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Cowboys and Indians

Cowboys and Indians

They say the IT industry has more cowboys than Texas. However, even after 18 years, I still find myself startled by the short-term and mercenary tactics and methods deployed by some IT suppliers. A case in point was a recent request I received from a potential entrant into the local outsourcing marketplace. This was an organisation which had aspirations of being able to take on dominant market players such as EDS, CSC, IBM Global Services and DMR. Despite the fact that these players have served lengthy apprenticeships in understanding the local outsourcing marketplace and in building alliances, my contact felt that his organisation had spotted a niche. This organisation also had a reportedly solid track record in Europe. The upshot of talks was that a European bigwig was arriving from Britain the following week with the intention of establishing a local presence for the company. The request to me was urgent and simple.

From my research and understanding of the outsourcing marketplace in Australia could I drop everything and brief this executive. Throughout discussions my contact dangled the carrot of a lucrative research consultancy to help this organisation get its first runs on the board.

I met my contact beforehand to get a clear briefing. Then I gave up a Sunday to gather data from my sources and to make the slides for the presentation the next day. Even then, I was asked if I could change my schedule to fit in with the hectic agenda of the important British visitor. It was a memorable meeting.

I was shown into offices whose opulence would have perhaps embarrassed Christopher Skase. I spent 45 minutes enduring an examination of what I saw as the local outsourcing marketplace opportunities. Three days later they got my IDC colleague Merv Langby, who has tracked the local outsourcing market for nearly 10 years, in and repeated the medicine. Yet, to cap it all, the European bigwig had the audacity to ask if Merv would discount his latest outsourcing report. Then, when the contacts had no more use for either Merv or me they cast us aside. I suspect this organisation has Buckleys chance of being able to supersede any of the leading outsourcing vendors. I say that because it is clear to me that this organisation is not prepared to do its homework. It would be hard to imagine a leading consumer organisation not undertaking significant research if it envisaged entering a new market. It does this because logic says it is about to invest millions in establishing a sales team and advertising to promote its wares. In-depth understanding of the market motivators helps ensure this investment is properly targeted.

Yet so many IT vendors pay only lip service to this strategy. Instead they invest their energies into recruiting some "go get 'em" sales staff.

Unenlightened but full of incentive, these people then tend to go around like bulls in a china shop. As an InTEP member told me last year, these IT vendors badger IS executives with monotonous regularity. Ignorant of the marketplace, and the problems and challenges of their potential clients, the vendors invest great energy in a relentless determination to ram square pegs into round holes.

In the end their endeavours achieve little but the further tarnishing of the reputation of IT as a whole.

And here is an organisation that spares no expense in fitting out its office.

Here is an organisation that thinks nothing of flying its executive halfway around the world, most likely in business class. Here, however, is an organisation incapable of putting itself in the shoes of its potential allies or clients. It clearly has no compunction about using people to advance its ends. I was left with the impression: buyer beware. And, for someone who talks daily with senior IS decision makers, that's an opinion I'd be delighted to share.

Peter Hind is the manager of User Programs, which includes InTEP, at IDC Australia

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