The HP/Autonomy story gives outsiders indigestion and insider-competitors a glissade of Schadenfreude. That story I will leave to the experts, but it does raise the issue of ‘what does the CIO really know about enterprise software ‘fit for use?’ Most of the time the CIO knows the software vendor’s product line the same way we know the character Gabriel Allon in a Daniel Silva novel. Say, A Death in Vienna. From the outside there are conferences that the vendor puts on with a line dedicated to CRM applications, or their new social media line, or their native mobile apps strategy or Cloud investment. They may even have customer testimonials. The crowd is made up of IT leaders and a sprinkling of CIOs. The CIOs receive the special treatment and the rest of us walk around dazed.
Reality as to the readiness of most of the CRM applications is a distant mirror of what is. The big questions of: what did you install in the past 12 months that maps to my needs? Which integrators are proven to have the committed resources for my industry and geography? How much time and effort are you, software vendor, devoting to this line of product? Could you give me an honest glimpse into the development teams: their size, location, specialties, and roll-out schedules?
Instead the CIO is trapped like the lead in Eco’s L’isola del Giorno Prima. But decisions have to be made, and we trust the supplier for their core database, or operating system and web tools, or ERP expertise – so let’s run with them with the CRM ‘line.’ As if there were such a thing as a ‘Suite’ for ‘CRM.’ The mixed metaphor of business applications (former) versus business process (latter). The CIO wants the simplicity of a reduced set of preferred vendors, and consistent tools, and stable supplier. All correct reasonings. But the line of business sees a best of breed component for incentive compensation, territory management, community management, social network analysis, text analytics, text mining, pattern matching. The list goes on and on and on. And in the new world of Cloud-based applications, the line of business business leader in sales, digital marketing, customer support, or online-presence requires and demands independence from core-IT decisions. They come later asking for forgiveness rather than come earlier and ask for advice. The advice is increasingly limited to ‘what can we absolutely not do to ruin your IT and governance needs?’
What is the CIO to do? Ask tougher questions. Require stricter adherence to reference-checking protocol. Make no commitments until after a proof of concept. Get claw-backs for any failed proof of concept. In the plug-and-play world of Cloud, with subscription services, open APIs and Web Services, it will hard to hold back any line of business that has budget of its own for innovation. There has never been a better time to forge stronger links between IT and the business – that is the upside towards a CIO’s improved vision.
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