A friend, Larry, calls now and then. “We should do something, you and me,” he suggests. But we never do. Frankly, I’m not exactly sure what he does or how it applies to me, so that’s probably why.
Customers tell me companies call them all the time and say, “We should do something, you and me.” Most never do for the same reason I never pursue anything with Larry: They don’t understand any better than I do what the caller is trying to say.
There are several reasons for this. For starters, people in our industry love complexity. From Microsoft’s Windows Stop 0x2E error messages to acronyms such as SCOOPS (Scheme Object-Oriented Programming System) to Oracle licensing terms, we simply make things too complicated. Short of taxes and insurance, IT is the most overly complicated industry.
Vendors, including Microsoft, are guilty of starting the runaway complexity train (can you name all seven versions of Windows XP?), but downstream business partners are guilty of this, too. Far too many have a claim to fame that basically boils down to being 100 percent buzzword-compatible.
In addition to complexity, banality is also a problem. Do you have a proven and proprietary methodology? Sure you do. Plug proprietary methodology into Google, and you get 11.5 million responses. Go further: Type in proprietary methodology for delivering IT value, and you still get 5 million options. Wipro, for example, has both a proven global delivery model framework and a proprietary Lifeline methodology.
Impressive, until you think about the number of other companies that have made money placing talented programmers in a room with a fast Internet pipe half a world away where labor rates are a fraction of what they are here. Proven? OK. But proprietary? C’mon.
Wipro’s problem isn’t a lack of intellectual property but perhaps an abundance of it. It has so much IP that it cannot effectively convey exactly what it does that makes it unique. At least Wipro claims to be the world’s largest independent R&D house.
But what exactly does that mean? Drug companies spend more than Wipro on R&D, and they come up with drugs such as Viagra, which started life as a remedy to reduce chest pain associated with angina. And Wipro is hardly “independent.” It has more than 100 IT companies in its alliances portfolio, which doesn’t suggest “nonaligned.” You’ll agree its messaging needs work.
But let’s not single out Wipro, whose year-end sales March 31 were up 30 percent and its profits nearly as much. Ask yourself about your own efforts to promote, brand and position your company. Look at both what you say and how you say it.
What exactly are you saying about your company? That it solves problems? Again, everybody does. Which problems? That’s the key. Do you solve the ones customers have most: too much e-mail, an inability to find data, trouble keeping work forces connected, worries over security and compliance obligations, and that nagging concern that someone might actually be doing IT better than you and gaining a leg up? If you don’t have specific efforts to help customers with these issues, what exactly are you saying that’s closing business?
Next, look at how you say things. That includes everything from the stuff you put on your Web site to the furniture in your lobby. It all says something about you. Stacks of recyclable boxes in your lobby show you care about the environment. Those same stacks also suggest you’re messy and never heard of Waste Management or BFI. “There are no positions currently available” on your job site says to customers, “We aren’t growing,” and to prospective employees, “We’re really not interested in hiring anyone better than who we already have.” Both essentially say, “Move on, nothing to see here.”
If that’s how you’re positioning your company, then let me offer this suggestion: “We should do something, you and me!”
T.C. Doyle is the director of intelligence at Amazon Consulting, a Silicon Valley think tank and consultancy that specializes in IT alliances and partnerships. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.