Here in the U.S. we celebrate the 4th of July our day of independence signifying freedom. But we often seem happier when there is someone telling us what to do — some person or vendor who takes away the burden of a decision and just makes it for us.
We don't think about our freedoms enough and while I could easily drift into a rant about politics, let's stayed focused on our freedom to choose technology and who has to make the choice.
The Politics of IT Decision-Making
Over a decade ago I wrote my first column and it had a title like "Linux not ready for the Enterprise." That one column changed my life largely because it got me to think of things differently. I left Forrester shortly after to go off on my own as a result.
The column was actually a repurposed con side of a debate piece that I didn't want to waste. The pro side, written by a CIO, was pulled because she was afraid she'd get fired. And I actually thought she should be.
The piece wasn't about the Linux the platform, but about picking any platform based on a political view. She chose Linux because she wanted to go to war with Microsoft. I don't believe CIOs have the authority to declare war with anyone. That's a CEO thing. My argument was that anything that got CIOs to behave badly should be avoided.
Now to be fair, I wasn't looking for anything deep as I was pinch-hitting for an analyst who refused to write. I wasn't the expert on the technology, so I picked a battlefield I knew something about: organizational politics and command hierarchy.
But then, as now, I don't believe a CIO can declare war, but they can subordinate their company to another and I wonder if that is really in their job description either.
No Freedom in Vendor Lock In
There are a handful of companies that have implemented a lock-in strategy. This means they work like the hotel in the song "Hotel California." You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave.
There are benefits to programs like this in that they reduce choice and you take less risk because you consistently can blame one vendor for problems. But they have a cost in that the vendor knows you are subordinated to them and, like a feudal lord, they will have a tendency to milk you for resources.
You see, I believe that product choices should be based on corporate needs and related benefits not based on a vendor's need for more revenue or because you have no other choice.
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