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Sun 11 Oct 2009 04:00 AM

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End users versus vendors

ACN is taking up the cause of end users by taking the questions of CIOs right to the vendors. This year vendors were given just two days to come up with an answer to a simple question. Some passed with flying colours, while others stumbled at the starting line – these are their responses.

End users versus vendors
KAMEL: We’re obviously keen to see the end of the difficult market conditions that have characterised 2009.
End users versus vendors
ELHAMY: Mobile CRM is affordable, there are data plans setup for it and if you have access to WiFI there’s no charge.
End users versus vendors
SHANKAR: An end-user might think that they are saving on printing cost, but they can end up damaging the printer itself.
End users versus vendors
SABBAGH: There is definitely a lack of recycling facilities in the Middle East, though most vendors operate their own facilities.
End users versus vendors
BROOKE: Green IT has a proven ability to save you money and reduce power usage, while also being good for the environment.
End users versus vendors
SCOTT: In a challenging environment, businesses must react immediately to the demands of customers.

ACN is taking up the cause of end users by taking the questions of CIOs right to the vendors. This year vendors were given just two days to come up with an answer to a simple question. Some passed with flying colours, while others stumbled at the starting line – these are their responses.

As a CIO, I believe green IT is really just about saving money on power consumption or paper. Where is the proof that it really makes a difference to the environment, especially here in the Middle East where we don’t even have widespread recycling programmes?

Dell

Process:Dell’s public relations agency were the first to assure us they were on the case, though they did take a little longer to actually submit the reply. The regional director of Dell’s public relations agency took charge of this enquiry personally, which made things go incredibly smooth and efficiently. 5/5

Response:The quality of the response from Dave Brooke, general manager of Dell Middle East, set the gold standard for all of the other replies. He outlined that there is no argument that green IT can deliver advantages for CIOs in terms of cost and power reduction, and referred to several findings that prove it can have an impact on climate change.

Brooke referenced Gartner, McKinsey Consultants and Dell’s internal analysis using US EPA carbon conversion calculators to prove his assertions. 5/5

Fujitsu

Process:Fujitsu’s PR agency was one of the first to inform us that they were working on a response. Unfortunately, despite this, and being aware of the fixed deadline, the firm sent in a response nearly four hours after it had expired. 3/5

Response:Farid Al Sabbagh, Middle East managing director at Fujitsu Technology Solutions admitted that there is an absence of recycling facilities, though he also pointed out that most vendors have their own facilities. He then went on to explain why it is so difficult to actually measure the real impact of Green IT.

We’d like to hear more about how Fujitsu products are more environmentally-friendly over their entire lifecycle, but the resulting storm of marketing might be more than we could bear. We do appreciate his candour in admitting the lack of recycling programmes in the region, though, particularly as that was relative to the original question. 4/5

Do vendors have a responsibility to organise and fund user-groups?

SAP

Process:Here’s another classic example of the inherent weakness of read receipts: they only tell you if the recipient has received the e-mail, not if the person has actually read it. A supplementary call we made the next day to remind the agency rep of its importance had the desired effect and both answers were received well before the deadline. 4/5

Response:Kevin Scott, vice president of industry business solutions answered the question on behalf of SAP: “As a vendor SAP is committed to work with its user groups on local and global levels. Support from SAP varies from facilitating access to SAP executives and thought leaders, to providing feedback channels for SAP product and service strategies. SAP user groups are independent, not-for-profit organisations,” he states.

