A House Divided
My son wrote this poem for his school's poetry assembly last year:
I live in a house divided, four ways, I’m often reminded.
My mom is from Cleveland, she still love the Browns. Hard to accept, they’re such big clowns.
My dad loves the Bengals, they play in the Jungle. He thinks that they roar, but they’re really the Bungles.
My dear poor sister, loves the hometown Bears. Such a disappointment, she still pretends she cares.
I love the Packers, but they’re still kind of slackers. ‘Cause Rodgers is gone and Hundley is on.
I love Lambeau Field, where greatness is sealed. And I will root for my team and championship dreams.
Many of us in business and technology also live in a house divided: IBM, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Salesforce, AS/400, Cobol, Java, .NET, etc. The list goes on. And these aren't simple "house divided" issues, like Michigan-Ohio State or Alabama-Auburn, where we can get along for 51 weeks of the year and pretend we're enemies during Rivalry Week. No, we live with our technology divisions year-round, 24/7. The key to keeping the house standing is peaceful co-existence. The concept of a "Microsoft shop" or an "Oracle Shop" sounds great in theory and offers many advantages (and Microsoft and others are certainly trying to get companies to adopt a single-source strategy). The reality is that if a company wants true, best-in-breed solutions, it will have to get them from multiple sources. And then it will have to get those solutions to work together, peacefully and effectively.
How to go about this? No doubt, if you are in the fortunate position of selecting vendors, you are inundated daily with entreaties from the above-mentioned companies, explaining why their software is the best and their competitors are evil, incompetent, and secretly selling your data to China, and the only way to avoid ending up on the news or in jail is to use their software, and their software ONLY. The truth is that many of these companies know and understand that they have to share the space with their competitors, and in fact have built-in integrations to competing system. Many are content to peacefully coexist, despite pressure on account executives to try and gain new business. The best way for a company to approach this is to clearly state that you have a House Divided, and it is by design. Each vendor has a best of breed solution to a particular market, product, or function. And they all need to work and play nice with each other, or be kicked out and replaced by someone else. That is what makes competition so great. You can offer business to several vendors, and knowing that there's someone waiting in the wings keeps them honest.
In many companies, the technology landscape looks like the surface of the moon - pocked with the craters of various attempts to create the "system of the future", and ending up with a constellation of satellite systems, some new, some old, each trying to compensate for the deficiency of another, older system, that just can't seem to find its way to retirement. As the Digital Transformation trend winds its way through corporate America, companies have to find innovative ways to terraform their technology landscape.
Step 0 is to acknowledge that you need to replace that old AS/400, before it replaces you.
Step 1 is to find a core platform provider.
Step 2 is to find 2-3 systems that provide the functionality the business needs to operate, today and in the future.
Step 3 is to create and validate a strategic roadmap, one that starts with business goals. Make the business part of the decision and selection process.
Step 4 is to have the conversation with the vendors. Don't ask what they can do for you - TELL them what they're going to do for you.
We all live in a House Divided. We just need to learn to peacefully coexist.