I manage the relationship with one of our key vendors e.g. an enterprise resource planning software such as SAP. As such, I initiate and look after negotiations, issues, new products, opportunities and everything surrounding our work with "SAP".

Our new senior managers (CTO, COO, etc. level) have started meeting these people without me to discuss strategy as well as just socialize - reportedly also because they have some common contacts in college -, but never keep me in the loop - they just fleetingly mention a joke or two about them and some decision they made together.

What happens thereafter is that whenever I communicate with "SAP", they know something about us that I didn't know, or a new product or strategy we are going to implement... about which I didn't know. The communication is quite embarrassing.

While I find it slightly degrading in itself that they initiate communications without even informing me, I think it would be beneficial for all parties to at least keep me in the loop on whatever decisions were made, what information was shared and what new information we know.

Ultimately, since I am responsible for the relationship with "SAP", how can I ensure that I am always in the loop in such circumstances?

Clarification: note that I was hired specifically to manage this relationship and and the ERP/software delivery (it is an exclusive relationship - we use only one type of software platform) - there are other vendor relationships but in completely different business functions; I couldn't change to them and there are people managing those relationships already. In essence, I am an "SAP"/ERP "expert" or "super user" as well.

3 Answers 3


For your ERP vendor, this is an account-management dream come true. They now have what sales people call "C-level" access to decision makers at your company: a good-old-boy network, no less.

This is how many large-ticket enterprise sales relationships work.

Why is this good for them? No longer do they have to be diligent about ensuring the things they do and the things they sell you actually benefit your company's ongoing operations. I imagine when they work through you they find your company focused on "make ERP work for US" rather than "make quota for the ERP sales guy." That's fitting and proper, but inconvenient.

In other words, you have a tough problem. Communication and decisions are now being made without you. There's not much you can do about it: you're up against organized people (college buddies) and organized money (ERP account management strategy).

These new executives have probably succeeded in past jobs by doing this kind of thing. They were probably hired because they are BSDs (look it up on Urban Dictionary).

So, what can you do about this? Here are some brainstorming possibilities.

  1. Get them to rein in their good-old-boy behavior. Not likely. Better to try to make elephants fly.
  2. Try to become one of the good old "boys" yourself; develop a personal strategy to become part of the ERP strategic team yourself. If your boss and her boss support this, you can probably succeed at it. But it will take a couple of years.
  3. Ask your boss for advice on how to continue succeeding at operations while all this "high-level strategizing" is going on. Figure out how to compartmentalize the C-level futures away from today's production, so today's production can continue to be excellent.
  4. Swallow your annoyance for a while at having a big part of the relationship with this vendor taken away from you. Ignore rumors about new deployments until they turn into implementation plans. Soon enough, these guys will either come up with something that needs doing, or they'll move on to chasing other shiny objects. Trust me, when something needs doing, they'll ask you to do it.
  5. Maybe: conclude that you've finished your work this company hired you to do. Start grooming a couple of successors and start looking for the next assignment. If you are subtle about asking, YOUR contacts at the ERP company will be able to help you.

Good luck.

  • This is a great answer!
    – enderland
    Jul 23, 2014 at 17:05
  • @enderland aww, thanks, Mom. Seriously, I know from experience how #$%#@%^ hard this kind of situation can be.
    – O. Jones
    Jul 23, 2014 at 17:11
  • you nailed it..swallow your annoyance for a while ..
    – amar
    Jul 24, 2014 at 6:14

You cannot ensure. Since you mentioned that your seniors have college time contact with the vendors then naturally vendor will also feel safe/comfortable communication with your seniors then with you.Reasons
1.They have a personal touch in relation so vendors will place more trust on them.
2.They are your seniors so they are in a capacity to roll out more concessions and perks then you do.

Suggestion you can bring it up some time during chat and request your seniors to keep you in loop. These vendors must not be the only account which your company has or which you handle.Every vendor wont be your bosses college time buddy.Let it go and concentrate on new ones/others. You can raise the quality of service you provide to this vendor so that you become a better option to them.


You have to send a note(*) to the senior manager reminding them that you are responsible for managing the relationship with this client unless you are otherwise told, and that it it is difficult for you to do your job of managing the relationship effectively if the client is receiving information from other channels than you - and in fact,information that is not available to you at your level - You are effectively telling the senior manager to step back because they are encroaching on your responsibility and that they have to let you do the job you are paid to do.

@leigh comments further: "Another tack he could take: if he is fully aware of all options they've discussed or issues they've brought up, he can better do his job, which is to leverage his expertise to help them and the whole company. (Put it to the SrMgmt in "help me help you" terms, and maybe they'll be more inclined to keep OP in the loop.)"

(*) @enderland strongly recommends that this communication happen in person and not over email

  • I strongly recommend this conversation happen in person and not over email...
    – enderland
    Jul 23, 2014 at 15:17
  • @enderland - I incorporated your comment into my answer, with full attribution to you. Jul 23, 2014 at 15:29
  • Another tack he could take: if he is fully aware of all options they've discussed or issues they've brought up, he can better do his job, which is to leverage his expertise to help them and the whole company. (Put it to the SrMgmt in "help me help you" terms, and maybe they'll be more inclined to keep OP in the loop.) Similar enough that I just tacked on a comment rather than post a new answer.
    – user22432
    Jul 23, 2014 at 16:24
  • @leigh I incorporated your comments into my answer, with full attribution to you :) Jul 23, 2014 at 16:31

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