Be It So Resolved

End-of-year advice for vendor types

Few will ever claim that the year 2000 was boring. What began with the overblown threat of global IT destruction in the mandibles of the Y2K bug ended with the actual annihilation of countless tech companies - particularly those of the dotcom variety. So perhaps it's time for a little something to make 2001 a bit more enjoyable. Here's our list of tech-vendor resolutions for 2001. Then pass them along to your favourite sales rep.

Resolution No. 1: We will put an end to hyphenated marketing.

E-commerce, m-business, w-commerce, s-business - pick a letter of the alphabet, add a hyphen and tack it on to the word business or commerce. Whaddaya got? Instant marketing slogan! Does it mean anything? Of course not. But we've got to differentiate ourselves somehow, and our product sure doesn't do the trick. Which leads us to . . .

Resolution No. 2: We will spend more time developing our products than our brand.

In the late 1800s, Thomas Barratt of Pears' soap reportedly said: "Any fool can make soap, but it takes a clever man to sell it." That's good advice if you're selling socks, shaving cream or soda - but it doesn't apply to enterprise technology. The brandaholics forget that successful companies like Cisco Systems, eBay and Microsoft first made products that people wanted; the brand recognition was the prize at the bottom of the cereal box.

Resolution No. 3: We will develop products that run best on your platform - not on an overhead projector.

Credit the above resolution to Tama Olver, the CIO and vice president of worldwide information systems for Quantum Corporation. She makes a good point: while the pundits talk about crossing the chasm and bridging the digital divide, there's another rift out there: the gap between marketing messages and deliverables. How many times have you been drawn to a product based on advertised claims (Whiter Whites! Brighter Brights! Easy integration with legacy systems!), only to find that even simple questions bring answers like, "Um, we're still working on that feature"? Then maybe someone should have told the sales force.

Resolution No. 4: We resolve to practise what we preach.

If we say that e-commerce is the best way for your company to make money, we'll prove it by earning some ourselves instead of just chewing through venture capital like it was a bag of Cheese Doritos. If we claim that security is a core piece of our software strategy, we won't let hackers drive a truck through our electronic back door so that they can fill it with our source code. It just makes sense. Are any companies going to take these resolutions to heart? To be honest, a few do already. If there's any justice in the world, they'll be the ones left standing next year. And then we won't have to do this all over again. By Christopher Lindquist, the technology editor for CIO (US)In the old economy, we spent time to gain dollars. Now we spend dollars to gain time. It's the scarcest resource in the new economy - Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the ChasmBy the Numbers Compiled by Susannah Patton Competitive Intelligence Tips By analysing rivals' moves, competitive intelligence (CI) programs allow companies to anticipate market developments rather than merely react to them. The American Productivity & Quality Centre (APQC) recently concluded a benchmarking study comparing the CI practices of 12 identified best practices companies (partners) with 19 sponsor organisations looking for ways to improve their intelligence programs. While most of the companies surveyed use a corporate intranet to disseminate information on competitors, APQC found that best practices organisations share the most sensitive information only with senior management.

Extent to Which Your CI Function Uses IT for the Following Purposes (1 = to no extent; 7 = to a high extent) Sponsors Partners Disseminating intelligence 5.5 6.1 Storing information so that it is accessible 5.1 6.0 Sharing information between functional groups within the organisation 5.4 5.3 Collecting information from external sources 5.9 5.3 Consolidating different internal and external sources of CI 5.0 4.9 Facilitating the usability of CI through filtering, packaging, etc 4.6 4.8 Collecting information from within the organisation 4.7 4.1Best Practices for IT1. Don't skimp. A hefty investment in CI can pay off quickly, says Farida Hasanali, an APQC project leader and study team member. For example, Houston-based Compaq ponied up a "sizeable investment" for its CI program, not including salaries, Hasanali says, allowing the company to quickly assemble a vast electronic library of analyst reports and competitive data. Employees can find about 80 per cent of the information on the intranet, while the 20 per cent intended only for the senior leadership team is kept on a separate server.

2. Don't get discouraged. Even if you don't have $1 million to spare, you should go all out to build a CI program. Houston-based Shell Services International, an IT services group within Royal Dutch/Shell Group, dedicated one employee for three months to build a CI Web site. "It's all right to start small if you have to," Hasanali says. "We all have the Internet to gather data."

3. Get the word out. IT is essential in creating a CI program, but companies should make sure they aren't hiding behind their intranets. "If people in the company don't know the CI team, they won't trust the information," Hasanali says. CI professionals should go to department meetings to seek out intelligence needs while raising their visibility.

4. Establish clear objectives. Make sure your goals are clear to top management. At Compaq, CI goals include speaking to top executives and providing opinions on when to release products. If a company is vague about a CI initiative's scope, it will be more difficult to make strategic decisions.

Source: The American Productivity & Quality Centre in Houston

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