Then You Find a Hill
Kathryn sat in the main conference room for this location of Big Four Consulting. This time, she wasn’t the one pitching, but the one being sold. Well, sold wasn’t exactly it. A vendor was launching a new project and had just opened up the marketing war chest. Big Four Consulting was being paid to sell this product, so a more accurate statement would be Kathryn was being instructed on what she was to sell.
Pytho Corporation had just expanded its ERP product into a complete banking product. They weren’t happy with having the world’s most unreliable, yet best-selling database. They wanted more. Every Big Four Consulting account manager in the room was being given a box of Cds containing PowerPoint slides and marketing PDF files on how to sell this product. The heads of sales were handing out their cards and shaking hands. They paid very special attention to the three people on the other side of the room as those three people came from the Langston Group.
Kathryn had to laugh at the phrase “industry analyst.” These people analyzed nothing. They were all given a folder with a printed document and a CD with a Word file of the same document. The document was a marketing article carefully written to sound like an analyst report. Margret knew that the English majors working at Big Four Consulting had spent about a week writing that article, but when it appeared in the Langston Group’s private newsletter it was going to have only these three listed in the byline.
The industry had turned a blind eye to the incestuous relationship that spawned its leaders these days. Now that management had taken over the IT world, the leaders were pretty much a result of inbreeding just like other areas of management. It really was a self-sustaining machine.
“Industry analyst” groups would provide their insight only to IT leaders whose companies not only subscribed to their service, but promised to follow their advice. In return, IT leaders found themselves featured in industry trade rags any time they implemented something the analysts claimed was cutting edge. This allowed the IT leaders to be covertly marketed to other companies who wanted to obtain great IT leaders.
Of course, the leaders at major IT vendors all subscribed to the service. This allowed them to write articles for the analysts that would be featured in the newsletter and magazine. These vendors also paid big consulting firms to train a few of their account people as experts for marketing purposes and a few more as technical experts. For a fee, and a cut of the sale, the big consulting firms would then pitch the product as the be-all and end-all to their clients’ needs. This had been going on so long in the industry it was now considered an accepted practice.
The weekly trade press was at the mercy of the “industry analysts.” Whenever advertising revenue fell off they would run an article or three questioning the credibility of the firms, but never actually do anything close to investigative journalism. They relied too heavily on the money the “industry analysts” spent promoting service subscribers in their magazines. Of course, they couldn’t grumble too loudly or report too accurately. If that happened, the “industry analysts” would contact all of their subscribers and the entire stream of advertising revenue would cease to flow. Weekly trade rags went out of business when they went up against the “industry analysts.”
Kathryn had to hand it to the Langston Group. They had turned fraud into an art. Most of the analysts drove really nice rides that were leased for them by the IT vendors, so there was never a money trail showing on the books. They could open up their books and show clear lines of demarcation between marketing and analyst efforts. The analysts themselves took their perks in leased cars, information junkets, and outright paid vacations, all on the sly. How they could stand there and claim “Holier Than Thou” to the “sex for sale” marketing tactic of big consulting companies Kathryn would never understand. Maybe they were really born without a soul, she thought.
Once the presentation was over, Kathryn and the Langston Group analysts were offered lunch. The restaurant was four-star so Kathryn accepted. She had no illusion as to why she was being given the full treatment. She held the account of First Global Bank. This vendor needed to land that account and get the bank to announce a glowing report on the software. The “industry analysts” had a better lunch engagement, so they had to bow out.
At the restaurant there was the usual small talk about the product and how game-changing it was. When the vendor was buying, their product was always game-changing. Kathryn decided to twist the knife just a little, stating that the presentation didn’t seem to cover much on the international flavor of the product. She was quickly assured that Pytho had spared no expense in making the product multi-lingual. From what Kathryn saw in the presentation this product was about as multi-lingual as Microsoft’s operating system was multi-platform. You could use this product in any country you wanted as long as you spoke English. You could run Microsoft’s operating system on any computer you wanted, so long as it was a x86 clone and not a real computer.
Since they didn’t understand the gist of Kathryn’s dig, she expanded on it by saying, “I was thinking more along the lines of international mortgage and banking laws. If I’m going to pitch this product to my client it must be certified to conform to all of the mortgage and banking laws in all of the countries where they do business. To start with, that would be Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, and Germany. I assume you’ve already had a team of auditors verify it conforms to the banking laws for passbook savings and mortgages in the United States.”
There was a lot of smiles and silence at the table as Kathryn took another drink of wine. Pytho Software hadn’t bothered with testing for any countries other than Canada and the United States. At the time of development they were figuring on gradually handling the other countries. Then again, the Asian financial crisis hadn’t happened until the middle of development and it was too late to change course. Now the one client they wanted had operations in many countries. Kathryn had them by the nads and everybody at the table knew it.
An awkward silence continued for quite a few minutes as Kathryn continued eating her meal. Always drop a bomb like that after food is served, Kathryn thought. It gives you something to do while they squirm. Damn, I’m good at this!
Just prior to the check arriving, the leader of the pack stated, “We would like to retain your services for a globalization project.”
Kathryn responded, “I will have to talk it over with my boss. I’m supposed to remain completely dedicated to the First Global Bank account until we complete our work there. What you really need me to do for you is to assemble the team that will provide you the banking rules for each country you target and provide testers to ensure those rules are met. If you complete such a project inside of a year, I can present your product to my client. Such an effort will not be cheap and my client would be expecting an amazing deal if they are going to be the first company to use this product out of the gate. You would in no way recoup your development costs on the first sale, it would probably take ten sales just to recover this new effort before you could start recovering your prior investment.”
“Understood,” replied the leader.
Kathryn couldn’t remember any of their names and hadn’t bothered to write on their cards so she had to make one last gesture before owning this account. “If you have the authority to sign or present such a deal to your board, please give me another one of your cards so I may pass it onto my boss. He will then contact you when we have a number and a plan for you.” Without any hesitation Kathryn was handed a card.
“Well, this lunch has been quite productive I think,” said Kathryn. “I had planned to spend my lunch hour at the Mercedes dealer down the street from the office pricing out a new car, but I think my time was better spent here.” Yes, it was an evil knife to twist, but Kathryn decided she should have the same perks as the industry analysts. A look from the leader to one of the others at the table brought the response Kathryn had intended to get.
“If you don’t have plans after work I would be happy to go there with you. Our company has a leasing arrangement with Mercedes Corporate so I’m sure we can get a very special deal for you.”
Kathryn could already smell the new leather of her convertible Mercedes.
Back at the office Kathryn quickly informed her boss about the details of the lunch, sans the new Mercedes detail. He called in a few account reps who had clients doing auditing work in the countries in question. A task list of phone calls to make and numbers to obtain was passed out. True to her word, Kathryn handed over the business card. When the others had left the room Kathryn’s boss said: “Another whale like this and you will be in line for senior partner.” Kathryn smiled and went back to her desk, waiting for the phone to ring. The man buying her a new car was supposed to call at 4:30.
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