, by  Tom Simnett

Perhaps you should have been fired for buying IBM!

Are the big guys always best?

The old adage “you never got fired for buying IBM” has a lot to answer for, but let’s be positive for a moment to start with.

Although I’ve never used IBM, I am sure their stuff is great and it has certainly protected a lot of jobs over the years. But what else has it done? Let’s take a look…

IBM is Well-Known

Everyone has heard of IBM and anyone over the age of 40 will know them more as a computer and server hardware manufacturer more than systems integrator and software developer.

I suppose when the IT department spoke to Finance about new hardware, it’s easier for them to buy from a company they have heard of.

IBM is Safe

When you spend a lot of money on IT, you want there to be the support you need. With IBM UK, alone, currently employing about 20,000 people, it’s safe to assume the support is there.

IBM is Expensive

With 20,000 people in the UK and some very nice offices, the cost base is extremely high. Associate Partner salaries in the UK can reach over £200K per annum. They also have a reputation and a brand image that allows them to charge high prices. Before I get a nasty letter from one of their lawyers, let’s be clear: I am not saying charge too much or are poor value; just that they have high ticket numbers.

IBM is a behemoth and unable to change quickly

When was the last time you knew of a multi-national business that has been around for over 100 years that was at the cutting edge of technology? For an organisation that big to change takes a lot of effort and agreement amongst lots of people and that means it will be difficult for them to meet your exact business needs.

IBM requires you to change to fit them, not the other way around

This is the real crux. Companies like this have some great products but they are products that are built for the masses, alongside the customisation services they provide. What you are paying for is both the original development of their applications and then for someone to work with you to decide what changes need to be done to get it closer to your needs – so you’re paying twice.

I know I’m picking on IBM but I’m sure they’ve had a lot worse said about them. Large companies are often perceived as the safe option; the company which can provide the best solution because of the backup they can provide. But you need to adapt to them in order to make the customisation even remotely affordable.

**So why not start with a blank sheet and work towards exactly what you want, rather than starting with an end product and working backwards?

Next time someone suggests IBM (or similar), suggest that it just may get them sacked – and see what they do.**