It has been an interesting week for the
Radicati Group and my web site activity has jumped as a result. The most
recent surge in activity first began a week ago, when I asked the question:
does Market Analysis Research" become "Marketing?
Since then, the traffic has only continued to grow; however, I still
do not have answers to my most pressing question. And now, I have one more.
On Wednesday, I posted my
recent Radicati Market Analysis. These questions were my own, and arose
after I read the Radicati Market
Analysis and the response
, of Shared-Spaces
Research and Consulting
a technologist, I read both papers and I felt that the questions that I
had were reasonable and that they were ones that any reader should know
the answers to before making an IT purchasing or planning decision based
upon the Radicati (or anyone else's) market research projections.
Here were my original questions:
1. Who is the actual
author of the report?
2. Who paid for it?
3. What were the sources of information used and how did they lead to the
conclusions presented in the research paper? I asked if it would be possible
to see a list of citations of the sources consulted and for the figures
and graphs presented?
At the conclusion of my post,
I publicly solicited answers to these questions from anyone who might have
been involved in the production of this particular market analysis, who
may be able to shed some light on my questions. I also invited Dr. Radicati,
who I assumed authored (or at least approved) the research, to personally
respond to my questions, and I offered to post her response in its entirety
on my blog.
I have not heard anything yet; however, this evening, I noticed that Dr.
Radicati had posted an official response on her Web
Response to Ed Brill's Weblog
Let's see if Dr. Radicati answered any of my questions:
In her response, Dr. Radicati states that the views contained within it
represent the "company position," and that any questions may
be directed to Sara
directly. OK, so
that answers question number one. Sort of. Continuing to question
number two, I read that this paper was not funded by any particular vendor
and that it is "based on excerpts from the 5 full length reports..."
and it goes on to list reports which may be purchased for $3,000 each.
OK, that works for me. If I had five papers to sell, I too, would likely
offer a summary paper, showing highlights of my best work, free of charge,
so that the public might get a glimpse of the quality of my work and hopefully,
want to buy my full length reports. As far as I am concerned, I will
accept that as an answer to my question number two. This leaves me with
only my question number three.
Before I go on, I would like to publicly state that I do not work for IBM
or Microsoft; however, I represent many clients, who make sizeable investments
and purchases from both companies each year. As an independent consultant
, I consult on the technology
integration of products from these manufacturers and others with an eye
towards making technology work to increase productivity. Internally, I
use Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, and Office, as well as Lotus Notes for
all of my Information, Communication, and Action tracking. Oh, I
also use Outlook and I have corporate clients who use Lotus Notes, Outlook,
and Exchange, for their messaging platforms. As you might expect,
I am interested to know what others have to say concerning the future of
any of these products. I am also very interested to know how they reached
these conclusions, so that I may learn from them and advise my clients
That said, I now come to my question number three -- the one that was of
greatest interest to me as a technologist: "What were the sources
of information used and how did they lead to the conclusions presented
in the research paper?
" No response
. Michael Sampson, a
consultant and analyst in messaging and collaborative technologies, made
accusations of poor quality research and analysis when he wrote:
overall analysis of this White Paper is that it is a headline grabbing
publication lacking analytical rigor, logic and appropriate follow-through.
The paper is unbelievable in this respect, making me wonder whether it
is really an independent publication, or marketing material sponsored by
Microsoft. The author seeks to compare two platforms that are entirely
different in terms of scope and imagination, and then recommends a path
for clients. I strongly believe that the author entirely misses the point,
is totally wrong in the commentary on Microsoft's messaging strategy, and
therefore provides market share growth figures that are just plain wrong.
Michael was certainly right about the headline grabbing part, and I suspect
that he's probably right about the rest, too. I note that Michael did not
just make his bold accusations without supporting them. In fact, He wrote
a paper, complete with citations, in response: Response
to the Radicati market analysis study of June, 2004
In it, he responds, point by point, to the information and projections
by Dr. Radicati. (I encourage you to read both Michael's response and the
original Radicati paper for yourself and formulate your own opinion. I'm
curious to know what you think about either paper.)
