You Are Not Your Vendor

It’s too risky to commit to any technology platform, whether it’s Windows or BlackBerrys. Keeping your business competitive requires flexibility.

By Adam Hartung
Fri, July 16, 2010

CIO — IT departments have often identified closely with their critical vendors. Using a Microsoft (MSFT) platform made you a PC shop; your ERP choice made you an Oracle (ORCL) or SAP shop. The servers you used aligned you with Sun, Microsoft or IBM (IBM).

With success tied to key vendors, IT strategy became synonymous with using those platforms as robustly as possible. Tactics such as which modules to implement and whether to outsource were determined by how to best implement that strategy. But this approach sacrificed flexibility, and today it’s downright risky.

Vendor viability is more questionable than ever. Sun Microsystems (JAVA), Silicon Graphics, Seibel, and outsourcers EDS and Perot Systems have disappeared or been swallowed by competitors. Research in Motion’s (RIM) early pre-eminence in the smartphone market is now challenged by Apple and Google (GOOG).

In the past decade, Microsoft has lost market share in every major product category, and it’s almost absent from the fast-growing mobile marketplace. Where will it be in five years?

Leading IT shops need their own identity, linked to business needs, using multiple solutions that make the business more competitive. Future success requires IT shops, and their leaders, to be disruptive.

CIOs must be flexible—willing and able to reject legacy applications and vendor relationships—so they can apply new technologies to business problems quickly. Those who can’t adapt may well find their companies eclipsed in sales, service or cost by early-adopter competitors.

By 2015, IT organizations may need to master using Google software to deliver solutions that access data from the cloud and send it to a user application on a 7th-generation iPad. Have you disrupted your IT practices and decision making enough to make that happen?

Adam Hartung is a consultant specializing in innovation and the author of the book Create Marketplace Disruption. Currently a partner with Vector Growth Partners, he is a former senior partner with Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) as well as a former executive at DuPont (DD) and Pepsico (PEP) with 25 years of experience as a strategist and IT leader. Contact him at AdamHartung.com.

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