Montgomery County CIO Steve Emanuel showed remarkably effective use of the media in 2010 when he called software vendors to the carpet over maintenance fee disputes. Many contractors refused to adjust their maintenance fees to the dire economic struggles faced by their government clients, so Emanuel offered pointed remarks about the situation to Government Technology in print and through the magazine’s GTtv Web video channel.

His comments triggered a cover story in which fellow CIOs voiced their frustrations with what they considered maintenance fee inflexibility on the part of vendors. Software providers countered that dropping fees would choke their ability to offer adequate levels of service and product upgrades. Emanuel sympathized with that concern. However, he insisted that vendors needed to recalibrate their long-term profit expectations from public-sector business.

“They need to be honest about what profits they’ve had in the past,” Emanuel told GTtv, adding, “We need to get those profits back in our pockets for the time being until we can afford to go back to a different normal.”

Emanuel’s media campaign worked.

“The video had far-reaching impacts as each vendor made it clear when we talked that they had seen it and were ready for any dialog,” Emanuel said.

As vendors showed new flexibility, Emanuel said he softened his tone in response.

“The video helped break the ice,” Emanuel said. “The next statement we made was, ‘Let’s see how we can help each other for the common good, given the fiscal challenges.’ Discussions with vendors from that point on were very constructive.”

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Andy Opsahl  |  Features Editor