Surviving the Drop in Business Investment

Truly amazing news as the UK’s National Museum of Computing keeps the WITCH online — mechanical relays, paper tape and all!

The computer’s “flashing lights and clattering printers and readers provides an awe-inspiring display for visiting school groups and the general public keen to learn about our rich computer heritage,” the museum says.

After 61 years, it can still store 40 8 digit numbers and multiply two of them in a blazing 5 or 10 seconds.

Unfortunately, in the uncertain economy we face today business executives must consider keeping older (not older than WITCH, just old enough to be behind the technology innovation curve, ed.) systems running their IT processes for the next year or so as capital investment budgets shrink. This fact will challenge technology firms as new sales fall off, moreso should executives elect to forego software maintenance renewals. What should technology executives do to meet this challenge?

When static business investment is the optimistic forecast, so is static revenue. Stasis is not good for technology revenues and lower revenues can lead to reduced innovation budgets and more stasis. Skip over the traditional “rightsizing” and “acquire bigger footprint” financial steps all firms will use, and consider instead what positive steps may be taken to assist the business executives in gaining increased value from older systems (thus strengthening maintenance renewals and possibly leading to new licenses ). The most positive steps technology firms can take focus on maintaining or increasing innovation … then delivering the innovation to customers without excessive costs.

The greatest opportunity comes from integrating communications about customer issues, while automating workflows to turn customer issues into product innovations. The idea is simple – too many technology firms have islands of information related to customer problems. From implementation team notes, to help desk records, to product quality tests, to requirements and design documents in R&D the core data that should be driving innovation is scattered, missing where needed, and unused. Technology industry executives know how to recognize this problem, we solve it for our customers every day. The answer lies in unifying innovation related work flows through a single shared database of customer issues and resolutions.

Once the innovation data is unified, it is time to analyze it. Complex analysis is another capability technology firms provide their customers that should be turned inward today. Identify issues experienced by many customers. Rank them by cost / opportunity to each customer. Rank them by total cost / opportunity to all customers. Compare the ranks to the cost and time required to deliver an innovation targeted at the issue. Deliver the low hanging fruit (low cost to you, high value to your customers) quickly. Identify customers who might be experiencing the issues your new innovation addresses – use outreach to help them benefit from your work as well. Lather, rinse, repeat. Customers who receive a continuing flow of business benefits are more likely to renew software maintenance – both the technology vendor and the customer can point to concrete examples of the value underlying the expense.

Technology executives need to recognize the budget constraints facing our customer executives. Next we need to apply our knowledge and skills to our internal innovation engines and speed innovation to our customers. Those who can deliver innovation to customers within the framework of the software maintenance agreement (i.e. at minimal to no extra charge) will experience stronger maintenance renewal rates. Strong maintenance renewal rates allow technology firms to sustain innovation budgets and are the key to surviving in this economy.

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