IT Vendor Vs CIOs

A few days back, I was at a CIO conference organized by one of the biggest IT vendors here in Vietnam which focused on Technology Innovation, amongst other things. A gathering of about 50 CIOs was invited to explore the adoption of new software-based technology, its associated merits, challenges, and opportunities. It was an opportunity to engage, that once again failed to engage the IT leaders.

The group had a fair representation across industries from telecom, manufacturing, banking, insurance, retail; ITES and some more. The agenda was fairly simple, with the expectation to understand how different industry segments view software based technology and what has been the journey so far. Of course, it was about market sizing and qualifying leads that could result in some business from the vendors perspective.

Discussions started off with differing perspectives on filters that every CIO applied to their business operations to determine the suitability of software solutions in their environment. Some amongst them included the kind of work undertaken, number of software projects deployed, volume, applications used, and not the least, ROI on such initiatives. In the same breath, challenges were also debated listing cost and resilience of connectivity, licensing impact, cultural issues, and again ROI.

Within some time, it was evident that the vendor and CIOs were talking different languages; the former talking about the technological innovation, and the latter focusing on business benefit. With no translator or moderator, the two conversations found it tough to converge on common ground.

Post panel networking had an interesting insight shared by the vendor CEO with the anchor; the CIOs today are not willing to discuss technology anymore. This is making the task of selling to them a lot more difficult as compared to what it was. For sales persons to get into the customers shoes and then have a discussion requires different skill sets than currently available.

Feedback from one of the CIO- Mr IT Vendor, what else do you expect from the CIOs? Over the last decade, expectation levels from the CIO have shifted from a technology advisor to a business advisor. CIOs have seized this opportunity (not challenge) and many have gone over the tipping point to take on incremental roles in business. To expect this level of discussion from the same vendors who always have IT business alignment as one of the top 3 priorities reflects that they too need to embrace the same change that they have been preaching so far.

My perspective: Most who come to sell are only trained to sell technology and more than that, are trained to do a monologue rather than spending and a few meetings in befriending the CIO and knowing him and his organization. We may have some exceptions to this rule, but I will stand by my view the reason why for non-technology serious debates there are less takers.

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