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11/14/2003
03:04 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Business Techonology: There Hangs The Tale, On Two Questions

I haven't seen any of the Matrix movies. I have nothing against the plots, the actors, the producers, the special-effects teams, the best boys, or the gaffers, or the key grips, or the Foley editors; I just for whatever reason haven't seen any of them. (So no flamers from you folks out there who can recite from memory the long speeches of Amoeba or Nemo, OK? I promise I'll see at least one before the year is out--deal?) But the TV ads for the newest one seem to propose a to-the-death clash between two entities that seem profoundly in opposition to one another; like a scenario featuring two electrons and one orbit, there just ain't room enough for both.

OTHER VOICES
That, in turn, means that moon colonists would need equipment to either sort ice particles from the soil or heat up the crater floors and collect the water vapor ... Alan Binder, director of the Lunar Research Institute in Tucson, Ariz., said the only way to determine for sure how much ice is on the moon is to send a human or a robot. "You've got to go down and stick your finger in it, so to speak," he said.

--Associated Press, Nov. 13


And for those of you who believe in parallel universes, I think that a sweeping, Armageddonish collision is shaping up in our space-time continuum as well. No, not Microsoft versus Linux, and not Oracle versus PeopleSoft; not XML versus J2EE, or Cisco versus brave little Banyan, or Dell versus Hewlett-Packard. (Jeepers, after all this buildup, what I'm gonna propose is gonna be, I think, a tremendous letdown--but the die is cast and I'm in too deep to go back, so on we go.) I think the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Death-Cage contest of 2004 will be over two questions: (1) What are you proposing? and (2) What am I expecting? A corollary set would be this: (1) What are you proposing? and (2) How much am I willing to change? And I think these two pairs of questions, which on the surface pack all the drama of an acceptance speech at the Oscars for "Best Typeface in Logo," are at the heart of many of the IT disappointments many companies have experienced over the past several years, and they will remain in that central spot over the next few years as all of us are tested to show whether we've learned anything about priorities and expectations, or whether we're going to just hit rewind and endure the past all over again. Let me try to explain.

All the folks who bought CRM or ERP or SCM or EAI or CYA or whatever: I'll bet they were all very clear about what they were expecting (nirvana), and they might well have been equally clear in reading through what their internal business-technology departments or IT vendors or consultants were proposing. But I have to bet that they never tried to put those two clear thoughts together; they never tried to reconcile what they wanted to get with what they were told they'd get; or they never forced the provider to demonstrate that what was being proposed would match with what was being hoped for. And isolating the two matter and antimatter components was, probably more than anything else, the willingness and the will to change. To change processes, priorities, organizational structures, objectives, compensations, performance evaluations, technologies, suppliers, customer expectations, market approaches, and more. The customers, I think, wanted to get better, wanted technology to make them better, and hoped technology would make them better; the vendors and consultants had technology and sold the technology and hoped the technology would make the customers better. And neither side wanted to stand up and admit that what was wanted and what was being proposed were as different and detached as reality TV shows are from reality: There simply is and was no connection of any relevance.

And now, after wandering in the recession for three years, the impulsive imperative of immediate action is once again upon many companies. Action can be a great thing, a great igniter, a great rallying point--but this time around, we should all be sure to hold off on the Final Confrontation until we've put a great deal of thought into those questions above: What is it that I need? And what is it that's being proposed? Because if we don't, then just like the movie seems to promise, we won't get another chance.

Bob Evans
Editor in Chief
bevans@cmp.com


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