I bumped into Queensland CIO, Peter Grant, a few weeks ago at the AIIA iAwards. While we only chatted for a few minutes before being ushered to our seats, the opinions he expressed are very much in line with suggestions that the Smart State is about to announce direct relationships with integrators rather than vendors.
Our conversation that night had centred on recent news that NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) had decided to procure desktops through a single-supplier agreement with Lenovo under its Technology 4 Learning (T4L) program. This saw it terminate contracts with local suppliers, ASI Solutions and Optima, which had been in place since 2005.
I remember Grant expressing disappointment that NSW DET had decided to take this direction and talking passionately about the need to include local suppliers. If the rumours about Queensland's whole-of-government procurement plans are true, the state is setting an example that we must hope others will follow.
While we don't have enough information at this stage to discuss the details of the arrangement Queensland is putting together, we can talk bigger picture about the relative merits of building relationships with integrators in favour of vendor supply arrangements.
The first reason is vendor 'neutrality'. This is not technically the right word because a large integrator will obviously recommend the two or three brands of notebook, desktop or server it carries. However, having two or three integrators to choose from could mean departments have access to five or six leading brands.
Then there's breadth of knowledge. While vendors have deep knowledge about their own product range, integrators have a clear advantage when it comes to building and managing whole IT environments. When vendors talk to users, they are only going to pitch the benefits of their own product and cannot offer impartial advice on the relative merits of Brand A or Brand B in a real-world scenario.
Of course, if Queensland does announce direct relationships with a couple of integrators, the vendors will be watching with a great deal of interest to see if they are represented by those companies. As we have already seen when NSW snubbed Dell in announcing its whole-of-government panel back in May, no vendor is too big to be axed.
Whatever the eventualities when Queensland announces its whole-of-government panel, the idea of aligning with integrators instead of vendors is a major boost for the local industry.
Not too long ago, the future for local suppliers in government contracts looked bleak as system builders like Optima and ASI Solutions found it increasingly difficult to compete with the multinationals in large-scale contracts.
But as one door closes, another one opens and it looks increasingly likely that the role of local suppliers in government contracts will evolve rather than fading away completely. It is important that government sets this sort of example.
Finally for this week, I would like to remind all of our readers that nominations for the ARN IT Industry Awards close on July 20. If you haven't taken the time to jump online and nominate yet I urge you to do so. Details can be found at www.arnnet.com.