The Cost of Being Unique

By JP Morgenthal February 21, 2012

IT vendors and consultants are quite used to hearing the dreaded statement from customers, “yeah, but I’m different, I have very unique needs. I’m not like those other companies.” It seems there is almost a bravado associated with this notion that IT executives are solving a problem for the first time made unique by factors related to their industry or their own organizational idiosyncrasies. And, while the delivery teams would shake their head in disbelief, the account teams relished in the realization that custom solutions result in higher revenues.

However, in the age of shrinking budgets and higher operating costs—supporting all those systems that had to be uniquely created—it seems there’s an understanding finally among IT executives that perhaps the cost of “being different” isn’t worth the associated price tag. Indeed, I’m starting to see a greater hunger from executives to understand how their peers across industries are solving problems and eager to copy the successes.

Cloud computing solutions are changing IT executives’ opinions regarding their roles within their organizations. Perhaps, in the past, unique did have some aspect of job security associated with it, but now is the fast path to driving Shadow IT—end users using external IT solutions bypassing internal IT completely. The cloud has had many paradigm changing impacts on IT, but perhaps none more important than fostering competition for internal customers. There is no time or funding for unique; speed and quality are the attributes required to run the IT shop of the future. Job security in the future IT shop is now a factor of customer satisfaction, not knowing arcane knowledge about how a particular system was built or operates.

Perhaps believing your IT needs were all that different than Joe’s in retail or Dave’s in healthcare because you’re a financial organization had some air of truth and some part of machoism, but, like the 70’s that fostered the image, machismo is dead. We all have regulations and compliance requirements, we all have customers and internal processes, and we all have rapidly growing—insatiable?—demand for compute and storage.  The cost of being unique in the era of the cloud is being left behind. Reinventing the wheel may ultimately end up costing the business.

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