Sunday, November 06, 2011

Beware "big vendor"?

There was a fascinating column in Forbes by Adam Hartung this past week that got me thinking - again - about how "big vendor" (just like "big iron" in the IT business) has been a lot of the source of news organization sluggishness that too often has been blamed on newsrooms' reluctance to innovate.

I can't endorse the survey because I don't know enough about it (in fact, I'm always skeptical of these kinds of things just by their general nature), yet it does get my thinking juices flowing:

Recently, technology provider IFS Corporation did a survey on ERP users in manufacturing (Does ERP Mean Excel Runs Production?) Their surprising results showed that new employees (especially under age 40) were very unlikely to take a job with a company if they had to use a complex (usually vendor supplied) interface to a legacy application.  In fact, 75% of today’s users are actively seeking – and using – cloud based apps or home grown spreadsheets to manage the business rather than the expensive applications the corporation supplied!  Additionally, between 1/3 and 2/3 of employees (depending upon age) were actively seeking to quit and take another job simply because they found the technology of their company hard to use! (CIO Magazine: Employees Refusing to Use Clunky Enterprise Software.)
One of the reasons this also got my thinking juices flowing was that I am doing a social media roundtable this week for a press association, and one of the things we'll be discussing is "best practices," especially in light of the twittersphere flare-up over the AP's latest social media guidelines and the earlier one over ESPN's.

Just one other observation about "big vendor" -- I won't get into great detail or ID the operation, but I know of one news organization with a pay wall that has a big vendor online system and accompanying metrics. Log on to the metrics, however, and you'll see tracking for only a handful of accounts. Of thousands of subscribers only a dozen or so are using the pay wall?!

No, comes the explanation. The organization uses another application that apparently manages the pay wall log ons (I haven't gotten deeply into this yet, beyond WTF), and they don't talk to each other. The reaction from those who should have this info: Not much we can do about it.

When you are flying that blind, you are probably going to eventually fly into a mountain.

But what concerns me as a somewhat casual member of a news consulting group that specializes in community papers (so I get to listen in on the war stories) is that a lot of these news organizations are just being seen as "bug sucker" by "big vendor." The results are not likely to be good.

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