Posted by: Arun Gupta
I don’t know how I stumbled across this blog and hundreds of comments but it had me thinking with a gaping and wide open mouth. Not that the scenario I read about does not play itself ever so often in the corporate circles; it was an open discussion on strategies to entrap the CIO to meet the next target, to close a deal, to shorten the sales cycle. There were experiences shared, discussed, fortunately no names mentioned of the vendors or the CIOs. I did pick up some good recommendations on fine dining though.
Balance of power
Trappings of power bring with it responsibility; with large budgets and the ability to decide in favor of one against the other, the CIO sits in a position where every vendor, big or small, attempts to find the winning formula to gain a good book and business. The exalted chair is expected to make a fair decision (the loser may think otherwise) to award business to the deserving and not be swayed by the drama or influenced by ill means. CIOs I know across this globe practice unshakeable integrity in decision making.
From time immemorial, those wielding financial power have been sought after for favors. In the old days, after the technical evaluation, the purchase executive could turn down a decision and no one could challenge that. The power of veto was a feared weapon. Over time driven by trust and increasing penetration of IT, a shift occurred with the CIO empowered to work independently. Economic cycles shifted the decision making to where the monies lie, and the elastic nature swinging it back and forth to equilibrium quickly.
Queasy means, easy deals
So as I read through post after post, it was an uneasy feeling to see tips and trick that have worked to snare a deal. Golf course priority bookings, tickets to matches, free vacations, gourmet dining, you name it, they had tried it. Some more than others, they found what works for whom not leaving many who resisted all temptation. Feeling queasy about this, I called a few old colleagues to chat and discussing this with them, one toppled my wine by adding anecdotes of his own.
Are decisions so easily facilitated with the lineage and vintage of wine determining the steps and time required to close the deal? Is this working at the conscious level or the sub-conscious even when there is no coercion? Is it wider in its reach and influence than we believe it to be? Are we becoming slaves to a system without realizing it? Or have we become immune to the system and now factor it into our decision making criteria?
The CIO insights?
I love my red wine and some good food to go with it; I have enjoyed many evenings out with friends and family. Occasionally vendors seek relaxed meetings “outside of workplace”; I know many have been careful to take a few colleagues along for comfort and keep the meeting a strict business one. It keeps the discussions easier and the environment lighter with no obligations being created on either side. A few CIOs also pick up the tab rather than leave even an iota of doubt. I would assume that each vendor would have classified data on what works and what does not for every tagged CIO.
The play now is universal; every vendor uses some leverage or other to go beyond the normal decision making cycle. Direct or indirect, these influences are here to stay as long as there are multiple vendors offering similar solutions or products. Wine and dine is part of corporate culture, the CIO and for that matter other CXOs have to work the fine line between undue influence and socially acceptable behavior keeping their personal and corporate values above everything else.