Recently, one of the most important set of industry guidelines was launched, and despite visible support from the Government, it created as much impact as a piece of paper being thrown from the back of the Comdef boat.
Any initiative which sets out a framework for agreeing mutual objectives for resellers, vendors and users will reduce the margin for disaster.
The Buy IT Guidelines spell out a step-by-step approach to IT procurement and delivery.
Yet the chances are resellers are even aware of the programme are few and far between. And those resellers that have received a copy of the guidelines are most likely letting it languish at the bottom of a filing cabinet.
While the guideline's intentions are good and there is definitely a need for one in the industry, any good practice guideline is hamstrung by two crucial factors: inertia and vested interest. The two are linked.
The bottom line is that it's not in the IT supplier's best interest to have its customers fully informed about the best way to buy IT. Until there is some competitive pressure on vendors to conform to the good practice guidelines, they will continue to pay lip service to it.
Yet the history of the IT industry is littered with examples of procurement projects which have gone horribly wrong. The user is usually the one who suffers most, or at least financially, but no one emerges from a flunked IT project smelling of roses.
If the latest Buy IT campaign stands any chance of success - and it is the latest of a long line of similar attempts to create good practice guidelines - it is because it is being targeted at the non-IT literate board executive of medium and large businesses.
Many executives know how crucial IT purchasing is and how expensive it can be when it goes wrong. Yet many have reached the stage when pride and cultural pressures prevent them from admitting their lack of understanding of the subject. By presenting them with structured guidelines and a simple procedural checklist, the chance that the campaign will succeed is greatly improved.
The campaign can cite examples of projects which have failed and can build on those experiences. For example, the Performing Right royalties system failed because of a lack of board level support and supervision.
The London Stock Exchange Taurus project bombed because the project was not built around deliverable milestones. The Wessex Health Authority hospital information system failed because of the lack of constructive criticism and the British Rail timetable system failed because little thought was given to existing systems. These examples have provided salutory lessons, and sensible resellers should make certain that their customers use the principles which have been built around these earlier mistakes.
It's easy for integrators and solution providers to think that it is preferable for their customers not to be trained in managing IT projects, but that's a short-term approach. Obviously, it is best for everyone if customers know what they want and the best way to get it. At the end of the day, there is more satisfaction all round and the possibility of more business rather than dissatisfaction and an uneasy feeling in the customer's mind that they've been had.
So resellers should make sure their customers have a copy of the Buy IT Guidelines and that they are following the procedures. They relate to the earliest stages of procurement - long before an order is placed - and set out to ensure there is understanding among the board and throughout the customer enterprise.
Despite the risk that projects will fall into another area of danger if the participants are lulled into a false sense of security, projects which follow the guidelines generally stand a greatly improved chance of success. Reduction of chaos benefits everybody, not just the customer, and should be the objective of all participants.
Yet, I wonder, how many of resellers are aware that the the guidelines have been launched launched, let alone have a copy. Chances are that large percentage of the copies that have been distributed will be used as door stops by the end of the summer, and one of the greatest chances to clean up the industry and its reputation will have slipped by. Shame.
The Buy IT Guidelines are available from IT World Consultants on 0171 828 7300.
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