Magnum Iter: New Corporate Strategy?

One of the first things I learned in Latin was Magnum Iter, an idiom for forced march. I like the term, as it has made sense trying to understand a lot of businesses  over the years, in both a positive and negative context.

This is a long weekend, and we have today off from work, but it seemed prudent to check email. Our tax collection system sends a lot of email out announcing its continued good health, or lack of, and that’s a good thing to track.

Everything was hunky dory with the tax collection system. Instead, I saw a plain text, poorly formatted email, from the corporate offices of one of my least favorite megalithic, all-conquering vendors.

It seems our general ledger vendor’s ultimate strategy over the past few years has been to make support costs so high that you, a cash-strapped municipality will just want to host your whole application with these folks. For those not aware, Commonwealth of Massachusetts cities and towns have been cash-strapped even before the 2008 economic down turn.

Given our cash management system needs to extract information from our Informix SE-based general ledger and because our support costs are considerably lower than the vendor’s, even with disaster recovery thrown in, we have elected to host our general ledger and other systems in house.

Our general ledger system runs on Red Hat Linux; on an IBM e-server 4U rack mount; and we use Informix SE (Informix Standard Engine), which is a very fast ISAM database for up to seventy concurrent (give or take) users. Our general ledger and tax collection systems never have more than twenty-five to thirty-five concurrent users.

As an aside, we are hosting the AMR system we have purchased from our AMR vendor with the vendor, but that may only be temporary and was done to cut down on the complexity of implementing our water AMR project.

Today’s email from our general ledger vendor basically said, we’re dropping multiple platform support and only offering the product on MS SQL Server. [MS SQL Server implies Microsoft Windows as well.] We’re doing this with you in mind, because 99% of our customers want that.

Probably if customers were properly educated as to having a choice, they might still choose MS Windows as the server platform, but choose Oracle or Informix Dynamic Server as their database engine. Shock, they might even choose the low connect cost InformixSE (Informix Standard Engine) as their database. That is what our town uses.

No, in the midst of a recession, with cash strapped cities and towns, now seems to be the right time to send your customers on a forced march. The executive who sent out the email must be as dumb as a stump or disconnected from reality. If I were making a move like that, I’d do it through the best communications link any company has or should have, their sales team.

Hopefully, we will go for a real RFP with many vendors before choosing to purchase more software from these folks.

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