So far, there has been no response from the Radicati group or its president,
Dr. Radicati, publicly or privately. (I checked with Michael this afternoon.)
This makes me wonder: why did Dr. Radicati not respond to Michael's
detailed response? Could it be that he was right?
Concurrent with all of this, there has been a lot of excitement over at
's blog, here
with each generating pages of comments. (You can draw your own conclusions
about this.) The issues going on at Ed Brill's web site, in my opinion,
are small, compared to the alleged fundamental flaws in the Radicati research,
as pointed out by Michael Sampson. If this were a political campaign,
I might wonder if the things that happened on the Ed Brill site, were intended
to distract our attention from the real issue...
The Radicati response continues in Q2:
of the content of this whitepaper is new - the paper is entirely based
on information which we have already published and market numbers which
we have already made available to the press over the last 7 months in countless
interviews, articles and discussions.OK, so are my
enterprise clients and I to assume that the "analytical
rigor, logic and follow-through" demonstrated in this "free"
paper by the Radicati Group and promoted by Microsoft is representative
of what we would find if we paid $15,000 to buy the full length reports
from which it was "lifted?" If so, what kind of impression should
we then formulate about the suite of Radicati research papers? What should
we now think about Microsoft or other vendors when they quote these reports
on their web sites? Who should we trust?
In the closing of Sara Radicati's response to Ed Brill, she writes:
we believe that the comments on Ed Brill's blog represent his own personal
opinion and that of his friends, and do not reflect the opinion of IBM
I am not going to get involved in the discussion about what transpired
on Ed's site; however, I have been following it with amazement. I am interested
to see what IBM and Microsoft have to say. As for me, I will simply
close this lengthy post by asking one last question of Dr. Radicati:
Dr. Radicati, will you post a public response to Michael Sampson's response
to your paper, or should I assume, that Michael's observations and responses
My clients and I would like to know the answer to this
question. A few others may be interested, too.
As before, I will close with this offer: Dr.
Radicati, if you would like to respond directly, and I hope that you will,
you may reach me at my email (above) or at my office, 661-242-8410 x101.
I look forward to hearing from you. I promise to post any written response
from you in it's entirety.
PMCCC was hopping tonight, as our 9th VBS
drew to a close, culminating in the traditional pot-providence, (I don't
believe in luck) followed by a children's presentation of what they learned
during the week.
This year's theme, inspired by the 2004 summer Olympics in Greece, was
called Son Games, and as usual, the folks at Gospel
put together a wonderful
program. Over a hundred children participated in the program, and they
were joined by missionaries from Greece!
Although Kathy and I did not volunteer this year, we know all too well
how much work is involved, having organized and run the Vacation Bible
School ministry in the past.
We are thankful for the many volunteers, who gave generously of their time
to share their love with our children and the children of this community.
For years, I have bragged about what a
blessing it is to have 4 daughters.
A friend of mine, who happens to be getting married soon, recently shared
with me what a wedding costs today ...
If you would like to sponsor a future Mack wedding, I will add your name
to the credits on the back of the invitation. I will also list your name
on a special section of this blog.
Even with this realization, having four daughters, is still a wonderful
blessing and I would not have it any other way!
Wednesday, July 28th, 2004
's recent rebuttal
Lotus & Microsoft -- Corporate Messaging Market Analysis," (available
generated considerable reaction from a variety of sources, not the least
of which was Ed Brill of IBM, on July
. I posted my
a few days
ago and I have been following this topic with interest ever since.
Why do I care? Well, as a technology consultant, I make recommendations
to my clients. If my opinions and recommendations are inconsistent with
what other "experts" think, I want to know what the facts are
that lead us to our separate conclusions. In the case of the Radicati research,
I find myself disagreeing with many points; I owe it to myself, to my clients,
and to my profession, to explore this further.
