Don't underegg the network pudding

Cisco’s latest regional drive is targeting the oil and gas sector, but the vendor’s rhetoric has not excited IT managers. Companies such as Cisco must be careful not to undersell their products with empty clichés, or they will risk turning off potential customers. Also the NME Award nominations are flowing in, but some big names are still to appear…

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By  Eliot Beer Published  January 22, 2007

|~||~||~|Cisco reps have been doing the rounds lately, trying to convince oil and gas companies around the region that what they really, really need is a next-generation network. A colleague spoke to an IT manager at one such company which had received a visit – the IT manager had reportedly declined Cisco’s offer, on the basis that he didn’t need a next-generation network, since the old one was working perfectly. Reading the official press release put out by Cisco, you couldn’t really blame the man for refusing – the arguments set out there are pretty insubstantial. “Technology is an enabler and can provide fundamental improvements for organisations operating in the oil and gas sector by delivering an experience that has a direct impact on enhancing operational efficiency, optimising cost structures and boosting overall business agility,” runs one such quote from Cisco’s Tarek Ghoul. Now it’s not often that I will accuse a vendor of under-selling a product, but that’s what I believe Cisco is doing here. The company has not become the number one networking vendor in the world by chance – however overbearing it can on occasion be, there is no denying it produces good tech. But when it comes out with official quotes like the above, I can’t help feeling that it’s selling not only itself but the whole IT industry short. If its main selling points for high-tech systems are collections of platitudes, then this suggests it is struggling to come up with meaningful arguments why enterprises should invest millions of dollars in its hardware. Ironically, at the end of this month is the EMEA iteration of the Cisco Networkers event in Cannes – slightly less glamorous than the film festival, but very much a highlight on many techies’ professional calendars (look out for NME’s coverage next month). The problem with this event is it deals purely with the geeky side of technology, and lays little emphasis on the business benefits. Now this is fine for the audience going – they will be able to satisfy their technolust and do things they never thought possible with a router. But isn’t Cisco missing an opportunity here? It has the chance, in a limited way, to turn the Networkers attendees into evangelists for what the technology can do for the business. At the same time, I believe it needs to stop patronising the senior IT and network managers of the region, and start giving them some specific reasons why they should spend their companies’ funds on expensive new networks (answers on a postcard, please…) Business leaders are now pretty likely to have at least a basic grasp of what an IT system can deliver to the business; at the same time, they are growing tired of platitudes and hyperbole directed at them from the vendors. These vendors – Cisco and the rest – need to make sure their products are not swept away on a gust of their own hot air; it does no one any favours, least of all them. NME Innovation Awards We’re in the thick of things on the NME Awards front – nominations are starting to flow in across the board. But there are still some big names who have not yet submitted anything (you know who you are). There’s plenty of time, but if you want to enter, make sure you start working on your nomination now. And for those who are nominating, please make sure you read the rules first. You know who you are as well… Eliot Beer, Editor, NME eliot.beer@itp.com||**||

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