What Wimbledon and vendor selection have in common

As Murraymania swept the UK, I settled into my Court No. 2 seat on Wimbledon's always-action-packed middle Saturday. In addition to the matches of Serbia's Ivanovic, Australia's Hewitt, and Russia's Safina, I had a great view of the Centre Court scoreboard, so during breaks I was keenly watching the results of Andy Roddick's match.

"Andy's got the first set," I said to my cousin, who's studying in London and joined me for the day. "Andy's not playing yet," interjected the Brit to the other side of me. "Yes he is," I said. Pause. "Oh you mean, your Andy," he replied. "Right," I smiled back, "not your Andy, who plays tonight."  Then came the most interesting comment: "Well, he's not really my Andy," the gent said. "I'm English, and he's Scottish."

Territorial rivalries are perhaps more pronounced in sport than any other pastime, be it the Boston Red Sox vs. the New York Yankees, the Calgary Flames vs. the Edmonton Oilers, or the New Zealand All Blacks vs. the Australian Wallabies.  Such territorial rivalries aren't altogether absent from the content management vendor selection process, either, and I find this much more pronounced on the eastern side of the Atlantic than in my native North America.

Of course, in Europe and the UK there are many nations and territories (both political and historic) in a comparatively tiny geographic area, which makes a perfect petri dish for such rivalries to fester.

When I work with clients or subscribers to help them select vendors, the two or three finalists often end up being very technologically similar, and once tools have been tested and deemed appropriate for clients' environments, the conversations just prior to final selection often become very much "cultural." It's not just about whether the team is qualified, and if the support line is open when their time zone is open for business. It's also about who they are, and when a few hundred thousand sterling or euros are on the table, the rivalries come out in closed-door conversations.

  • "They're Belgian -- there's so many jokes about Belgium. Isn't there a reason for that?"
  • "They're Dutch -- so they're blunt, that's good, right? Aren't the Dutch cheap, too?"
  • "They're German -- so regimented -- is that right for us? What if the schedule slips, will they charge us double?"
  • I wouldn't even know where to start on the Scandinavian rivalries, which go back to the days when Sweden and Denmark traded off conquering the whole of Northern Europe.

I end up spending quite a bit of time talking with clients about how they can benefit from vendor characteristics that are different from how their company normally functions. A bit of German organization and Dutch bluntness can be a great thing if your company has neither. I also watch vendors make an extra effort to bring in the "local flavor" to meetings -- someone from the local country or territory, if headquarters is on the other side of the continent. This always makes a big difference to buyers -- more than I believe it should. The English sales guy in the meeting in London isn't going to be the one you'll be working with, or providing you the ongoing service you'll need. Good service is good service, regardless of where it's provided from.

As an American who does a lot of work in Europe and the UK, I also experience trepidation on the part of some buyers. "Oh, you're American," I sometimes hear when I connect with a potential client via phone or meet up in person. Well yes, but CMS Watch is also a UK Limited Company, and one of our Principals is a Brit, and I'm perfectly happy to use the word "whilst" and drink a warm beer with you after work, if it makes you more comfortable. (Note: Americans can be even more blunt that the Dutch.) Expertise may be what matters in the end, but it's far from the only factor when closing a deal.

Stereotyping is dangerous, and as the world becomes smaller, you the technology buyer need to think more about benefiting from that which may seem foreign or "too different" for your organization. Yes, chemistry is important, but suppliers should be adept enough to adapt to your environment, and yet bring new approaches and attitudes to the project to help you be successful.  Be it tennis or a vendor competition, the most appropriate mix of factors need to come together to create success, and sometimes those characteristics may not be the ones you're used to, or possessed by your fellow countryman.

As for my final take on Wimbledon: I wish Rafael Nadal wasn't injured. I'd love to see Federer break the majors record, but I'd be just as thrilled to see Roddick pull through. I don't care where Andy Murray is from, I'll cheer for him to play well, along with anyone willing to call himself a Briton.

May the best player win, wherever he's from.

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Alexander T. Deligtisch, Co-founder & Vice President, Spliteye Multimedia
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