IT managers a tough animal to please

Regardless of vendor consolidation and the tough economic climate of recent years, Boehringer Ingelheim IS manager Matthew Perry believes the IT buyer has always been a tough animal to please.

"The buyer-beware principles haven't changed for me. Now, it's about differentiation between vendors," he said.

"As an IT buyer it's about pursuing a whole service-based relationship. Getting good, prompt service is more important to me than the final cost of a solution."

Perry said that for a global, private company, IT investment must follow long-term strategic plans.

"It's hard to put a dollar value on the service you get from a vendor, but it comes down to simple things," he said, adding that delivering on promises is important.

Perry cited Toshiba as an example of a vendor that has delivered on its promises, providing outstanding service while describing his experience with HP as abysmal.

Perry also likens IT companies to handymen, saying, "You're always concerned about price at the start, but in the end you want to see whether the plumber has done a good job, if they cleaned up before they left, if they gave you good service. Price becomes less significant because it's the other things you remember."

Acting information, communications and technology manager at South West Health Services in Western Australia, Andrew Robson, agrees service is important.

"Service is the main factor for me, particularly after-sales service. Stability of the product is also important I want to be dealing with the same people 12 months down the track," Robson said.

Even with improved economic conditions Robson believes IT managers will remain conservative.

"I think the days of spending money willy-nilly are gone," he added.

Long-term viability the clincher The IT general manager at Harris Scarfe Australia Jeff Hobart agrees IT buying strategies are all about long-term vendor viability.

It's a critical issue, Hobart said, because of consolidation and the high level of acquisition activity occurring in the IT industry.

"I would certainly hesitate to invest in (products of) a vendor that had received a lot of recent publicity concerning a merger; if you have a choice between a vendor that's in the headlines or one you believe will be more stable, you're going to pick the latter," he said.

Consolidation, Hobart said, is having a strong impact on the IT market and is certainly influencing long-- term buying plans.

"When planning purchases for a project you want the same partner at the start to still be there at the end; these consolidations also become an integration issue for IT managers," he said.

Commenting on the bigger market players Hobart believes size isn't everything. When it comes to a specialised project, he prefers a vendor with specific knowledge and skill that best suits the job at hand.

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