Have family trust on vendors, Wal-Mart CIO

by Sharon Lobo    Feb 18, 2013

Karenann TerrellAt the recently concluded, Nasscom India Leadership Forum (NILF) 2013, IT stalwarts from across the globe presented their experience with technology. At one of the customer innovation sessions, Karenann Terrell, EVP & CIO, Wal-Mart presented her keynote titled, Strategic Partnership; Innovating through Trust and Transparency. The entire crux of her presentation was that when doing business with IT vendors, companies ought to have a sense of family trust with vendors rather than letting vendors earn trust.

In today’s uncertain business environment, a strong relationship between clients and vendors drives their growth. In such a scenario, it is the mutual trust that both need to have in order to tide over difficult times.

On the family trust concept, Karenann presented an example from her personal life, She said the family trust in her allowed her son to take the wheel when he was just 16 years. However, if she had to do the same, if she expected her son to earn trust, then maybe she would have let her son drive only at the age of 40! Karenann further said that a business like Wal-mart, which is spread over 28 countries and with revenues of over $500bn, preferred vendorship with family trust over strategic partnership model. She further emphasized that vendors should be open and honest with clients and not take for granted that the client is clueless about their expenses. “It’s not like we don’t know how much a programmer in Bangalore gets paid,” she added.

However, Karenann gave a word of caution that family trust on vendors doesn’t mean it is blind faith. Instead, it should be viewed as a ladder whose rung keeps getting lesser whenever the vendor fails to meet expectations or whenever the vendor isn’t honest about particular dealings. According to her if three key elements of people, collaboration and metrics has worked for Wal-Mart, it can work for anybody.