SAP scored big brownie points with us here for actually answering the question in the most simple and direct manner possible – especially when you consider that arch rival Oracle would not deign to do so. 5/5Oracle

Process:Oracle’s public relations agency were quick off the mark with reading the e-mail – thanks to a read receipt we were sent early on, but the positives stopped there. We had to chase them up and were promised that they were contacting the correct people in London, but were eventually fobbed off with a lukewarm response about there not being enough time before the deadline. 1/5

Response:Oracle’s spokesperson informed us that because of Oracle’s approval system that would take a few days, they would be unable to meet the deadline. Despite this they assured us they were disappointed – which doesn’t really count for anything. 0/5

Why don’t vendors have more local consultants based here, instead of flying them in from Europe where the issues can be totally different?Sun

Process:Sun’s PR agency scored top marks from us last year for both the speed and quality of response. The Oracle-Sun merger seems to have taken its toll, however, as this year was at the opposite end of the quality spectrum. While the PR acknowledged the initial e-mail, we were informed early on the day of the deadline (via phone) that there would be no response this year – and an official e-mail only arrived three hours after deadline. 1/5

Response:Sun declined to respond to our question, citing a need to get all requests approved by Oracle – which in line with the latter’s responses above, would not have enough to furnish the answer. We frankly don’t think this is good enough – and considering the shocking difference from last year’s prompt response to the question, hope this is not a harbinger of things to come. 0/5

EMC

Process:EMC’s representative was out of the town on the day the e-mail was sent, and only acknowledged receipt of the e-mails mere hours before the deadline – with the final response received nearly four hours afterwards. Normally, this would be cause for severe rebuke, but in the light of the circumstances and the quick turnaround in getting the answer, we’re inclined towards leniency. 3/5

Response:Wael el Nadi, Technoloy solutions manager, Turkey, Middle East and North West Africa for EMC responds to the question:

“Vendors do not have consultants based here as this requires investment in building the consulting practice and acquiring the right skills. In EMC we took a decision in Jan 2007 to establish our own local consulting practice based in Dubai and since then we have recruited more than 10 consultants from all over the world,” he says.

A good response, if a little heavy on the self-congratulation. 4/5

Everybody seems to be saying we’ve turned the corner. Which quarter do you think it will be safe to start spending again?

Lenovo

Process:Lenovo’s PR, like many of the people we spoke to, was away on leave when the e-mail was sent. Unlike most people, another rep immediately stepped into the breach and got us our answers on time – without prompting. Top marks. 5/5Response:Last year, Khaled Kamel, general manager for Lenovo Middle East, Egypt and Pakistan came through with a solid response. This year, he obfuscates a little, in our opinion.

“You probably need to ask that question of an economist rather than a PC maker. As far as Lenovo’s business goes, we’re obviously keen to see the end of the difficult market conditions that have characterised 2009 and I think we’d be cautiously optimistic about the market moving forward,” he states.

It’s a cagey answer and like Intel, doesn’t really leave us any clearer about when the market might improve, but at least it gives a very slight hint that things are picking up. But we’re thinking we might never get an answer to this one. 4/5

Intel

Process:Intel’s PR agency representative claimed to have missed the email on the first day, despite no less than three other people from the company being carbon copied in. Once we put a call through to them on day two however, they kicked into gear and got a response turned around in record time. 4/5

Response:Nass Nauthoa, general manager of Intel, told us that the company does not believe there is a particular quarter where consumers or businesses should start spending. “At Intel we have not reduced our spending on R&D and innovation this year. Our motto for years has been that a continued increase in investment in IT is essential, be it for us, business, government or consumers, to help reduce the effect of an economic downturn.”

Taking Nauthoa’s advice here is somewhat difficult as he really isn’t answering the question, rather indicating that an investment in IT is essential to help reduce the effect of the downturn. What must be said though, is the fact Intel was actually able to muster up the fortitude to answer this question in a straightforward manner gives them bonus points. 4/5MicrosoftProcess:Microsoft at times seems like it has the most efficient public relations agency on the planet, so it was a huge shock to see them fail to come through with this one, especially after a lights out performance on the CRM question. We had to chase multiple times for a response, and were constantly assured it was being worked on, though eventually they confessed to not being able to come through. 1/5

Response:Microsoft should have had the courage to come forward and answer this. It’s hard to blame the lack of time when the company was so efficient responding to the earlier enquiry about CRM. If a major player like Intel can answer it, there’s no excuse for Microsoft for failing to step up to the plate, or at least attempt too. 0/5

I’ve heard that other end-users get a discount for helping vendors out by talking about their projects to the press. Is this true in any way?

