Don't be a Slave to Your Vendors

One of the reasons I like and support the use of open source software is that you can avoid most of the drama that comes from relying on 3rd party vendors.  By this I mean.. you must pay exorbitant sums for ongoing maintenance, you are locked into their product upgrade treadmill, you have little say in the direction of their products, you have a single source for support, and if your vendor gets acquired there is a very good chance the product you depend on will go away or change in ways that force you to abandon it with even more pain.  I’ve seen this play out from both sides of the table having spent time in both enterprise environments and working for software companies.

On the technology side I’ve seen how the constant demand for new features almost always overrides the need for bug fixes and a refined and well designed product.  This stems mostly from sales and the need to constantly increase revenue (theirs not yours!).  New versions with more features are required to drive new sales and force established customers to continue down the road of planned obsolescence. Customers must upgrade ‘end of life’ products because of the need to run a supported platform (for CIO CYA) as no one wants to be running an unsupported system that causes problems. Many times these upgrades require a ton of planning.. new hardware.. migration strategies.. and lots of meetings.  To me all this effort seems less like progress and more like breaking windows in order to stay busy replacing them.  None of that effort goes toward what should be the core function of IT inside an enterprise.

In my opinion… those resources should be spent building and customizing systems based on open source software whenever practical.  Rather than spend your time and money propping up another companies bottom line.. spend them internally refining the tools that run your business until they become a strategic advantage. Build your teams.. invest in your people and develop subject matter experts to give IT a growth path within the company.   By doing this you own the results and end up with an advantage that can’t be easily duplicated.  Too often IT is viewed strictly as a cost center.. and that’s a real shame because with a little leadership it doesn’t have to be that way.  Better to be a builder and own the building than pay rent forever and be forced to move every time the landlord needs more money. And if you are a C level executive.. stop basing your IT strategy on what you read in airline magazines or the latest buzzword-laden reports from Gartner and their ilk.

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