Saturday, May 03, 2008

Getting IT Wrong

I must have dealt with way too many IT Scoundrels because there is not one scenario in this article that is unfamiliar. The picture from the other side of the fence is no rosier.

You have no idea if the project will even be funded but you embark on a vendor and product discovery process. If you are big fish these guys will be vying for your business. They will bend over backwards to demo the product, answer questions, demo again, answer yet more questions, estimate the scope of work and so forth. The process has no end because the project in concept state. But you don't level with these guys you bring in to do their little dog and pony shows. You pretend like you have a solid plan and are rearing to go.

You want answers to two questions "How much ?" and "How long ?". Fair enough – it is your time and money after all. Could you perhaps describe what you are undertaking to build ? But that is where the cookie crumbles. You can't quite articulate it but do seek parity with your competition while retaining your essential differentiation. That's what you seek at a super high level - there are as it turns out no levels below that. Aren't such things called castles in the air ?

So the how long and how much questions just cannot be answered – there are not enough data points. As you press and browbeat them into submission, they throw a number out there mainly based on gut and hope for the best. The results needless to say are not pretty.

Everyone agrees on the need for a robust engagement model but no one really takes the trouble to define it. You sign on boiler-plate contract and service level agreement documents that do not take the nuances of your specific situation into consideration. You figure sourcing that has the figured out already. As the relationship develops the misses become painfully evident. One or both of the parties suffer royally as a result.

Finally and perhaps most fascinatingly no matter how many times you have got it wrong in the past, the chances of getting it right the next time around are slim to none. It seems to me that that there is no dearth of "scoundrels" in the technology business who get to do as they please largely unchecked. Maybe it is in the nature of the technology business to make scoundrels out of the best of us - surely our mothers didn't teach us to behave the way we do.

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