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How CIOs can keep their jobs by picking the right vendors

Rob Enderle | Nov. 3, 2014
CIOs don't stay in their jobs for long. Messy IT systems, cobbled together over many years, go a long way toward explaining why. To fix this problem, and to give themselves some job security, CIOs would be wise to study their vendors more carefully.

VCE managed to remove the complexity and, indirectly, the folks who didn't want to change. This let IT shift focus from just keeping things running to providing real value. The reported benefits included a 75 percent reduction in data center footprint, a $9.5 million reduction in annual costs, $2.5 million in annual power savings, and far happier customers. Rayda, meanwhile, went from being on the executive endangered list to the only top executive who the CEO doesn't want to muck around with.  

For Better CIO Tenure, Pick the Right Vendors

That last point got me thinking about how we measure IT vendors. In this new world of analytics, wouldn't it be interesting to rank vendors by the stability of the CIOs who favor them? You'd need to create a database that's frequently updated, as the average tenure for today's CIO is pretty short, and rank vendors by the average tenure of the executives who use them heavily.

This would give you a sense of the vendors, in aggregate, that take care of their customers and, as a result, ensure a CIO's longevity instead of providing an unplanned, undesired premature retirement outcome. Promises and technology aside, shouldn't we choose vendors that assure and protect their customers over those that don't?  

Lately I've been looking at net promoter scores, now in wide use by a number of vendors, to see who takes good care of their customers and who just feeds off them. While NPS is important, I think the tenure and success of the CIO may be an even better indicator of which vendors are healthy, at least when it comes to addressing the problems that most face.

I'm reminded of a story my grandmother told. Once upon a time, a woman put salt in her tea instead of sugar and then went door to door asking for advice on how to fix it. Each person suggested a different herb or ingredient that would offset the salt. These fixes only made it worse. Finally the woman reached the smartest woman in the town. She simply said, "Start over." Most IT shops resemble the bad tea, with layer after layer of complexity on top of a problem that has been there since the beginning. The best (and cheapest) course of action is to just start over.

I volunteer on a Jaguar Forum, and I can't tell you how often we provide similar advice: Rather than tell car owners to try to fix a series of ever more complex problems, we recommend they just sell the car and get one that's in better shape. We used to call this a forklift upgrade when I worked in telecom.

 

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