In a previous life I did a lot of work in the technology sector, and I had the opportunity to hear a lot of technology stories, usually after a few glasses of wine. And what I’ve found out over the years as well is that other people quite enjoy hearing my technology stories, also following a few glasses of wine (after which I’m a much better storyteller).
I heard a good story the other day, from the Asia-Pacific head of a very large and very famous U.S. technology company, who was telling the story on himself, or rather, on someone in his organization. Like many good stories, this one had a moral.
The story went like this: someone within the marketing department of this very big tech company was working with an outside supplier – a popular euphemism is “partner” – to create a marketing brochure for that company’s telecoms industry customers.
The tech firm’s project manager was under some deadline pressure, and he put the vendor company under some pressure, but intermediate deadlines had been met and the project was moving toward completion.
Then the vendor phoned to say that a portion of the work would not be done as promised by end of business on a particular day, but rather “before midnight” and this was agreed. The vendor’s team worked late, the work was done and it was … e-mailed off to the client.
This is where the story gets good. Twenty-four hours later, the managing director of the vendor company received an e-mail from the tech firm’s project manager. “I still haven’t received the promised work … totally unacceptable … unless all phases of the project are forthcoming immediately I shall terminate the contract”, etc.
After checking for voice messages and messages with staff members, the MD of the vendor company concluded that his client had fired missiles and guns on the assumption that since he hadn’t received any e-mail, e-mail hadn’t been sent. A further check revealed that his company hadn’t had e-mail trouble that day, and that many e-mail messages had been sent to and received from various parties.
A simple misunderstanding under normal circumstances, but in light of the threatening and rude tone of his client’s e-mail, our friendly MD decided to aim his missiles and guns back. A couple of phone calls obtained the name and private fax number of my friend the regional CEO and in short order a letter of complaint was on its way.
My friend had to agree that the text of the e-mail did not reflect well on the professionalism of either the marketing manager or his organization, and steps were taken to repair the damage with the partner company.
Over those glasses of wine later, though, my friend was only amazed at how easily and quickly a solid business relationship had been undone by a single person’s unthinking reliance on the infallibility of technology (and not-so-impressive people management skills).
The moral of the story? Use technology, but don’t forget to use your brain.
Roberto De Vido is a communications consultant who has lived and worked in Asia for 25 years. He is the editor of Aidpreneur.com and producer of the Terms of Reference podcast.