… the third mouse gets nothing — unless you count the opportunity to bury the first mouse in a shallow grave before he dies of starvation something.
As Pete Loughlin reminds us in his recent post, when conventional wisdom goes wrong, most enterprises make one of two mistakes when selecting enterprise technology. Either they go with the same-old, same-old incumbent technology (that never solved their problem in the first place), or they go with a bleeding edge start-up (because their eagerness to please can be exploited). For the vast majority of companies, neither solves the problem.
While many startups will have something new and innovative, most don’t have the breadth or depth required to support a large organization — even if that is their ultimate target market. Start-ups are good for (smaller) mid-size organizations that need a point solution, or large organizations that just need one thing done better — they are not good as platforms. Similarly, if your ERP has failed you for 10 years, starting yet another customization project with a big 8 consultancy that has yet to deliver what they promised on any project isn’t a good idea either.
The best solution for many organizations is typically a new vendor with a newer, or more appropriate, solution, but not one that is so new that it has not yet been around long enough to be adequately stress tested and proven to have the breadth and depth required for the organizational size and need. A (smaller) mid-size organization should already be using it successfully and it should be clear that the solution has enough scale-power.
It’s often a hard call, but that’s why impartial expert technology consultants — who do not (re)sell solutions* — should be engaged. In particular, they should be engaged to help an organization identify the processes it needs to support, the key functionality that a platform needs to offer (but not features, as sometimes multiple feature sets can solve the same problem), the scale the platform will need to support, the data that will be required, the integrations to other enterprise systems or external data sources to fetch this data, and the breadth of deployment that will be required to support the processes. Then, they should help the organization construct a proper RFP (that describes the current process, the problems, the desired process, and ultimate goals) and identify potential vendors to send the RFP too, as well as demo requirements, scoring and weighting systems, and best practices in vendor selection. But they should not sell, or have any interest in, any of the solutions — they are guides through the dangerous enterprise jungle, not treasure map peddlers.
And, most importantly, as Pete points out, if the expert is engaged, she should be listened to. Otherwise, the organization is not only wasting money on the executive’s gut-feel technology platform, but also on the advice that was going to be ignored anyway. Always remember, there’s no gold in them thar hills, but there is in the advice of a wise sage.
just a reminder that the doctor does not have any interest in, or receive any compensation for, any technology that he may or may not recommend, unlike many analyst firms that charge per lead and per sale