Dysfunctional IT and IT marketing

Marc Evers points me to It’s time to fix tech marketing by Thornton A. May in Computerworld. Mr. May says:

In fact, assemble any senior group of IT thinkers, and even though they’ll probably fight over middleware strategy, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance campaigns, outsourcing initiatives and the future of Linux, they’ll agree that the way vendors market products and services is dysfunctional, if not an actual roadblock to value creation.

he names as one of the causes:

Inappropriate and outdated mental models on why and how technologies enter the organization. The days of “crossing the chasm” are over. Geoffrey Moore, the creator of this once-dominant descriptive framework, has moved on; vendors should too.

Even though I still like the Chasm model, I can relate to the mental models cause. IT departments have become quite diversified in their problems. In Cynefin terms, I think IT departments are moving from known to knowable or complex space. Therefore, selling one-size-fits-all products (e.g. ERP systems, which typically fit only in known space, because they assume an unchanging process) and services (e.g. software development based on proprietary methods) is no longer a viable long-term solution. Instead, vendors will have to look at patterns within the industry, and carefully select customers who they want to sell to.

One of the old-fashioned sales techniques reflecting one-size-fits-all thinking in my opinion is the venerable elevator pitch. It assumes you can prepare a one minute presentation about your product or service you can use anywhere. For my services, I find the elevator pitch simplistic – I prefer to spend time asking questions and listening to a prospect first, think hard if any of my services or a new service would fit the clients needs, and only then offer an appropriate service.

Selling to IT departments will become harder as IT managers themselves are under fire from their internal customers. See e.g. Job security top concern for CIOs in Computer Weekly. The average IT department has a track-record of not delivering value for money. So now CIOs jobs are on the line, as part of their departments are being outsourced and/or offshored – if the clients can’t get good service, they try to get the same bad service cheaper.

Agile product development and agile services can be a remedy to this, taking into account the offering of the supplier, as well as the context and capabilities of the client. It’s not going to be easy, and probably take a long time, as the way IT projects are managed has to change, meaning close collaboration between customers and IT people.

Convincing dissatisfied clients to become involved in IT projects and product development is quite a challenge, as both IT Departments and vendors have to show a profound and lasting care for concerns of senior management, end-users and the clients’ clients.

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