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Archive for February, 2008

The Vendor Lock-In Bogeyman

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

By now, most of us have experienced vendor “lock-in.” Cell phones sold at a discount in exchange for contract agreements that lock you in to the provider. PC applications that are a nuisance to put up with but would be an even bigger nuisance to switch. And—we all love this one, don’t we?—the surprisingly cheap printer that requires you to buy that company’s surprisingly expensive ink cartridges.

In the business world, we’ve got vendor lock-in and we’ve got it bad. We spend tens of thousands—or tens of millions—of dollars on a complex business system, by which I mean some combination of hardware, software, and business processes sufficiently embedded in the company’s day-to-day operations that it would be extremely painful, difficult, and costly to replace it. Think CRM, ERP, CMS, BI, ILM—the list goes on. Once a system like that is up and running, once people have learned how to use it, once mountains of data have been stored in it and processed by it, once customers are interacting with it, once processes have been re-engineered around it, once a myriad of apps have been made compatible with it, once the IT folks have learned to baby it along . . . Talk about being locked in!

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