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The trouble with Compaq

The trouble with Compaq

OK, hands up if you are sick of Compaq. And I don't just mean sick of reading about its retail capers each week either.

(In fact, there have been more stories on the subject in this publication and others over the last few months than you could poke a media monitoring service at.)I'm talking about being sick of dealing with Compaq as a channel or IT industry partner.

The company has grabbed the headlines again this week in this paper and on the daily Web news battlefield fought by ARN Daily against a number of industry competitors.

How do you make sense of all the troubles with Compaq's business in Australia? It's certainly time for this to happen, and I have a few thoughts of my own.

Firstly, the channel is struggling to understand the mixed messages emanating from different quarters of the organisation.

Now that it has `grown up', one of Compaq's biggest problems is it closely resembles a government bureaucracy. I get the feeling the company still doesn't know if it's a PC, services or enterprise vendor.

The PC business has decided it needs to love the customer at any cost, and if that means competing directly with retail partners, so be it.

On the enterprise and elite IT services side, we have heard talk of non-stop server computing and one-stop-shop infrastructure consulting.

And now (surprise, surprise), Compaq has decided it needs to be an e-business company. One of my moles inside the company told me how amusing it has been watching it relabel every department with an `e'. For example, e-finance, e-HR, e-marketing and so on. E-business is all well and good if you are IBM, for example, because that is the consistent message it communicates to the market.

Secondly, execution in the field is causing enough heartache of its own. From what I have heard, Compaq engineers take twice as long and cost twice as much as enterprising young IT channel services companies who need to impress the customer to stay in business.

Thirdly, marketing and media management is so tightly controlled it's very easy for Compaq to conveniently miss communicating the real big-picture story. But to be fair, Compaq has been extremely forthcoming when it comes to fielding media enquiries of late, particularly from ARN.

But when it comes to communicating the key messages in every `good' media campaign, the dangerous problem is a company can fail to address the real needs of its market and continue to breed discontent.

So what can you expect next from Compaq?

Our features editor, Tamara Plakalo, hit the nail on the head in this week's lead feature starting on page 49: Whose customer is it anyway?

Until Compaq understands it must keep its hands off your customers and leave you to do what you know best, the retail battle will be far from over.

The final point to be made is just how much Compaq and the channel stand to lose. The company is still the most preferred vendor in the channel by around 17 per cent, according to Inform research. Losing retail business could seriously erode that lead, not to mention short-term sales.

Mark Jones is editor of Australian Reseller News. Reach him at mark_jones@idg.com.au


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