Bigger Isn't Always Better
For almost a decade now we've seen the cycle of downsizing make its way through the industry. Grasping for the brass ring of fewer expenses and greater profits, many companies have reduced their workforce with a mixture of results. Those that have had the wisdom to reorganize intelligently have benefited through leaner operations and a more focused corporate vision. Those that have been less concerned with long range goals have decimated their talent pools for the sake of headcount, and have subsequently suffered as a result. There are arguments that support downsizing and those that oppose it, but there's no getting around the fact that managed properly, the bottom line can be beneficial.
In many cases when a company doesn't want to risk downsizing, they opt for then next best solution. When faced with a challenge that demands results in a cost-controlled environment, most companies cover their bets with a tried-and true alternative. In a word - outsourcing. While the term itself is relatively new, the concept has been around for hundreds of years. When the ancient civilizations sought the protection of the gods, they hired priests and holy men to cast spells for them. When military solutions were necessary, countless countries hired mercenaries to fight for them. In more recent times, and in more practical terms, who among us hasn't eventually hung up the toolbelt and called the plumber. We've all outsourced at one time or another. The real issue isn't whether to outsource or not. The real issue is knowing when you should.
Over the years, I've addressed the topic of marketing TPF in these editorials. I've pointed out what I believe are the problems within the TPF marketing organization, and I've offered suggestions and potential solutions to rectify these problems. With the understanding that this isn't a technical matter, it makes it somewhat easier to approach from a business perspective. Now I could care less if the root cause is political within IBM, or a question of not having the right people in the right positions. What I do care about is the future of the product, and I believe we all agree that unless the customer base continues to grow, there is a limited shelflife for TPF.
Why not outsource TPF marketing? Why not acquire the expertise of a skilled marketing organization to solicit new TPF customers? There are marketing firms that have the talent, the resources, and the unfettered shackles that seem to be holding IBM back from doing the job themselves. This is much more than just throwing some ads in some trade journals. There is a science to successfully marketing a product, which apparently IBM hasn't quite mastered yet. There's also a big difference between proposing a technical solution to a potential customer when you're one of several competitive proposals on the table, and approaching that same customer when you're in a one-on-one situation. The truly successful companies in this world are the ones that analyze the target customer's business and propose solutions before the customer is even aware that they have a need for a solution. By doing the research and determining where a company is headed, the aggressive supplier not only shows the customer that there's a better way for them to do business, but can also provide the means to succeed in that effort.
Just think of the opportunity. Our "specialist" meets with the CEO of a major corporation. Once the customary banter is over, our person goes on the attack. First he (or she) recaps where the company has been. This amuses the CEO and he smiles politely while wondering how much longer this person is going to tell him things he already knows. Phase II gets more interesting. Now our person elaborates on where the company is headed, the challenges it faces to get there, and even spells out what the competition is likely to do. Now the CEO isn't smiling. He's not only impressed, but he's also beginning to realize that he has a potentially valuable asset at his disposal. With his credentials established, our person can now present the solutions. I say "solutions", because the smart thing to do is provide all of the available options, and then demonstrate how TPF provides the best solution. Informed, open-minded, and operating in the best interests of the customer! The icing on the cake of course is that our competition - the IMS, UNIX, and NT boys - aren't even at the table. Oh they will be eventually, but not as prepared, and at a distinct disadvantage because of their unfavorable position of not having taken the initiative in the first place.
Do we have a new TPF customer? Possibly. What's important is that the sales call was made, and made by the right person. If IBM isn't prepared to come out of the gate ahead of the rest, and cross the winning line first, it's time to seriously consider handing the reins to someone who is.