You say stop and I say go go go, oh no.
- from "Hello Goodbye" by The Beatles
I've just returned from Utah State's IT Partners In Business conference. This is my first time attending PIB (I was a speaker on Day 2) and I have to say I learned quite a bit. The conference draws an interesting regional cross-section of attendees, so I made an effort to spend some time mingling and talking with attendees about the things on their minds. The conference was a real eye-opener for me, and I want to get my observations out while they're still fresh in my mind. Keep in mind that this is a relatively small sampling - business I.T. people based in Utah and Idaho for the most part - so feel free to take my observations with a grain of salt.
- Most of the attendees believe that the U.S. is already in an economic recession and that things are going to get worse before they get better. As a result, they're looking for ways to cut I.T. costs right now. In fact, in many organizations, the drive to cut I.T. costs has already begun.
- The rate of change in I.T. has become overwhelming (I actually spoke on this subject). A substantial portion of the group was so concerned about the rate of change and the continual stream of high costs associated with it that they're looking for strategies to "drop out" or avoid changes altogether for several years. There were quite a few PeopleSoft users with this perspective; they're happy with what they have, they don't see any compelling business needs that require a change, and they'd rather not change at all.
- Maintenance costs are a growing concern for many of the ERP users. In fact, several customers I spoke with are considering the idea of continuing to use ERP software desupported by the software vendor in the hopes that they'll be able to reduce maintenance costs and avoid ERP upgrade costs for as long as possible.
- Everyone at the conference seems interested in the buzz they hear about social networking, collaboration, New Web, etc. However, they're not interested enough to investigate technologies that have yet to develop strong business cases or value propositions. One example: I didn't find a single Twitter user in the crowd.
So, the upshot here? It seems to me that this all comes down to getting the story out on the value proposition. While many of us in the I.T. community believe we're in an exciting time with an ever-increasing rate of change, many of the end users have an entirely different perspective. The end users, already very concerned about a challenging economic environment and attempting to reduce I.T. costs, see that changes without value are being forced upon them and that the costs of those changes are very high. To align those perspectives, those of us who evangelize for I.T. must do a better job of aligning rapidly-changing technology and innovation with specific business value. Will your new technology or your great innovation help users do things better, faster or cheaper? It's important, because if the end users aren't motivated to uptake the fruits of innovation, those fruits will die on the vine...the worst result for everyone.