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Contract Sadness

Contract Sadness

Surely you aren't one of those oh-so-Olympian CIOs who view implementation as something that the little people may have to worry about but that is far too tactical to occupy the time and negotiating savvy of a C-level executive?

Too many CIOs cut enterprise software deals that look fabulous to the CEO and CFO but commit the people who do the real work to a nightmare of unrealistic expectations.

A close friend who works for a global marketing company serves on the executive committee that oversees the design and rollout of an enterprise personnel system. The deployment, which will affect scores of the company's subsidiaries, is running late and over budget. Everyone is frustrated, and the situation is getting worse. Surprise.

My friend and I mull over the corporation's ulterior motive for the system: to consolidate and centralize all of the company's HR functions. A couple of cheap but clever technical fixes suggest themselves. The best thing about the fixes - besides the price - is that they'll be easy to test. My friend presents the ideas to her committee. She expects sighs of relief and a welcoming reception.

Doesn't happen. To the contrary, the vendor throws a fit. Cheap and clever technical fixes are seen as diabolical and subversive threats. What's more, the vendor insists that those kinds of technical fixes violate the terms of the contract. Although vendor "consultants" grudgingly acknowledge that they can't possibly deliver anything near what they've promised anywhere close to on time or on budget, the contract ostensibly forbids this non-source-code-touching intervention.

My friend is incredulous; I'm merely disgusted. I've seen this before. So what's happened? The CIO, in cahoots with the CFO, has negotiated a contract that is all about cost savings and service-level agreements (SLAs) and completely disrespectful of what it takes - and what it means - to implement a working system enterprise-wide. The CIO has cheated and betrayed his people by committing his company to a contract that treats implementation as essentially irrelevant to how the system ultimately performs. That's unprofessional and contemptible. It's also shockingly common.

Surely you aren't one of those oh-so-Olympian CIOs who view implementation as something that the little people may have to worry about but that is far too tactical to occupy the time and negotiating savvy of a C-level executive? Surely you aren't a business leader who believes that implementation is simply the "black box" means to the end of accomplishing cost savings and SLAs? After all, we're not negotiating these multimillion-dollar global contracts for the purpose of promoting happy implementations but for the goal of satisfactory results.

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