IT Innovation versus Extortion

    One of the things that far too many IT executives don’t like to talk about is the strong-arm sales tactics that some of the major vendors will resort to when they don’t get their way. When the sales team of a major vendor discovers that a particular deal isn’t going to go their way, there is a natural tendency to want to appeal the decision to a higher authority. In most cases, that means going over the head of the technology decision-makers to get to the business decision maker. And on more than one occasion, it also means trying to get the technology decision makers replaced.

    IT vendors are forever telling technology decision-makers that they can help them sell a technology to the business. That usually means courting the business leaders of the company during golf outings and setting up expensive dinners when the CEO of the vendor just happens to be in town. But as vendors establish these relationships to get the business, don’t be surprised when they try to use them to keep the business.

    This creates a conundrum for the technology decision-makers trying to do the right thing for their company. Not only do they have to convince the business to fund the decision, they also have to prepare for the wave of criticism from the incumbent vendor that is about to be replaced. Unfortunately, the noise level associated with replacing an incumbent vendor is so high, many IT executives find that the path of least resistance is to not rock the boat. Most of the time, the business side doesn’t understand the potential value of an innovation, so waiting for the incumbent vendors to finally get around to adding those new innovations frequently seems like the safer political bet.

    Of course, this is tantamount to a form of technology extortion. So the question that technology decision-makers need to ask themselves is what is the real value of letting IT vendors establish relationships with the business management team when they know full well there will come a day when a price needs to be paid.

    Not every IT organization is subject to this level of extortion. But the bigger the customer, the more this kind of strong-arm sales tactics factor into the equation. Of course, nobody wants to name the vendors involved. But if they have a billion dollars or more in revenue, chances are they have sales people that have over-stepped their bounds on more than one occasion, usually at the expense of smaller startup companies bringing some new innovation to market.

    What’s really needed, of course, is more focus on ethical sales practices in the IT space. But in the meantime, the next time you see a technology-decision maker with the intestinal fortitude to stand up for what they believe in, shake their hand whether you agree with them or not. More often than not, you have no idea how much courage went into making that stand.

    Mike Vizard
    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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