Avaya

Process:Another late response from Avaya, who deigned to answer only one of our two questions. We didn’t need to chase PR for initial receipt, but in our book, travelling spokespeople is not really a good enough excuse for sending a late answer. 3/5

Response:Roger El Tawil, Avaya’s director for channel and marketing for MENA, Turkey and Greece replies:

“No. There is no pressure on our customers to talk to the press in return for discounts. Avaya customers talk about their implementations because that positions them as an example for other organisations in the industry they operate in.”A textbook denial, but we appreciate the brevity and the directness of the answer to the question. 5/5

Cisco

Process:Things seem to be a little topsy-turvy at Cisco these days. We received one response from Cisco’s PR agency, which was quickly corrected by another internal one afterwards. The latter is the one we’re publishing, but the mix-up shows Cisco’s mighty PR machine could use some oiling. 3/5

Response:Wayne Hull, general manager of Cisco UAE replies:

“Cisco has a strict corporate policy and code of business conduct that clearly prohibits any such practice, and we take this very seriously around the globe. The promise of publicity does not have any relation to the discount structure of Cisco’s products and technologies.”

Surprise, surprise – a denial. It’s interesting that Cisco has policies and codes in place to deal with such eventuality. As we suspected, clearly these types of deals are not as rare as people think. 4/5

I’ve been using remanufactured products for several years without any apparent issues or damage to my printers. Why should I use vendor consumables, when it seems that I’m just paying a brand tax?

Brother

Process:Brother’s (very) sick-sounding PR only got the e-mail an hour before the deadline, so we’re deducting points for not having an alternative on standby, but we did get a response – pity it was four hours later. 3/5

Response:Jai Shankar, marketing manager – for the printing and solutions division at Brother, went heavy on marketing initially, but eventually got to the point.

“An end-user might think that he/she is saving on printing cost, but damage on the print head and the printer itself – which can be caused by using counterfeit consumables – may result to an even higher incurred cost,” he says.

Straightforward, relevant to the region – if not for the marketing, this would have received a nearly-perfect score from us. 4/5

OKI

Process:OKI’s PR did not respond to our e-mail outside of a read receipt, but when we called them the next day, they had the response ready to roll. Good enough for us. 5/5

Response:John Ross, OKI’s general manager replies:

“Firstly, if one person got away with using counterfeits without damaging his/her printer, it doesn’t mean everyone else will get that lucky. At the end of the day, it is absolutely in the manufacturer’s interest to produce affordable consumables.”Ross went on to state that users would be compromising on both the quality of their print and their warranty, noting in the latter case that a warranty is worth far more than the cost savings made using remanufactured parts. Like Brother, we liked his succinctness and honesty, and if not for the last-ditch marketing, it would have received a perfect score. 4/5

Canon

Process:Canon’s public relations agency was quick off the mark to get going on this one and warned us that the appropriate product managers were actually in London for training, so they were fearful they would not be able to get back to us in time. In the end a response was sent to us one hour past the deadline, but bonus points were awarded for being completely honest and transparent the whole way through and then delivering when they could. 3/5

Response:Sidney Pereira, inkjet product manager for Canon Middle East, told us he thinks the concerned user has been exceptionally lucky and claims that using vendor consumables would translate to clear cost savings. He pointed out that a simple measurement would be to compare the number of pages that a remanufactured cartridge is providing, versus the genuine vendor one. 4/5

Why haven’t vendors come up with a mechanism for on-site disposal of old PCs? Finding a recycling centre out here or someone to buy old ones is a complete pain.

Lenovo

Process:Another efficient response from Lenovo’s PR, who were on the case immediately without needing to be prodded and delivered an early response to our question. 5/5

Response:Khaled Kamel, general manager, Lenovo Middle East, Egypt and Pakistan replies:

“This is an important issue which requires more focus from vendors and government alike. However, the lead here needs to be taken by government, not only with legislation but also by promoting recycling with incentives and programmes that help manufacturers to meet the costs of recycling,” he says.

