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Selling Technology

Originally published August 4, 2011

Sometimes change happens all at once. Take 9/11. How many changes happened that day – instantaneously? Air travel. Relations with other countries. Attitudes. And it was all real time. On television. Visions of smoke, twisted steel and destruction for all to see. But to be truthful, most changes happen gradually. Most changes are as undetectable as the dew forming in a mountain meadow on a summer’s morning. No one ever sees or hears the dew form. You just wake up and it is there.

One of those gradual, undetectable changes has been who is the buyer of new technology in the corporation. Many years ago it was the IT department that selected and controlled the selection of new technology. It was the role of the technician to screen, understand and compare technology. The vendors of technology sought the appropriate person in IT and the sales process commenced. Once upon a time it was the job of the technician to direct the corporate destiny when it came to the selection and deployment of technology.

But along the way several things changed. One of them was the personal computer (PC). One day PCs began to appear on the corporate desktops. These new PCs were clearly out of the control of the IT organization. And like little buttercups in the springtime, they just started to appear, along with such technology as the spreadsheet. Suddenly the end user was making his/her own technology decisions. Along with the PC came a corresponding drop in the price of technology. Suddenly technology began to be affordable. Once the cost of technology was so high that it was a major corporate investment. But when the cost of technology dropped, the end users could afford technology directly out of their own budget.

Perhaps it was in frustration, or just a plain reaction to the times, but the IT organization began to try to assert its right to direct the technical destiny of the corporation. And when IT began to try to tell the organization what it could and could not do, the words fell on deaf ears. It has often been said that the IT organization is not capable of making a “yes” decision, but that the IT organization could only make “no” decisions.

It is because of all of these factors (and probably a whole lot more) that when new technology is sold today into the organization, the vendors seek out the businessperson, not the technician. The whole approach to selling to the businessperson is one of finding business value that the technology brings. Once technology was sold on its features. The IT person would carefully analyze and compare one or more features of a technology against another feature of a competing technology. But today’s buyer is the businessperson, and to be honest the businessperson could care less about technology features. All the businessperson cares about is the business value of the technology.

Another reason vendors seek out the businessperson is that the businessperson has the budget, or at least the discretionary budget, and today IT is given budget just to maintain the status quo. But when it comes to new innovations and new technology, the businessperson is clearly in charge.

It is a sad (but true) statement that many end users are going out of their way to avoid the IT organization. The other day I was talking to a large, well known organization about some new technology. The potential buyer told me that the number one criteria for selection of the technology was that there be no involvement whatsoever of the IT organization. She told me that if the IT department even heard about the new technology, that would disqualify the vendor that had leaked the information to the IT department. She told me that avoiding the IT department was more important than cost, functionality, or capacity of the new technology.

How things have changed.

  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

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