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On vendor lock (or how to turn a customer to an enemy)

All looks perfect when you are in love. The person you're with seems to have all the qualities you were looking for in a partner. He is always there for you, attentive to your needs, promising to fulfill all of your wishes. But as this story goes the statistics kicks in, and you soon find yourself sitting with your friends and moan about very similar things.

When it comes to a healthy relationship between clients and suppliers it is good to follow the same advise a psychologist will give you for maintaining the relationship between you and your partner in life: have constant and open communication, align your plans together etc. But there is one very important recommendation that often escapes and is the hardest to implement and that is to keep your independence!
The advice is really relevant for all industries and is not specific to healthcare, however, when it comes to healthcare it is much easier, as a customer to lose your independence and without even noticing it. Since health organizations tend to be quite different from one another, so is the way the software are being implemented to support the processes and local systems in place. The more a health organization invests in tying a solution that meets its needs, the tighter the bondage between it and the software vendors gets. Contributing to the problem are the facts that many software are considered "mission critical" and the poor financial state of health organizations around the globe doesn't help either.

So what can be done to avoid a vendor lock? It starts with selecting your partner. On your qualification checklist you should have the ability to adjust and extend the software without requiring the vendor. This can be in the form of a solution designer editor or an SDK that you or other service providers can use. 
When building your solution it is better to adopt common practices and standards which are easier to replace, even if it means compromising on your dream solution.
Get to know your vendor clients and share your roadmap and pains on a constant basis – you will be much stronger and vocal together as a group when confronting your vendor. 
Finally, prepare to the day after from day one with a prenup. Make sure the vendor will be committed to assist in migrating the data to a new software if you decide to break apart.

And always remember – a true love comes when you know you can do without it!


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