On IT Resistance To Change

October 5, 2010

I met a consultant a few days ago that provides SME organizations with implementation assistance in the CRM (customer Relationship Management) space.

In his career,  he saw the writing on the wall and had migrated his skills from dealing solely with on premises software (where you shell out money for servers, software licenses and then try to glue it all together in your office) to tools supplied as a SaaS, or hosted  model.

In our talk he made a comment that I found all too indicative of many IT organizations in the small to medium enterprise. I can’t remember the exact words, so I am paraphrasing a bit here;

.. in larger SME businesses, the most resistance to the SaaS model is their IT departments, it is as if the IT folks need to be able to hug a server..

That is – unfortunately sad….

Because when any part of your business starts thinking in silos, it  leads a business to operate in silos too. That goes for your IT Leadership as well.

In the Small to Medium Enterprise, your IT Leadership must be thinking beyond hugging servers. Beyond the silo of what they prefer, or what they like.

As Philip Papadopoulos of the Papadopoulos Group mentioned to me on twitter;

IT should always be pro-active, approach the business with ways to solve their problems meet their goals

Strategy, Goals &  IT

If your IT Leadership feel that unless they are hugging a server they are really not doing their job, then there is some internal IT change that needs to be taking place.

Your business technology must support your organizational strategies and your business goals. And that can include the tactical decisions you make to support those goals.

Mark McDonald at Gartner writes; (emphasis mine)

The strategist has a point in that new technologies and service models are changing the foundation and underpinnings for IT. The move from IT functions, to solutions and now to services reflects a major change in the way IT works that will require CIOs and leaders to prepare.

The SMB Takeaway

In some cases ‘hugging a server’ may be the recommended solution for a business requirement. But for your technology team to refuse to look at the way technology is changing, and to refuse to look at the ways that this changing technology will impact costs or growth, then they are not doing their job.

Simply but, there is no right answer for every business or situation. But you won’t ever get a right answer in your business technology if you aren’t even asking the questions.

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Over my vacation a week or so ago, I read Behind The Cloud The untold story of salesforce.com by Marc Benioff & Carlye Adler.Behind the Cloud - salesforce.com

(published by Josey-Bass –  ISBN978-0-470-52116-8)

It was an interesting read following at a high level how Mr. Benioff and team formed Salesforce.com, got it started, and how it exploded into the poster child for Software as a Service (Saas) or a piece of what we call ‘cloud computing’.

Each chapter describes the issues, decisions and actions that were taken along their road to growth. Call it a road map of what worked for them.

There are two really key points in the text that we all should be thinking about.

First, in selling the product, Salesforce.com did not sell the features 0f what their product could do, they  evangelized the concept of Saas, selling the experience & advantage,  not the product. In fact in their book The Power Of  Pull, Hagell, Seely Brown & Davisson state that 80% of Marc Benioff’s communication was educating – not selling the product.

There was also a huge second  recurring theme threaded throughout the text;

People People People

‘Nuff Said

From CIOZone: Smaller Businesses Embracing SaaS

30 percent are planning to implement SaaS offerings in 2010, a sizable jump from the 22 percent saying they would do so in 2009, and the 14 percent reported in 2008.

The statistic is from the US, but I am sure similar else where

And I am not surprised. One of the benefits of Software ans a service (SaaS) is that fact that you don’t need to buy servers, databases and the associated plumbing. Along with the associated bodies to keep it running.

Do continue your due diligence though.

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Having been working with computers since the late ’80’s, I have a confession; (actually two of them!)

Are you a Mouser? or a Keyboarder?

First confession, I am a keyboarder – I avoid using the mouse and only use it when absolutely necessary.

And my second? I am a computing speed freak. Not in the sense of the biggest, fastest computer out there, but in quick response to application commands. (by that I mean keyboard commands!)

And those are two areas that Software as a Service (SaaS) is truly weak.

And yes, that even includes this WordPress blog.

In the time it takes you to click your way to your Google docs account, on my Wintel PC the CTRL-ESC keys bring up the Windows Start Menu, typing the letter ‘R’ brings up the RUN box, (if you have more then one thing starting with the letter ‘R‘ just type ‘R‘ again) and typing winword opens Microsoft Word.

Ditto opening my Web Browser Firefox.

No mouse required and fast.

