Blackmail - the Big Deal

by HAL

Tags: True Story,

Desc: : This is based on a true story. I have changed some details to protect the innocent (and me). It is about what happens when an innovative company meets an IT giant

The demonstration had gone well, their presentation had impressed the potential customer, Jerry could see that. Their proposal was simpler, cheaper and covered more of the requirements than any of the other suppliers so far. He felt good, they were playing with the big boys, and winning!

Indigo-Query had put together a complicated mixture of about eight applications, all running on their hardware of course. They had skated over the areas that the proposal did not address, but everybody in the room who had studied the RFQ (request for Quote) could see the massive holes in it.

HAL’s proposal was as he expected, a vast overblown network of applications, hardware and service days to get an 85% solution to work. ‘String and ceiling wax’ he had scribbled on his agenda – wondering yet again what ceiling wax was. He meant sealing wax of course, but then he was an IT guru, not an English graduate; half of his staff couldn’t have said who Lewis Carroll was, but they could give an annotated, off the cuff, lecture about Multics.

Jerry had joined the NKB (which Alex explained stood for New Kids on the Block) on day 15 of its existence. He had help in defining the early requirements and then left the techies to run with it. And they had, they’d grasped the principles and built an amazing suite of programs. They were well ahead of the game. Now they just needed to win this contract to move from ‘start-up’ to ‘player’. Without it the money would start to run out in a month or two. Having joined early he had found himself Sales and Marketing Director when the old man (Alex’s father) had left saying he’d got the company started up and that was him done, he went back to the South of France and his 3rd wife (and his comfortable retirement). So Jerry was well-place to understand the power of the software and the shaky foundations. They needed this contract; it was huge. Even with their much smaller price it was huge.

HAL had gone in with a large price he was sure – they needed to keep their top-heavy management structure in private jets after all, and many companies remained convinced that the more they paid the better quality they got. HAL had been one of the innovators of IT, they still were in hardware, but when the focus turned to applications rather than hardware they started to lose their lead. As a huge monolithic company with byzantine structures, they did not react quickly enough to new trends. Their management increasingly recognised that keeping your job relied less on innovative ideas and initiative and more on not making a mistake that brought you to people’s notice. And nothing made people notice than expensive mistakes in developing the wrong thing. It was easier to sit back and do nothing, and wait. Like a hydra or a jellyfish rather than a shark

WingDings Inc had produced a brilliant set of ‘screen shots’ but no actual demonstration. In other words the whole thing was vapourware – to be built if they got the contract. Jerry smiled to himself. Would you take a promise of 100% solution sometime in the future or 90-95% demonstrable now?

All the companies had swung in their big hitters, this was THE contract to win because it opened up all sorts of future possibilities. And he, Jerry Smith, was the one who was going to win it! He could feel it.

“Great presentation, really impressive. Hi! I’m Mike Fallon, I work for HAL. You must be feeling pleased”

“I try not to count my chickens”

“True, true. But then if you’re a real salesman you count them three times in your projections”

They both laughed, he liked this guy.

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