Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Sep 6 2010   5:04AM GMT

Common CIO mistakes during technology selection

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

Every other day we hear of a different product or service, a new software version, or an innovation. You hear on a constant basis about known companies being taken over and strange mergers. All these tend to leaves us confused, but that is only one part of the story.

IT is no longer the domain of techies, since there are umpteen users who read about, explore and operate new technologies. These users then put pressure on the IT manager asking why such new technologies or gadgets are not being used. The poor CIO is on the receiving end, and has to do his bit to prove his mettle.

Even otherwise, the lure of new technology, strong selling by vendors or just peer pressure, sucks in the CIOs into introducing new technologies without a full study. Many CIOs are very prudent and have been immensely successful on this front, but I am talking of those who catch the bait and struggle with the acquired technology.

It is important for a CIO to constantly scan the environment, regularly read up on new developments, as well as understand the new trends and the main principle behind the innovation. After grasping the subject, he should think about the applications that it can be applied to. Then he should apply his mind to figure out if there are situations in his business that such solutions can be applied to. In fact, the very interest in a particular technology emanates from the business need that stays on the top of the mind of the CIO.

I have noticed several mistakes that CIOs have made in the past. A quick look at some of these will tell us the kind of moves that we should avoid.

1. Often, CIOs trap the management into accepting ERP without a clear plan and business interests. In many such cases, the CIO might have thought that ERP experience will strengthen his resume. However, when he’s asked to manage the ERP project, our friend struggles to get users on board. Thus the ERP is reduced to a simple replacement of the earlier legacy system. Management questions the ERP’s usefulness, and the CIO has no answer.
2. Putting up a budget for a ‘disaster recovery plan’ without a proper risk assessment and recovery time objective (RTO) or recovery point objective (RPO) definition. Several such plans have come a cropper.
3. Installing a unified messaging system in the organization, but doing nothing more than instant messaging. Many a time this could be because of bandwidth or user adoption issues, but it lies largely unused.
4. Introducing mobility solutions to impress the management and end users, but struggle to start off applications like sales force automation, stock movement monitoring, and market info.
5. Getting IP phones for a few senior people without testing the voice quality and not realizing about the steady drop in telecom rates.
6. Installing enterprise storage, but not using its storage management features.

These are but a few examples that emphasize the fact that CIOs must put enough thoughts into any purchase. It’s essential that you conduct enough preparation before applying these technologies.

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