For the past two weeks we’ve eavesdropped on the Amazingly Bright Colors Corp.’s IS senior staff. ABC is launching a major change in its business strategy. Last week, the chief marketing officer (CMO) explained that ABC is calling its new strategy “molecularization.” Based on customer relationship management (CRM) and one-to-one, it’s called “molecularization” because the company plans to turn its products and services into “atoms” it can recombine freely to satisfy each customer’s unique requirements.
The battery in the bug I planted is low, but there should be enough juice left for us to hear the team make its plans …
CIO: So what do you think?
Application development manager: I think our CMO is running true to form. Completion in three years? Solid business results in half that time? He’s set the timetable without any idea of what this will take.
CIO: And you’ve rejected it, without any idea either.
Database manager: Are we committed to this cockamamie schedule, or do we get to negotiate?
CIO: OK, I’m only going to say this once. This is the strategy. It isn’t optional. Get used to the idea, and get used to the schedule. It’s going to happen in three years. The original timetable was two years, because that’s all the time the CEO and CMO think we have before our customers start abandoning us. The COO and I persuaded them that two years just isn’t enough.
Process redesign manager: So much for empowerment.
CIO: Empowerment doesn’t mean employees set our strategy. It means we’re going to need every good idea we can get to help us implement it. Starting with the four of you.
Operations manager: Here’s one good idea. We’ll each figure out our piece of it and get back to you. My piece is, no matter what you do, we’ll go on running the data center. (Yawns ostentatiously.)
CIO: What, do you expect every application we buy to run on the boxes and operating systems we already own? You’re in this up to your eyeballs. Now how are we going to make this happen?
App dev manager: We’ll wait until the rest of the company has defined its requirements. How can we make plans until we know what we’re supposed to build? Of course, that will be next year … and as a fringe benefit, by the time that happens we’ll have a new fad of the month to worry about.
CIO: The CEO and CMO are talking to three systems integrators right now. Does anyone in this room think they’ll avoid this opportunity because it’s impossible?
Database manager: Hey, they should involve us in technical decisions like that. This is a great way to make a bad choice.
CIO: Frankly, the execs told me you’d say it’s impossible and they wanted a more useful alternative. Now … if anyone in this room wants to explain why we can’t do it but three different systems integrators can, please don’t waste the oxygen because I’m not interested.
I told you earlier — our goal is to stay off the critical path. As of now, that’s our new mission statement. I want ideas on how. “Why not” isn’t on today’s agenda.
Process redesign manager: I’ve been thinking. Why don’t we think in terms of capabilities? We don’t need a lot of specifics to figure out the core capabilities we’ll need. For example, I’d be amazed if we don’t end up needing computer telephony integration in the call center.
App dev manager: OK, I’ll bite. We’re either going to need an ERP suite in here or a really nasty enterprise application integration system … and the EAI market is hardly what I’d call mature, either. Does anyone want to tell me how I can choose before I know a whole lot of specifics?
Operations manager: You can’t … but you can figure out the decision criteria, can’t you?
App dev manager: (Slowly) You know, that’s so crazy, it just might work …
Well, the batteries seem to have quit. But it looks like ABC’s IS leaders have some traction and have started working the problem.
How about you?