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1/22/2009
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How Winemaker Gallo Rates Its Tech Vendors

E.&J. Gallo has a 12-point program aimed at getting IT buyers what they need.

Tech vendors must do a better job of understanding customer requirements so IT buyers can get what they need, not just what a vendor happens to sell.

Kent Kushar, CIO of winemaker E. & J. Gallo, has developed a 12-point model to do just that. He calls it the SUMnership--the sum of all parts of a partnership. The first six points in the model cover the vendor, including intangibles such as its leadership and integrity. The other six points focus on the products and services the company offers, including concrete items such as functionality and price. Kushar rates a vendor on each point and has the vendor rate itself. He then compares the scores to see where gaps exist--and shares the scores with the vendor.

Gallo's 12 Points
Company Product or
Service
Leadership Functionality
Strategy Service level
Integrity Ease of use
Relationship Price
Work location Perceived value
Talent Experience
A database vendor may have a lot of functionality, but what's important is whether it delivers what Gallo needs. "We think it's a 4, you think it's a 10," Kushar says. "That gap is too big, so you have to figure out a way to close the gap so your perception of what we need is similar to what we're asking for."

Among the points rated is a vendor's strategy: What is its long-term plan for growth and success? Another point is integrity, which lets Kushar and his team rate a vendor's brand reputation and their perception of the vendor's values and beliefs.

Under products and services, a key point is ease of use, which encompasses how hard it is to deploy and integrate a product. Service level lets Gallo evaluate the company's responsiveness.

Kushar says Gallo's 12-point model focuses conversations toward the problems he's trying to solve and examines whether the vendor has the right tools for the job. "If there's no reason for them to talk to us, we don't have to waste each other's time," Kushar says.

The model also helps keep personalities out of the sales process. "We make it a fact-based discussion rather than being an issue of 'I don't like you,'" he says.

Kushar spent about a year getting his IT staff to adopt the model, and now Gallo's supplier development group outside of IT also is using it.

The model works for building ongoing relationships with key vendors, as well for buying. Kushar says a lot of his peers just want to trash vendors. "That strategy doesn't work," Kushar says. Rather, he values relationships where vendors act as partners. "We share our strategy with vendors, show them what we're doing, and ask for their help."

Photo illustration by Ryan Etter

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