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Don’t Go to a Vendor for a Solution

Product
Stakeholders

12 May, 2021

Murali Bhogavalli
Murali Bhogavalli

Group Product Manager at Tinder, Inc.

Murali Bhogavalli, Group Product Manager, Data & Platforms at Tinder, explains why one should go to a vendor with a problem and not to seek a solution.

Problem

In the data management space, there are too many third-party vendors that are trying to solve multiple problems. In the early days of my career, I would go to a vendor, learn what they had to offer, and then go back to my team assessing if their solution would match our needs.

Soon I learned how mistaken I was. Instead of approaching vendors from a problem perspective, I was approaching them from a solution perspective. I would allow vendors to imprint their solution in my understanding of the problem. In a nutshell, I looked at how our needs would fit into their solution and not how their solutions would match our needs.

Actions taken

Early on, I would attend webinars and events where I would go into conversations with vendors. I would try to learn what they could solve and how I could make their solutions part of our ecosystem. However, I soon realized that no vendor was able to solve everything we needed. Working with Engineering helped me understand that I needed to identify our problems first. That was an Aha moment for me -- rather than approaching vendors from a solution perspective, I started to approach them from a problem perspective.

I started to collect problems encountered by different teams. Teams were eager to share their extensive list of problems, which I analyzed with great care. After studying the problems minutely, I focused on identifying cross-cutting commonalities. By digging deeper, I realized that those commonalities stemmed from the same root causes. If appropriately addressed, solving root causes could help solve problems internal stakeholders were complaining about. Sometimes we had to solve root causes internally, and contracting a vendor would be of no use. Making that decision alone -- should we solve it internally or externally -- spared us from having to spend time and pay for something we should do ourselves.

The whole process triggered a mindset shift that helped us better understand our needs and capacities to solve them. It also impacted our decision when and how to approach vendors and what to ask from them.

Lessons learned

  • Vendors tend to promise too much. Rather than being mesmerized by their solutions, be mindful of what problems their solution could address. Don’t go to a vendor to learn about their solutions and how you can incorporate them into your ecosystem. It should be the other way around.
  • Attending webinars and events and learning what vendors can offer is useful but don’t spend too much time on it. There are too many vendors out there with too many solutions. Without knowing what you need, it would be a waste of time.
  • Be the person who is open to collect all the information before embarking on the solution quest. Unless you understand the whole picture, trying to solve fragmented problems hardly yields results. Sometimes, applying a partial solution can add to the confusion and push you further from finding a solution that can address the root causes.
  • Being an early adopter with a third-party solution often becomes problematic. With no tried-and-tested team, you may end up being their guinea pig. Ensure your team is included whenever any decision with a third-party vendor is considered. .

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