Do you remember token ring versus Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet versus ATM on the Desktop, Explorer versus Navigator, NetWare versus NT, NetWare versus Vines, Apple versus Wintel (ie the PC industry), Lotus 123 versus Excel, Word versus WordPerfect, Unix versus NT, Cisco versus Synoptics; on and on, ad nauseam? All the while, over the top of this noise you were urged to focus on the big picture' and align technology with business goals. It's little wonder that many opted to push the vendor-league battle to one side and just go with the market share leaders. This old nobody got fired for buying [insert market share leader]' approach to IT planning saves on management workload and sidesteps some integration and support hassles.
Aligning IT to the business still ranks at the top of IT executive leaders' most pressing concerns, with migrating to new platforms and keeping abreast of new technology just a few rungs down the ladder, according to forums such as IDC's InTep, but obviously the choices involved in meeting these challenges are easier within a less cluttered market. Enter Microsoft's desktop domination.
Leaving aside questions of marketing and comparative performance, I think Dan Drake (page 8) is right when he suggests that enterprise software buyers are at least partly responsible for the "stifling of innovation for which Microsoft stands accused". It makes sense to save money and cut down on the number of vendors you have to deal with. This is often achieved by buying bundled suites of applications from a preferred supplier. The downside is that this approach often leaves superior products out of consideration and prevents vendors without full suites from competing.
The question is, do you really want to deal with a more competitive software market?' If so, you could take some of Drake's advice and seek a management commitment to buy the best products in each category. This could be handled by pilot groups, which would test and measure which products in each category are most productive and cost-effective.
But if this all sounds way beyond your resources - then let somebody else worry about the health of the industry - even if you risk your organisation missing out on the best available technology.
Editor in chief