Monday, November 12, 2012
Why CIOs don't like Jalebi
Happy Diwali to everyone !
Jalebi is an Indian sweet (also eaten as dessert) extremely popular in the northern part of the country though now available internationally in Indian restaurants. It has a complex circular structure; the photo is one such representation of what a Jalebi can look like. In recent times, Jalebi was made famous by a Bollywood actress with the character named Jalebi bai. I have always been fond of Jalebi though in recent times have reduced my indulgence.
The CIO had great expectations when meeting the team from the most popular tablet vendor in the world who were pitching for an innovative solution. The large team comprising tab vendor, sales partner, and solution provider looked brazenly confident and rightly so considering the aspirational value of their product. Rarely were they in situations where they had to discuss the merits and advantages of their device; everyone justified internally why they wanted their solution and they just made truckloads of money
The internal customers were already sold on the device not the solution despite its shortcomings for the specific business need which required significant internal change. The business head had been aligned to the device (not the solution) and the meeting was expected to be a cakewalk. Despite the iconic nature of the device, the technical team was wary going into the meeting; not many enterprises had deployed on the scale that was envisaged and in challenging environmental conditions.
The meeting started well with a summary of the proposed solution, similar deployment in developed markets though on a smaller scale and how they can change the way business is done. The technical lead started asking a few questions which they tried to brush aside. He persisted as the support burden would fall upon him and he had to be sure. With amazing clarity of thought he laid down the questions that would determine the fate of the project in the long-term.
The vendor sales head started to justify the value proposition by talking about how the device has gained popularity globally and caught the imagination of the consumer. Their dominant market share is a validation of how well their device works. The number of solutions available on the device outnumbers all other competitors put together. They have been continuously innovating on making a better device. He went on and on, on the merits of the hardware sidestepping the pointed questions.
The discussion was going nowhere so the CIO intervened and sought specific answers to the specific questions. He clarified that the decision was contingent on the ability of the overall solution including the device to work as expected. If there are no workarounds or ready solutions, then they will have to explore alternatives. The long stories cut no ice, come straight to the point and stop going round in circles. After moments of silence, the meeting proceeded to its logical conclusion quickly.
In the post meeting debrief, many in the room almost in unison associated the past hour spent to the vendor making Jalebi. He avoided giving straight answers to most questions instead preferring to remain vague in his responses. Any love for the vendor by association to the device soon evaporated leaving everyone impatient to get over with the charade. Business does not and cannot accept the nebulous and imprecise when working to solve a determinate problem.
With tolerance levels reducing and options increasing to solve real business problems, vendors have their task cut out for them; the business and the IT teams are working collaboratively to arrive at solutions. The discussion is focused on what matters, the scenario is the same internally too; no more beating around the bush or running around trees. The Jalebi is great to eat not considering the calories it adds; go on a diet, keep it away from the meeting room.