One of my favorite books is The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock. It’s a tool for improving relationships. It poses hundreds of questions on random subjects and gets people to explore and explain how they feel about things they may never have thought of. In my experience, there is one question that people always seem to choose. It is something like “if your significant other was out of town and had a fling that meant nothing to them and you would never ever find out about it and it wouldn’t impact your future, would you want to know?”
The responses are always varied and they always get a reaction—from “heck no, you did it, you deal with it” to “100% yes, a relationship is built on total trust and complete honesty.”
Would you care? Or have an opinion on which type of person you would want to be in a relationship with?
I believe that picking a technology partner is a little like picking a personal relationship partner. Choosing someone you are on the same page with might be critical to you – whether you prefer Beyoncé or Bach, first-class or coach, vegan or paleo. Or, it might not be an issue at all. Preferences are neither wrong nor right. What’s important is that you understand your partner’s preference. It’s the same with transparency and which a person prefers.
Here’s the top 10 from My Technology Book of Questions that I think you might want to explore when considering company transparency and your vendors.
1. If your vendor offered you a SOURCE CODE ESCROW would it matter to you?
The source code escrow requires the vendor to regularly deposit their code with a third party, so if certain trigger events happen you have the option to take the code and keep your business going. It may give you peace of mind that they aren’t going to walk out on you tomorrow and that you won’t be forced to jump before you are ready. But if you know you will never really take the code and use it, if you feel the company was unlikely to trigger an event that would cause this, or if you would rather just move on to another partner if they did, then you might not care.
2. Is it important that your vendors, even privately held companies, release their FINANCIALS to you?
If FINANCIALS are a requirement of vendor management, this may be critical for you. If you are unsure about the management of the company, you may care. Without the pressure of vendor management and if you are comfortable with the company’s history, and more importantly its future, this may not be an issue.
3. How important is it that your partner makes their OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE clear – if it’s the founders in charge, or private equities or venture capitalists that have majority ownership?
The company’s structure could give you insight into any positive alignment, or conversely, the likelihood of any future potential conflicts of interest. (Or the possibility that the people you trust will be booted out.) However, you may firmly believe no one can predict the future and knowing the ownership structure won’t give you that ability either.
4. Every vendor’s system has uptimes and downs, and challenges with internet providers or integration partners that could impact the system’s health. What if your vendor doesn’t clearly share the HEALTH OF ITS SYSTEM to keep you updated and you are always wondering – does that matter?
If you like looking at data and information, and being in constant communication, then seeing a vendor’s Status Page might be critical to you. But you may already have too much to focus on. Or you may be comfortable with calling the support line if there’s a problem or relying on your vendor’s technical team to call you if something should happen. In these situations, this type of information might be too much for you to deal with.
5. PRICING can be a sensitive topic. Which do you prefer: a vendor that gives transparency about their pricing, with everyone receiving similar deals? Or a vendor that negotiates to the point that the next company that comes along might be paying substantially more or less than you?
For some, the negotiation is all important and the deal other companies receive isn’t relevant. For others, knowing there’s a basic pricing structure and that other clients are paying similar prices gives them the assurance that the price is fair in the marketplace and they can set a budget and achieve their goals.
6. Every company has a ROADMAP. Some are more fluid than others. Is your vendor partner’s roadmap documented and shared with you? Do you care how they create their roadmap and do their planning?
Insight into planning and roadmaps may show how a company’s leadership thinks and prioritizes. But, if the system “as is” meets your needs and you don’t see those changing, then what the roadmap looks like and how is was created might not be that important.
7. Do you have great IDEAS and want your vendor to listen to them? Do you care about what other clients are thinking? Or if your vendor and their clients might agree with you?
For some, the transparent sharing of ideas and receiving feedback on them can give valuable insight into what others are doing and finding important. But you may get the answers you need in another fashion and not be concerned that anyone else sees or agrees with you.
8. Does the vendor have a COMMUNITY you can take part in for full transparency of questions related to system functionality?
If constant improvement is important. If having a place to ask questions and get details matters and you’re involved in making your business better each day, then a community might be key for you. However, not everyone wants or relies on community. If you’re not going to get involved, search for articles, look for ways to improve and actively engage, maybe this isn’t a critical item for you.
9. Does your vendor reveal RELATIONSHIP CHALLENGES? When something goes wrong, do they hide it or try to avoid telling about it?
For some, the past is the past and what’s important is how the company is going to deal with challenges in the future. For others, the past is an indication of the future, and they want to be completely aware and fully informed of both the good and bad that has taken place.
10. Do you want to hear your vendor talk about their STRENGTHS? Even when maybe it seems they go on and on and on about what they’ve been up to and what is going really well.
For some, a vendor’s happy stories are an indication of their confidence in their ability to deliver a product that contributes to their success and yours! But maybe you’re not one to dwell on your vendor’s other successes and would rather judge their strengths solely on their contribution to yours.
Stephanie Alsbrooks is the CEO, founder, and c-through specialist at defi SOLUTIONS, the most configurable loan origination platform on the market. E-mail Stephanie at email@example.com.