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CIO Jury: What IT bosses really think of vendors

Is the IT industry just full of 'box-shifters' out to make a quick buck?
The technology industry is guilty of failing to fully understand IT bosses and the pressures that come with their role, according to silicon.com's CIO Jury user panel.

Three-quarters (nine) of the CIO Jury said IT vendors and suppliers do not understand what the CIO role is and what their own internal pressures are, while only a quarter (three) said the IT industry is in tune with what they are trying to achieve.

Almost all of the CIO Jury agreed that the pressure on vendors themselves to hit targets and make money is partly responsible for this lack of empathy.

Les Boggia, head of IT at Carole Nash Insurance, said: "Suppliers of equipment and software are clearly in it to shift boxes and make a fast buck. There aren't many who want to come in, discuss your long term plans and put together a strategic partnership based on your strategy."

Phil Young, head of IT, Amtrak Express Parcels, agreed but admitted that CIOs also need to be aware of the pressure on sales teams from the IT vendors.

"After attending many seminars and meetings with vendor involvement, I feel that we can use the Mars and Venus analogy here. However, I do feel that as a CIO I sometimes fail to understand the situation and pressure on the vendor too. This is a two-way street and both parties sometimes fail to come down it."

A failure by vendors to understand the very different set of pressures of running an IT department in the public sector was also highlighted.

Alan Balharrie, head of business IT at the Scottish Parliament, said: "The different pressures and political environment associated with the public sector is often misunderstood by suppliers and vendors. Worse than this is a presumption of understanding without any validation of this by suppliers and vendors. This is why good relationship management and that much abused term of strategic partnering are important in the public sector," he said.

Ted Woodhouse, IT director, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "Most suppliers and vendors are much more concerned about their own targets than any issues that I have, or pressures that I am under."

Both Bill Gibbons, CIO at Abbey, and Steve Anderson, European IT partner at property consultancy Davis Langdon, said vendors often fail to articulate the benefit of the product or service to both parties.

"Vendors do very little to help CIOs sell solutions internally and this is really their greatest failing and opportunity. Most CIOs are very receptive to good applications and technologies so they aren't the ones who need convincing, it is the board and the executive management who need a tailored justification in support of any investment and I have met very few vendors who understand this and even fewer who actually try to help you achieve it," said Anderson.

Siding with the IT vendors was Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO at Manpower, who said the IT industry can bring with them the experience of working with other user companies who are all trying to address similar problems.

"This doesn't always mean that their products make life any easier – just that they can include 'war stories' in their sales pitch," he said.

Today's CIO Jury was…

Steve Anderson, European IT partner, Davis Langdon
Alan Balharrie, head of business IT, Scottish Parliament
Les Boggia, head of IT, Carole Nash
Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO, Manpower
Bill Gibbons, CIO, Abbey
Colin Moore, head of information services, Department for Education and Skills
Simon Norbury, head of ICT, Westminster City Council
John Odell, group IT director, BBA Group
Bob Silverman, CIO, Spring Group
Gavin Whatrup, IT director, Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners
Ted Woodhouse, IT director, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
Phil Young, head of IT, Amtrak Express Parcels

If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at editorial@silicon.com

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