BUSINESS WISDOM

The Clown

Jeffrey L. Bromberger, Senior Pontificator

03 August 2021

NB: A version of this article appeared several years ago on a previous employer’s web site.  It has been spruced up a bit, refocused and shared again with you.

Before the cold weather of 2018 was predicted to set in, I had to do some repairs to my truck. It isn’t the newest one out there, but I’ve babied her for 17 years (and 245K miles) and it’s in fine condition for someone that old.  I decided that instead of going to the chain auto supply house for the replacement part, I’d go to the local U-Pull-It yard and see if I could get a slightly used part for the truck. Call it doing my part in the recycling chain. And as I wandered the stacks, I could not help but see the car above (yeah, that is one of my photos)…

Every car, when it is new, is loved. It’s washed, waxed, decorated, shown off, and bragged about. It takes you to work, to the mall, to family outings, to concerts, the beach, Saturday night dates. Your car becomes a part of your life – and it may even feel a bit like another family member. Until that first really big repair bill.

What do you do when the bills for upkeep become severe? You might not (should not?) complain about spending $20K for getting a coronary bypass for your father, but is it worth $2500 to replace the engine on a 20 year old minivan? Even if you’ve customized your baby to the max and it currently sports killer pink bow stickers on the rear view mirrors and a large decal for the hood? We all have something like this in the back of our minds – the infernal Return On Investment (ROI) calculation – each time we speak to the mechanic.  If I spend that $2500 today, what’s the next part that is likely to fail? And when will that be? And how much will that repair cost? At what point am I spending more money on repairs than the vehicle is actually worth? Next thing you know, you’ve traded in that old clunker (What do you mean it is only worth $500 – didn’t you see the designer pink floor mats??) and you are driving something new.  Goodbye to the past, old friend, and on to new adventures in your new fly hoopty.

How can your CIO ever take you and your support teams seriously when you’re so far behind?

Software can be a lot like that, especially packages that are central to the IT support of your business.  There’s a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth every time you hint that some long lived system is up for a refresh. While a change at that level is never painless, it is worth considering something before you let management kill the upgrade project. Think of all of the advances made since that existing package was written. And realize that it was written and coded quite a while before you bought and implemented it. With today’s world, we all have unspoken expectations.  Things like shopping carts, easy mobile access, chat-bots, HTML5 and automatic delivery of purchases are all yesterday’s improvements. Today’s hot new subjects are automation, integration and unification. You should now turn around and look at that customized-but-old package you’re running and honestly ask how you’re doing an effective job of supporting your corporate business goals if you’re still using a pre-Web 2.0 platform without a hint of those other newer features. How can your CIO ever take you and your support teams seriously if you’re so far behind?  Remember that he can point to another, ahem, company that can find him anything under the sun, drop it in his cart, bill him seamlessly and then deliver it to his door in about two days just by him asking for it out loud.  What’s the best that your support organization can offer in answer to that, huh?  “Start the PC application, enter a ticket and we’ll have somebody get back to you in the order your call was received.”? That’s not going to cut it any longer.  Management knows it, and so do you.

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