Have I got a deal for you


As if going to the gym regularly isn’t hard enough – lately, it seems that whenever I peer up at the TV that sits above the treadmill machines, someone has voluntarily, of their own free will, switched it to the Report on Business Television channel.

Forget for a moment that my investment “portfolio,” such as it is, hardly warrants paying any attention to the business news. It’s more the incessant “Buy!” and “Don’t Buy!” messages from an array of Bay Street analysts that really wears on me.

That’s how I feel about financial news most of the time, anyway. But head’s up, because I’m about to get all Alan Greenspan-y for a minute and do my bit to inject a tiny bit of confidence into the IT economy. That’s because underlying some recent news is a message you should hear.

On page three of this issue you’ll see a story about U.S.-based Home Depot. The home improvement retailer recently decided it’s high time it started studying its customers’ data a bit more closely. So it’s teaming up with IBM Corp. and another, unnamed software vendor to kickstart an ambitious data warehouse project.

There’s no shortage of business factors behind the decision – improved knowledge of the customer, more efficient HR processes – but observers are at least partly attributing Home Depot’s decision to timing. Seems vendors are starving for business, and are more willing than ever to cut their customers a deal.

Don’t believe me? Then listen to what Michael Fleisher, CEO of IT research firm Gartner Inc., had to say at the firm’s recent symposium in Orlando, as reported by IDG News Service.

“You have the incredible good fortune to be in what is, quite simply, the best market ever for technology buyers,” he told 6,000 attendees. “Overcapacity in the industry is giving you the perfect opportunity to lock in great new terms.”

However, he warned, this window will not be open forever. The opportunity to take advantage of current pricing “will definitely disappear in the next 12 to 24 months,” he said.

Sure, Fleisher has a vested interest in getting you to spend your dollars. For that matter, so do I. Doesn’t change the fact that he’s right, though. We all shop for homes when interest rates are low, for cars when the new year models are about to roll into the dealership, and hockey equipment in the dog days of summer.

We all know how to look for a deal. The only difference here is that the stakes are higher – the future of the firms for which you work. Those who invest wisely now could find themselves ahead of the game in five years.

So if you have any of those on-again, off-again projects that management would like to see completed, but just can’t seem to get started on, then this might be the best time to get the ball rolling.

Or forget the new stuff. Maybe it’s worth just getting on the phone and re-negotiating an existing contract.

After all, these are the sorts of times that sees vendors such as Trend Micro tell select customers that it will guarantee the ability to scan for a virus in its infected software within two hours of submission, or it will pay them US$1,000. The way things are going, servers will soon be sold like furniture – no money down, you don’t pay until 2004!

Or maybe not. But for all the negative aspects of this IT downturn, including all the lost jobs, the overworked survivors, the valid business ideas that went belly-up, here’s a chance to get something back. And we all might benefit from the rising tide in the process.