Beware brood parasites in your company
Louis Richardson 120000HRWE firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  competitive | 0 Comments | 1,634 Visits
What is a brood parasite and why should you care? If you haven't gone to Wikipedia by now, let me offer their description (paraphrased):
So what happens is this: a Cuckoo (yes it's a real bird and a brood parasite) will lay it's egg in the nest of another species of bird, let's say a reed warbler. The warbler will care for the egg as if it's one of it's own. The cuckoo has become quite adapt at matching it's egg to look like the warbler eggs. After hatching, the young cuckoo proceeds to get rid of all other suitors. It will push unhatched warbler eggs from the nest and those that do hatch don't stand a chance. The cuckoo is larger than the young warblers, so it demands all the attention of the parent. So much attention that the young warblers will die from starvation.
What is amazing is that this works so well. As the picture below shows, the foster parents don't even seem to realize they are raising a “monster”. The cuckoo is so large it often doesn't fit in the nest any longer and merely sits on top. The end story is that the cuckoo lives to repeat this, the warbler parent expends a tremendous amount of energy in the care and feeding of the cuckoo...at the expense of neglecting and killing off it's own young.
We think, “How can that happen?” Guess what? It's happening in companies every day.
A company has a project. It could be a “social business” or “enterprise content management” or “portal” or any of a dozen different specific and well deserving initiatives within their organization. To make these “company business focused” projects successful, they need focused attention and support. Project teams are organized, requirements are determined, it's clear what has to be done. The nest is made.
In comes a specific vendor stating, “We have an answer to whatever question you might have? It's looks just like a social business solution, or it appears to be an ECM system, it looks like a portal, it even looks like a development tool.” And then they add, “You probably already have this in your company.” And they lay their egg.
You look at their offering and from the outside it looks like a good egg. From their presentation it looks like what you're hoping to do. So you let it sit....and hatch. Before long you discover you need some additional licenses to really make this work. As it grows, you find out the demo you saw was highly customized and you're going to have to invest in a lot of services to make it work for your company situation. What's this? You need additional servers...and associated licenses for these boxes. And those old desktop operating systems will have to go if you want to leverage the latest capabilities...you know the ones you saw in the demo. You're now spending so much time in the care and feeding of this “monster” that other well deserved and needed projects are neglected and lost. And in many instances, you make this brood project work, but at what expense...and to whose benefit?
I know this sounds a bit harsh and I'm not normally this critical. But as I travel around and meet with executives and business leaders, I continue to hear stories about how companies are now discovering how much time and effort they've spent (and continue to spend) in the care and feeding of a system that never grew up to be what they expected it to be in the first place. They are staring at a "monster" that has consumed valuable time and money and it's still squawking for more. And if that's not enough, the damage goes beyond the one project.
I've talked with company executives and they've said, "I'm concerned about this social software stuff. It seems to be getting out of hand." When I inquire about what they mean, I find out it's one of these brood vendor's content offerings that's "popping up everywhere" and their IT department is spending a lot of time and effort just trying to "get it under control". It turns out that what they wanted was to become a social business and what they got was just another content-centric solution. And because it put itself off as a social solution and is failing, the company has formed a false concern about social software.
The great thing about serving at IBM is that we actually have specific answers to specific needs. We have industry leading ECM systems, we have market leading social software and portal solutions....and they work together to serve our customers. We appreciate and strive to work with existing applications and initiatives. It's not our goal to suffocate other projects or to make our customers use a single operating system or upgrade all their desktops to support our applications. We respect our hosts and support those around us...even some of the brood vendors.
But we're not opposed to fighting off parasites when we come across them. Let us know if you have one you'd like some help with.
Louis serves as a Social Business Executive for IBM and can be reached at Ric