Blue sky thinking

It’s been a strategic year for customer-centric companies attempting to consolidate…

Tags: United Arab Emirates
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By  Andrew Seymour Published  December 28, 2009

It's unlikely that 2009 will go down as one of the more illustrious years in the history of the Middle East IT channel, such has been the force of the economic gale that has blown through the market during the past 12 months.

One thing it does appear to have done, however, is forced companies to get creative in articulating some of the less positive news they've had to tell, as well as compensate for any fading sentiment in the market.

Well-used sound bites about soaring growth, rapid expansion and unbridled opportunities have been toned down this year, replaced by terminology more befitting of the difficult trading environment that the channel has encountered.

I'll be taking a more serious look back at the events which have shaped the channel in next week's comment piece, but as 2009 draws to a close, and with much of the market on holiday, here's our irreverent rundown of the 10 most over-used terms in the channel this year.

(10) Affordable
Cash-conscious customers want more for their money these days, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a vendor willing to refer to its products as 'cheap'. Step forward ‘affordable' as a more than acceptable substitute. Only just beats ‘scalable' onto the list, mind you.

(9) Right-sizing
Sack a load of staff, slash the budget in half and rein in the corporate travel. Why, it's just your average piece of ‘right-sizing' of course. It has to be said that this is a particular favourite of the vendor community - though it does beg the question, what's the opposite of right-sizing? Wrong-sizing?

(8) Rationalisation
The slightly uglier-sounding alternative to ‘right-sizing', due largely to the harsher connotations it conjures up, has again become market speak for workforce cuts and cost reductions. Unfortunately the Middle East channel has seen more ‘rationalisation' than it would have liked this year.   

(7) Consolidating
Plenty of companies have spoken of ‘consolidating' functions and roles in the past year as they've sought to find a polite way of explaining the steps that have been taken to get their houses in order. A milder form of ‘rationalisation' in many ways.

(6) Added value
It's not so much the phrase that's the problem, it's more the ambiguity that gets attached to it. With less business on the table for everyone, companies have had to better articulate how they differ from their competitors. "We provide added value" has been the rather matter-of-fact, but ultimately meaningless, response offered up by far too many companies this year.

(5) Customer-centric
This immensely irritating term has crept into fashion this year, with vendors most guilty of its flagrant over-use. Retaining clients in the current environment is essential for everybody, but does that really mean it's necessary for companies to boast about having ‘customer-centric' organisations. If customers weren't central to your business before the downturn, then what were they?

(4) Economic reset
The world isn't going through a recession; it's going though an ‘economic reset', or so say market experts that prefer to shine a positive light on proceedings, such as Microsoft VP Steve Guggenheim during his visit to GITEX. If only it was as simple as turning something off and switching it back on again...

(3) Bottom-line growth
Forget top-line growth, profitability is what counts! After years of soaring sales figures, IT providers in the region have finally shifted their priorities to reflect the realities of the market, and they've been just as keen to make it known. Top-line growth is just so last year.

(2) Focused
IT marketers and PR bods have always had an affiliation with the word ‘focused', but during leaner times it seems it is even more important to stress that you are dedicated solely to the job in hand.

(1) Strategic
Distributors have been adding strategic countries to existing franchises, vendors have been signing strategic partners and resellers have been targeting strategic markets. If the recession has done anything to the IT channel in the Middle East, it's apparently made every decision ‘strategic'!

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