Having just recently seen a couple of customer presentations combined with what I’ve picked up from regular meetings with some of our key customers, I can confirm that Gartner’s message on the (future) role of the IT vendor/partner has been heard. So what is different from before? Let’s see.. The general expectation on us as a solution provider is well aligned with where the world is going with ICT projects – no more wall-to-wall ERP projects, but agile rapid-return enhancements, on-top-of-ERP value catalysts, ROI/business case validated turbo implementations (mostly to improve visibility and productivity drivers) and bite-size projects. This should be good news for everyone – the backbone ERP is being finally being exploited and promised “platform benefits” are starting to materialize. Customers are also seeing that it did make sense to invest in the platform and now it is time to build the next layers of enterprise applications. SAP customers are cashing in on the promised ROIs – Enterprise mobility is finally moving and concepts are in the proving, reporting is being extended to every imaginable hand-held device and operating system, reporting is tuned the finest detail and improving usability has climbed up the list of priorities. Enterprise applications have arrived at the desktop of CxOs, VPs and other executives – IT is now finally on the business agenda.
But there is also a side effect which is probably less desired. There are an increasingly high number of pseudo-projects starting which are no longer regarded as projects as they are “only” small enhancements or extensions to previous projects, so they have little official governance. This shift from capital ERP projects, heavy governance and rigid practices to agile practices, experimentation, innovation, rapid deployment and short planning horizons is generally a healthy trend, but.. This means that those who want to control spend and align activities with strategy, risk losing grip on what is really happening. The void between IT and business is seemingly getting narrower, but now the accent is no longer on getting business to engage in a needed dialogue, but getting business to hold their horses.
What does this mean for a vendor? It is much more of a threesome – Business, IT and Supplier – than before. Keeping pace with which innovation is truly relevant for the customer and what communicating implications they may have on ICT strategy is increasingly a key aspect of vendors’ good citizenship. We should encourage customers to take quick and firm steps towards their first HANAs, their first Cloud, their first mobile solutions but also help customers plan and visualize the impact on their architecture.
The pace at which change is required and the frequency at which new solutions hit the market mean that no one can accurately predict the longevity of the architecture and hence, a multitude of scenarios must be supported. Whose responsibility is this? We cannot carry the customers’ responsibility, but we can suggest the vendor taking part in a true continuous three-way dialogue with IT and its customers, the business.
What else has changed? Well for one, innovation is back in fashion. Someone might claim it was never out, but clearly there is much more buzz in the market than there was not so long ago. Is it just that CIO’s are trying to re-excite themselves with some of the newer solutions that software vendors are placing on the market or have the CIOs’ customers (business management) increased their demands a notch or two? Whichever the case (probably the latter), absolutely everyone is crying innovation, and it is starting to get inflated and even used inappropriately as a term, only to soon be worn out again. Innovation is a fragile discipline, often partially accidental and genuine innovation is surprisingly rare.
Proven by customer testimony I hear, businesses are starving for new solutions to support their decision making, to improve efficiency, to enable information transparency and reliability, to improve productivity, to improve usability, to enable mobility, to improve flexibility – solutions that better support running their business. We encourage our customers’ business owners to discuss solution options directly with us to give co-innovation a fair chance of appearing. On the other hand, it is our responsibility as advisors to help both businesses and IT management to navigate the troubled waters of future solutions. It is our responsibility to put innovation into context and balance risks. It is our responsibility also to make markets for new solutions for them to spread and get correctly adopted by our customers. It would be misdemeanor not to – this would mean we deprive our customers of potential benefits they have access to today.
Sounds straightforward. Well, it isn’t. The market and the enterprise software industry are changing faster than ever. More about that later….