Vendor lock-in

Business man with ball and chain

Business man with ball and chain

The term “vendor lock-in” is a fairly common one in the IT industry. It is basically a supplier-devised mechanism of ensuring that a customer is retained for the maximum length of time possible whilst maximising sales of as much product or service (or both) during that time. This is usually achieved by (some would say) unscrupulous means of “less than straightforward” contractual endeavours and/or “closed door” products/services that rather inconveniently for the customer, makes it very difficult for integration to occur between those vendor locked-in products/services and other products/services which the customer may wish to use in the future. Unless possibly an extra piece of software is required to be licenced from said vendor to make the integration possible – at a cost to the customer of course?

Obviously we’re all in business to make money – but vendor lock-in is something that has existed for far too long now in the IT industry and in our experience, is NEVER the best scenario for the client and only ever works in favour of the supplier – regardless of what the supplier says to defend themselves to the contrary.

In our opinion, the successful retaining of a customer on a long term basis needs to reflect one major benefit to that customer – value. Without the purpose of value, there surely would be no reason for a business relationship in the first place. Therefore it could be argued that the suppliers who aggressively purse vendor lock-in as a strategy, have a short term view of the actual value that can be realised of their products/services and use vendor lock-in methods as a dubious means to snare unsuspecting customers.

In other words, beware. Vendor lock-in may not only result in unexpected costs for the business in the long run, much worse it may also result in inhibiting business growth.