Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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1/3/2009
11:43 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Gartner: Top 10 'Anti-Resolutions' For 2009

Gartner VP Jeffrey Mann has compiled an intriguing list of his Top 10 "anti-resolutions" for 2009 that he either (a) wants someone else to do or (b) wants others to stop doing. It's a thought-provoking list, particularly about how some IT vendors tend to treat their customers.

Gartner VP Jeffrey Mann has compiled an intriguing list of his Top 10 "anti-resolutions" for 2009 that he either (a) wants someone else to do or (b) wants others to stop doing. It's a thought-provoking list, particularly about how some IT vendors tend to treat their customers.While Mann's list is influenced by his focus areas of collaboration, team workspaces, Web conferencing, and knowledge management, it's applicable across most sectors of the IT space. Below, I've picked three of his 10 anti-resolutions to elaborate upon. You can find his complete list here.

P.S. -- One other reason I liked Mann's blog was his honesty in describing his profession: "The main one is that these are not things that I intend to do, but stuff that I hope that other people will do. I find that a lot easier. It's also generally what analysts do; we rarely do stuff, but we comment a lot on what others should do."

1. Enterprises will stop fixating on social software geegaws and competitive product horse races and put energy into achieving collaboration effectiveness. I talk with many customers who are primarily interested in what new features vendors have packed into their products, or the competitive position between a group of vendors, all of whom are viable and could meet their needs. These things are surely interesting and sometimes important, but rarely are they the main drivers for success. Instead, focus on the best ways to work together and what kinds of input or feedback will help you, your colleagues or your customers be more effective. Look for the bottlenecks that kill productivity. Find the spots where conflict and arguments arise; that is usually where more collaboration will help. Comparing features and competition can be fun, but these activities will be far more effective.

Maybe IT vendors can help customers here by taking a page from Major League Baseball's use of statistics: want to know how many times a certain player has hit into double-plays during night games in July played on grass fields in innings 4 through 7? MLB can spit out those numbers, along with tons of others either more or less meaningful. To Mann's point, I'll bet a lot of business customers would like to have a software vendor share some usage stats on the 10,000 available features in an application: how many of those are actually used by a meaningful percentage of customers? And over time in customer environments, which features become core parts of the business process, and which ones have their usage fall to zero because they add no value? That could be a lot more interesting than the tit-for-tat silliness Mann describes. And who knows -- maybe that tracking of customer-oriented stats could be a new business for Gartner?

2. Vendors will lessen their emphasis on new features and functionality, and help their customers get stuff done. It's not just the enterprises that need to shift; vendors have their part to play. Too many vendors still consider their job is done when the software is delivered, at least until they have to convince the customer to upgrade to the next version. Making sure customers use the current version effectively is far more useful than pushing out another 150 APIs or increasing the number of themes from 20 to 100.

Following the important theme raised in his first point, Mann calls out a huge issue when he says that "Too many vendors still consider their job is done when the software is delivered, at least until they have to convince the customer to upgrade to the next version." It's become increasingly clear that buyers of almost any type of product value the experience they derive from their engagement with the product more than just the thing itself, and nowhere is this more true than with enterprise software. With budgets tight and many customers beginning to question the entrenched revenue models software companies have used for many years, now seems like an ideal time for software companies to take this cause to heart.

6. Vendors will stop pitting different user constituencies against each other. Some vendors find an advantage in encouraging tension between their customers' departments. I hate that. I hope it stops.

I'm not sure how widespread that divide-and-conquer approach is these days -- it seems like something that would have been very effective some years back when organizational silos and technological silos and process silos were all still flourishing. And while many still exist, their numbers are dwindling and the ones that remain are standing out more starkly as massive impediments to progress and success. So if any software vendors and/or their salespeople are continuing this devious process, I say the only appropriate treatment for them is to be horsewhipped -- publicly, if possible.

And if that seems too harsh, then those charlatans should be forced to attend the 100 hours of conflict-resolution classes set up by the HR team to stop the warring between the internal departments that the software companies have intensified. (For myself, I'd take the horsewhipping.)

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