Another brick in the wall

Sometimes it feels as though I’m drowning in a sea of data. Every morning as I launch Outlook, I brace myself for the onslaught of spam that is peppered with legitimate pitches vying for a piece of Computing Canada real estate.

Company A has signed a distribution deal with Company B. Delete.

Company C is pleased to announce it has appointed a chief marketing officer. Delete. Get free prescriptions shipped overnight to your door. Delete. Insert your favourite expletive here.

Every now and again, as I separate the wheat from the chaff, I unearth something that thwarts my trigger-happy delete reflex.

Such was the case recently when I opened a release regarding M&M Meat Shops deploying Sun’s StarOffice office productivity suite to its more than 370 franchises across Canada. It’s always of interest to see a product making its way from the fringe into the mainstream, and although StarOffice has made some inroads, it’s mostly been in educational institutions.

I immediately contacted Sun’s agency rep to indicate our interest in following up the story, which I perceived as having significant implications for other businesses that might be considering an alternative office productivity suite. Six days later, the rep responded to say she was looking into my request. Later that day, she told me an interview had been confirmed with a Sun representative, but they were still trying to contact M&M. In the end, with our deadline looming, the rep informed me M&M was not interested in speaking to the media regarding its StarOffice deployment.

Loyal readers of Computing Canada know our mandate is to have the voice of an IT professional included in every article we write. To report on M&M Meats’ implementation of a new software package without a comment from someone at M&M Meats would not be responsible reportage, from our perspective, so we scrapped the story.

Like a dog with a bone, I couldn’t resist making a phone call to John Newell, M&M’s director of IT, to find out why he had lost interest in speaking to the media. I discovered Newell actually hadn’t lost interest. He never had any to begin with.

“”We’re more than happy to let Sun quote us in a press release, but we’re not really interested in doing an article,”” said Newell. “”We’re in the food business, not the IT business.””

Fair enough. My beef is with the technology vendors, who ought to ascertain their clients’ willingness to speak to the media before issuing a press release with the client’s name all over it.

In the competitive technology business, it’s not uncommon for vendors to offer customers a price break in exchange for their participation in a case study, or as a media reference.

But increasingly, we’re running into brick walls when we try to contact vendors’ customers who have been named or quoted in the vendors’ press materials. It’s something companies should be aware of as they enter into a relationship with a new technology supplier.

As always, we want to hear your tales about the deals you’ve made with your technology suppliers. If you’re willing, we may even profile your story in an upcoming issue of Computing Canada. Please e-mail us at

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