IT vendors need to be safe and affordable

According to ZDNet Australia's 2011 ZDNet IT Priorities Survey, customers want to pay less ... and feel safer about it.
Written by Phil Dobbie, Contributor

IT vendors might need to sharpen their pencils to grab more business from customers this year — but not at the expense of timely delivery and a strong track record.

It's no surprise, in today's economic climate, that customers want to pay less — three quarters of respondents to the 2011 ZDNet IT Priorities Survey said competitive pricing was a top or major consideration when choosing a technology partner.


(Credit: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet Australia)

Quality and timeliness of delivery is an equally important criterion this year, whereas last year it was quite a way down the list.

The warning sign for vendors can be seen in this apparent willingness for customers to vote with their feet. Existing relationships and an approved supplier status are nowhere near as important as they were in last year's survey.

But, while customers may be quicker to make a move, they are also keen to minimise risk. We added "financial stability" as a new criterion in this year's survey and it came out third in the list of top and major considerations when choosing a technology partner.

This "play it safe" message seems to be coming through in many aspects of the survey, perhaps even at the expense of adopting new technologies. The importance of proprietary technologies has fallen significantly this year (perhaps because we'd rather have open technologies) and newer options such as cloud capabilities (included for the first time this year) were a priority for less than a quarter of respondents.

This concern with cost and quality is shared across all divisions of the organisations surveyed. IT consultants are slightly less concerned than most about financial stability, and executive management seems to be less concerned about choosing an approved supplier, but generally the "best price, safe choice" criteria seems to cut through all job functions.

This presents a challenge for an IT industry trying to transform thinking and drive us into the cloud with managed services. It's an even bigger challenge for smaller companies without a strong track record. How does a newish company sell cutting-edge solutions to a customer base that doesn't want to rock the boat? However you do it, it looks like it is now more important than ever to emphasise that you are a safe choice. And reliable. And cheap. And quick to deliver. That's all there is to it! And remember: the customer is always right.

To download a copy of the IT Priorities report for 2011, please click here.

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