Consider how things are sold. You go to the grocery store and you see tomatoes. You decide to buy some because they look good. You see a product you have never purchased, and you read the box. You decide to buy it.
Next you want a car. You go to a dealership and see what they have for sale. You look at all of the available models. If you don’t like what you find, you go to another dealership. Or you go to the classified ads to see if you can find what you want.
In “normal” commerce, you have a lot of choices. What you can buy is immediate and obvious; and if you don’t want to buy, you don’t have to. It is the job of the salesman to help you narrow your options and make the best choice.
Such is the role of vendors in “normal” commerce.
In computers and technology, the vendor has a very different role.
The role of the vendor in computers and technology began in the 1960s when suddenly technology became a part of corporate life. There was no standard process for designating the people that were put in charge of this technology. Sometimes an engineer was chosen. Sometimes someone from accounting was chosen. Sometimes someone from finance was chosen to become the manager of this new beast – the computer. It was like a lottery. In the 1960s there was no such thing as formal training for becoming a manager of technology. Corporations more or less randomly chose someone who seemed like a good managerial choice. And in every case, the person chosen had no real background for this new role.
It is no wonder then that the people that were chosen felt a sense of insecurity. They knew – in their hearts – that there was no real reason for them to be in charge of the technology for a company.
Into this mind-set came the vendor (usually IBM). The vendor came in with products and technology to sell. But the vendor came in as a trusted advisor as well. The vendor was relied upon as a source of information about how other corporations were using computer technology. Because the vendor saw many different shops and organizations when introducing and selling computer technology, the vendor played the role of trusted advisor as well as salesman.
In many cases, the vendor supplied very good advice, but the vendor made sure no other computer technology vendor got a foothold in the organization. You could say it was a conflict of interest, but the vendor was placed in this position by the corporation, full of insecure managers.
There were obviously many benefits to the vendor, but the vendor used that position to its advantage.
Then along came Microsoft, playing to the audience of the disenfranchised who have no influence on the corporation’s technical direction. Microsoft discovered a whole different class of people who needed computers and computing technology but were not part of the corporate ruling (and insecure) class.
And like chipping away at an iceberg, one ice cube at a time, Microsoft found its way into the corporation. There was a new vendor in town with a very new type of relationship with its customers. Suddenly the old guard was faced with a threat from within.
A different type of technology was emerging, and the original insecure managers were retiring. The very way that corporate purchasing decisions were made was changing.
In part 2 of this series, I’ll look at how the technology marketplace has evolved.
SOURCE: Corporate Technology Adoption
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