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Asymmetric technologies can confound IT leaders and finances

by Mark P. McDonald  |  June 17, 2009  |  3 Comments

Commercially successful technologies such as Business Intelligence,  CRM, SCM, SOA and the like have a similar investment pattern.  Once the proof of concept is complete, gaining value at scale from the technology requires significant investments to acquire, install, customize and operate the technologies. 

There is symmetry in this logic, the larger the investment required – the more important the technology and the greater of value expected.   

The delivery model for these technologies relies on the company to own and operates for the company’s benefit.  While there has always been services based delivery model, one can argue that this approach is the foundation for the current I.T. ecosystem and IT funding models.  But, not forever.

The web changes the delivery model for technologies, creating new types of technologies such as web 2.0, software as a service and others do not require significant up front investment.  These models are asymmetric from the perspective that they deliver value that is disproportional to their value.

Enterprise investments in technologies delivered through this delivery model cost a fraction (1/10th or less) of the owner-operating model, based on what CIOs are telling us.  At the same time, those solutions are accelerating cycle times, reducing errors, costs and raising customer service and engagement. 

The degree of value created using this delivery model is not tied to the money invested.  Rather it is connected with the transparency of the value proposition.  “I know its valuable because I can see it, I understand it, it meets my needs.” 

Asymmetric technologies threaten the expenditure base of the IT budget, particularly if that budget is based on keeping the lights on.  Recognize that new technologies come with new delivery models that are fundamentally different, require different staffing, and different levels of support. 

  • Use these technologies to charge up the value associated with legacy assets. 
  • Use these technologies to unlock the scale and value currently tied up in legacy code.  
  • Use these technologies to engage the business in new ways.

The alternative is to play a symmetric game based on the idea of you get what you invest.  That game still has legs for now.  But, as soon as the rest of the enterprise understands the asymmetric nature of new technologies, they will change the game and your resources.

Additional Resources

Category: 2010  cfo  strategy  web-20  

Tags: 2010-planning  cfo  it-budgets  

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program.

Thoughts on Asymmetric technologies can confound IT leaders and finances

  1. Roger says:


    Ive been trying to explain this concept to a number of my non-technology colleagues, but lacked the simple concept of symmetry of expense/value. Nice job of wrapping a Gartner-ish term around this.


  2. Mark McDonald says:

    Thanks for your comments roger. hope the term is not too Gartner-ish. Please let me know how it works in explaining things with your non-tech colleagues.

  3. […] Asymmetric technologies can confound IT leaders and Finance. […]

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