Microsoft promotes Sara's research on their web site, so I can assume that
it represents a position that they believe (or would like to believe) will
be true. I expect that IBM will respond publicly soon with their thoughts.
I'm really curious to see if a sharp industry blogger or editor will decide
to investigate the facts presented in Sara and Michael's papers. It would
be great to see someone like Mary
, industry Editor for
or someone from eWeek
do an investigative write-up on this. Who knows, perhaps Robert
, Microsoft's chief
blogger, would care to offer another perspective.
Here are three questions I would like to know the answers to:
1. Research papers have authors. Who is the actual author of the
report? If the author is simply " The Radicati Group,"
is it fair to say that the report accurately represents the expert opinion
of Dr. Radicati and all
of the research analysts that work for The
Radicati Group as an organization?
2. Research costs money. Someone paid for it. Who was it? Was this research
funded in-house, by The Radicati Group, by any of the vendors mentioned
in the report, or by a third party? As a consultant, consumer, and distributor
of information, I do not think that it is unreasonable for me to ask this
3. Research papers require research. What were the sources of information
used and how did they lead to the conclusions presented in the research
paper? Would it be possible to see a list of citations of the sources consulted
and for the figures and graphs presented?
I publicly solicit answers to these questions from anyone who may have
been involved in the production of this particular market analysis, who
may be able to shed some light on my questions.
Dr. Radicati, if you would like to respond directly, and I hope that you
will, you may reach me at my email (above) or at my office, 661-242-8410
x101. I look forward to hearing from you. I promise to post any written
response from you in its entirety.
Wednesday, July 28th, 2004
A diversion from productivity or technology
revealed to the world
that I was celebrating an anniversary
of my 29th birthday
. July is a
month full of birthdays in our home. Recently, I helped two of my
daughters celebrate their Wiggles
Theme birthday. Kathy "volunteered" me to be Captain
, the fun-loving,
kindhearted, singing and dancing pirate. So for the Sampson family, here
I am as the captain...
I love watching pirate movies.
In fact, just last night, Kathy and I watched the Pirates of Tortuga.
I have a large collection of pirate movies I like to watch, including,
Pirates of the Caribbean
, Crimson Pirate
, and even the VeggieTales
Pirates who don't do anything
. I have no problem dressing up to
play the part of a pirate, but I draw the line at a dancing pirate. (I
have my professional image to maintain.)
For those of you who may be unfamiliar
with The Wiggles, they are a group of entertainers from Australia, who
for the past 13 years have been entertaining children, young and old[er],
as they encourage them to eat their fruit salad, hot potatoes, cold spaghetti,
mashed bananas, and crunchy munchy honey cakes.
The Wiggles are quite popular in our
home, surpassed only by the VeggieTales
(That's another story!) If you have children under the age of 6 in your
home, then you have an excuse to watch the wiggles. Highly recommended.
Oh, thanks for the birthday greeting, Michael!
I've just finished the second of two delightful
and informative web-conference calls with Nick Duffill, of Gyronix
Nick and his associate have developed ResultManager
- a powerful add-in to MindManager
that allows it to be used as a visual project management tool. I must admit
that I had initially looked at ResultManager as just a great collection
support tool; however, after a brief tour with Nick, I'm convinced of its
potential as a visual management tool for meetings and projects where many
actions or delegated activities need to be tracked.
In short, the process of "Mind Mapping" will change the way that
you brainstorm forever. Rather than writing down a linear list of ideas,
you to collect ideas into a visual "Mind Map." Mind mapping,
by the way, is nothing new; Tony
developed the concept
at a time when I was
still using crayons to illustrate my ideas visually.
I've been using Mind Mapping as a brainstorming technique for many years;
however, I have usually preferred to use colored pens and paper or a digital
whiteboard to draw my maps. Most software tools that I have looked at were
simply too slow or cumbersome for me to quickly collect my thoughts digitally.
