Oftentimes, IT is asked to partner with vendors for a variety of reasons (system support, new technology, procurement, integration, etc.). As a reply to this post, discuss some of the challenges and benefits to vendor partnering, include your own observation and experiences (also refer to The Adventures of an IT Leader). What worked well? What didn’t? What would you recommend for future partnerships?
Vendor partnering is a very complicated topic as there are many benefits and challenges to utilizing vendors when implementing IT infrastructure. Benefits seem to revolve around displacing the construction and maintenance of IT infrastructure to a group of experts. This absolutely makes sense for the aspects of IT that are ubiquitious between industries and competitors in the same industry. If a firm needed word processing software (a simplified analogous example) certainly they could have the IT department develop it themselves, but it would be easier and likely less costly to simply use Microsoft Office or Google Apps to provide this service - they've already developed it and if there are any problems with the software, there is someone to contact who can help instead of the IT department having to spend time and effort to attempt to resolve the issue. When using vendor software, the problem has already been solved, instead of needing to come up with the processes by which to solve a problem, then having to develop these processes into software.
That being said, there is certainly a loss of flexibility when partnering with vendors. When choosing between vendors an organization might choose the one that fits best out of the choices, but it may not be able to conform to the company nearly as well as a custom piece of software. If something goes wrong the organization has to rely on the vendor to provide the tech support and develop a fix for the problem. Depending on the relationship with the vendor, this may be a slow and arduous process. Some vendor software is more flexible and makes it easier for additional services to 'plug in' to the base platform, and while this may allow an organziation to implement tools that will help businesses processes, this makes the system more complex and increases the possibility of something going wrong.