What are some vendor engagement tips that can help drive innovation?

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Vice President for Information Technology in Education, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
I'm not enamored with meeting vendors, but the ones that I do like are those that are in the cheap seats around the outside of the arena at a physical conference. They're the emerging vendors, and they’re creative. They’re willing to work with you because they are looking for clever solutions, so you can partner with them to try cool things.
Managing Director in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
When it comes to vendors of technology, you have to manage those relationships carefully, especially if you're dealing with procurement policies, etc., in your organization. But vendors can take you into the future. As a CIO for a number of organizations, I would always have some of our best vendors take us on a journey to show us where they’re investing their money, what their R&D looks like, and what the next big thing that they’re working on will be — whether that’s software, middleware layer, security systems, infrastructure or virtualization.

It was a great tool that gave me continuous education on the vendor's dime. It also gave me insight into whether they would be a good partner for years to come because I’d know if they were investing in, developing and enhancing technologies that would lead them in the right direction. It gave me a lot of confidence when I went to negotiate that next contract.
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Vice President for Information Technology in Education, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

It's partners and commodities — you want to find vendors that you can partner with, that have a direction and a vision that you can subscribe to.

Senior Director CIO Office in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Vendors often want to get you to their executive briefing center to give you insight into their view of industry trends, their product roadmap, etc. Typically, they’ll have a handful of people that make the same presentation, 10K times a year — it's very slick. Ironically, the people that are making the presentation usually have limited operational responsibilities; they don't really know what they're talking about, but they have a slick presentation.

When I worked at BMC, some of our more enlightened Fortune 300 companies would almost designate the people they wanted to hear from when they visited us in Houston. They’d say, "If you can't get me the CPO, the head of customer success and two other people, including the finance person, I'm not bringing my team down there. I want to hear from the horse's mouth, and I want to be able to ask my questions," etc. When people are trying to sell, they will move mountains to make something like that happen. But once they have you as a customer, they'll just tell you, "They're busy and I'm not sure I can get those folks to come out."
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VP, Information Technology in Consumer Goods, 10,001+ employees

It's always funny to see one of those senior sales people stand there and sweat when you start drilling into the technical questions that you know they can’t answer. They should have prepared better to know their own product.

Senior Director CIO Office in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

They're basically relationship managers.

Managing Director in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

Most of them have gotten better. They’ll have the solution architect in the room, who knows the technology inside and out and is joined at the hip with the relationship manager or client executive. When you're talking about technology and you're looking at the future, you have to recognize that the vendors are the ones that are spending money to build these products, to invest in the future by investing in new technologies. Most of them will be thrilled to show you what they're looking at in the future, and there's no obligation to buy. You just have to have a strong backbone to say, “No,” if you don't want to purchase something, but it gives you an opportunity to learn about where the money's going. It's the same thing with technology, as it is with crimes: Follow the money, because that's where the technology and investments are going.

CIO in IT Services, 51 - 200 employees
Adopt a standardized process for vendors to submit proposals: 
• Create and streamline a submission process for vendors to submit innovative ideas, and take it seriously.
• Arrange a monthly or weekly internal meeting with your team to examine the greatest entries.
• Assign a committee to follow up with any vendors you decide to discover deeper, with clear next steps and a detailed asks.

• Give them an idea of what you find interesting, provocative, and potentially innovative by giving examples of things you've discovered on the industry.

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