After spending a week in Reno at the National Association of Campus Card Users (NACCU) conference I was struck with how our “friendly little market” has changed. This was apparent both in observing and talking to vendors and in catching up with old friends from the campus card offices. While you could still use the phrase “friendly competition,” the emphasis now would be on the second word rather than the first.
In the past everyone knew each other and, at least on the surface, most seemed to get along. Competitive jabs were limited to overly subtle references to someone else’s choice of operating system or network architecture. This year, direct and hard-hitting attacks could be heard on the exhibit hall floor and read in printed literature and collateral. Almost everyone could be a target and almost everyone seemed to be throwing the stones.
I don’t point this out because I long for the old days. I actually believe that this is a positive thing for our industry. Certainly some of the mud slung of late is based only on rumor or incomplete information, but the ball may be in motion. We need to have some shake-up and we need to begin to get to the real issues. For a long time, campus administrators have been left to their own devices when searching for the meat–the real differences between vendors and the real weaknesses that each possess. In the past few asked the hard questions, uncovered the skeletons, and pointed out the half-truths.
It seems like the gloves may finally be coming off and ultimately it should make for a more informed market. This does, however, bring added–or at least changing–responsibility to the campus decision-makers. While the focus may have in the past been uncovering the dirt, now it will be sifting through it to determine facts from plain old competitor-bashing. Welcome to the real world!