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The Big Picture: Opportunity And Optimism Abound

Don't tell customers what they want; listen to what they need.

Dear Diary:
What a week! Looking beyond the bad weather, travel fatigue, and airplane cuisine (still trying to figure out if that was ham or chicken between the bread), you can't believe the excitement and optimism that I heard in the market. Just when you thought that the IT market was boring and lacked innovation, you have a week like this one.

The week started off with a telephone conversation with Lane Nelson, CEO of HarrisData, which provides ERP and manufacturing-resource-planning software to the midmarket, and it certainly seems that the company has been listening closely to its customers' need for flexibility. It has created a licensing agreement that guarantees five years of unlimited support, unlimited users, and availability of source code. Seems quite fair, and customers such as Hornady Manufacturing and Sioux Honey Association are happy with the partnership and, more important, ecstatic with the results.

I then had to run to the airport and hop on a plane to Chicago, one of the best cities in the world. The hot dogs were exceptional going down ... but that's about all I can say about them. The Bulls game was a blast. But what was even more exciting was hearing how Tata Consultancy Services, which has an office in Chicago, is growing and expanding. One of the largest Indian offshore companies in the world, Tata is growing at about 40% and helping companies around the globe with multiple areas of IT development and business processes. I had no idea that it employees 40,000 people, 8,000 of them in the United States. Seems to me that it might not be accurate to call Tata an "offshore" company when it has that many people employed in the States.

Any reason that O'Hare airport is so far from downtown Chicago? Might as well be located in Texas. Just made my plane and got scrunched in the middle seat again. Suddenly, being 5 feet 10 inches tall was a good thing. (OK, I'm 5 feet 9 inches, but don't tell anyone.) Anyway, landed in San Francisco right on time and rushed to a company that I haven't heard from in a while, Borland. It's doing some exciting things around application-life-cycle management and software-development optimization. I wasn't aware of the benefits of having a managed process for software development, but it seems that a lot of IT organizations are looking at Borland to help them save money and get their arms around massive projects. Who knew? What excitement within the walls of that company. Either Borland's employees are that optimistic or they've replaced the water with Red Bull.

Note to self: Never refer to San Francisco as Frisco again. Same reaction received if you admit you're a Republican in San Fran. Painful and somewhat scary on lots of levels.

Next stop: Attended the A.T. Kearney Conference on Global Competitiveness and met with executives from Cisco, Microsoft, Agilent, Lucent, Ericsson, and Plantronics. All had exciting things to say about their businesses and their customers. Topics included IP adoption, global competitiveness, and customer centricity. What really seems to be sticking with many in the IT-vendor community is that it's all about listening to what customers need rather than telling them what they should buy. Quite refreshing.

Well, time to sign off, but I must say that it certainly has been fun and surprising. Great to hear that opportunity and optimism are alive and that this market is still as vibrant as ever. Checking out until next time, when I should have an answer for you as to what was served on that airplane.

Michael Friedenberg
VP and publisher (

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