The IT 'Devil's Triangle' [podcast]

Three roles dominate virtually every significant IT project: technology supplier, system integrator or consultant, and end-user or customer. In this podcast, Brian Sommer explains this IT devil's triangle and its impact on project success and failure.

Three roles dominate virtually every significant IT project: technology supplier, system integrator or consultant, and end-user or customer. These groups have interlocking, and often conflicting, agendas that drive many projects toward failure.

In this podcast, ZDNet colleague, Brian Sommer, shares hard-hitting insight on this IT devil's triangle and describes its impact on project success and failure.

The IT ‘Devil’s Triangle’ [podcast]

Brian is a long-time market analyst and customer advocate with a no-nonsense style developed over years working with customers, integrators, and technology vendors.

Brian's perspective helps explain fundamental motivations behind system integrators and their relationship with customers.

On system integrators vs. consultants:

In the past, management advisory services firms provided independent advice and counsel to clients and tended to put their clients' interests ahead of their own. That was the golden age of management consulting.

In mid-nineties, consulting companies began building out their bench with technical people they had to keep fully utilized and chargeable. Systems integrators started selling solutions and not providing advice and counsel. In fact, they put their own interests ahead of the client's....

On service provider "lone wolves:"

Some firms are highly guarded, won't let others do a quality assurance review of their customers, and so on. These lone wolf environments are not ideal for people who want to get the best from a consultancy.

In contrast, meritocracy-based firms operate using quality assurance teams independent of the folks that sell and deliver the work. That kind of organization will be much more open about sharing information with others in the firm, and with the client, to make sure that ideal outcomes are occurring.

On whether software vendors take responsibility to protect their customers against self-serving system integrators:

Not really.

Many software companies look at system integrators as a distribution channel. In some cases the system integrator relationship is worth hundreds of deals annually to a software vendor. In giant outsourcing deals, the software vendor may only get three percent of the total proceeds of the deal.

On customers protecting their own interests:

Customers should hire smaller firms that are focused and take a very strong advocacy position. You've got to have a lot of discovery time at the beginning of a project to flesh out detailed work plans, so everyone knows what's going to be accomplished and there are no surprises. You also need to develop a great contract.

You want a great outcome and if that requires time to plan at the beginning, that's what you need to do.


If you manage or participate in IT projects, then this podcast is for you. Brian presents sound and direct advice for understanding the motivations behind both system integrators and enterprise software vendors.

[Photo of Brian Sommer via Techventive.]