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ITSM14 Preview: Karen Brusch and Managing Multiple Suppliers from an SLM Perspective

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Karen Brusch of Nationwide Building Society and itSMF UK

Karen Brusch of Nationwide Building Society and itSMF UK

In the run up this year’s itSMF UK conference, ITSM14, I chatted with Karen Brusch of Nationwide Building Society and itSMF UK about her upcoming session entitled “Managing Multiple Suppliers from an SLM Perspective”.

Q. Hi Karen, can you give a quick intro to your session at the itSMF UK Conference?

The itSMF UK Service Level Management SIG has always been keen to research and present topics that are identified as problem areas by practitioners in the industry. Supplier Management and how that impacts Service Level Management has been an area of discussion which has gained momentum over the last 18 months. This session takes a look at some key points around the complexities of managing multiple suppliers.

Q. What impact does managing multiple suppliers have on an organisation?

The most obvious impact is the failure to deliver what an organisation’s business needs. It is hard enough to understand and document business requirements when you have one supplier; but when you have a multitude of suppliers, there is a real risk that requirements become diluted, compromised, or more crucially missed. Managing multiple suppliers is a black art, where what works for one set of suppliers will not necessarily work for another; so each combination requires a modified approach. Service Integration specialists (SIAM) have helped to shape some answers, but even here, flexibility is the key. So any organisation embarking on a multi-vendor strategy has to have the knowledge, capability and determination to succeed.

Q. Where should organisations start with managing multiple suppliers?

The most important thing is to understand your business’ end game; where do they want to be in 5 years’ time, for example. Once you have this information you can begin to formulate supporting IT strategies and requirements. Too many organisation write their Invitations to Tender (ITTs) and Request for Proposals (RFPs) without understanding business strategy

Q. What are likely to be the potential pitfalls and/or benefits an organisation may experience with implementing a framework for managing multiple suppliers?

An organisation will derive real benefit for taking the time to develop an appropriate governance framework for the selected preferred suppliers. As I’ve said already, each combination requires a modified approach, so it really pays to invest some time in this activity. The fundamental pitfall that I’ve seen on many occasion is that organisations select the cheapest provider for each area/tower of service, not taking into consideration the overall impact and integration issues. It goes back to having people with the knowledge, capability an determination to succeed.


Karen is an ITIL Expert, recognised as a member of the itSMF UK Expert Faculty, and a Service Design specialist with 12 years’ experience. She chaired the itSMF UK Service Level Management Special Interest Group for several years, and has recently stepped down from this role to support the newly formed Service Design SIG. When not engaged in itSMF activities, she works for Nationwide Building Society as a Service Design Consultant.

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Karen’s session is on day two and featured within the Managing Complexity track. To find out more or to book your conference place please visit itSMF UK

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