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25 April 2006

System governance: nobody's problem is everybody's problem

By Andrew Clifford

System governance solves problems that affect everyone in IT. But it is hard to position system governance because few people are directly responsible for solving the problems.

I have to admit that we have a problem at Metrici. We find it hard to position and promote our products. But not for the usual reasons.

  • People understand our value proposition. We get comments like "people are always interested in saving time and money", "even if you are half right it sounds like it is worth pursuing", and "they'll bite your hands off for this".
  • We are not lost amongst the competition. Our products are unique. We never get comments like "that's just like product XYZ".
  • There are no barriers to adopting the product. It is easy to implement, there are free trials, and the product itself is cheap.
  • We do not ask for a leap of faith. You do not have to wait six months to see the benefits, you can see results straight away.

So why do we have a problem getting our message across?

Some of it is because we are new, and we are still refining the message. But we face a deeper challenge.

In a sense, system governance is "nobody's problem". In IT, most people work on delivering IT service or developing business changes. Few people are directly concerned with managing system quality in the long term.

So, instead of looking at our products as a method of managing systems in the long term, they look at them against the problems that they are responsible for. For example, we get comments confusing what we offer with methods for IT service management or requirements gathering. This makes it hard to get our message across.

But in reality, system governance is "everybody's problem". The quality of the underlying systems has a direct impact on IT services. It makes a huge difference to how easy it is to support business changes. System longevity has a huge impact on the overall cost of IT. Everybody who works in and around IT is seriously affected by the problems that our products address.

How can we tackle this product positioning challenge?

We have to be very clear about what problem our products address. Our products are not aimed at the problems of business change or IT service delivery. They are aimed at the problem of the long-term decline of systems into unmanageable mush.

We also have to show how our products help deliver IT services and develop business changes. In IT, we already do a lot of work to try to minimise long term problems. During projects, we carry out technical reviews. During system selection, we assess competing options for technical fit and compliance. When we plan work, we review existing systems to see which need urgent maintenance. We review systems for regulatory compliance. Our products are a quicker, cheaper and more effective way of doing these tasks, and we need to sell those benefits.

Lastly, we do have to keep communicating the problem we are trying to address. We have to show that the long term quality of systems is everybody's problem, and that solving it will make everybody's life better.

Next: Why you really need a list of systems

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