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CIO’s: No Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts

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When I think of the computer hobbyist, I think of Steve Wozniak.

The computer hobbyist is someone who gets joy from the craft of putting together pieces. They find pleasure in spending hour after hour, long into the night, tinkering with the wires, scratching their heads and pulling their hair out to solve a puzzle that nobody else has completed. They are putting together pieces that were never intended to fit each other, with the hope of creating something new.

CIO’s do not want to be computer hobbyists. The great ones want good partners who deliver reliable products.

In countless conversations with CIO’s during my time at Tamr, I’ve learned that their jobs depend on one crucial skill, namely their ability to find and partner with the right companies. So to better understand our customers at Tamr, we began to spend a lot of time caring about what they care about: Integration.

Let me explain.

In enterprise software, tinkering goes by another name: Systems integration. It’s done by SI’s, or systems integrators, comprised of large teams contracted by CIO’s in an express effort to avoid doing the tinkering themselves in-house. Ask any CIO and they’ll tell you that this isn’t ideal. One CIO from a Global 2000 pharmaceutical company told me ‘We integrate vendor systems because we have to, not because we want to.’

So, if they would prefer to buy a full stack that was pre-integrated, why don’t they? Simply put, they won’t achieve their ambitious goals around analytics and data with mediocre individual pieces. Instead they take a best-of-breed approach and buy the best of each individual component, and thier team does the integration to put it all together. In this case, Tamr is just one component in a much larger solution, in which several huge systems need to be integrated. And that requires making a crucial decision.

Do I have internal IT folks do the integration, or do I outsource to an SI?


Outsourcing SI is a double-edged sword: you have less control of the team you get and skill level. For example, there’s one of Tamr’s customers uses a large SI to build their Informatica flows. When the requirements to complex or integration is required with new technology like Tamr, their engineers don’t have the skills to complete those projects.

Consequently, I’ve heard from several CIO’s that they think of their SI relationship as their most important partnership and negotiating the SI contract as a key lever. It’s a tricky balancing act – relying too heavily on an integration can lead to vendor lock in, but not leaning in enough could mean worse resources to work on integrations. One CIO actually walked me through his SI batting average: 48 SI contracts begun, 32 contracts completed, and 6 major failures after contracts had been signed.

So, what does this mean for niche software companies like ours?

One way we can deliver more for our customers is with pre-built integrations. We can thoughtfully invest time to develop easier ways to integrate and pick specific tools for deep integrations. But the solution here isn’t just more tech. There’s also an opportunity use the learnings of many deployments to advise our customers better:

Recognize that many of their projects will have a significant SI component.

Being willing and proactive to understand those other components and talk to their customer success teams.

Most importantly, telling our customers that we understand the pain, complexity and risk associated with buying many products and putting them together.

If we do this effectively, CIO’s can spend their weekends tinkering in their garage, instead of tinkering in their office.

What do you think Tamr could do to make a CIO’s job easier? Please leave a comment below!