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Accelerate IT Delivery, Or Die

With technology evolving so rapidly, entering into lengthy enterprise IT contracts seems foolish.

It is amazing how quickly technology moves. Today, cloud computing and mobile technology are changing the way enterprises and consumers live, work and play.

But even with advances made each day, enterprise-level IT continues to move at the same old plodding pace. No doubt, the speed of technology innovation makes it difficult for CIOs to make long-term IT plans. And to be fair, how can a Wall Street IT organization even envision what it will be running 24 months from now?

At the Oracle Financial Services event in New York last week, Frank Brienzi, Oracle's SVP and general manager for financial services, spoke of how the enterprise technology vendor recently inked a large deal with one of "largest insurers in the world." That, by itself, isn't surprising. Oracle has dozens of large deals with many mega-companies.

What was surprising was what Brienzi said next: The story with Oracle's new, large insurance client, he indicated, "will evolve over the next 18 months." Eighteen months? Is this something that a tech company should boast about -- that it will take 18 months to implement a solution? Granted, signing a big contract with a big insurance carrier is something to be proud of; but to openly talk about an 18-month rollout seems ludicrous.

Long deployments are counterproductive, as customers and employees (not to mention boards) now measure enterprise IT with the same yard stick they use when buying a new smartphone: it must be fast, innovative and useful. Unfortunately, enterprise technology and many enterprise software providers don't think in these terms. Instead, many projects are slated for 12, or even 18, months, with only gradual increases in functionality.

Meanwhile, large IT organizations continue to build 24- and 36-month business-technology road maps. Part of this is due to institutional inertia: Firms have always had two- and three-year IT road maps, so why stop now? And most enterprise-class firms and vendors continue to move at what seems like a snail's pace when it comes to IT. To be fair, a company with 50,000 employees, tens of thousands of servers and multiple data centers can't plan month to month; IT organizations have to have some sort of plan in order to keep a company moving in the right direction.

Further, enterprise technology is complex. Integrating databases or rolling out new functionality across thousands of users can take months, if not years, to accomplish.

But with technology changing so fast, how can any company take a two-year technology plan seriously? Consider this: The first version of Apple's iPad was released in April 2010, just 22 months ago. It's a pretty safe bet that any enterprise's technology road map developed in 2010 had absolutely no mention of tablet computing. But by early 2011, it was pretty clear that the iPad would bring major changes to businesses of all stripes.

The iPad is only one example of technology that is challenging status quo IT thinking. Cloud computing and the increasing number of quality SaaS offerings are two other examples of tech trends that are making big inroads into enterprise IT. During the past year, more companies, according to an InformationWeek study, are reporting that they are are using, or considering using, these services. And cloud and SaaS applications can sometimes be rolled out in weeks or months, not years.

Given the rapid evolution of technology, it would seem that long, multiyear implementation contracts aren't in the best interest of the business or its customers. That is one reason why newer technology companies are now offering software and services that can be implemented in weeks or months, not the traditional year-long development cycle. [see cloud and Saas mentions above]

Attivio, an enterprise data integration provider, never starts working with a client with a "statement of work" (SOW) longer than three months, the company's colorful founder, president and CEO Ali Riaz, tells Wall Street & Technology. "From the time we sign a contract to deployment is always less than three months," Riaz says. "This breaks conventional wisdom, especially when talking about data in large enterprises."

Riaz claims that Attivio's Active Intelligence Engine has been able to integrate large sets of structured and unstructured data across various applications and databases without predefined a taxonomies or even data formats. He says the technology has been deployed at a number of capital markets firms, as well as other companies such as Deutsche Telecom, Intralinks, Traction Software and Netezza. Riaz declines to name the financial firms at this time, although he mentioned at one financial services client announcement will be made in the next few weeks.

As always, new companies like Attivio will push established technology providers to improve their solutions, adapt or perish. This doesn't mean it will happen overnight, or that one of the large enterprise technology providers will vanish. But for CIOs, it should be a welcome relief just to have other viable options to traditional enterprise-class Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

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