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CIO Perspective: Be Careful with These Bad Technology Decisions

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As the CIO, you are building the technological roadmap of your company for the coming years. There are some decisions that are likely to have serious consequences in the future, which you need to look out today. Here are some suggestions on avoiding them.

Let’s start with the users. 2 years ago, I was discussing that IT departments are undergoing a transformation with the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement. Now the transition is already over and the users are using theirw own devices. IT is no longer in the position to dictate the user the underperforming equipment and inferior services and ask them to “take it or leave it.” The users are just one credit card swipe away from the devices and services they want to use.

This “dictating” approach, if still pursued today, also leads to differentiating IT from the business. It not only brings/augments resentment  for the IT Pros, it also causes the IT to lose focus on what it is doing: IT departments are there for the business, they are not in a versus position with the business. When the IT department has lost its position and in turn the focus on the business as a whole, it is lost.

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In terms of technology, the trend in the late 1990s and 2000s was the monolithic Enterprise Resource Planning applications. You would choose SAP, Oracle or Microsoft and you would get reduced prices, free/discounted training and various other benefits. Today, in mid 2010s, the trend is towards small, integrated, mobile applications that excel in their services. If you do not evaluate the alternatives and make informed decisions, you can easily end up with an unsupported, inflexible infrastructure that is prohibitively expensive to maintain.

Such an infrastructure is very likely bring custom integration requirements in the future. It is normal that we cannot predict the future accurately but investing in an infrastructure that is desktop only with no social and mobile roadmap in today’s environment is simply taking huge risks, if not calling for trouble.

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The vendor relations are another point. There are companies that try to suck every drop from their vendors in the business. However they fail to understand that such attitude puts the vendor in a stronger position. When you make a bad decision or have a failure, the vendor is motivated to charge you with high prices – be it support or licensing – which may not be covered with your contract. If you push your vendor even further and force him to the point of quitting, then you are in even worse position: you lost the know-how the vendor has built over time, and you are undertaking a really painful separation process. And yet, it is no guarantee that you will find a better vendor. I must admit that I had such clients who did not see the picture despite all my efforts.

The pressure on the IT departments to do more with less, especially in budget terms forces CIOs  to evaluate alternatives primarily from the cost metric. It is perfectly normal, but when the evaluation is only from the cost perspective, then the alarm bells have to ring. It is only commodity products that are evaluated based on price only. If the IT does not consider its strategic position and the long term business objectives, it can easily be seen as a commodity service.

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Unfortunately the story does not end here. When IT is lost, it is seen but unheard. A dictating attitude, differentiating itself from the others, making bad technology decisions, positioning itself as a commodity puts IT departments in the “computer repair shop” position instead of the “strategic business unit” position. It really ends with IT being the operational department, where other people agree on the course of action and the IT pros are left just to implement it. Even more, I have seen many IT departments closed and outsourced when people no longer could tolerate them.

What are the bad decisions that you have seen so far? We would love to hear you in the comments.

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