Listen in to a typical exchange I have almost weekly with a software vendor or services firm:
Vendor: “But Brian, we are thought leaders, we are innovators, we deliver value to clients, we hire the best and brightest!”
Me: “You say that and I’m sure you believe it. But, show me that these statements are true. Where’s the proof?”
Vendor: “well….. uh….. we have over 41,000 employees and $6 billion in revenue. So, we must be doing something right. Right?”
What too many tech and service firms don’t get when it comes to marketing themselves is that their messages are the same as everyone else’s. They’re undifferentiated and worse, they’re unproven. Can your firm prove it is innovative, value driven, perfect in its execution, etc.? It’s one thing to claim a core competency; it’s an entirely different matter to prove it.
I particularly loathe firms that claim to be innovative when they’re at best a fast follower. These firms let someone else develop a new market concept, product or service. Then, with lightening speed, they copy the solution and deliver it themselves. That’s not innovation, it’s mimicry.
During briefings with vendors and service firms, I ask to see the proof. The other day, I got some.
CA, the Islandia-based software firm, sent me a book their executives wrote. It’s called “under control – Goverance Across the Enterprise”. I was expecting this thing to be really light and full of informercial material. You know what? It was pretty good and was only 1% self-promoting. If you didn’t understand governance well, you ought to get this. Each chapter was written by a different CA executive and covers a separate topic. Surprisingly, there’s no overlap in the subjects covered (kudos to their editor) and subjects range from definition aspects of GRC (governance, risk, compliance), role of boards, IT and GRC, IT and PPM, etc.
I was pleasantly surprised that CA had the courage to show their own risk charter and governance principles at the back of the book. A lot of service firms are great at giving advice but often fail to take their own medicine.
My earliest dealings with Computer Associates (now CA) were during the Charles Wang days. After Sanjay and the revenue recognition matters ended, the company re-named itself, got new management, new governance and new business strategies. The DOJ kind of helped those process and personnel changes occur. The new firm doesn’t resemble the old one and I have to remind myself that periodically.
But I digress, the book CA produced is proof that their executives understand governance. In fact, CA may get the concepts in it better than most because of the events that reshaped that company earlier this decade. Customers can take comfort that CA’s people ‘get it’ and know the subject matter. I certainly do now that I can hold a physical manifestation of that knowledge…