Just Make It Work!

It can be frustrating being a CIO these days.

It can be frustrating being a CIO these days. Besides the lousy economy, world unrest and the task of defending the value of IT to the corporate bottom line, I cant believe how difficult it is to get some vendors products to work as promised. You would think that most vendors, who are still licking their wounds from the dot-com bust, would lose the hype and deliver on the promises made at time of purchase. Guess again. Vendors are more determined than ever to get your business, and they seem oblivious to the need to restore customer confidence. All it would take is to ship products that work.

Vendors are still pushing hard to sell products and services that promise the same things that we have been promised for decades: faster development, less maintenance overhead, and the need of fewer human and computing resources. There is a new twist, though. Vendors are throwing around the proverbial ROI as if they just discovered that budgetary constraints exist. Some vendors even try to sell the idea that their products will help restore confidence in the value of technology and this in turn will help restore your reputation as a CIO to the glory days of "Silver Bullet Internet" hero. Give me a break.

All I ask is for products and/or services to work from release to release, especially when I have invested a serious amount into any form of "quality assurance" or "maintenance protection." CIOs are hunkered down trying to focus on business survival. Fixing, debugging or beta testing products released into production is not on anyones agenda, and I have no time to get involved with credit refunds. The stuff needs to work, plain and simple. There are more serious business issues that capture my daily attention, particularly if I want to continue my current employment.

Over the past 18 months, the focus of my organizations technical investment has been on leveraging the hardware, software and services in place. Im giving vendors notice that products and services that meet the expected criteria will remain part of the IT strategy, while poorly performing products are on the table. Nothing is sacred. I cant afford to expose my IT environment to vendors that cant survive in this economy.

Is that harsh? Its no different from what customers expect from your company. Yet CIOs tend to be lenient with vendors when technical problems arise. Vendors expect us to understand the not-so-perfect world of technology and let things slide. No more. Im tired of excuses for products and services not working because the vendors resources are being spent battling a stockholder lawsuit or because the vendor overleveraged debt trying to corner the market. Ever see what happens when your maintenance or license fee is a little past due? Your vendor will shut down the hardware or software in a heartbeat until payment is made. We accepted that behavior for years. Now the tables are turned. Its about time.

Paul C. Tinnirello is a CIO in the insurance financial industry.