CIOs rail against vendor lock-in

By Chris Middleton
04 Jan 2012 View Comments
A man's hands sticking through prison bars

Good data management can be a business enabler and a cost saver, while poor data management can lose the enterprise money and blunt its strategic edge. This much should be obvious to all IT decision-makers. So what prevents good data management from happening?

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An exclusive Computing survey of more than 180 enterprise IT leaders reveals that a massive 92 per cent of them believe that there are obstacles to achieving more efficient and cost-effective data management. Many of these are placed in their way by vendors and the contracts they foist on their customers, say the CIOs.

Asked what prevents the enterprise from achieving cost savings, more than 40 per cent of CIOs answered “existing contract terms” and over one-third said that licensing restrictions are to blame. Nearly one-quarter said that vendor lock-in was an obstacle, with a further nine per cent saying: “I am not in control of the IT environment, the vendor is.”

For example, an IT officer in one local council explained that licensing terms restricted him to running a database and applications on a specific type of processor. He described the licensing terms as “very restrictive”.

A significant minority of organisations find that a multi-vendor, best-of-breed approach is better suited to their business, as it reduces the risks of restrictive practices.

Being locked into a single-vendor agreement for enterprise hardware, applications and database may have its attractions - such as a single point of contact and reduced management time - but it may not always be in the customer’s best interests. For example, if the relationship sours then the enterprise is left with a major problem. Even if the relationship remains healthy, then the enterprise is still placing a great deal of power in a supplier’s hands.

In all, just eight per cent of senior IT strategists said that there is nothing standing in the way of them realising the IT and data management cost savings necessary to run an agile enterprise. Not all the blame can be placed at the vendors’ door, however: nearly 40 per cent of the UK’s CIOs cited a lack of business will to tackle data management issues.

In the meantime, enterprises may be losing money unnecessarily, while also taking drastic steps in the flatlining economy - such as cutting staff, budgets, or programmes - unaware that savings could be found in rationalising their IT estate with no impact on human resources or skills.

Asked where savings on their licensing terms specifically might lie, most said that consolidation and rationalisation was the key - and was also a factor in obtaining greater leverage with the vendor. Some admitted that better licence management would improve the situation.

There is certainly evidence of an internal management challenge in many organisations. More than one quarter of IT strategists questioned by Computing said that a lack of in-house skills is to blame for their inability to manage data more cost-effectively. Many admitted that they are using the wrong platform for their real-world needs, or that there is insufficient hardware and application maintenance within the organisation.

These are extraordinary admissions, given that most of the IT strategists questioned are actively involved in the day-to-day specification, analysis and management of enterprise software systems.

The business impact of some vendor contracts is part of the problem, found the survey. Over one-third of IT strategists said that their contract was actively a “barrier to change”. Nearly 10 per cent of UK organisations are fundamentally unhappy with their contracts, with half of that number saying if they could “rip it up and start again” they would.


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