Remember when it was smart to invest most of your IT dollars in one solid company that could provide you with everything you needed? Then, remember when the push for open systems motivated you to buy "best of breed" of everything? Ah, yes, then came all the integration nightmares. There's all this top-notch hardware, software, and networking equipment, but they don't talk to each other. That's good news to the companies that sell products that integrate all of this complex stuff, but bad news if you're seeking simplicity.
So, what's a company to do? Well, if there's one thing I heard loud and clear at an executive-level business-technology event last week, many of you are cutting complexity by trimming the number of vendors you work with. "Forget best of breed; give me something that works well and works with my existing systems," is the philosophy of one CIO I met. He's not alone. Charles Phillips, a managing director at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, noted that there are companies--including his--cutting their supplier lists from several hundred to several dozen. That in itself is a complex task, but a necessary one to consolidate, trim, and simplify the business architecture.
So, are we going back to the old days of putting all the eggs in one basket? Probably not, especially with the continued drive toward Linux and standards-based computing. Will there be more shakeout among IT vendors? Most certainly. Will there still be room for innovative companies with great ideas and new ways of doing things? Most definitely. But getting the attention of pragmatic, cost-conscious business-technology executives will be harder, the need to show ROI will be stronger, and due diligence and reference checks could be brutal. Fortunately, there are a lot of tough people with big imaginations out there.
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