Monday, December 12, 2011

Finding alternatives

The bewilderment was visible to everyone who even glanced at the face; not that too many people were in the room, but everyone could clearly see the expression on the face of the Chairman. The trigger was the suggestion that the big ERP that has worked well for almost a decade should be discarded in favor of another one. The animated voice and high throughput beyond the normal diction made it difficult to comprehend the entire story. So I slowed down my friend the CIO of a fast growing enterprise and asked him to begin from where else, but the beginning.

Over the last year or so there was a rumbling of discontent about the lack of adequate support and the rising cost of licenses and annual support. The problem was brought to the forefront when after a version upgrade necessitated by end of support announcement, the system started behaving abnormally with earlier functioning features now working differently. Stability took a long time to achieve.

On the other side another function was struggling to support the continuously increasing license and support costs. The thought of additional functionality and modules was abandoned upon hearing the new licensing norms. This indeed creates a difficult scenario for the CIO and the CXO to contemplate the future. As the company grows, how to ensure that the efficiencies gained thus far are not lost ? How to control the ever increasing burden of Business As Usual ? The ratios of BAU to new initiatives were in favor but slowly sliding.

So the CIO called his team and started exploring alternatives. Can the already good discounts from the vendor be improved upon ? Is it possible to move away from per user license to something better ? What if we exclude a section of employees from the technology solution ? Would the enterprise technology architecture become complex if multiple solutions were deployed ? Would the cloud make any difference to the outflow ?

That is how the recommendation came up that the current technology stack be replaced with a competing product which offered (at least on paper) better TCO. And the CIO decided to raise the question with the management which led to the scenario above. The CIO had done his homework by talking to the respective functions and gaining their grudging nods. But the scale of change scared everyone.

We all know that change is not something anyone likes despite whatever pains may be currently plaguing the process, function or enterprise. It takes a lot of effort to even get the idea to gain traction. We discussed the merits and pitfalls of the proposal and agreed that there is no easy way out. The change will be transformational also providing an opportunity to kill a few “this is the way it is done here” kinds of processes. The TCO over the next 5 years with the projected growth did indeed demonstrate more than 30% reduction.

Reinvigorated the CIO agreed to push ahead armed with confidence that he was on the right track and that the change agenda will indeed benefit the enterprise in the long run. Would you do the same if faced with this challenge ?


  1. Coming from where I am (small biz guy, former corporate honcho), I see execs need to get brand (read risk) covered. So they go for the best that their money can buy and "hope" everything goes hunky dory. Over the years, I have learned that software seldom fails, unless of course one made a horribly poor choice...and most dont make such mistakes. People go wrong more often. That means poor planning, foresight, leads to such pains as core system changes over a short time.

  2. There is a wave of change coming in corporate IT and that kinds of decisions are going to be happening everywhere. Cloud economics are compelling and the costs associated with some existing platforms are out of control. IT leaders need to learn how to have these conversations, do the homework, and keep these conversations ongoing instead of once every 5 years.