May 31, 2009

BT Project Failure - Deals Another Blow to IT Vendor Credibility

Another high profile IT project has scrapped, dealing a blow to the confidence of IT buyers nationwide and making life just a little bit more difficult for those of us who sell IT.

Here We Go Again:
Last month the Guardian reported that the UK’s largest non-military computer project – a £13 billion NHS (National Health Service) project has run aground.  Two of contractors Accenture and Fujitsu have quit, while BT has announced a multi-million write down on the project.  Incidentally, this is something BT has had to do against against 15 of its biggest 17 contracts, according to the paper.

It is depressing news for anybody buying IT solutions and another black mark against those selling it.  The BT NHS experience offers buyers another reason to be cautious and cynical, making them much less likely to believe what you, or I have to say.   So, if you are meeting prospects next week I hope they have not been reading the press.  

The Implications For The Salesperson:

The BT story is further evidence that the way IT is bought, sold and delivered, like so many IT projects themselves, is broken.  Fixing it is an opportunity and a challenge facing sales professionals in the industry.

The savvy salesperson must leverage news of yet another high profile IT project disaster.  He or she must deal head on with very real project risks around delivery and cost.  The salesperson's job description has changed from selling technology, or software, to help prospects regain confidence and ultimately to maximizing the chances of project success.

Salespeople are remembered for their successes (i.e. the deals they have closed), while buyers are remember for their failures (i.e. the project, or supplier that failed) .   Buyer can have purchased millions, but will be remembered for the purchase decision and projects that went south.  It is not surprising therefore that they are cautious.

Looking For A Positive Dimension:

On a slightly more positive note, it is clear that IT project disasters are a great leveller.  In fact one could argue that a sales person working from a smaller competitor of BT may well have an edge given the turmoil affecting BT at serveral levels at present.

Incidentially, here are some observations from the NHS project that may offer a hint of the type of solutions that are required:
The bigger the project the bigger the risk
Big vendors have big problems too
Throwing money at problems is not a solution
The denial of problems in the early stages enables them to grow
Turning around a project in freefall is almost impossible
Little wonder that IT buyers are increasingly cynical and skeptical.  

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