No More Hard-Sell: IT Needs to be a Gentler Business

In the time of pandemic, vendors need to show their human side and empathise with customers

Andrew Brinded Vice President & Sales Chief Operating Officer EMEA

By: Andrew Brinded, Vice President and Sales Chief Operating Officer, Nutanix

For decades now, IT giants have got away with playing hardball with customers. They have had customers locked into their wares because it has been the devil’s job to untether business processes from suppliers’ closed systems. Some of the biggest names have survived (and yes, prospered) by pursuing tough, even combative relationships, safe in the knowledge that it’s hard for those companies to move away from the core platforms that underpin corporate operations. Today, as companies dust themselves off and prepare to blink into the light of the Brave New World of our post- COVID-19 future, we need far better buyer/seller relationships in order to survive and prosper.

Nobody is immune to change. For the past several months at Nutanix we have had to alter how we talk to customers, becoming even more of a listening company as CIOs and CFOs tell us about sudden declines in revenues, urgent support needs and a kaleidoscope of other factors that are miles away from Business As Usual. We’re no longer hopping on flights but on Zoom calls and we’re hearing alarming stories from valued customers telling us they are struggling.

The pandemic has created a business environment that makes the banking crisis of 2007-2008 look like a cakewalk. In Italy, world-famous car marques such as Ferrari and Fiat paused production. In Spain, Inditex, owner of ubiquitous apparel brands such as Zara and Massimo Dutti, shut stores and switched some production to medical supplies such as masks and scrubs. Super-brands such as Premier League football shuddered to a halt leaving us starved of action. Many of us couldn’t even have a relaxing drink or meal as restaurants put up closed signs.

Behind each of these stories lies a huge amount of headache and heartache. With revenues screeching to a halt, companies need to familiarise themselves with an utterly novel set of circumstances and work out what to do with their people, operating models and channels to market.

For a fortunate few companies that are cloud-centric, there has been an uptick: Amazon and other online retailers; meal delivery services such as Deliveroo, Uber Eats; Zoom and other videoconferencing services, of course. What these companies have in common is a heavy investment in cloud infrastructure, but the need to scale their systems suddenly to cope with spikes in demand has many significant challenges in its own right. But for many others, the result of COVID-19 will be closed businesses and a battle for survival. For most, the return to normality will be measured in years rather than months.

Any supplier needs to understand the individual challenges facing its customers and today they face the toughest over. IT suppliers have been spoiled over the years and companies that have had best-in-class products have been able to call the shots, often leading to dysfunctional buyer/seller relationships. Now, we need to band together with customers and build stronger links.


More than ever we need to listen as well as talk. A frequent complaint is that IT firms only want to sell and not to understand the specific needs of customers, their operations, their sector or their local culture. This is the time to invest in getting closer to customers.


The crashing revenues that many companies are seeing mean that the industry needs to move to more creative pricing plans. The old enterprise software model of money upfront followed by an annual tax is no longer fit for purpose. Subscription-style tariffs mean customers only pay for what they use and means they can try new services and approaches at very low cost. Discounted and free services should also be applied where appropriate.


Service level agreements are a necessary model to provide value, but they are often too rigorous. Companies need to be able to flex their terms in times such as these and go the extra mile to ensure customers have what they need, whether that’s by extending support hours or extending terms.


The industry needs to press home the message that cloud platforms can be highly effective near-term and long-term responses to standing up services. The companies least able to manoeuvre today are those that have lots of on-premises legacy equipment. Today, we’re finding out the real advantages of having capacity on demand, in not being locked into suppliers or platforms, in being able to dial resources down as well as up, of trying new things fast — and even seeing them fail without high penalties.

All of the above are ways to start thinking about how we can help but our theme must be flexibility. That word is part of the lexicon of the industry: you hear it everywhere, together with ‘agility’ and ‘elasticity’. Attend any technology conference and you will be calling ‘house!’ on your buzzword bingo scorecard before the end of the opening keynote. But if IT vendors can lose their bad habits and show that willingness to change and flex in favour of customers, they will be in the best position to succeed when our economies bounce back. By being authentic, empathetic, human and gentle, we all win.

