Jay Butler, Senior Technical Consultant
Your financial institution employs a sophisticated technology infrastructure to facilitate the provision of a broad array of modern financial services. The implementation and ongoing maintenance of all the components involved presents a complicated challenge that relies heavily on teamwork at all levels. Vendor relationships comprise one important aspect of the teamwork dynamic.
At Safe Systems, we endeavor to take responsibility for all our financial institution clients’ technical needs, including the coordination of other vendor efforts, along with providing services specific to our core competencies. Our goal is to ease the burden through leveraging our expertise in acting on our clients’ behalf as their ambassador to their various technology vendors. We exercise this role primarily during network installation projects, support events, and major software upgrades.
A brand new installation may best illustrate our role in vendor management because it requires direct involvement of many vendors through the stages of planning, implementation, and initial administration and support. Safe Systems’ Project Managers can help coordinate vendor efforts for preliminary needs such as server rooms, data communications, and computer hardware/software procurement. Our Project Managers work out timelines and establish action plans based off the processes of each vendor involved in order to coordinate tasks sequentially and meet deadlines. Our Systems Engineers put these plans into action and work closely with their vendor counterparts through the deployment stages. We use lessons from these interactions to refine processes and build third-party product knowledge that helps us continually improve our service delivery.
The product knowledge we have amassed through countless installations and technical support events makes it possible for us to support most vendor software; however, in some cases, we require their assistance. We make every attempt to deal directly with vendor support without our client’s involvement, but the process must often start with a conference call. Many vendors, including Safe Systems, have a policy requiring that the support request originate from their respective customer. Once the case begins, we usually take over and manage the process until a solution is found. Teaming our knowledge of our clients’ core network with specialized vendor support is the key to solving difficult problems. As with new installations, we gain valuable product knowledge through collaborative support events that help reduce our reliance on their support services.
Host vendors such as JHA, Fidelity, and Fiserv require periodic software upgrades to their products as with most software. Our years of experience with each of these vendors give us a head start over most other network providers. They often alert us of pending upgrades well ahead of time, giving us an opportunity to prepare. We can gather documentation, engage in discussions with their technicians, develop action plans, and appropriately allocate our personnel. We have familiarity with their software lines, and we have the advantage of performing the upgrade procedure in repetition across our wide customer base. Over the first few implementations, we work out any problems and we continue to refine our processes to improve each successive rollout.
Two of our closest vendor relationships exist with Gladiator Technology and Total Data Services, Inc. Many of our clients use both of these companies, Gladiator for network security services and Total Data for hardware/software needs. Gladiator operates out of the same building with us, so we have the opportunity to work closely with them on a daily basis. We implement and maintain network security based largely from what we learn through Gladiator’s alerting and reporting services. Total Data has long been our clients’ preferred hardware/software vendor. Over that time, they have delivered most of the components for our installations and integrations. Our experience together helps to ensure accurate orders and timely delivery.
The vendor relationships we have built are crucial to our role in managing technology exclusively for financial institutions. Using a football team analogy, Safe Systems’ plays the quarterback position. We strive to understand every player’s position so we can make the best decisions in managing a team effort. Safe Systems’ engineers are the running backs and our clients’ other vendors are wide receivers. Our team runs the ball most of the time, but sometimes we have to throw the ball to a wide receiver. Experience helps us to know which receiver needs the ball and when. Our financial institution clients’ roles are similar to that of a team owner or coach because we sometimes need them to encourage players to do what the team needs to win. If you’re not into football, then just think of us as the team leader for all your technology needs.