Of course, the appeal of being able to edit my maps digitally has kept
me looking at new tools.
The MindManager software takes mind mapping to the next level by
allowing me to draw, edit, and manage my maps on my PC. Now, I can keep
my mind maps in view on the wall in front of me while I keep my work visible
on my laptop or an adjacent display. At the encouragement of Marc
, I might even finally
consider a tablet!
Much has been written about the MindManager software lately so I won't
attempt to rewrite what others have already said. Here's a quick 2003 write
from Innovation tools.
I have also recently started a discussion
in the GTD Forum
on how MindManager
might be used in the context of the GTD methodology. (I recall that Marc
and Michael have both written on this topic as well; I'll post the links
when I find them.)
For those of you who are already using MindManager and want to take digital
mind mapping next level for project management, be sure to take a look
I've installed version 2.01 of ResultManager, which adds some powerful
features for visual project management.
I'll have more to share about this in the near future as I am presently
mapping out several very large project using both tools. I continue to
be a student of tools and technologies for enhanced productivity. I'm excited
about MindManager and ResultManager.
I welcome your comments and feedback.
PS. You can download 21 day evaluations
of both products from the Gyronix web site.
... the table...
Kathy had to travel to Los Angeles recently; she left the four girls in
my care for the day. As usual, when dad's in charge, there are all sorts
of adventures (and sometimes, mischief) to be found.
After we completed our lessons, the decision was made to dump out a bucket
of worms we had for bait and examine them. Suddenly, the idea came to me
to let the girls build a race track and race them.
There is never a shortage of learning opportunities in our home.
Since you are reading this on the web, I wonder if this qualifies as an
Internet worm report?
When does "Market Analysis Research"
If your company relies on market analysis research reports offered by the
many independent research organizations, you might wonder how there can
be so many widely conflicting conclusions resulting from what should be
the same (or at least verifiable) sources of information. Shouldn't the
facts speak plainly, and shouldn't the "independent experts,"
who write these reports adhere to standards of professional conduct?
, has just thrown down
the gauntlet in response to a paper entitled, "IBM Lotus & Microsoft
-- Corporate Messaging Market Analysis". The paper
published by the Radicati
, makes bold, yet apparently
unsupported claims about the future (or lack thereof) of Microsoft's Exchange
and IBM's Lotus Domino and Workplace.
to the Radicati market analysis study of June, 2004
challenges the accuracy and conclusions of the paper and calls the nameless
author to account for the positions presented.
I applaud Michael for his response -- not for only the questions that he
asks, but for doing his part to raise the bar of professionalism for independent
consulting, research, and reporting.
Many years ago, when I was CTO for Peloria Technology Corporation, I had
the opportunity to serve with Michael along with members of the Radicati
group on various committees of the Electronic
the Open Group). The commitment of these individuals to objective
evaluation and analysis of the messaging and collaborative issues of the
day helped propel the industry forward and I am excited to have played
a part in that process.
It concerns me, therefore, whenever "independent research" is
presented in an unscholarly way -- without support for the conclusions
presented and without citations of sources for the "facts" and
figures quoted. Further, when a paper is presented anonymously, I am forced
to wonder whether the opinions presented represent the entire organization
or just someone who is unwilling to stand by his or her claims. The fact
that the paper is offered free of charge on the Microsoft site further
suggests to me that Microsoft, at a minimum, stands by the veracity of
report or at least wants me to.
I encourage you to read both papers and to draw your own conclusions.
Aside from any technical or marketing reaction to these papers, I think
that the greater issue at stake is the behavior and professionalism of
"Independent experts." It is my strong desire that Michael's
response will serve as a catalyst that will call us consultants and research
organizations to a high level of professionalism and accountability in
our research, analysis, and presentations.
