Subject: Re: "buying": decision making vs. decision impact
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 28 Feb 2002 01:12:45 -0800

Tom Lord <lord@regexps.com> writes:

> On the one hand there's "What are they buying?" in the sense of "What
> questions are they asking to make the purchase decison".  On the other
> hand there's "What is being bought?" in the sense of "What is the
> nature of the product?"  I'm no sales rep, but I've been told that
> often it helps to draw a customers attention to any disconnect between
> "what they're buying" and "what is being bought".

When you are talking to somebody who thinks strategically, sure.  In
my personal experience, the CIO at an enterprise will sometimes think
strategically.  The R&D group at an enterprise will often think
strategically.  The IT department will rarely think strategically.

Note that I mean the IT department in the sense in which the term is
typically used at an enterprise: the group of people responsible for
building and maintaining the actual production computer and network
systems used by the employees and customers of the enterprise.  In
some cases, this includes the people who build new applications; in
some cases, it does not.

> But even with that distinction, I think taking Ian's account too
> literally would be a mistake.

What you are told does not match your theory.  You can either adjust
your theory, or you can disregard what you are told.  I personally, in
cases like this, used to often disregard what I was told; I've been
working hard to instead adjust my theory.

> Finally, it's more clear to a lot of business press writers today than
> in the past that IT architectures are an open problem which will have
> opportunities to develop for a long time to come and that as things
> heat up, nimbleness is important.  In the business press, at least,
> customers are being told explicitly that they're buying into an
> ongoing process and should think about the issues that raises: the use
> of standards, the adaptiveness of your IT architecture, the future of
> your software suppliers .... and even occasionally your access to the
> source code.

Enterprise IT doesn't need to spend a lot of time looking at
standards, adaptiveness, etc., because the business press already does
it for them.  When the business press says ``customers should look at
X,'' what they mean is ``analysts are telling us to look at X.''

On the other hand, enterprise IT people are not idiots; in fact,
they're quite smart.  It's certainly true that if two products are
equally good, they will buy the one which appears to be more standards
conformant (i.e., the one from Microsoft, the company which sets the
standards (except in case of databases in which case the standard is
Oracle (unless you are an IBM shop))).

> As an engineer reading that business press, I often see the technical
> issues oversimplified and a lack of any attention to the potential
> role of customer in the development process.

The customer is already involved in the development process.  Their
purchases guide it.  Any startup would love to sell to enterprise IT.
A single sale--a single sale--can cover payroll for a year.  And a
single sale can often be parlayed into multiple sales.  When so many
smart people are competing hard for your dollars, you don't have to be
involved in the development process.  You only have to be smart enough
to buy the best solution which is presented to you.  And the business
press is out there working hard to point out the best solution.

I mentioned two ways to sell to enterprise IT, but I forgot to mention
another one, perhaps better suited to an FSB.  Make a product which
people really want, and which people can install themselves without
the cooperation of the IT department.  Get widespread gratis adoption.
Then walk into the IT department and say ``this product is already
widely used in your company (and we can prove it); if you buy our
(expensive) management interface, you will be able to monitor and
control its use, to do automatic upgrades, to improve security, to
eliminate support calls from your users.''

Ian