Smart Card Talk : July 2011 : SCALA Associate Director’s Letter

SCALA Associate Director’s Letter

Dear SCALA–Smart Card Alliance Latin America Member and Friends,

It is great when we can share successes with colleagues, the industry, and friends. Last month we gave our readers a preview of the Government Information Exchange mission to Costa Rica, and stated that in this month’s newsletter we would provide more information on the event. This is one of the primary Smart Card Alliance values for the industry: the ability to share information with the market. We try not to promote ourselves, but encourage our members to promote our organization based on the value that we bring to the market and their organizations.

Sometimes, this objective is hard to accomplish. While our member organizations find value in being part of our association and see a competitive advantage in supporting our efforts to promote best practices and develop educational resources, and in developing their professional networks, it is hard for organizations to want to share information with counterparts and potential rivals.

There have been many cases were we have met organizations that want to be part of SCALA just to promote their brands and solutions and only to have an advantage over competitors. These companies normally don’t last very long as members of our organization or as participants in the industry. In the end, most organizations stop working with these companies because they’re unable to combine activities with the efforts of other organizations or increase market size so that everyone wins. Instead, these companies are always thinking about how to take or destroy what the other organizations have accomplished. The problem with these organizations is that if you’re always subtracting, the only total you can reach is zero.

There is a famous saying in Spanish, “Hartura para hoy y hambre maƱana.” Roughly translated, this means “Food for today, hunger for tomorrow.” Many companies are just trying to earn the business of potential clients without taking into consideration the cost to their organization’s reputation or the potential return of future business. Once the market has identified these poorly-run organizations, they slowly but surely disappear. A key problem brought about by these organizations is that the credibility of the industry as a whole suffers. The only way to combat these industry credibility destroyers that promise everything and anything to win a project is through a process of impartial education. Good and credible companies (like SCALA members) must spend more time, effort, and resources to educate potential clients on the advantages of smart card technology.

The concept of “preferential treatment” should only be applied to those organizations that have contributed the most time and effort to industry initiatives–recognizing members who contribute the most to the development of an activity, an educational resource, and/or training program. The member organization contributor will clearly have a competitive advantage over other organizations by their active participation; however this may only appear later in the process. These topics are always delicate. It is important also to acknowledge when things work out well. One of these cases was our Government Information Exchange Program and mission to Costa Rica.

To all of our members: please accept my sincere kudos and thanks for a job well done. The verbal feedback received from government institutions, who had expressed concerns prior to the event, was very good. The meeting was successful in delivering vendor-neutral meetings and impartial information to the government attendees. The environment created through the support of member organizations, speakers, and leadership has expanded the interest of local Costa Rican organizations in working with SCALA and our member organizations to expand the local knowledge base on the use of smart cards for government and private sector projects.

The activity had the participation of over 50 representatives from government agencies, private sector organizations, and member organizations. This type of event demonstrates the ability of our members to successfully cooperate and work together to accomplish a joint effort, even when temptations for individual organization promotion were clearly visible. The ratio of government agencies to member organizations was 3:1, yet members maintained the posture as an impartial industry body. All of our members acted according to the established mission rules and respected the requirements set forth by U.S. Commercial Services and Costa Rican government agencies.

This success has opened up an opportunity to expand on the half-day session to better cover topics related to smart cards. While I would like to provide details of the SCALA Government Information Exchange Council leadership discussions, the only thing I can mention is that all organizations involved in government services and identity should become active and participate in our activities.

Finally, I would like to close by informing our readers that we have been developing several payments industry-related activities and deliverables that will reduce the educational cost for understanding the role smart cards in this vertical market. Information about these deliverables will be discussed in greater detail in next month’s newsletter.

Have a wonderful month!

Edgar Betts
Associate Director, Smart Card Alliance Latin America (SCALA)