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EDITORIAL: The Devil's Advocate

EDITORIAL: The Devil's Advocate

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Forgive me, channel, for I have sinned. Forgive me, but learn how to cater to me, for I am not a shrink-wrapped sinner, and my repentance will not fit into a shrink-wrapped solution. Okay, okay, I ain't going further into this sinning business! I promise!

My problem is the publisher tells me I always have to be on your side - and this time I just can't. I'm sorry. You'll be glad to know, though, it's all for a good reason - it's about valuing money. Notice how we have money on the cover again? A very Rich entrepreneur told me it's going to bring us good Feng Shui - in monetary terms. Not that it worked for him, but, hey, it might work for us! But I digress.

The truth is I could be valuing money a tad too much. In fact, if this weren't my editorial, I'd say enough of this money talk. Let's talk creativity! Let's talk knowledge economy! Let's bag those who don't! But a friend of a friend (come on, you know I can't reveal my sources!) recently decided I was a bit of a Devil's Advocate for the channel (oh, shucks!). And then proceeded to give me a very acid tongue-lashing (oh, dear!). As it often happens, the point of contention was the value of money.

Unbeknown to me, this friend of a friend worked for a Sydney company that recently paid a developer a cool $300,000 to develop a system that automates the process of TV production. Alas, their money bought them a system that sends every staff member using it into rage. The provider claimed the customer was dumb. "If you are to use the technology," they told the customer, "you'll have to change your ways." The customer is tearing its collective hair out.

The problem is there are two processes in this story and they clash, each wanting the supremacy over the other. First, there is the customer's creative process - they're in the business of making TV programs. And then, there is the provider's creative process - they're in the business of providing technology that will make their customer's job easier and more productive. But instead of delivering a tool, the provider delivered a competing business process.

Now, I know that educating customers requires a bit of tough love. Customers often fail to grasp that the cost of implementing technology often extends beyond handing over the cash and insist on sticking to their old ways. But put yourself in the soon-to-be-hairless customer's shoes and you'll agree that when a business solution you pay good money for ends up costing you dearly in terms of training and interruptions to business processes, it is enough to drive you to sin. And no one pays $300,000 to end up in purgatory.

The point is that expertise in providing technological solutions is only a part of the provider's business. Flexibility is the other. In fact, flexibility is crucial to delivering value for money to the customer. I mean, Pablo Picasso reinvented the conventions of painting, but Pablo knew he was a painter - not a brush and paint manufacturer. So he never tried to reinvent the process of brush and paint manufacturing. And that's what the friend of a friend was trying to tell me. It hurt my ego. Because I believe the channel is a supremely creative space and, let's face it - sometimes, customers are dumb. But she had a point!

Sometimes, we try to be too creative where all we're asked to do is to deliver value for money and not reinvent the wheel! Or change the world. Not that I practice what I preach (just ask my publisher). But we're in the business of making money and its value lies in customer satisfaction. It's an age-old story and our job of turning it into a fairytale over and over again may not be an easy one. But it's a good way to look after your bottom line. Better than relying on Feng Shui. Like that Rich entrepreneur did. Editor, e-mail me at tamara_plakalo.idg.com.au.


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