In the quest to do everything faster and cheaper, the question "What can technology do for the business?" is usually eclipsed by "How much does it cost?"
Whether it is Telstra and its deadly dull T3 float (please, enough, just sell the shares if you must), flame-throwing PC batteries or over-zealous salespeople punting underperforming kit, the zest for what technology can do is often overshadowed - sometimes dominated - by the question of money.
It's sad but true. While the vendors love the colour green, their lust for capturing as much IT budget as possible can often make you see red.
You can't blame them, and I don't blame you.
Without a sense of humour - and let's face it, smiles and jokes are not part of every CIO's job description - this perennial tussle with those trying to get money from you can be very annoying. It is one reason why many CIOs lock themselves away, allowing colleagues to deal with the vendor meat market.
When that approach is taken, CIOs miss one of the joyful dynamics of working in the technology industry. There is no point in getting angry, snide or even bitter about this element of the job. It is what it is. It will never change, I can promise that.
Equally, not all salespeople are blood sucking vampires. In fact some of them can be quite reasonable . . . on a good day with the sun out and the wind blowing a healthy south-easterly. Some of them.
You can usually tell the good from the bad by the culture of the company, and their client care commitment. Technology companies - and I would say this about US companies in general - care more about you before they get your money. Logical morality would suggest you get the love after the transaction. But we all know that ain't how it works.
Business logic in the early 21st century tells us all to do as many transactions as possible for the least cost. And if you can do that on a large enough scale, then some genius accountant from Risk Mitigation down the hallway will tell you that the benefits of this strategy will outweigh anything that is client-adverse. After all, who is here for the customer?
Today, we are obsessed with cutting costs. Everything has to be done cheaper. Faster, yeah sure; that too. But cheaper, cheaper, cheaper.
Come Back, Little Battery
It would take Moses to convince me the incendiary devices doubling up as Dell and Apple laptop batteries are not the result of the manufacturer, Sony, trying to be more efficient. The result? Five million computers heading back to the shop. Somebody needs to be taken out the back of the canteen and shot. And, I must confess, I have sympathy for Dell and Apple, both of which appear to have been sucked in by one of their own, playing a game most industries play.
Conducting business as economically as possible is a high-wire act. Unfortunately, for some tech companies these days, it is not enough.
There is a distinct industry belief that while there might be the normal amount of money sloshing around in the bucket, it is hard to get. Buyers have become a lot smarter about how they spend it.
What used to be a comfortable career in sales has been transformed into hard work. CIO and their teams expect salespeople to understand their strategy (yeah, whatever) and even want things like "proof of concept" testing and customer endorsements.
I love endorsements. Fantastic fantasy; it's always a good laugh to read how someone dodged a bullet and lived to tell a tale. Test of concept is a significantly better strategy than relying on someone else's word. But salespeople have a love-hate relationship with them. If they prove their case, it takes either a real hard-head or someone with a disingenuous gene to say "no".
But concept-trials only prove so much. They don't tell the future story of the lost hours and exorbitant contractor fees, or the fact the vendor has no decent-scale, in-house technical support closer than Beijing. I have lost count of the number of CIOs who say they bought from a mainstream vendor and then watched the systems integrator stuff it up, or are frustrated by the lack of local support.
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