Topics: Should Automation Consultants align themselves to system vendors for marketing and discount gains?
on General Discussion
Should Automation Consultants align themselves to system vendors for marketing and discount gains?
I have started an Automation Consultancy business and have been approached by various system vendors to align myself with their product range for marketing and sales purposes. As a professional consultant- I find this unethical. What does the rest of the group feel?
10-22-2013 04:57 PM
If you are doing straight consulting engineering, aligning yourself with a single system vendor is limiting. It may or may not be unethical, depending on whether you are overt or covert about it. However, if you are also doing actual system integration, it is not only wise but necessary to select a primary vendor to work with, and work with them whenever you can.
10-22-2013 07:27 PM
Thanks Walt, I have yet to see a straight consulting Automation Engineer in my area but I guess we need to make the choice either consulting or systems integrator.
10-22-2013 09:40 PM
Expanding on Walt's comment, "depending on whether you are overt or covert about it", I agree that the issue is transparency. If you provide consulting to a client and tell them they should use 'ABC' or 'XYZ' product line, and not divulge that you are aligned with those product suppliers, then it is clearly a conflict of interest, and as suggested, unethical behavior. However, once you get beyond helping your client determine 'What' is required to achieve their business goals, they may then request recommendations for 'How' to satisfy the previously established requirements. You can say that you are aligned with so-and-so because you have had good experience with their equipment, development tools, delivery, pricing, reliability, ease of integration, breadth of product line, etc. Most clients appreciate having the benefit of your experience. If they are new to automation, or are looking for a 'better' vendor, then it can be a win-win situation for the client and your company.
In my experience, systems integrators are usually 'aligned' with more than one vendor, because some gear is more suited to some applications than others. Also, some clients have many years of experience with 'ABC' and want to continue using it due to familiarity, minimizing training costs, having developed strong business relationships with 'ABCs' support people, etc. It would be unethical to try to convince them to switch just because you are aligned with the competing vendor.
Another consideration in vendor choice is the strength of their presence in a given market. I see that you are in SA, and suggest that you look at many factors when choosing vendors in your country. Automation systems are typically running plants 24/7; be sure that the vendors under consideration have excellent technical support in your country, for both quick turnaround replacement components and problem solving expertise, 24/7/365.
10-23-2013 12:14 AM
To Selvan's first comment--No, you don't have to make the choice, you just have to be completely transparent and honest with your clients or customers about what you are doing. Full disclosure rules apply. If you're talking to a client, you can say, "Well, I like Vendor X because..." but if you're in a commercial relationship with Vendor X, you NEED to say, "Full disclosure, here. I preferentially use Vendor X in my integration, and I like them because..." See the difference?
10-23-2013 02:38 AM
Dear Walt and John,
Thanks very much for your in-depth advice. I fully agree that transparency is paramount to ensure ethical business.
John - the strength of presence issue is indeed an important consideration in my area. I am in Cape Town - absolute South of South Africa and systems support has been a problem. To counter this - we do all software engineering and design in-house but during the more affluent times many professionals were poached and others moved on. But this is a talent management discussion.