We’re pleased to see Lenovo take the question head-on. 5/5

Why do vendors promote mobile CRM when data charges are so expensive out here in the Middle East?

SAP

Process:Top marks for SAP again – the PR delivered a response early and without needing to be reminded of the deadline. An improvement from last year’s performance. 5/5

Response:Oh dear. Kevin Scott, vice president of industry business solutions at SAP furnished a rambling answer that espoused the virtues of mobile CRM but crucially ignored the part about bandwidth. It’s real shame when their other response was so much more succinct.

“In a challenging global environment business must react immediately to customer demands. With the help of mobile CRM business can save valuable time and increasing sales effectiveness and facilitate revenue growth. Mobile CRM provides users with an easier and more efficient way to manage their customer accounts, including activity and opportunity management,” he says. 2/5Microsoft

Process:This was a clearly demonstrated lesson on perfect execution by a public relations agency. Not only were they the first to get a response back to us, once the team received the enquiry it was then taken over by Microsoft’s own Dynamics group lead himself, who conversed with us directly, which, in our opinion, was incredibly efficient and very professionally handled. 5/5

Response:To say that the reply from Tamer Elhamy, Dynamics lead at Microsoft Gulf, was extensive would be a gross understatement. He outlined how mobile CRM has been designed to minimise data flow, which should lead to lower charges.

Elhamy also explained how the return the business is gaining from the use of mobile CRM far outstrips the data charges, and the call itself could be cheaper than using a phone and being put on hold. He also referred to mobile CRM’s ability to be used on any connection, so if WiFi is available the data cost would be zero. Even if it wasn’t, he claimed that most telcos offer data as standard in their packages now so it is still within reasonable means to obtain. 5/5

Why do vendors keep poaching my staff after I spend so much time, effort and money training them up to international standards?

Avaya

Process:Avaya’s PR let us know they were chasing responses from the first day, but as their spokesperson was travelling, they were unsure if they would get an answer in time. As it turns out – they didn’t. 2/5

Response:Roger El-Tawil from Avaya chose not to answer, claiming the question was not “relevant” to the firm. While we’re not accusing Avaya of headhunting staff from enterprises, we do believe that this is a very relevant issue and one that CIOs are constantly complaining about. Not acknowledging that it even exists seems like poor form. 0/5

EMC

Process:As mentioned previously, EMC’s PR was out of town when the e-mail was sent. This doesn’t excuse the late reply, but considering we got answers to both questions from different spokespeople, we’re still feeling lenient. 3/5Response:Mohammed Amin, regional manager for Turkey, Middle East and North West Africa at EMC replies:

“It’s against EMC’s hiring policy to take, seek or target candidates from our customers. We actually prefer that our customers retain their trained and qualified resources, which in turn helps our overall business. EMC also offers customers the option of training their staff, transferring knowledge and offering certification courses,” he says.

Another denial. Both vendors have neatly missed the point of the question – we’re not accusing them of the situation described in the question, but want to know what they think of an activity that’s undoubtedly happening in the Middle East market. It’s unfortunate, and simply serves to illustrate the yawning gap in reality between CIOs and vendors – which, in the end, is why we pursue answers to these questions. 3/5

Methodology

The ACN team canvassed regional end users for their burning questions and put forth a couple of its own. After whittling down the list of questions, and deciding which vendors to put them to, the team sent out the questions via email to the public relations agencies or official press contacts of the vendors. If initial responses were not forthcoming, the ACN team followed up with phone calls and additional e-mails.

Marks were given first for the efficiency and ease of response and for the quality of the response itself. When vendors declined to respond, we made sure this fact would be recorded in print and mark of zero given. This year, we also timed the event to coincide with the festival season and the weekend, to increase the pressure of getting a response in time.

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