November 2010: Are You Easy to Live With?

Victor Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, WatersTechnology

A number of years ago I heard a quote attributed to Archbishop Desmond Tutu that, on the face of it, was mildly amusing: “Welcome to Africa—now throw away your watches.” The quote—which, it must be said, Google seems not yet to have encountered, thereby casting doubt on its veracity or source, or both—is nevertheless likely to strike a chord with most people who have traveled to parts of Africa or who have lived in an African country for any length of time. But, regardless of whether this is one of the Archbishop’s many verbal gems or not, you get the general idea: African time tends to be more of an approximation than an absolute.

This quote came to mind on the back of a recent conversation I had with a long-time colleague from a buy-side-focused technology firm. He reckoned that by simply arriving on time to a beauty pageant had all but guaranteed his firm a number of contracts. “This is their rationale,” he said, referring to how financial services firms perceive the all-important process of how they go about evaluating potential technology vendors. “If the prospective provider can’t turn up on time, or if they postpone or cancel the appointment all together, how can they be trusted to get a complex implementation right?”

Let’s also remember that technology implementations tend to be more like long-term relationships than one-night stands—user firms have high expectations from their technology providers that extend to months and years as opposed to days.

Another point he made also pertains to the beauty pageant scenario: “The beauty parade is about the best you’re ever going to see of a technology firm. If they are unreliable at the outset, and are therefore considered unprofessional by the company they are attempting to woo, can you imaging how bad they are going to be once they’ve won the contract and aren’t interested in being on their best behavior anymore?”

It’s hard to disagree with such an argument, a premise that all technology providers would do well to bear in mind. Sitting where I do, you’d be surprised by how often I get to hear of major contracts being won and lost, not on pure functionality which is what you’d expect, but rather on how easy the provider is to live with.

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