As independent consultants, our clients rely upon us for our expert analysis
and recommendations and we have a vested interest in the reputation and
perception of our industry. We can improve that reputation by following
Michael's challenge to demonstrate analytical rigor and integrity in our
Intel deserves credit for creating a huge
after-market for creative computing products...
As the heat output of the latest Intel processors continues to increase,
new opportunities for combined cooking/computing
Imagine: Rotisserie chicken while you surf. A current drawback is
that these new appliances are still costly; however, as market demand increases.
I expect manufacturers will scramble to bring lower-cost alternatives to
Last week, my laptop hard drive crashed;
I mean it really crashed. Somehow, while working at a client's crowded
desk, I managed to get my foot caught in the power cord. As I got up from
the desk and walked away, I not only pulled my laptop onto the concrete
floor, I accelerated its descent. It was powered on - at least until it
hit the floor ... The hard drive was destroyed, and the laptop is
only slightly better.
You can learn from my misfortune and from my preplanning for disaster.
Disasters such as this never seem to happen when I have free days on my
calendar. My busy schedule made recovery more challenging. Fortunately,
the night before, I had made a backup of my documents, and just a few months
ago, I had made a routine Ghost (I use Symantec Ghost 2003) of my entire
laptop drive to a spare hard drive. Since I use Lotus Notes, which is constantly
replicating with the server, I did not lose a single email or document.
I was able to take Kathy's laptop, login, and continue working. It took
me about a week to find the time to restore my Ghost and backup to a spare
laptop and to reinstall the programs that I had added since my last Ghost.
Even though it was an inconvenience not to have immediate access to my
files (those, not stored in Notes), it was comforting to know that I had
them. Further, because I used Ghost, rather than just a file backup, I
did not have to reload my system from scratch.
- The time I spend Ghosting my laptop
to a spare drive is time well invested. I plan to do this more often.
- It was very helpful to have my key documents
stored in my Notes Document libraries.
- Having Notes to replicate every 15 minutes
is definitely worth it.
- I plan to make Notes my file store;
I will look into products like SWING or Notes 6.x tools to accomplish this.
- I plan to look into a directory replication
solution, so that I can keep files that are not in Notes synchronized
between my laptop and my server.
- I will check out the latest Veritas
remote (WAN) backup solutions for laptops.
- I plan to purchase a third spare hard
drive, make a ghost of my system, and keep it with me for instant recovery.
Do you have a current backup and Ghost image of your hard drive?
How quickly can you recover from
a drive failure?
If you would like to share your $.02,
please post a comment.
PS. I have several blog entries in the queue. As soon as I get caught up,
I'll proof and publish them.
Many corporations spend millions of dollars,
purchasing and implementing new technologies, hoping to become more productive,
while their current systems remain largely underutilized. When organizations
deny themselves the productive benefits of technology that they already
own, they are wasting their investment and their employees' time. For organizations
that use Lotus Notes, there is no excuse. Much of what they need to be
productive is already built-in or can be easily customized.
The inspiration for this post came from yesterday's
in the David
Allen Getting Things Done Forum
technology and ROI, they just don't get it!
I provide eProductivity
to companies who want to get more from their investment in technology.
Many of these companies already happen to use Lotus Notes, which in my
opinion, is currently one of the most powerful tools for information management
available. Some of these companies equip their people with the tools and
training to use Notes productively, and they achieve a significant return
on their investment. Others use Notes for little more than e-mail and perhaps
a calendar. It is to this latter group that this essay is addressed.
There is a big difference between companies that really use technology
to achieve productive results and those that just talk about it.
difference is a willingness to invest in training and services to help
them fully utilize their technology investment.
For those companies that currently use Lotus Notes, two powerful capabilities
(among many) that they already have are the ability to customize Notes
and the ability to replicate changes across an entire workgroup or organization
An organization can customize their databases to better support their needs
by adding custom fields, workflow, agents, and a host of other capabilities.
