Subject: Re: "buying": decision making vs. decision impact
From: Tom Lord <>
Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2002 05:09:24 -0800 (PST)


       The customer is already involved in the development process.  Their
       purchases guide it.

One thing I've been told a few times, and seen some evidence of, is
that it's more than just the purchases -- it's the activity of the
sales force.  My belief has been that at large engineering companies,
there's an ongoing dialog between the biggest customers and the
technical planners mediated by the sales force.  Are you saying that's
a false impression?

I've also observed that the situation is quite different for tiny
engineering companies -- that for those companies, the game is really
to show up at the hard-to-get sales call at just the right moment,
with just the right tool.  In those cases, it seems like there is
still a dialog with customers going on -- but that dialog is variously
with the VCs and/or the larger organizations from which the tiny
company's founders branch out.

       > 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.

There's kind of pot-calling-the-kettle-black aspect to that accusation
(regarding your apparent theory about my thought processes and
beliefs) but, oh well....

I said vaguely that your initial account, which seemed nearly absolute
in its reduction of the decision making process to immediate concerns,
shouldn't be taken too literally.  Now you've emphasized the different
components of the decision making process that, at least in your
experience, partially account for the sometimes (even if only rarely)
strategic aspects of decision making:

	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.

My point hasn't been that there's this pent up demand among enterprise
IT customers for strategic solutions -- that they are already
frustrated by the shortage of people offering them such solutions.
Rather, my point is that the problems they are trying to solve are
well approached with, in addition to consideration of immediate
problems, a first-class, carefully considered strategic component to
the reasoning.  I perceive a trend towards that kind of reasoning in
the business press and certainly in the technology initiatives.
Although I believe you that it doesn't come up in today's typical
sales calls that doesn't mean that that condition is permanent or
isn't undergoing change at this historical moment.  FSB's have an
opportunity to further potentiate that shift in IT behavior by using
their unique strengths to prepare for it, build up the stories that
explain how it can work, and begin to market it.  It's too big a job
for a small FSB acting alone, I'm sure.  Heck, it's very nature makes
it a job best approached by more than one company working together on
it -- otherwise, why bother bringing it up on this list?

	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.''

Wow.  That could work for process-oriented-solutions too.  Namely, if
you sneak in not only a product, but a feedback process that leads to
people outside the IT department coming back to you for help with new
and emerging problems, then you can go to the IT department and say
"Don't you too want to be representing your company in this process?"