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As software licenses become more complex and software prices rise, Information Technology Services is saving money by managing its relationships with vendors.

Jeanne Mesiano, UNC-Chapel Hill ITS
Jeanne Mesiano

ITS is investing in vendor management as a way to reduce costs and avoid other costs associated with software purchases and software support and maintenance. The vendor management industry has taken off and has emerged as a smart investment, especially with increased complexity as a result of the cloud and subscription-based software.

Started work a year ago

ITS created the role of vendor analyst manager/business systems analyst a year ago with the arrival of Jeanne Mesiano. During a decade purchasing information technology for Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, Mesiano developed relationships with vendors and gained contract expertise.

Created vendor and contract repository

For ITS, Mesiano is a central coordinator of software contracts that are strategically important for the department. She has created a repository of the vendors and the contracts that are critical to ITS infrastructure and strategies. The ITS leadership team can access that valuable information via SharePoint. The SharePoint contract-management site is used to track contracts and renewals and to make better informed procurement decisions. It also provides a dashboard to track savings.

“Because new technologies come out so fast, you want to have strategic vendors identified and relationships established so you’re able to move forward quickly,” Mesiano said.

Better informs evaluations

It’s also vital to have all this information organized and readily available for evaluation considering that software vendors typically raise prices by 3 to 7 percent a year for such things as maintenance. Some software companies demand increases of as much as 25 percent. Meanwhile, contracts and licensing are increasingly complex.

“Licensing has been getting so much more complicated that I swear, at times, you need a Ph.D. just to figure it out,” Mesiano said.

Dashboard of ITS vendor contract timeline
Dashboard of ITS vendor contract timeline

Job is like being a detective

In the beginning, vendor management is hard to quantify because there is so much information to gather. “It’s kind of like being a detective,” Mesiano said.

“We could have contracts from eight years ago and you’re allowed to renew for services for up to 10 years,” she said. “It’s finding out who initiated that contract and where to go to get a copy of that contract. Sometimes it requires looking through boxes of old purchase orders.”

Also, different units within ITS might have separate contracts for the same vendors. In addition, some contracts within ITS apply to other organizations within the University.

Maximizes savings and avoids certain costs

Having a repository of this information is extremely valuable for ITS leaders to maximize savings and avoid costs. Tracking information on contracts and vendors also enables ITS leaders to evaluate products, services, support and relationships with vendors.

ITS has exceeded its savings expectations and cost avoidance goals from establishing this vendor and contract management function.

Mesiano assists while not getting in the way of the various ITS units, their many contracts and their strong relationships with vendors. She focuses only on the contracts that ITS leaders have identified as strategically important.

People have been supportive

In her first year of vendor and contract management for ITS, the job has been both harder and easier than Mesiano expected.

“It’s harder in the sense that this environment is so big, knowing where to go is detective work,” she said. “The hardest part is the learning curve.”

“The easy part,” she added, “has been the people. The people I have been working with at ITS are more than happy to help. They go out of their way to get what I need.”

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