Vendor pitch unproductive

One refrain heard more often from equipment vendors and service providers is how important it is for their customers’ upper-level executives to grasp the business benefits that their networking technologies and expertise can bring.

When clients incorporate more intelligence into their networks, or hand off various time-consuming network management chores to others, the clients’ workers can be more productive (read: work a lot harder, a lot longer), and the customer can therefore drive higher revenues (read: make a lot more money).

Cisco Systems Inc. has been pushing this mantra with noticeable volume for the better part of two years now. It’s nearly impossible to hear CEO John Chambers speak without the “productivity” spiel cropping up at some point. It’s no surprise, then, given Cisco’s trend-setting position in the networking market, that other players are starting to beat a similar rhythm on their marketing drums.

Take Ottawa-based service provider, NUVO Networks, for example. Last month, in a press release announcing a line of services, it only took until the second paragraph for the company to talk about how “today’s CIO is under increasing pressure to deliver business value,” and how “It’s not just about technology…but also how technology supports business growth that is the key to success.”

These are messages clearly designed to grab the attention of the C-level executives: the chief executive officers, the chief information officers, the chief financial officers. For many of these upper-crust decision-makers, technology remains merely another troublesome “must-have” to ensure that the competitor down the street doesn’t gain any market share on them. For most, Palm Pilots and laptops, let alone corporate networks, are things that they’d really rather leave in the hands of their tech people.

Despite the C-level’s relative temerity around technology, the “business productivity” sales pitch from Cisco, NUVO, et al. makes sense. These are the people, after all, who control the corporate coffers. If they can become even slightly enamoured with the idea of technology making them money, it probably won’t be long before they’re signing on the bottom line for a new set of routers or monitoring services. It’s a tall task for the tech sellers, but it’s one that most of them don’t intend on giving up any time soon.

For network professionals, however, such an approach could lead to some serious headaches. It’s hard not to get the feeling that vendors are becoming less interested in what the workers in the trenches want and more interested in wooing the chief executives.

Network professionals can only hope that in sending out their productivity enhancement messages, vendors remember who actually has to work with the products once they’re purchased. Big-picture concepts such as Voice over IP implementations and large-scale outsourcing projects are exciting and will resonate with the C-level.

Tech workers should therefore not be surprised if they find themselves bringing their bosses back down to earth with the less savoury details of such ideas — the nitty-gritty aspects that might not come up in the senior business meetings with vendors.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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