Feature

Time Isn't on Your Side (editor's letter)

When the Rolling Stones first sang "Time Is on My Side," they certainly didn't have CIOs in mind. Safe to say the aging rockers wouldn't know a CIO if we threw one onstage during one of their vintage performances. But no matter. The real point here is about time, not rock 'n' roll. Specifically, "time to value," as two CIO friends of mine describe it.

This phrase surfaced a few weeks ago in California during a conversation with Sam Lamonica, CIO of Redwood City-based construction firm Rudolph and Sletten, and Cliff Bell, CIO of Phoenix Technologies in Milpitas. Both men are using an open source-based service from GroundWork in Emeryville, Calif., which supplies subscription-based network monitoring and systems management to about 100 midsized firms.

"Time to value is a way to measure how quickly you can get a technology installed and showing results," Lamonica explains. "Midmarket companies need tools we can implement quickly and affordably." Of all the IT metrics bandied about, I really fell for time to value. It resonates with such business practicality, it seems particularly well suited to midsized companies.

In this case, stabilizing infrastructure operations without writing a six-figure check has changed the nature of the conversations Lamonica and Bell now have with senior management. "It improves your career path," Bell says. "You don't want to be talking server metrics with the C-level team."

I've had many discussions with CIOs lately that focus on improving relationships with business colleagues. Everyone hears that ticking clock in the background, and no one wants to waste time getting to that value delivery point. Many stories in this issue, in fact, underscore the twin themes of time and value.

In our case study of cubicle manufacturer Haworth Inc., Seven Years in the Making, time and a faltering economy conspired to turn a promising enterprise resource planning (ERP) project into a study in patience. With an Oracle rollout stalled for years, IT chief Michael Moon forged ahead with a $14-million overhaul of the company's supply chain management systems. And time was ultimately on his side. The ERP project is back on track, with solid support from a CEO who sees the project as a business opportunity.

Pay Up! explores the landscape of IT chargeback, a model littered with failed attempts by CIOs to track and charge their IT costs back to end users. Yet while business people have been enamored with chargeback schemes since the tech downturn, company politics often derail these attempts to assign value to IT delivery. Our story outlines the steps for midmarket firms to succeed with the model.

Finally, our cover story, Waiting for Microsoft, examines the software giant's awakening to the midmarket as a vital customer set -- already a $6-billion business and Microsoft's fastest-growing segment. Midmarket CIOs would love to get serious attention from Redmond, but they're skeptical about promises of products more tailored to their needs.

"Midmarket companies live and die by their nimbleness and speedy decision making," our story notes. "So what happens if Microsoft delays its plans?" Many CIOs will tell you they can't afford to wait for any vendor, especially when business value hangs in the balance. Time may be on the side of the Stones, but it's not on yours.

Maryfran Johnson, is the founding editor in chief of CIO Decisions. To comment on this story, email editor@ciodecisions.com.

This was first published in February 2006

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