Recognizing value from IT solutions is kind of like….Pornography?
Maybe law school wasn’t such a great idea.
Those who know me know I’m not the best when it comes to using common phrases. I either mix metaphors, or misuse a euphemism – usually to my horror and the delight of my audience.
Last week I was consulting with a client who is striving to derive more value from its vendors. A few minutes into the discussion, I asked, “how are you, as a business, defining ‘value’”? This proved far trickier than everyone in the room had believed it would be. So, always the queen of appropriate, I mentioned how this reminded me of the Supreme Court’s definition of “pornography”.
Now, all of my former law school classmates would nod emphatically here, but, it was odd how quickly the room was silenced by the thought of comparing anything to pornography.
If you’re not part legal geek like I, it’s probably still hard to comprehend how this sounded remotely appropriate in a high level IT strategy session. See, the US Supreme Court defines pornography as, “I know it when I see it.” In other words, they can’t exactly define it. They can’t agree in advance as to all the attributes a piece of work must have to be considered pornographic. However, the justices decided that when something rises to the level, they know it. The same seemed to be true for my client as it struggled to define “value”.
We laughed, we erased inappropriate imagery from our heads, and we continued on a more appropriate path to define some workable standards for what was, and was not, “value”. And I continue to search for more appropriate analogies for next time.
Ultimately, we defined value in many ways for this particular client. For offshore software development vendors, we factored pricing and technical capabilities into the mix. For US-based managed service vendors – Vivo included – we looked at price, quality and adherence to SLAs on the tangible side, and then ease of engagement on the more intangible side. Finally, accountability and a true sense of “partnership” went into the definition of “value” across all vendors. Intangibles are, of course, harder to define. But again, we all agreed: we know value when we see it.