Still Looking for that Simple Answer

said this neighbor, for it was a roaming call, and I
was out of the country. "I think I need a scanner, which should I

I tried a "quick" long-distance answer on a depleting battery. What
application? What budget? Need high-res prints…? Then we gave up. I promised
to drop in when I was back.

Scanner, PC, printer, modem… it’s the same question I’m asked dozens of
times in a year. And each time, I re-discover how complex "all this
computer stuff" still is.

Now listen to that question coming from the CIO or CTO, roles that I
sometimes play for my company, and the complexity gets scary. "Simple"
questions like which app to standardize, or which messenger to deploy, get mired
in debate, meetings and controversy. Copper or microwave? How do we connect our
branch offices? Those take months to answer, even with all our tech expertise.

For IS managers in thousands of less-than-tech-savvy businesses, imagine the
problems. Simple question: Which server? The most useful answer for his business
is the server brand and model, configuration and price. If he does get so simple
an answer, it was probably from the vendor selling that server… so he ignores
it and gets down to weeks of reinventing the wheel.

IT consultants and services do play a role–audit business need, take the
mass of specs, jargon, conflicting benchmarks…and recommend. But few mid-size
businesses use them, and few consultants are completely unbiased.

Magazines play a role too. But our "answers" often pack jargon that
CIOs have to struggle to relate to real business needs. An IS manager of a
mid-size business asked me: "Do we really need this storage stuff? Our six
servers have lots of storage." A DQ article peppered with NAS and SAN
buzzwords didn’t tell him what he needed and why and how much.

Another CIO said he was tired of seeing lists of exporters in Dataquest.
"What about those working in India? I need someone to set up our SCM, and
don’t see a single list that tells me the best vendors for that…"

The first thing all this suggested was that there’d be much use for a CIO
handbook that could answer some of those questions. Just the basics, some of the
tech, some resources, some services listings, to start with. That’s how this
annual issue was born.

The second was that vendors have some way to go to simplify their offerings,
to market, communicate and sell in a useful and credible manner. Show how a
messaging system investment will cut long-distance communications costs over
three months. This requires work–it’s not easy to turn a complex issue into
a short answer. But it works. Simple specs, clear value propositions…and half
the sale’s made. As with a consumer PC sale, package deals are good,
especially if the vendor takes responsibility for all parts of the package.

Let’s go back to simplicity!

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