Uncle Sam cracks down on vendor selection abuse

  • 5-Sep-2007

While nattering to a U.S. attorney while traveling back from Kuala Lumpur last week I was directed to this ongoing story. You can read all about it here, but in short the U.S. Department of Justice is suing Accenture for allegedly receiving kickback-like payments from technology suppliers it recommended and/or implemented at DOJ. The alleged fraud was a collusion with big-name IT suppliers (e.g., HP, Sun) and smaller vendors (e.g., Vignette) to defraud the Government.

The relationships between consultancies (especially big systems integrators), vendors, and buyers has always been murky. In this industry it is common to see an expensive product selection phase of a project (undertaken by a systems integrator) ending up with a recommendation of the system integrator's favorite vendor partner. To be sure, sometimes this is because the consultancy knows that tool the best, and in the end, a good partnership between software supplier and implementer can be critical to project success.

But as Matthew Clapp pointed out several years ago in these pages, very often money changes hands (from vendor to consultant), and that will affect selection decisions for sure. Says Clapp, "In fact, my experience found that more times than not, the Big 5 partner already knew exactly which CMS solution she was going to pitch before she walked through the client's door."

It is also a common lament of vendors who do not wield the clout of the major systems integrators (SIs) that SIs will not even meet with them to review their product offerings. At a time when customers are clamoring for simpler solutions across the board, non-enterprisey vendors often cannot get so much as a toe in the door.

What has this to do with ECM? Simple, be careful where you obtain your product selection advice. Make sure it is independent, and think twice about paying firms (SI, Consultancy, or Analyst) with relationships to particular vendors to provide you with "independent advice."