Vendor management: How to negotiate contracts

Businesses buy computer-related goods and services all the time. Just to name a few examples, they buy consultants and technicians' time, custom programming, software and hardware. The way the parties usually handle the paperwork is that . After all, the form is printed so it can't be changed. Wrong!

I have two comments about those forms. One, I represent vendors. Trust me when I tell you that if you're the customer, . They're designed to be one-sided in favor of the vendor. I write them. I know.

Secondly, . The basic premise is that most customers won't read them carefully and even fewer will take the time to really negotiate them. A smart customer sees the form as nothing more than a one-sided first offer and goes from there.

Involve a Lawyer?

Clearly, you cannot involve a tech lawyer every time you buy something computer-related. So, how do you know when you need legal assistance?

I think that you make that judgment based on what's at stake. You have to look at the size of the contract and the importance of whatever it is that you're buying. Essentially, I'm suggesting a quick, down and dirty cost-benefit analysis.