In that same vein, I save my work at least every couple of lines or spreadsheet cells I write. At the absolute longest, I save every minute or two. In Windows applications CTRL-S does that. No stopping required, I can just type, type, type CTRL-S, type -and keep on going.

In fact I did that CTRL-S about 3 times in that previous line.  (I will explain that in a minute!)

That same keyboard shortcut on a web application just tries to do a Save As and tries to save it to your computer. On a Web Application You have to use the mouse to hit the save button, then just sit back and wait until that data refreshes back to you. (and probably it defaults back to the top of the page so you have to scroll down to where you were working!)

My E-Mail? CTRL-R or ALT-L replies or replies to all. Oh yes, CTRL-SHIFT-B brings up the contact list. I will race you in replying to email on your Web mail provider of choice!

It drives me nuts.

I know it is the wave of the future. And yes – I use several SaaS tools. But that is still something that annoys the hell out of me.

PS, when I write for this blog?

I write all the text you see here in Windows’ pure ASCII test editor notepad (CTRL-ESC / R / notepad) then when I have finished, I have to log in  to WordPress, select all my text (CTRL-A) copy it (CTRL-C) and past it (CTRL-V) into the new post area in WordPress.

Then I take a deep breath, hit the WordPress Save Draft button and go refill my coffee.

Photo Credit john a ward via flickr

A Change In Policy

A Change In Policy

We use a hosted, online Software as a Service tool. It is not a huge or complex one, but use it for a key internal function.

As the possibility of the vendor going out of business, shutting down, or being acquired always exists, we negotiated at the outset that we wanted periodic copies of our data.

In this case, the vendor was simply supplying a raw backup of the database. In the event they did shut down, our development team could at least extract the data for import into any other tool that we wished to use.

A few weeks ago I stopped getting that data backup.

After several weeks of calls and e-mails, I finally received this;

Hi Elliot,

I am with Replicon support. I tried to contact you few minutes back to discuss this issue and reached your voicemail. I left a voicemessage for you. Currently there are some changes in our company policies because of which database backups are not provided

The SMB Takeaway

Using software applications ‘out in the cloud’ has some benefits. But there are risks.

In this case our data backup strategy for our corporate data had the rug pulled out from underneath it.

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Photo Credit JM3 via flickr

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I believe that computing will become more utility oriented. That there will be less reliance on what we currently look at as internal technology infrastructure.

My belief in this came about in the mid 80’s when I read that every automobile manufactured in North America had more computing power built into it than the NASA moon shots.

If you have read Nicholas Carr’s IT Doesn’t Matter you will notice one key difference, I never saw it as the world of software that we currently have, the way I saw it back then was along the lines of intelligent hardware devices. Similar to the “smart” thermostats in most new homes.

This type of Utility IT has often been compared to electricity – just plug it in, and pay by the sip. I have used that analogy myself.

But there is an excellent warning by Andrew McAfee, formerly at Harvard, now MIT. He argues that we should not try to simplify this concept down to the simplicity of an analogy like electricity.

His argument is that even in a more utility environment, IT is not as simple as 110 or 220 volts (North America) coming out of a socket. There is no decision to made there, no decisions or management is required around an electrical socket.

So using terms like electricity may overly simplify, or “dumb down” our thinking of IT.

And that is dangerous.

When was the last time you talked about electricity at a management meeting?

Exactly!

And even if get your IT through a wall jack (eg Salesforce.com)  There are still management decisions that must be made. We use technology to create or consume information. To do that there are work flows, business processes and certain business metrics and capabilities.

All of these will still demand management attention, demand decisions, and need to be top of mind for all businesses.

So, you can consider me a convert!

Will more and more of our IT resources continue to come from outside our walls? Yes,

But will you be able to plug in a cable and by magic have exactly the information, processes and work flows just appear? No!

It will still need management attention – lots of it.

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Dana Gardner has a good piece on some of the risks and expectations with Cloud Computing on the briefingsdirect blog.

I suspect that the majority of survey was American organizations.

For those of you outside the United States, an issue that is not mentioned is the law.

As a Canadian company, if that cloud data is in California – what legal jurisdiction is it under – Canadian, or California?

Same issue if you are under European ‘Safe Harbour’ legislation.

This issue becomes even more complicated if you consider trade laws.

For example, Canada has relations with Cuba, the US still does not.

If one of our customers is in Cuba – but that Customer data is in a cloud in the US………..

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Photo Credit zerega via flickr