The sales confusion paradigm

Consulting recently with a client has revealed to me, yet another obstacle explaining why Puerto Rico is unable to use information technology strategically. The scenario is simple.

Imagine a person in charge of information technology for a small to medium sized business. The business is growing and now needs to improve their information technology capability. The company already has several companies they use or have used in the past to meet their IT needs. With a general understanding of what is needed, the IT person calls his sources and asks for help, or more simply, a proposal to meet the new need. The IT provider gladly receives the new lead and generates a proposal that will solve the company's problem.

Now here's where the situation gets complex and confusing. The IT person doesn't really have decision authority, he (and it is predominantly a he) can only recommend a solution. The owner of the company is where the buck stops, he (and it is predominantly a he) asks the IT guy to get some competitive proposals. So the IT guy diligently gets the proposals, but in all honesty, doesn't really understand the solutions being proposed. When the owner asks for a recommendation, the only advice he can give is to go with the sales pitch that seems to make most sense.

Honesty disclaimer

Now for purposes of simplicity, I want you to assume that all of the proposals are on the up and up. Let's not be naive and accept that sometimes a decision is made based on the kickback offered to the IT guy. However, that is not the case in this scenario, or at least I hope not.

Enter the sales confusion paradigm

Enter a third party. Unsatisfied with the IT guy's explanation of the needs, proposals, and justifications, the owner asks a friend to evaluate the situation and help him make a decision. Don Dees to the rescue!

After struggling through the proposals and sitting through a few meetings. It finally dawns on our hero that what he's stepped into the middle of, is a case sales confusion. On one side of this nasty equation is a sales team that wants to sell as much as possible. If we examine, only briefly, it is easy to understand their motivation. They are compensated (motivated) by sales. The more they sell, the more they make.

On the other side of the equation we have the unprepared IT guy. He's a good guy who understands enough to solve his company's IT needs, but really doesn't understand WHY the solutions he owns work their magic. Of course he can't really admit to his boss that he doesn't REALLY dominate the situation. On the other hand, if he claims ignorance to the sales team, it's like giving them a blank check and asking them to "do what's best" for his company. Yes, I'm implying that sales people do not always operate in the best interest of their client's pocketbook.

The problem

It's really an unfair battle when you pit a well informed and motivated sales team against an adequate, but ill-prepared IT guy. Hopefully the solution being proposed is actually going to solve the company's problem, but let's just say that sometimes all a client really needs is an aspirin to get rid of a headache and the sales team is pushing Morphine. If the solution requires software development or implementation, then let's also hope that the IT provider actually has the talent necessary to complete the job. Unfortunately for us, those hopes were ripped apart in a long history of unsuccessful IT-related projects.

A battlefield of Roman proportion

I'm ashamed to admit it, but the IT landscape in Puerto Rico is filled with the dead and rotting carcasses of the sales confusion paradigm. Over the last twenty years, unsuspecting IT Guys have been asking their "trusted" IT providers for help. What has been the result? Instead of these two parties developing a mutually beneficial, long term relationship based upon trust, the IT providers have been throwing their clients to the lions. Surrounded by an environment where truth, honesty, and a criminal mentality, our IT industry is composed of predators and victims.

Now consider for a moment when a small company doesn't even have an IT guy. Imagine what happens when a predatory IT provider is pitted against the technology guy in the office who seems to know the most about computers. Unfortunately, it is like trying to fight a hungry lion with your hands and feet.

By the way, do you think we live in violent times? Now imagine people paying to watch the unwitting IT Guys being devoured by IT provider lions! Getch'yer peanuts and beer folks, it looks like we're up for an exciting afternoon of torture and suffering.

Flickr Creative Commons Contributor: David Paul Ohmer

2 comments:

gildel67

19 de mayo de 2009, 11:24
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dijo...

Setting the generalizations and assumptions aside I believe you have a very valid point. When you add this situation to the case where either the Business Owner or the IT Guy can get their
"wife's/brother's/neighbor's/13 year old kid" to do it for almost nothing and you have a real problem. I guess the question is how do we fix it? How do we get the business owners to understand the true value of their IT systems? The predatory practices of some providers promote distrust and once someone has been burned it is very hard to earn their back trust.

MC Don Dees

19 de mayo de 2009, 13:11
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dijo...

Thanks for the creative license to assume and generalize. B-)

Oh man, some one called me out. Yes, it certainly is a lot easier to just point to things that are wrong and don't work, and then walk away satisfied that you've done something to "save" the world. It's quite another thing to "do something" to help fix the problem.

Well, the simplest answer, the first answer, is to do like Michael Jackson and start with the main in the mirror. If you want an IT industry that evangelizes IT as a strategic asset, then you have to start my doing tht yourself.

I, to the best of my ability have been doing that myself for the last 14 years. Unfortunately, sometimes, the individual will isn't enough to challenge the collective will.

So gildel67, if you're asking how do we fix Puerto Rico's collective problem, I have to confess that I'm really at my wits end. There are sooooo many factors involved, each of which has to be solved first. So it's like, where to start?

One idea that did pop into my head is creating a business that would function as an IT industry watchdog. SMB's looking to invest in new IT could hire the watchdog to ensure that the client's best interests are first and foremost in the deal. Perhaps this company could be a non-profit, sort of like the better business bureau. The watchdog's mission would be to raise the level of strategic use of IT on the island.

The only problem I have with that solution, is that non-profits on the island tend to grow a life of their own. Like the unions, instead of looking out for their members, they become focused on keeping the non-profit alive.

Anyway, there is another side to this story. I realized it when thinking about this situation, and that will be the subject of my next post.