Vendors couldn't push a piano downhill without a 'sales Babel fish'

Another client rescued from the Intergalactic bores


In 1978, when BBC Radio 4 first broadcast Douglas Adams' sci-fi comedy series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – many a teenager “got bitten by the tech bug” and went on to forge a great career in an industry that became known as “IT”.

In the radio series, which later spawned the famous series of novels, Adams conceived of many weird and wonderful things, including famously imagining the concept of the “Babel Fish” – an instant “translator” that allowed everyone to communicate with everyone else.

Today, the industry now populated by former spotty teenagers grouped around a Bush record player listening to Hitchhiker's for the umpteenth time, deploys its own Babel Fish: in the shape of an Earth-based movement called “The Channel”.

Customers of Intergalactics giants such as IBM, HP, Oracle, Microsoft, etc, actually pay “The Channel” to do the job that Adams designed the Babel Fish to do. The Channel “interprets” the programmes, TLAs, paradigms, new products, sales pitches and other edicts issued from the vendor. The Channel then spends time with the customer to try to align what is being despatched from the “centre” to the requirements of the customer, thus "translating" the product into sales.

The Intergalactics continue to develop ever faster, quicker, bigger stuff and create – in many cases – even more radical reasons why a customer might want to buy more of their kit. The customer in many cases is still trying to roll out the last “bigger faster wider” stuff that he bought last time.

Just last week I was out visiting a CIO with one of the Intergalactics. Pleasantries over, the Intergalactic Representative launched into some mind-boggling Powerpoint slides. Boy, were they good: obviously produced by some huge marketing department, then tweaked by a design department, then having a few things tacked on to it by the communications department. Sadly, however, the slides were more confusing than a Microsoft price-list – and hence no one really had the slightest clue what he was talking about. Looked good, though.

The CIO sat and watched – only nodding occasionally, as he regained consciousness from a quick REM sleep induced by the increasingly fraught graphics in the presentation. The Intergalactic Representative ploughed on deeper and deeper as he talked about hyperlinks and animation – until at last the CIO asked a question to stop himself actually dying of boredom. Bizarrely, the question centred around how the  new “stuff” might benefit his actual business.

The Intergalactic said that he would get someone to come back to him. The Intergalactic left the meeting and immediately reported back to HQ that he had bagged “an opportunity”. Siebel was fired up – a sale was almost definite. The Intergalactic was now happy to manage the Siebel pipeline for the foreseeable future with clever and insightful comments – all designed to move “the opportunity” to the right...

The CIO made his excuses to the Intergalactic and we retired to a local hostelry. There we began to talk about his actual needs ... ®

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