Over the years, I have helped many companies increase their productivity
by showing them how to customize Lotus Notes for their needs. I have packaged
many of the things that I have learned about productivity into my eProductivity
template for Lotus Notes. For those of you who are familiar with the GTD
methodology, here's a link to the steps that I use to implement GTD
in Lotus Notes.
For my work, I took the standard Notes mail template and added several
to support the way that I manage my information, communications, and actions.
Using my eProductivity template and methods for Lotus Notes, it is possible
for anyone to easily save five, fifteen, or even up to sixty minutes each
. (Now that's ROI!) This template does not actually change any of
the underlying data, only the way that the information is presented and
managed. This way, compatibity is maintained with the other Notes applications
that I use, including wireless
e-mail on my Palm.
thing is that these templates can be quickly and automatically deployed,
whether to a workgroup of 10 or an organization of 200,000. In a similar
manner, templates can be replaced or updated just as easily. The great
part about all of this is that the driving technology -- Lotus Notes --
is already sitting on millions of desktops.
The undoing of Lotus Notes usually happens from within.
Sadly, a problem that I frequently encounter is sabotage; many of the same
organizations that had the vision and foresight to invest in Lotus Notes
to help their people become productive, sabotage its potential productive
benefits. They do this, either by poor implementation, lack of training,
or refusal to consider use or deploy custom templates. Many organizations
do not even train their people to use the built-in features of Lotus Notes
effectively. As a result, many people never venture beyond the obvious
features, using Notes for little else than e-mail and calendar.
(This problem, by the way, is not unique to companies that use Notes;
I encounter the same problems with organizations that have deployed Microsoft
Outlook or other productivity applications. They sabotage their deployments
in the same way and the potential benefits are limited.)
Now, I understand the reason that some organizations lock down their systems:
they want to prevent users from making changes and creating an extra burden
for IT support. At the same time, the decision to prevent users from customizing
their desktops should not translate into a policy of refusing to consider
any customization or template changes that have the potential to bring
significant value to the company.
Refusal to equip or allow employees to fully use Lotus Notes is not much
different than prohibiting employees from creating their own spreadsheets
in Excel or using macros in Word. In either case, the productive potential
The battle for increased productivity is often lost at the desktop.
I recently consulted for a large organization that had an established policy
of archiving everything in employee mail databases after 60 days. The problem
I have with the way that they had implemented this is that tasks and appointments
disappear after 60 days. (This is not a problem with Notes - just the way
they chose to implement it.) As you can imagine, the employees do not trust
their systems. The result: many do not use Notes for anything but email,
and the potential for productive gain and significant ROI is lost.
If I could convince companies of one thing as a result of reading this
post, it would be this: Lotus Notes is a powerful productivity tool, and
there are many simple things that can be done to equip people to effectively
use Lotus Notes to manage their information, communication, and action.
An organization's investment in Lotus Notes is often considerable, yet
many achieve a return many times their investment. The difference between
those companies that realize a significant return on their Lotus Notes
investment and those that do not is usually how they use it.
I started writing this essay because I was frustrated by the large number
of people that tell me that they want to become more productive in the
way that they use Lotus Notes, yet their organizations will not provide
training, approve the use of any third-party templates, or even allow them
to customize their Notes preferences.
It seems contradictory to to me, for an organization to invest in a powerful
information tool like Lotus Notes and then tie the hands of the people
who stand to benefit the most.
If this sounds like your organization, please be sure to forward this essay
to the people who make these decisions -- I'd like to get their reaction.
Meanwhile, if you have a viewpoint, I would like to hear from you. Click
on Add/Read comments (below) to share your thoughts.
Would you still read your favorite blog
if you knew it had been outsourced, and was now being written by someone
Two corporate bloggers that I read regularly are Ed
, and Robert
. Why? Because they
are not afraid to passionately blog about the challenges and opportunities
missed in their own companies, (and of course, in their competitor's).
Even though their opinions are apparently their own, they put a human face
on what are otherwise often considered impersonal behemoth organizations.