Smart Cities Study Sheds Light on Expectations of Citizens and Businesses in World’s Major Urban Centres

Nutanix (NASDAQ: NTNX), a leader in enterprise cloud computing, announced today a new report sponsored by Nutanix and compiled by The Economist Intelligence Unit entitled ‘Accelerating urban intelligence: People, business and the cities of tomorrow’, which explores expectations of citizens and businesses for smart-city development in some of the world’s major urban centres. While globally smart cities have the common goal of improving urban living, what this looks like in action varies from place to place.


The study analyzes survey data from over 7,700 residents and business executives in 19 large cities around the world, including Dubai, UAE to reveal how their priorities differ and align.


Responses differ from city to city, but overall the study finds that citizens want smart city initiatives to make public services more affordable while businesses want them to be more efficient and reliable. Nearly as important for both groups, however, is that smart initiatives produce greener, cleaner environments in which to live and work. Many individual demands of respondents—such as more renewable energy options, cleaner air and water, more efficient waste recovery and smarter energy tariffing—all contribute to more liveable environments for citizens and workers alike.


The key findings of the study are:


  • Priorities differ between developed and emerging-world cities. Developing smart-city solutions to ease the blights of unemployment, crime, poor sanitation and rubbish accumulation are especially high priorities in Johannesburg, Mumbai and São Paulo. Respondents from developed-world cities place stronger emphasis on improving transport efficiency, reducing road congestion and making services more affordable.
  • Big dreams for big tech. Wariness of large technology firms may be on the rise due to negative media coverage about privacy scandals, disruptions to jobs and other factors, but most respondents want their cities to be involved in smartcity initiatives. Citizens expect they will create job opportunities, and executives hope they will spur innovation and create new market opportunities.
  • Inevitable trade-offs to urban intelligence—particularly involving data—should not deter its development. Over two-thirds (70%) of business respondents say the ability to access open government data is vital to their business. Nearly as many executives (69%) say they are willing to share more data to secure the benefits of smart cities. Most citizens, too, are ready to share data with their governments if it means smarter public services. Some seem ready to compromise on privacy as well: two-thirds (66%) believe facial recognition technology will do more good than harm when used to fight crime.
  • Some smart-city expectations will be tough to meet. Citizens’ hopes for job creation and those of executives for new business opportunities will be difficult for smart-city programmes to fulfil, according to experts interviewed for the study. Transport and other services may be more efficient and cleaner, but not always cheaper. City officials must try to manage expectations for what smart initiatives can deliver.


It is interesting to note the Dubai findings of the study below:

  • Top ways cities can improve their development of smart initiatives – Citizens of Dubai emphasise keeping smart-city initiatives within budget while businesses want public authorities to plan for the long term and also ensure new smart city services are easy to use
  • Improving Affordability – Improving the ability of energy and water utilities to vary pricing according to usage is the top expectation of citizens when it comes to smart city programmes
  • The Green Imperative – One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for all people to have “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy”. This need is felt especially keenly in emerging-world cities such as Dubai
  • Most-desired benefits – When probed on the most-desired benefits from smart-city initiatives, residents of Dubai emphasize creation of employment opportunities.
  • Fighting crime – Asked how smart-city initiatives should create a healthier and safer environment, residents of Dubai are more accepting of facial recognition technology as a means of fighting crime than those in, say, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Copenhagen.
  • Attitudes towards big tech – Whether it’s smart-city projects that create employment opportunities, improve the innovation environment or create business opportunities for local firms, citizens and business executives in Dubai are more likely than those in more developed cities (especially San Francisco) to view the involvement of large technology companies as a high priority.


While the technologies that underpin many existing or planned urban projects are hardly exotic territory for most people, they need to address the fundamental problems of everyday urban life. When asked to choose from a menu of technologies most integral to their town’s smart-city initiatives, the vast majority select 5G mobile, artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT. The same is true of business respondents, many of whom also point to data analytics and cloud computing.


Aaron White, Regional Sales Director, Middle East at Nutanix says, “Adoption of technologies such as IoT and AI play a critical role in creating a ‘Smart City’. IoT based solutions enable innovative use cases to enlighten smart cities and seamlessly integrate various city management systems. We are proud to be at the technological forefront of making smart cities smarter through Nutanix Xi IoT – a software-based solution that delivers AI-driven processing at the edge, simplifies operations and powers real time business insights. Nutanix is committed to helping cities modernize their datacentres and edge infrastructure, so IT can shift its focus from maintenance and operations to driving innovation.”