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2/15/2002
02:12 PM
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Business Technology: 'Fess Up And Correct Course

There's a foul mood stewing within many companies these days, and among the less-savory ingredients are clunky software, broken promises, lost opportunities, shelfware, stunted credibility, and a healthy dollop of good, old-fashioned, par-boiled anger

There's a foul mood stewing within many companies these days, and among the less-savory ingredients are clunky software, broken promises, lost opportunities, shelfware, stunted credibility, and a healthy dollop of good, old-fashioned, par-boiled anger. Concocted in headier times, this mess can be blamed in part on the lousy economy or on business cycles or tricycles or lunar cycles, but the real culprits are all of us. I know it's much more fun to point fingers and to back the truck up to somebody else's cubicle and dump the full load of blame there--hell's bells, I actually get paid to do just that each week--but I wonder if we'll ever get out of the current funk and back to a more-productive and forward-looking approach to doing business unless we all put together unflinchingly honest assessments of what we did right, what we did wrong, what we learned along the way, and what we'd do differently next time. And since I lit this candle, please let me go first.

In last week's column, I asked readers for the name of the original voice of NFL Films, and promised fame, riches, and glory to the first person who sent in the correct answer. The answer is John Facenda (see nflfilms.com). We received more than 400 correct responses, and in the current spirit of revised accounting practices, decided to scrap our FIFO plan and go with the more scientific pull-a-name-out-of-a-hat approach. And the name we pulled is James Campbell of MasterCard, who will receive an InformationWeek goody that will approximate fame, riches, and glory without any of the annoying tax implications.

Thanks to everyone for playing!

--Bob Evans

  • The Media: Did we as a collective entity let ourselves get suckered by things like ERP-SFA-CRM-TLATBD? Yes, at times, we did. When Etailz.com was poised to crush Wal-Mart and sell everything to everybody, did we vigorously vacuum up the fluff and expose the silliness? Not often enough. Two or three years ago, when 97% of all software companies became "E-business platforms" in June before transforming to Enterprise Information Portals in September and then morphing into E-CRM suites in December, did we say that something is very wrong here? Not often enough, and not loudly enough. Did we jump enthusiastically on the premise of the all-powerful public industry exchanges? Yep. We have to learn from those mistakes; we have to be more analytical; we have to do more for you. We have to be able to see that the emperor's in his birthday suit and then tell the world he's naked as a jaybird. (If I may slip off the hair shirt for a brief moment, I am happy to say, though, that the following cover stories never did and never will appear in InformationWeek but have indeed shown up elsewhere: "Fire Your Boss!" and "Love Is The Killer App.")
  • The Technology Industry: Should your customers trust you more today than they did a year or two ago? Do they see you as a partner or a vendor? If, as is the case right now with many IT organizations, your customers decided to undertake a vendor-consolidation project to slash their number of IT suppliers by 60%, would you make the cut? When they think of you, what image comes to their mind? Are you proud, truly proud, of the products and services you offer them? Are you helping them build more robust companies that will be more customer-focused and competitive, or are you practicing account control? Have you given them any reason to be loyal to you and your brand, or are they itching for the first possible opportunity to rip your stuff out and toss it in the trash?
  • The Analysts: Reinvent yourselves so the point isn't to shove everything through small, contrived, and often valueless acronyms that are called "services and subscriptions" and are too-often out of date before they reach clients. Stop hyping the companies that have given you fat consulting contracts: Either be comprehensive and objectively inclusive, or have the courage to say how your business really works.
  • The Customers: Somebody bought all this stuff--was it you? Did someone really hold a gun to your head? Are your business-case discussions as rich and extensive as they need to be? Are your technology-evaluation processes as relevant as they have to be? How do your colleagues inside your company and your customers outside your company see you: open and eager to learn, or arrogant and close-minded? Do you and your team strive for excellence, or have tough times worn you down to settling for the lowest common denominator? Is the CFO really a moron for seeking economic justification for projects? Does the CEO trust you implicitly and explicitly, or are more buffers being placed between you and him? Is your organization a source of envy for partners and suppliers, or is it a training and hunting ground for those other companies?
  • The End: Please let me know what you think.

Bob Evans
Editor-In-Chief
bevans@cmp.com

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