What would happen if IBM and Microsoft, in an effort to reduce costs, decided
to outsource Ed and Robert's roles to an offshore company?
As I pondered my
recent experience with outsourced services
I realized that the outsourced organization that I worked with, did not
demonstrate any passion for what they were doing, loyalty for the company
that they were supposed
to be representing, or concern for their
client's customer. In short, the "human" touch of IBM, at least
in this experience, had been stripped away.
This got me wondering what else could be outsourced and what impact that
would have on me as a consumer. I thought, "why not blogs?"
Is it possible to reproduce the passion of these bloggers as an outsourced
service? Ed and Robert add a human touch to their companies. Could
an outsourced organization do as well, or better?
I raise these questions, not because I have any concerns about Ed or Robert
going away -- I'm sure they will always have something to say no matter
who they work for -- I just question the wisdom (and viability) of companies
that choose to outsource functions that require direct customer contact
and where the outcome of that customer experience will determine if the
customer does business with that company again.
be possible to outsource select background business functions
of a business (i.e. product fulfillment) without affecting the customer
relationship; but when it comes to face-to-face customer relationship building,
I question whether it will ever be possible to outsource passion
-- two vital aspects of any successful organization.
Just my $.02
What do you think?
This morning in church, our pastor
read to us Red Skelton's famous commentary
on The Pledge of Allegiance. Two years ago, Amy and Wendy memorized this
patriotic commentary for a homeschool presentation.
Red's commentary offers a glimpse into the meaning of these words and what
it means to recite the Pledge as an American.
If you have never heard it, I invite you to watch
July 4, 2002.
Here's something else to think about: Freedom is never free.
Whether at the physical or spiritual level, the freedom that we enjoy today
came at a great cost.
This Fourth of July, let us give thanks and remember those who made the
ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.
As a technology consultant, I have influenced
many corporate customers to purchase IBM products and services for more
almost two decades. I have usually been very pleased with the response,
value, and quality received. (As an independent eProductivity
consultant, I do not profit on the recommendation of one vendor's products
over another. I am simply paid for my expertise to design what I believe
to be the best solution for my client's stated objectives.) Outside of
this, the only tangible benefit to me personally is another happy client
-- which is worth more to me than any consulting fee I may receive.
Unfortunately, this is changing, and I believe that the IBM's decision
to outsource and their method of doing so is at least partly to blame:
Somewhere, in the process of outsourcing their most vital sales function,
IBM's hardware division seems to have forgotten that customers (and their
technology consultants) want to speak with people who are both knowledgeable
about the products that they sell and who have access to the information
and internal support services to complete the sale.
Let me share just one
recent personal (and painful) experience:
Many weeks ago, I set out to order 2 rack-mount servers
and 12 high-end ThinkPad laptops from IBM. I will spare you the almost
unbelievable details, but I will simply say that it took over 100 communications
with IBM over a 6-week period to complete the order for just the first
two servers. Much to my amazement, no one that I could reach at IBM had
the "information" (to be extremely polite) to be able to assist
me in helping my client with their purchase. Calls to IBM management resulted
only in e-mail from first level sales reps being sent back. After doing
some research, I found out that I was not dealing with IBM, but an organization,
located in a Southern state, to which IBM had outsourced operations.
cannot believe that outsourcing saved IBM any money here. At least not
in my case.
Disclaimer: This is not an essay about the evils of outsourcing offshore
to some group that does not speak English fluently. Nor is this a rant
about the potential costs in terms of U.S. jobs lost as a result. This
not a rant against any particular individual at IBM or any of its outsourced
divisions. This is
a rant against the experience of being a technology
consultant who has to deal with an outsourced organization that apparently
does not understand the products, information, and process of serving its
customers. The outsourced "IBM representatives" that I dealt
with were -- to their credit -- all English speaking and all very
polite; and, they usually responded to my email or calls within minutes.
