As a consultant,Im often asked to help clients with due diligence. Thats a nice way of saying they want me to get the dirt on (or dig for gold in) a company theyre interested in knowing better a potential partner, key competitor, new market entrant, buyout target, etc.
Since I tend to look at high-tech companies at play in the CommFusion space, Im not surprised to find value usually lots of it. But for a long time, Ive also been encountering an almost equal amount
of arrogance and stupidity; and that scares me.
I spend about half of my time working with telecom companies and the other half with data companies (PC, hardware, software, network, etc.), as both move towards a CommFusion world. Both industries believe they know best and cant understand why the other industry is so stupid.
This isnt always a bad thing. As each industry enters the others space, they push the other to rethink their business model and practice. The improved pace of
change and innovation in the telecom industry is due to the data industrys arrogance and stupidity. The data guys challenged the long development cycles the telecom guys claimed were required for reliability. The major telephony vendors responded by reducing their gating process by 50%. If the data guys had started out with any direct experience of the telecom industry, they never would have made such a seemingly stupid challenge.
Arrogance becomes a problem, however, when it
keeps people from understanding each others business models and background, acknowledging each others success, and grasping the reasons behind it. Historically, it has been the telecom vendors whose arrogance has kept them ignorant. Today, it is mostly data companies (or telecom companies trying to act like data companies) whose arrogance causes them to make stupid decisions.
I find it amazing that major data companies entering the CommFusion world do not hire telephony experts to guide their
telephony-related programs. They look at technology, not solutions. They promote their platform, more than applications. They misconstrue the value of channel relationships as if 10,000 data VARs can become phone sellers, overnight.
I find it equally amazing that telecom companies moving towards CommFusion tend to throw out the lessons theyve learned from years in the phone business: About product reliability and simplicity; about cultivating the channel; and about respecting the real-world
needs of end users. In this latter regard, theyve taken a cue from the most arrogant data-side technocrats.
On both sides, the result of arrogance will be failure: Initiatives that misfire, proofs of concept that never turn into products, delivery schedules that go awry, products that are unreliable, priced wrong, or that are too complex to sell and use. Unfortunately, the companies that suffer these failures will probably send in the spin-doctors to cover their costly mistakes. They may blame their
failure on partners, or on the channel. Or they may decide to blame key technologies (but not
technologies), key standards (but not
standards), or the market at large. Ultimately, they may even start to believe their own spin, and withdraw from the CommFusion marketplace. Anything but admit that the failure was caused by arrogance and resulting ignorance of market dynamics (it is, after all, the nature of arrogance to refuse to admit that one is capable of error).
of the most conspicuous failures are likely to occur among the companies whose entry into the CommFusion marketplace were currently cheering: the big, rich, highly-credible players whose presence is now giving the market direction, momentum, and excitement. Were glad theyre playing in the CommFusion arena. But should they fail, or succeed only marginally, the result may be to cast doubts on the CommFusion marketplace as a whole. This would be a real tragedy.
My recommendation is simple:
Abandon arrogance. If this article has struck a nerve with you, take time to do an audit of your teams skills and prior experience vs. the challenge of the CommFusion projects at hand. Do you have a critical mass of people who have done it before? If not, think about this: Would you hire a private pilot who is smart, has read all the manuals but has never flown a plane? Dont be stupid! *
Jim Burton is president of computer telephony consulting firm CT Link. He can be reached
at 707-963-9966 or via fax at 707-963-9944.