The marriage analogy

Don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.”
James C. Dobson
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A reader recently asked a great question about vendor lock-in.

OSS tend to be very sticky (ie it’s very hard to change suppliers once an OctopOSS‘s tentacles have spread throughout the CSP‘s operations) so vendor lock-in is always a risk that terrorises CSPs.

OSS relationships are a lot like a marriage. If both partners are mutually aligned and contribute to a beneficial relationship, then being locked into a single partner is a whole lot easier and more rewarding. It’s only when both sides aren’t contributing for each other that you need to worry about vendor lock-in, spreading the risks across multiple vendors, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of OSS relationships end up in divorce, with either side trying to take advantage of the other.

Project Managers often revert to the minutiae of the contract when a project and/or relationship is failing. Managing OSS projects by contract rarely works. There’s simply too many nuances. It’s invariably better to manage for the relationship than against the contract. By the contract, it’s possible to lose, even though you’re right.

When doing your due-diligence on the vendor, if they have a history of long, healthy relationships with their other CSPs and you feel comfortable with them, then locking into a single vendor might not be such a bad thing…. but perhaps get them to sign a strong pre-nup agreement.  🙂

Even if you have a single vendor delivering all the major components of your OSS, I’d still be looking to do it in small executable steps or phases, with conditions in the contract to say that if the vendor is not meeting your expectations on the early phases then you can cancel subsequent phases.

One last thing. The customer/vendor marriage starts at procurement. Consider these three contrarian KPIs when entering into a procurement contract / relationship.

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