I have come to realize that these people were doing the best that they
could do with what little information (or perhaps product training?) that
they had access to.
The problem appears to be a complete lack of information and knowledge
to complete the sale or satisfy the customer, and the unwillingness of
IBM management to get involved. The walls between the outsourced organization
and IBM are apparently quite high.
This reminds me of why I do not
shop at a certain chain of electronics store -- well-dressed people, some
excellent products, but little or no information or experience on the part
of the people I have to deal with to complete the sale.
If I were trying to purchase a $19.95 floppy drive or some other generic,
low-markup, computer part, I might try to convince myself that there was
no need for IBM to care about what I thought about the purchasing experience
of their customers. This was not the case. Just one set of purchases
that could initially have reached $50,000, not to mention all of the follow-on
business from this and other clients. While not a Fortune 100-sized purchase,
this is still nothing to sneeze at. I'm sure that competing vendors would
have been delighted to have the business.
What astonishes me is that I had previously made an almost identical purchase,
apparently directly from IBM, with outstanding results. The entire process
(with an IBM contact) took less than 10 days with just a few calls and
emails to complete. Both the customer and I were very pleased with
the transaction. In fact, it was because of the resounding success of that
purchase that I did not hesitate to give the next server order to [what
I thought was] IBM again.
NOTE: Long before I decided to share this experience publicly, I tried
to reach anyone in management at IBM who might have sufficient interest
and authority to help me resolve my customer's problem. Finally, after
6 weeks, and after threatening to cancel this and all future orders, I
received a call offering some assistance. Was it really necessary for my
customer or me to go through all of that?
For any of you who have bothered to read this much of my rant, thank you.
It probably will not change anything at IBM, but in a therapeutic sense,
I at least feel a little better for having shared it.
As far as I can tell, IBM does not appear have an Ed
or a Robert
on the hardware
side of the house. That's too bad. Both Ed and Robert (two of my favorite
bloggers) write about various software and marketing issues and they have
the integrity and willingness to honestly examine the goings-on of their
own companies. They are not afraid to call things as they see them - even
when it concerns their own companies or divisions. In fact, Ed
just blogged about this
can only hope that this blog might encourage someone on the IBM hardware
side to start blogging and change my (and my customer's) perception of
Do I plan to ever purchase or recommend IBM services to my clients again?
Possibly. I may try one more time. Personally, I own several IBM
servers and many IBM ThinkPads. ThinkPads are my favorite laptop, and I
hoped to purchase a new ThinkPad
soon. I even still
have my first IBM PC! Many of my corporate customers are all IBM shops.
IBM makes great stuff -- I just wish they made it easier for me to give
Customers want to deal with people who know something
about the products and who have access to the information to facilitate
the sales and delivery process. As an independent technology
consultant, I will direct my clients to purchase from those companies
that provide the best service.
I am amazed that in this economy, any
company would not do cartwheels
to ensure that a customer -- or even a technology consultant that heavily
influences his client's purchases -- was happy and that there were no impediments
to receiving business from them. Happy customers and consultants will tell
a few others. Unhappy ones, well,...
I believe (at least I'm hopeful) that my current problem has now been resolved.
But, I still have 12 high-end ThinkPads to purchase for my clients. I really
do not want to switch to another brand of Laptop. (The T42p is an awesome
machine.) So here I am, representing many IBM customers, cash in
hand, trying to give IBM money, yet I'm terrified at the prospect of a
repeat experience. When I told this to one sales manager that I spoke with
at IBM, I was told that I would never know whether the next order experience
would be better than the last unfortunate experience unless I placed the
next order with them. I will stop here.
I cannot help but wonder what the move to outsource services has "cost"
IBM and other companies that have made the same choice.
I know what it has cost my clients and me, and I challenge IBM and other
companies to consider that the true cost of outsourcing can be best measured
in terms of their customer relationships.
What do you think? Should companies measure the cost of outsourcing in
terms of customer relationships? I'd like to hear from you.