Setting priorities in business is never straightforward. Conflicting interests from various parties, both internally and externally, can sometimes mean your head is turned in a variety of different directions. You no doubt recognise the importance of loving your customers and you probably look after your staff, but what about your suppliers? Do you consider your supplier to be a partner and why does the relationship with external providers matter?

The increasing reliance on external service provision means that the bond you establish with your supplier is paramount. The modern business is a multi-sourcer that buys technology and services on-demand to fulfil a fast-changing series of business requirements. Under such circumstances, the IT manager has to work with providers which they know they can trust.

Real success, however, comes from a partnership approach in which technology chiefs use trusted suppliers they can work closely with to deliver ongoing innovation.

Take consumer giant Procter & Gamble (P&G), for example, which has created a global business services division that looks to consolidate and then outsource non-core IT activities. The approach relies on strategic partnerships with key service providers and it is an approach that has cut costs and increased innovation.

The P&G approach has been honed over a number of years and the sheer size of the organisation means that it can benefit from economies of scale. But just because an organisation is large, it does not mean that lessons cannot be leant by smaller firms.

Treat a supplier simply as a source of software and you will undoubtedly come unstuck. Every deal matters and value comes from working with a solid and reliable supplier that understands your business and your challenges. And remember that innovative solutions to such challenges do not have to rely on new, expensive technology. Innovation could mean using existing IT resources in a smarter and more effective manner. Finally, always remember to communicate your concerns. Work with colleagues, peers and suppliers to identify where improvements can be made.

So, why hold your suppliers at arms length when they can be your partners? You will always reap the rewards of a balanced partner relationship in which both customer and supplier are on a similar footing.