Market uncertainty, strained resources, and “innovation fatigue” are leading many IT organizations to fall into the trap of simply maintaining the status quo. But complacency is often far more expensive and dangerous than it appears to be. This article explores the downside of a “no decision” culture and argues for continued, proactive cost-benefit analysis of various opportunities for worthwhile mainframe innovation.
The High Cost of Inaction
Inaction can be hideously expensive. Consider replacement of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. In 1997, the estimated cost was $2.6 billion. Nine years later, after extensive debates and delays, the project cost had soared to $8.3 billion—and sources (see http://baybridgeinfo. org/) indicate the project still isn’t scheduled to be complete until 2011. So, indecision had a hard cost of $5.7 billion, as well as the significant soft costs associated with years of inadequate transportation infrastructure. In contrast, in 2008, South Carolina built a bridge of similar style, size, and scope for only $632 million; they made a decision and kept to it.
The tragedy of 9/11 can be similarly viewed. The 9/11 Commission Report states that, “The missed opportunities to thwart the 9/11 plot also were symptoms of a broader inability to adapt the way government manages problems to the new challenges of the 21st century. Computer systems weren’t interlinked, so action officers couldn’t draw on all available information about Al Qaeda.” In other words, institutional complacency played a big part in leaving the country exposed to serious security risks that wound up having incalculable costs to the U.S. and the world.
IT isn’t immune to this phenomenon. When IT organizations inappropriately delay decisions, the organizations they serve incur significant hard and soft costs. So, maintaining the status quo is never an inherently “safe” approach. It can be extremely risky.
Causes of Mainframe Complacency
IT has dramatically changed in recent years. If an organization’s processes, people, and technology don’t adapt accordingly, the business won’t be able to successfully compete with those who have. New mainframe solutions provide IT with the ability to get maximum value from mainframe investments in a Web-centric, cross-platform world. But IT organizations can’t make the transition to this new approach to mainframe ownership if they’re locked into a no decision culture.
One of the main causes of such a culture is simple inertia. Evaluation, procurement, and deployment processes for a new product take time and manpower. People often prefer to stay with the known rather than face a steep learning curve, even if the new product is superior. So, no decision occurs because the old is “good enough.”
Other causes of a status quo culture are disillusionment with the promises of vendors and concerns about making a mistake. So, organizations often stand pat with existing software or whatever scripts and processes they may have developed in-house.
The problem, of course, is that mainframe products that were sophisticated in the ’90s may have been supplanted with products that deliver greater benefits and lower cost of ownership. So, IT organizations that avoid or defer decision-making also forego these potential benefits and cost savings.