In our IT world there are two vendors who have traditionally stood out when the question of trust is raised. IBM, who has historically ranked number one as the most trusted, and Microsoft, who traditionally ranks in the least bracket in the range of vendors Ive studied.
IBM sold that trust cheaply in the 80s, and the result was the firing of their CEO and the loss of much of what made IBM the powerhouse it once was. IBM has recovered somewhat. And while not nearly as powerful as it once was, I believe that were I to survey people on the company today, only one firm might challenge it for the most trusted ranking: HP, who might actually win now.
Are You (And Your Apps) Ready For Vista?
SOA Software Pushes Workbench Governance
Get a Life: Enterprises Eye Potential For Second Life
IBM Signs on For Small Business|
Microsoft has been a conundrum, because it is the only company that actually splits the base. When I used to survey on the company it came in as a strong No. 3 in terms of trust, but had a massive lead when it came to distrust, and was the only company that had strong positions at each extreme. Today I believe Open Source wouldnt be the power it is if it wasnt for this high level of distrust for Microsoft. Yet conversely, the fact that Microsoft didnt follow IBMs catastrophic slide is because a significant number of companies still trust it highly.
As we begin the New Year I think the value of trust should be discussed specifically, why maintaining it has as much to do with the IT executive as with the vendor.
Who Owns Trust?
For Microsoft, when I looked at the root cause of IT distrust, it generally came down to two things. One was that Microsoft simply didnt treat senior IT managers as they expected to be treated. Typically if you met with an enterprise level vendor as a CIO you would be wined and dined often given lavish gifts and maybe even get free travel in the corporate jet. Microsoft generally made folks pay their own travel and the gift was a trip to the Microsoft employee store where they would be offered the employee discount on anything they wanted to buy. As an ex-Internal Auditor I have mixed feelings about this part of the problem.
The other cause seemed to be directly connected to how closely the firm actually worked with Microsoft. For those that had purchased heavily and stayed closely connected to the firm through deployment and service, the relationships were generally strong and this was reflected in a high IBM/HP-like score. For those that used third parties (who often generically blamed problems on Microsoft) and systematically treated the company like a packaged product company (which it does kind of look like) the result typically was low trust. It was almost as if, when you were doing the surveys, you were talking about two different companies and through the eyes of the buyer in a way, it was.
In the Microsoft example, while the loss of trust clearly damaged the vendor, the problem should have been jointly owned by IT but clearly wasnt. Much like any relationship, if it isnt nurtured, protected, and prioritized it will likely degrade regardless of which side is at fault.