Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why do vendors sponsor CIO events ?

It is a general belief that CIOs are a pampered lot, with every vendor equipped with a marketing budget vying for time of the CIO wining and dining them, or taking them to exotic locales under the aegis of a larger event organized by, say an IT publication. A destination’s lure or the fine dining opportunity is what the vendors believe attracts their audience to accept these invitations.

Now, the CIO is usually attracted by headlines promising to transform the business, strategies to enhance business value, getting ahead of competition or additions to the corporate bottom line, to just name a few juicy titles. It does not matter what product or service the IT company offers the titles are very similar in their stated intent to help the CIO in being a winner. Expectation mismatch?

The reality is more on the lines of a captive audience, subjected to what can be described as Auschwitz style torture by presenting presumptuous facts of a micro-segmented market that has no correlation to the reality (of the audience). They then propose the same old solutions around data centers, storage and server virtualization, wrapped on cloud computing enabling the business statements using logic defying rationale.

Recent times have seen the gas chamber (read conference room) pumped with cloudy trends and solutions suffocating CIO prisoners and adding to the confusion. The CIOs’ silent cries are lost in the din of the collar-mike-d speaker who avoids eye contact with the victims, so as to not be cursed by their souls. Sighs escaping occasionally are drowned by the amplified voice of the person standing a head above the rest (on the stage). Basic decency and courtesy prevents the CIOs from walking out; a few regularly pass out, even as their snoring disturbs those who seek solace.

This cycle repeats endlessly, with the CIOs hoping in vain that IT vendors have probably taken their last feedback. That they have changed their way of using the precious face time with a group of decision makers. But no, it is as if the basic principles of customer engagement have been thrown to the winds. Forget the customer or his needs, sell what you have; it does not matter whether the customer needs it or not. Twist the message adequately to make the square peg fit into a round hole.

The vendors’ defense is typically on the lines of, “Listen to the customer? How can I do that when I have only 45 minutes of stage time? I have to tell them my story (the story that my company wants to propagate). I will read the slides, take a few minutes longer than the allotted time, so that there is no time for questions”. After all, I have spent some hard money to sponsor the event.

Over the last year or so, many CIOs have started excusing themselves from these excursions and invitations, in many cases at the last minute, citing business exigencies. This number is growing, and such opportunities will just wither away unless the model changes to encompass “Engagement, Listening, and Empathy”.

Is anyone listening?


  1. I am 100% agree with you, but are they listening?

  2. The problem lies with most large MNC IT Companies which like government has an agenda to spend the budget allocated. Even if they do not have anything new interesting to share. Secondly most of the vendor pitch happens from the marketing team which is not competent technically. They cannot debate with CIO and propose solutions to problems right there right now or give some directions to CIO by assessing the queries asked. Presentations designs are boring to hell. I have seen same slide decks are presented in multiple events. Presentation are not customize to audience or theme. The best possible sessions for CIO where in they would get real insights is from subject matter experts and not marketing heads. Case Studies - Real Life examples of business users and CIO speaking on how they approached a problem is missing link. Personalization one on one is missing in events. Need a dramatic paradigm shit to engage with CIO at meaningful level from both ends.


    1. CIO should plan 2 day event calling all Vendors to showcase and should do a knowledge session with business and technology team in the office.

    2. Vendors should be allowed to speak in an event with a customer CIO in toe with him.

    3. Presentations should contain real demonstrations and not power points.

    4. Before an event starts the invited CIO should be asked to submit their expectations-queries-problem which they expected from the vendors sponsoring the same. Each event has to have a theme and related CIO audience. If it is an infrastructure event then application side vendors should not be part of the event.

    5. Media companies editors should be in control and not the marketing team of this media companies. Editors should drive the agenda with help of CIO and not the marketing team of media companies and vendor to decide agenda.

    We at MAIA Intelligence have tried to move away from typical presentations to CIO type events to more personalized and focused solution approach. We are learning from CIO inputs and we thank them for being a friend philosopher and guide to us.

  3. Guptaji, a real honest picture that you painted and I agree to most of what you said. Though, don't you think the blame to a lesser extent lies with the CIOs as well, who indulge these vendors. If the CIOs were more fortright on how things are, do you not think such moronic conferences will come to an end. I too had blogged on this sometime back (but on other lines), do have a look..


  4. There are vendors willing to listen as Sanjay puts it and there are CIOs who share the blame as Shashwat outlines.

    Media company editors are trying (at least one is), but vendors are afraid to tread the unknown path.

    For every CIO dropping off the list, there is a queue of new CIOs wanting to join in. I guess the change will be slow.

  5. If you do a reality check in many events, there are more nominess of the CIO, then the CIO's themselves.
    This is a win win situation, the global vendor has a set of wonderful photos of a crowded hall to mail back to HO, the imported speaker is delighted with the overflowing hall, little does he know there may be no conversion into real business.
    The event managers are delighted and so are the owners of the venue. One event manager called me at 6.30 a.m. to wake me up for the CIO event, unfortunaltely I was in another city on that day and could not oblige.
    But "the show goes on" :-) ; there are another two invites in my mail box... good day.