Just recently it has struck me how little pure technology has been raised to me as a topic at a meeting, email action item, even in client discussions. The most amazing part of all is the degree to which it doesn’t figure so much in discussions with the technology vendors themselves. It seems to me that there are two interesting possibilities to why this is happening and I would like to get some comments back on whether you are noticing the same.
Possible explanation number one; As consolidation of the industry sees a few large household names dominating so the key element of any decision has moved from being a best of breed choice to a strategic choice of vendor. This changes the discussion from being based on a technology evaluation with the necessary actions to integrate with other applications and legacy to one based on making a commercial choice. And the commercial choices are just that, lots of figures on costs, license terms etc.
The whole area of portfolio rationalisation is taking on a new meaning, with the questions I get now about what I think of the strategy, the capabilities to deliver, and what they will do next, of the leading vendors. As I can’t predict their acquisition plans the key to answering this lies largely in the middleware integration layer, so that sounds like a traditional technical assessment, but that doesn’t seem to be the issue. There seems to be an acceptance that the Middleware does, or will, work well enough within the suite, the issue is their attitude in respect of standards, how those standards will develop and if they will become mainstream etc.
Possible explanation number two; the implementation is changed too in these new consolidated suites. It’s less about the role of an SI, (the description normally applied to companies like Capgemini), in over coming technology limitations, and more about our focus on their individual market sector. The challenge has become working with them to optimise the capabilities, and possibilities, that the wide and deep product sets provide for their business/ industry. Hence, my cheeky suggestion that SI now seems to stand for Solution Implementer, probably not a bad thing, but once again a change in focus.
Where does that leave the technology side? Bizarrely it’s more important than ever as these new consolidated suites cover an awful lot of technology in the vertical stack, as well as in the width of applications to cover various elements. We are now looking at handling extremely complex wide spread solutions, which is some way from where we were in introducing a single ‘standalone’ application with integration to existing systems. Hardware, Network, Firewalls, is all involved and often with specialised versions too.
So why is there less and less discussion of the technology? My conclusion is because it is taken for granted that the large SIs who have also undergone a similar consolidation are able to deliver working systems. I don’t know whether that’s a compliment or not, but when was the last time you saw a serious set of sessions during a bid process on technology capabilities? The process now focuses on your ability to sign up for the delivery of a complex business solution that the business buyer wants to discuss in detail. Oh and to be able to tell them what the SI is doing to follow and work with that same issue of standards.
I suppose that’s an inevitable effect from the ‘consumerisation’ of technology, just think what goes into a Smart Phone, yet we ignore that as we just expect the technology to work. So we make our choices on the design and the user interface as the deciding issues, plus the all important commercial issue of the provider and the subsidisation of the phone. No checks on failure rates etc. unless it happens to us and then we find the site of other users complaining about the inbuilt design fault. Times are changing it seems in more ways than one in respect of the way ‘people’ see the role of technology as the provider of reliable solutions.