CIOs Need To Be On The Lookout For Proprietary Solutions Disguised As Standards

by drjim on December 18, 2013

Not all standards are what they appear to be

Not all standards are what they appear to be
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As the person with the CIO job, you are always on the lookout for ways to simplify what the IT department is doing in order to boost the importance of information technology for your company. One way to make this happen is to have the department adopt the use of standards. You would think that that would be the end of it; however, those vendors are sneaky devils and you need to be careful that you don’t select a standard that is really a proprietary solution in disguise.

Why Adopt Standards?

Isn’t the whole idea of IT to be free? To do that innovation thing and to not be restricted by artificial constraints on what tools and methods are available to your department? The answer is, of course, yes and no.

It turns out that standards are a good thing. A standard is where an IT department agrees to use the same set of terminology to reduce the possibility that people in the IT department are going to get confused. If we can all agree on which standard to use, then we can reduce both the time and the resources that a given task is going to require.

What we all need to keep in mind is that we can’t choose to use a standard just because it exists. Rather, we always need to be looking for the business reason for the standard to exist. Once we’ve been able to identify this, then we will be able to understand why we are willing to put up with the restriction of our options that the use of the standard causes.

What Are Proprietary “Standards”?

If I’ve been able to convince you that standards are a good thing, then we have only one more thing to discuss: bad standards. The future of IT lies in such technologies as “the cloud” and this is causing a problem for IT vendors. What used to be clearly differentiated hardware and software products are very quickly becoming commoditized offerings where everything looks the same.

As you might expect, vendors are scrambling to make their products look different from everyone else’s. On way that they are doing this is by offering what are called “blended systems” that offer you the promise of implementing a standards based solution; however, they are really tricking you into implementing their proprietary solution.

What vendors are doing is combine elements that may be standardized, such as servers, with tightly integrated proprietary elements. Anytime you see a vendor as describing some aspect of their solution as being “unique” you should be very, very careful. This all may look great on paper; however, once you have it implemented, you are going to see costs of hardware maintenance start to skyrocket on you.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

The job of any IT department is to provide the best solutions at the lowest cost to the rest of the company. Given the complexity of a modern IT solution, this can be a challenge to do. When you are in the CIO position, you have the ability to select IT standards that you want to implement in your department and this can simplify life for everyone. However, make sure that you don’t select any vendor proprietary solutions that are disguised as a standard.

A standard is a limiting set of rules that simplify life for the IT department that implements it. Yes, you are giving up some decision making; however, you are also simplifying life for your staff. Vendors will try to sneak in their proprietary solutions in order to get you to adopt them and then be locked in to their products. Keep your eyes open and don’t let this happen.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Who do you think that you can turn to in order to determine if a standard is an open standard or a proprietary standard?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

It’s starting to get to that point in the year where we all start to think about the importance of information technology and what our goals for next year should be. Most CIOs will of course be thinking about all of the things that you think that CIOs should be thinking about: clouds, mobility, optimization, etc. I’m going to suggest that you do something different and that you create a bold goal for your IT department: find a way to make the IT department matter to your company’s customers.

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