Monday, May 13, 2013

Taken for a ride !

By design, omission or inadvertently, all of us have faced the situation where the vendor has declared the product “end-of-life”. This puts at risk legacy applications, instrumentation, automation, or in many cases plain old processes that have survived all attempts to change them. CIOs and IT realize that upgrades are expensive and in some case not as good as the earlier working versions in terms of stability and/or functionality. But then they have to do it lest there be no support when the software fails.

Many CIOs succumb to the pressure quickly, only to realize that the deadlines have shifted and they could have avoided the nasty dialogue with respective functions (normally finance). They could have saved the unbudgeted expense in the upgrade which wiped out buffers that were provided for some innovation. Sometimes this leaves a feeling that this was a ploy to move everyone along reducing the support costs for the vendor, maybe some incremental licences (new versions typically may have different breakup).

A CIO friend bought a software package that fit business requirements so well that it appeared to have been developed using the requirement specifications of the company. She loved it as it implied very little customization and a deployment timeline better than what the business wanted. Everything went like a dream, the solution went live with celebrations and everyone was happy. The vendor was acquired by one of the big IT product and services companies; the new CEO promised to keep old customers happy.

As it was time to scale up, the CIO approached the new entity for new licences. The offer for upgrade had her fall off her chair; it was twice of what she paid earlier. Reaching out to the old team she found no help forthcoming with them citing new policies of the acquirer. The big guy sales team explained the new investments into the solution justifying the increase. Left with no choice in the face of the earlier business success, the CIO felt cornered and frustrated though had to accept the new terms.

In another scenario recounted to me some time back, a packaged vendor gave a demonstration of a specialized solution to the business team who loved what they saw. They approached the CEO and the CIO with a claim of higher productivity and ROI. The CEO endorsed the purchase and the IT team got down to creating the project charter, implementation plan and timeline. Quickly they realized that the solution required significant customization to work in their environment.

The CIO got together with the Business Head to provide the reality which was quite different from the short trailer and demo. Since they shared trust, it was evident that the solution provider had only revealed the surface; they had pressed the right buttons and given the messages that created empathy. The resultant in high expectations created a feeling of being short changed; while there was no false information, limited revelations created desire and expectations that were unrealistic.

I could go on and on with many examples on how every day we face situations which leave us with a negative gut feeling and a sense of having been taken for a ride. Some of these are a result of our own naivety, inexperience, or overenthusiasm; also in many cases due to intentional concealment of facts and/or our interpretation of what is said. There are rare cases when mal intent has been the driver too; it is largely taking advantage of the gullibility of the buyer. And every time I hear of an incident, I feel restless.

I do not believe for a moment that this situation is unique to the CIO; at times all CXOs face situations that leave a feeling that we are being taken for a ride, sometimes during the journey, sometimes after we have been gypped. Is there a solution to this ? I do not have a silver bullet to resolve such situations; I believe that tactically the CIO has to work on each case to address the issue at hand. Due diligence and contracts go some distance, the rest falls into risk zone and have no easy answer. 


  1. It may be easier said than done but someone has to bite the bullet. You have to go public. Maybe not in traditional media but social media. Once there is a sizable number, vendors will wake up. Look at the employee-employer word for inspiration

    1. So true, but who will bite the bullet or bell the cat ?

  2. Dear Sir,

    Sorry for some sort of different view.

    This happens to us in all walks of life viz., we are missold, over-sold etc. We are human beings with intellect. We are supposed to listen to the sales talk and ask right questions. If we do and get right answers then we know what we going to commit to. It's an informed decision.

    Why do you think that every vendor that comes to sell to you something will look at your point of view? Certainly he will try to not give info that may harm his interest.

    In fact, I would say for this reason companies hire CXO and pay them well. It's part of the CXO job to ensure that company is not sold something that is not going to meet its requirement.

    1. Rajesh,

      Agree that it is the responsibility of the CXO to ensure that the product/service is what is good for the enterprise. Despite best intentions and knowledge we do have situations with less than satisfactory results.

      There are positive scenarios too where the buyer and seller sit on the same side of the table and work out a proposition that creates value for both. This is a win-win situation.

      I have raised a view on the exceptions which appear to be increasing in magnitude and that causes the angst which I have put across.