Enterprise hits & misses - February 3

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed February 2, 2014
Jon's cheeky weekly review of which enterprise software articles hit (or didn’t) on diginomica & beyond - for week ending February 2, 2014.

A cheeky weekly review of which articles hit (or didn’t) on diginomica and beyond.

Cheerful Chubby Man
diginomica hit: Taking action against the “abusive” IT provider by Stuart Lauchlan

quotage: 'While we’re not in the game of encouraging a ‘suppliers always bad’ mentality – far from it – it’s undoubtedly the case that across governments worldwide, a select group of providers has had an essentially easy time of it when it comes to bidding for major business.'

myPOV: 'Amen' is the first word that comes to mind, but then in this case Stuart is preaching to the choir. (Though I'd extend Stuart's statement beyond public sector projects). Projects fail for all kinds of reasons, but lack of IT supplier accountability is one of the most predictable pitfalls. Time to take action: Stuart reports on UK governance policies that attempt to tighten supplier guidelines and the pushback received.

As for the new guidelines, many of them are akin to political term limits for suppliers. Example: the UK government’s Cabinet Office new IT contract rules include a stipulation that 'No IT contracts will be allowed to exceed £100 million in value, unless there is an exceptional reason to make them larger.' If only it were as simple as laying out tougher policies. Stuart points out thornier issues like culture change, and the equivalent of what I call 'golf course relationships' on the US side of the pond, which has resulted in excessive dependence on a handful of 'prime' suppliers.

As I see it, this is not about pasting IT vendors with the tar brush. Partnering for success calls for better models that put everyone's skin in the game. Follow Stu further down the project failure rabbit hole with two authoratative installments on the BBC's own boggling IT project woes, How the BBC spent £125.9m on digital – and got nothing in return, and The BBC's digital drama continues.

Happy children eating apple
diginomica pick: A fresh approach to SaaS pricing – Plex Systems by Den Howlett

quotage: 'Many SaaS solutions are priced using an old model originally devised by the on-premise world, where modules are priced on a per item and per seat basis. Large organizations will expect to negotiate the final total and discounting is common. Plex Systems on the other hand prices using a percentage of customer revenue.'

myPOV: While on his most recent Silicon Valley jaunt, Den filmed a shoot with Jason Blessing, CEO of Plex Systems to get the update on Plex Systems in 2014 and to dig into their innovative pricing model. Den makes the point that revenue-based pricing won't work for all enterprises, but I personally like to see SaaS companies - or any software vendors for that matter - going beyond multi-year, per-seat subscription contracts.

SaaS vendors have led the enterprise pricing disruption but customers may want to see this pricing discussion taken to its logical evolution, which would include truly flexible models as elastic as clouds are supposed to be. Vendors that get out in front of this with truly creative models may avoid the dreaded moment when pricing leaders find themselves pricing laggards. Bonus: Den also paid a visit to the CEO of Nutanix and picked up some eye-opening news, revealed in his piece Nutanix CEO: companies are moving back to on-prem.

Highly recommended: Phil has posted his definition of 'frictionless enterprise', a Phil-coined term we have used plenty on this site, but not adequately defined - until now. Kenny MacIver has a sharp piece on Overcoming resistance to BI in the cloud, and, last but definitely not least, we announced the newest member of the diginomica team, savvy scribe Derek du Preez. You'll see his diginomica debut on February 24th. We're pretty stoked, to use an American term of endearment.

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer
Not my favorite week for #ensw pieces, but some strong outings nonetheless:

Also recommended: Doug Henschen hits the high points (if there is a high point of a software audit) on a recent software audit study in Software Audits: Are You Ready? Readwrite took a game shot at a tough issue, cloud integration, that isn't going anywhere. I can't decide if HBR's Eight Essential Questions for Every Corporate Innovator falls into the category of common sense but I enjoyed it. 10 Skills That Will Earn You Over $100,000 is even more lightweight than the infographic on which it is based, but the prevalence of big data/analytics skills was striking. Hubspot compiled a list of 10 Award-Winning Web Sites with Kickass Designs which I have bookmarked, though I haven't sorted which of these designs would fly in the enterprise yet.


Overworked businessman
There are two kinds of enterprise blog memes - one I like and one I dread. The cool kind is when one person blogs on an original topic, prompting other blog responses and critiques. The dread kind is when an analyst firm issues predictions and everyone writes pretty much the same article about it, without referencing or building any of the other articles on the topic - maybe that's because everyone is in a rush to post basically the same piece before everybody else, I dunno.

The dread came with Gartner making the shocking prediction (sarcasm) that by 2016, excessive on-premise customizations will burden CIOs with 'legacy' ERP systems (here's one such article). There's nothing wrong with this statement, except that it's not really news. Over-customizing the ERP code base has been a well-known 'worst practice' for at least five years if not ten. Slapping the 'legacy' term on it is actually unfair to mainframe legacy systems worldwide that continue to soldier on in a useful way.

I prefer the term 'technical debt' for this predicament. Excessive ERP customization is a particularly dangerous form of technical debt (which Naomi Bloom and Larry Dignan were writing about in 2011). The heck with 2016, anyhow! CIOs who are not actively addressing issues like technical debt are likely on the way out before then.

Gartner rightly points out that many companies are starting to address the (cough) 'legacy ERP' issue with 'postmodern ERP' that includes hybrid environments, cloud 'point' solutions, and a smaller core of ERP (that could also be cloud based). Hard to argue with that - though I would hope Gartner took pains to point out that cloud is not a mystical potion out of Harry Potter, but a trend that brings difficult issues of its own that are largely unsolved as far as I know (exhibit A: cloud integration). It wasn't mentioned in any of the articles I read, so who knows. Probably because talking about data integration is a 'legacy' conversation.

Officially off-topic

Hmm well I can go creepy, inspiring, or inventive on you. On the creepy side, these Japanese traffic robots are straight out of an early Cyberdine Systems product launch. For inventive, scientists have filmed how the brain makes memories for the first time. The stir kinetic desk would be just the thing for finishing off this column, but the $4,000 price tag may keep me at bay for a spell.

For the inspiring side, the pure guts of ex-football player Steve Gleason, who is struggling with ALS but communicating via his Microsoft Surface tablet, is a heck of a Super Bowl Sunday story. Plus the commercial did the impossible: made me want to buy a Surface. Meanwhile, designer Scott Summit has created these astonishing artificial limbs.

On a heavier note, one of my personal heroes, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, died before his time yesterday. The consolation of his considerable body of work remains I suppose. It seems to me he made strengths of his flaws, and that we could all do him the honor of living a bit more honestly. Ergo, my favorite Hoffman scene from one of my fave movies, Almost Famous - the scene forever known as 'The Uncool'. See you next time.

Which #ensw pieces of merit did I miss? Let us know in the comments.

Most of these articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. “myPOV” is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.

Image credits: Cheerful Chubby Man © RA Studio, Happy Children © Anna Omelchenko, Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, King Checkmate © mystock88photo - all from Fotolia.com

Disclosure: SAP and Salesforce.com are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.