“Nobody gets fired for buying IBM”. But maybe they should?

 “Nobody gets fired for buying IBM”. It’s a phrase that anyone working in technology has probably come across at some point or other in their career and had to argue against.

It’s proved a hard argument when fear, uncertainty and doubt reign amongst senior management. They want reliability. They prefer a safe bet. So those responsible for making the software or hardware investment recommendation want to shield themselves from repercussions if anything were to go wrong down the line.

However, we all know that the markets and makeup of the people buying insurance are rapidly changing, so why apply the same old solutions?

I wasn’t born when this phrase was coined and I’d argue that it’s time we flipped it on its head, and questioned whether buying into the pedigree of these huge behemoths of the tech world is actually a disservice.

Clearly these big brands have built some amazing products and services over the decades and should absolutely be bought – but only if they have demonstrated that they stand head and shoulders above the alternatives. And as the software market has moved on to become more agile, more innovative and more flexible, I don’t think that the big established players are always the safe bet they once might have been.

Let’s face it, price has always been and probably always will be an influencing factor in the decision equation. The cost of buying the pedigree of a big brand is significant and despite its reputation, there’s no 100% guarantee that a project will go to plan. You have to factor in the possibility of failure. If it goes wrong with a big player, how do you offset that massive investment? If the deal came with a pair of golden handcuffs, it could cost even more to buy yourself out of a contract that simply isn’t delivering. But to arrive at this decision is a lot easier when you are spending “other peoples” money.

In today’s agile and ever changing insurance industry, surely buying something just because it’s the status quo is not in the company’s best interest? Surely the company’s best interest should be at the heart of any decision around IT systems and infrastructure.

Lesser-known alternatives may seem riskier to decision makers however they’re likely to charge a fraction of the price of a big brand. They may indeed have a far more flexible pricing structure. If a project doesn’t work out as hoped, if the cost has been vastly reduced, so what? Failing fast and cost-effectively can be done with a much lower risk than multi-year waterfall projects.

How do you square that circle with a board? How much are you willing to pay for pedigree that may fail versus the more affordable but less well established option that may succeed? How much are people willing to put their careers before the success of the organisation?

While the titans of the tech world have a long track record that their reputation relies upon, the simple fact is their very size can act against them when it comes to being able to deliver. They have to answer to their shareholders. They have the own vast structure to manage. They have build queues that can prevent them from being able to turn a new project around fast.

So for a business looking to test a new idea, bring something new to market, digitally transform any part of their operation, wouldn’t they stand a better chance of success in partnering with a smaller partner that is focused on their needs, who can tailor a solution to those needs, and probably offer a more flexible approach to the budget available? And if it fails, which is the number 1 fear or everybody, the financial impact will be so small it would be like a little fly hitting the legacy IT budget windshield.

The decision to ‘buy IBM’ shouldn’t be the go-to any longer and any tech buyer who still clings to that myth is doing their business a disservice. C-suite commentators and speakers at large insurance events seem to agree with this. They keep saying it, tweeting it and posting white papers on it, but how many are actually walking the talk?

By André Symes
Genasys Technologies Director