The Myth of the "Mid-Tier" CIO - Page 2

Jul 6, 2009

Dennis Drogseth

The percentage for companies with more than 20,000 employees getting $500,000 more in value was only 32%. I should also point out that, in all fairness, EMA research into business service management (BSM) in the same time period consistently showed less of an interest in investing in the CMDB and other enabling components among smaller and mid-tier businesses than among larger enterprises.

I view this as a mistake among mid-tier IT executive leadership. Perhaps you think cost-effective solutions in this space aren’t there for you yet and that’s a fair concern. But a few innovations are already available with more on the horizon. And that brings me to the fourth and last myth for today’s column.

Myth 4 - The industry has fundamentally failed to address mid-tier and small business IT management requirements, except by way of outsourcing. This myth was fairly true five years ago, but there are a whole host of solutions that are breaking the mold. Many of these solutions are taking advantage of new software architectures available through Web-enabled services and Web 2.0 constructs, along with other foundational advantages. The vendors are too numerous to name so I won’t even try. But I will provide a short list of types.

Here are a few useful categories:

1. SNMP network management suites at initial prices often starting in the $5K-$10K range

2. Integrated performance and change analytics targeted at mid-tier buyers with starting points at $40-$50K

3. Service desk vendors with effective integrated ITSM suites beginning in the $40K+ price range.

4. Integrated operational suites with a broad range of functionality and modular purchase options starting at $40K-$50K.

5. SaaS for everything ranging from entire suites, to service desks and CMDBs, to niche solutions, including packaging options for some of the above alternatives.

6. Open source (recommended only if it’s supported beyond sheer osmosis and the often fatal techno-fascination with tinkering).

7. Niche innovation, e.g., a CDMB solution is available that’s downloadable with initial cost point at $5K.

Here I should put in the caveat that focusing on initial software costs versus effectiveness, administrative requirements and deployment requirements can often point you in the wrong direction.

I’d like to wrap up with perhaps the single most important thing I’ve observed in nearly a decade of research and consulting: in fundamental priorities for function, integration, variables impacting strategic successes, mid-tier and larger enterprises/organizations, and even smaller businesses above, say, the 500 employee level, have more far more in common than you might think. They differ more by maturity level than size.

And they have different vices. Larger enterprises suffer from their own bad habits (excessive deliberation, a fondness for grand world-changing solutions to be delivered in a single, mammoth initiative, fragmented fiefdoms, and shifting executive priorities arising often from shifting executives).

Mid-tier vices involve taking unfortunate short cuts, ignoring process and enabling technologies, and sometimes a sheer panic that drives both executives and professionals towards siloed, recidivist, tool-set tree hugging. It’s not surprising then the best advice any consultant could give you in the mid-tier is similar to advice given to large enterprises, albeit with a different array of technology choices and different warnings targeted at a different set of bad habits.

Dennis Drogseth is VP of Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates, an industry research firm focused on IT management. Dennis can reached at

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