IBM will beat AWS because process beats product

IBM will eventually beat Amazon Web Services, writes CIO.com columnist Rob Enderle, but not because AWS has an inferior product

In many ways, AWS is better than IBM's cloud offering. But Big Blue's experience with enterprise customers, not to mention the federal government, shows that great businesses processes often beat great products.

CIO Last week I discussed why IBM will beat Amazon Web Services. I got a lot of supportive comments, while a few folks, mostly young, thought I really didn't get why AWS is superior to IBM.

I also got a note from Amazon PR offering me an opportunity to find out why AWS is superior.This made me realize that I hadn't clearly communicated that this isn't about technology at all. It's about understanding how to work with large government organizations something IBM has been doing for nearly a century and why process is more important than product.

This points to why the first White House CTO left the job and why, more recently, the Affordable Health Care Act website has been a disaster. The government didn't use a company such as IBM, which knew the risks and had the resources to get the job done; it saved some money and got a train wreck instead.

I spent a bit of time auditing federal contracts in IBM, and some time looking at technology implementation. Let me tell you: Government IT is a very different world.

IBM Serves Its Clients Well; the Government Loves That

In IT, we often cite the old saying, "no one ever got fired from buying IBM." While we might, at times, put another name in IBM's place, IBM was the first company to have that designation and has had it for the longest time.

I once did a win/loss review of a competitive bid between Microsoft and IBM that showcases how this came to be. It was a massive bid, with five company sites that all had to agree the chosen solution, IBM was nearly impossible to displace at two of the five sites; for each sales meeting, IBM reps made sure the secretaries got fresh flowers and their advocates had all the ammunition they needed to defend IBM.

Microsoft focused on the three more flexible sites, and convinced them to go with Microsoft technology, but the two sites that IBM protected refused to move. IBM won the business despite being the higher bidder.

My review, which went to Microsoft's executive management, said the approximately $1 million spent to win the business had been wasted, since IBM had effectively locked Microsoft out. (This earned me a nasty call from the Microsoft sales team leader).

To win, Microsoft would have had to break the IBM lock, but it was unwilling to invest in what was required to make that happen. Microsoft actually had the better technology, but IBM understood the customer's strategic perspective.

Featured Resources

How to choose an AI vendor

Five key things to look for in an AI vendor

Download now

The UK 2020 Databerg report

Cloud adoption trends in the UK and recommendations for cloud migration

Download now

2021 state of email security report: Ransomware on the rise

Securing the enterprise in the COVID world

Download now

The impact of AWS in the UK

How AWS is powering Britain's fastest-growing companies

Download now

Recommended

IBM CodeNet teaches AI to translate programming languages
artificial intelligence (AI)

IBM CodeNet teaches AI to translate programming languages

11 May 2021
IBM launches suite of hybrid cloud storage services
hybrid cloud

IBM launches suite of hybrid cloud storage services

27 Apr 2021
IBM, Red Hat and Cobuilder reconnect fragmented supply chains
supply chain management (SCM)

IBM, Red Hat and Cobuilder reconnect fragmented supply chains

14 Apr 2021
IBM's infrastructure services spin-off to be named Kyndryl
Business operations

IBM's infrastructure services spin-off to be named Kyndryl

13 Apr 2021

Most Popular

Q&A: Enabling transformation
Sponsored

Q&A: Enabling transformation

10 Jun 2021
How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

16 Jun 2021
Millions of Volkswagen customers affected by data breach
data breaches

Millions of Volkswagen customers affected by data breach

14 Jun 2021