 2010 top-five vendor value rankings. In fact, only one vendor, Red Hat, kept a spot in the top five in both 2010 and 2009. The five firms leading the 2010 rankings in overall value and reliability ratings are:

  • WebEx: a Web conferencing and collaboration solutions provider, and a division of Cisco
  • Cisco: a networking solutions provider
  • NetApp: a storage system and software vendor
  • Juniper Networks: a provider of network software, silicon and systems
  • Red Hat: an open-source technology solutions provider.

Did Vendors Learn Anything at All from the Great Recession?

There's a major trend worth noting in this year's study: the return to vendor value score levels of years past after a recession-fueled shift upward last year. In 2009, scores were up for two reasons: With budgets reduced, organizations jettisoned some vendors, keeping their favorites. At the same time, vendors worked harder than ever to please customers in order to keep them (CIO Insight, October 2009). As we put it then, "The only sure way for a seller of technology to keep pace on our list was to raise its scores."

This year, enterprises continue to use fewer vendors, but they also have lowered opinions about the ones they're keeping. In 2009, those we surveyed worked with an average of 11 major vendors. This year, it's only about nine and a half. The average overall vendor value score in 2009 was 73 percent; this year, it's 67 percent, a reversion to the 2008 average score of 66 percent.

That leads us to the following question: Did vendors learn anything at all from the Great Recession? Rather than capitalizing on the ways they found to retain customers during hard times, it appears that they are effectively taking for granted the core customers who stuck with them. Google could be an example of this: The firm has been so focused on rolling out new products that it has squandered the value gains it made with customers last year. After rising 4 percentage points from 2008 to 2009, this year Google's overall score dropped by 14.

Of course, not all vendors saw a decrease in their ranking. For example, Motorola, Juniper Networks and Salesforce.com jumped up nine, eight and five places in the rankings, respectively, by simply maintaining their ratings levels.

How The Survey Was Done

CIO Insight's 2010 Vendor Value survey measures how U.S.-based organizations generally perceive the value of the IT vendors' product and service offerings, and their overall satisfaction with the support these vendors provide.

To create our inital list of IT vendors for the survey, we relied on the Fortune 500 and Global 500 lists, along with Ziff Davis Enterprise Research's ongoing vendor studies in 21 technology categories. Ziff Davis Enterprise Research staff designed and fielded the survey, and tabulated results.

In all, 684 qualified respondents replied and completed the survey between July 30 and August 24, 2010. Of these, 258 were from firms with at least 50 but fewer than 500 employees; 218 from companies with at least 500 but fewer than 5,000 employees; and 208 from enterprises with 5,000 employees or more.

After identifying the vendors with which their enterprise has had a business relationship in the past 12 months, respondents were asked to rate those vendors as "excellent," "good," "fair" or "poor" on seven criteria. The "overall" rating given for each vendor is the average percent of "good" or "excellent" responses for each criterion. As an additional criterion, respondents were asked whether, given a choice, they would continue to use each vendor with which they currently work.