If you don't ask, you don't get...
Thursday, 1st April 2010
By Penny Leach
On 23 March 2010 the Commercial Legal and Scientific Group (CLSIG) of CILIP (the UK's library association) held its AGM. This was followed by a practical presentation by Fiona Fogden on negotiating contracts and firm-wide licences from the viewpoint of an information services manager.
On 23 March 2010 the Commercial Legal and Scientific Group (CLSIG) of CILIP (the UK's library association) held its AGM. This was followed by a practical presentation by Fiona Fogden on negotiating contracts and firm-wide licences from the viewpoint of an information services manager. Fiona is currently the National Information Services Manager for Baker Tilly, a major firm of accountants. She is known for her training and writings on the topic of negotiation, including her book Negotiating Licences for Digital Resources (published by Facet under the name Fiona Durrant). Fiona's overall message was to be assertive and trustworthy in negotiation by careful preparation and considered exploration of the issues. Recessionary times are good for negotiation - all parties are more open to discussion, suppliers may be more flexible and management is more ready to give serious consideration to the issues. This not only raises the profile of the information services manager but also makes it a more positive one if communication has been fair and credible. As well as negotiating with the supplier, you are also in an internal negotiating situation: within your organisation with the various stakeholders: with the users in identifying true levels and usage patterns for the service under discussion; with management in getting buy-in to the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement or BATNA (i.e. what happens if there is no renewal); with marketing in looking at the implications for sponsorship or editorial relationships with the supplier; and with finance in understanding budgetary implications. Among the many useful points Fiona made were:
- As the rollover date approaches, send a notice reserving the right to cancel but requesting time to gather more information. This buys you the options of renewal or cancellation.
- Consider carefully your Most Favoured Position (MFP or what you would really like), your Walk Away Position (WAP or what you can afford) but don't forget to cost and plan for your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).
- Ask for a 'like for like' renewal proposal to gain a sense of the supplier's expectations versus your hopes.
- Explore the gap between your MFP and the supplier's by using the framing statement 'If...then': ie 'If you cut the cost, then we will cut users or drop a portion of the service etc'.
- Don't be afraid to suggest ideas to make the contract more favourable (for both parties) around the services, billing, time period or legal wording - you may well find these are adopted.
- A multi-year agreement saves future time but should include break clauses to minimise the risk (based on employee or usage figures for example, or a 'take down' clause to cover the loss of key sources from the service).
- Update your internal stakeholders on the results so that the appropriate people are aware of any changes to the service content or user base, and the future cost (especially if it is lower than before). The seminar was followed by refreshments, while Fiona gave one-to-one on the spot negotiation clinics to attendees. Thanks to solicitors MacFarlanes for hosting. A longer version of this article can be found in CLSIG's newsletter (http://www.clsig.org.uk/).
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