Naked CIO: What to choose - what's right for you or what's right for the company?

My conflict between business and personal benefit...

Failing to raise doubts about a legacy project out of political expediency would be to ignore what's best for the firm and its customers

Failing to raise doubts about a legacy project out of political expediency would be to ignore what's best for the company and its customersPhoto: Shutterstock

Back a project you don't believe in or put your neck on the block over a risky alternative - that's the dilemma for the Naked CIO.

Our company is going through a merger. The other business is embroiled in a troubled ERP installation that's 18 months over schedule and equally significantly overbudget.

One of the top items on the IT agenda is to review this implementation. We have to determine whether, under the new merged structure, it is still viable and capable of coping with the migration of my company's customers, even though it has yet to be tested and implemented.

As part of this review, I was also asked to propose an alternative. We have come up with the idea of developing an SOA layer on our primary billing platform.

This concept represents a way forward that allows for flexible development on a tier-one platform to continue to drive business. It appears that this approach could consolidate business operations 14 months earlier than the ERP alternative.

Seems pretty straightforward, especially when the cost comparison provides more evidence that the ERP direction may be flawed. However, I'm not sure I want to take on this project. Can I deliver? Yes. Can it be done sensibly and on time? Yes. Are there risks? Yes, absolutely.

However, if the ERP goes ahead and fails, I am not exposed in any way. It was not my decision or my recommended strategy. Equally, if it succeeds, I can continue to innovate and develop other areas of the business. While I may not be the architect of success, I am certainly not tainted either.

On the other hand, were I to argue successfully for a change of course, I would be taking on a huge risk if for some reason this strategy falters or encounters problems along the road. In my heart I believe that my way forward is right - but I'd be cashing in some very valuable political capital to push my approach.

An ethical debate about what's good for the business

Yet if I don't express my doubts about the ERP implementation through providing a compelling alternative - even though I will be politically untarnished - I wade into an ethical debate about ignoring what's best for our company and our customers.

The only reason I would adopt this dubious position is because it's easier to let the ERP fail and try to pick up the pieces than to engage in an aggressive alternative. I face a conflict between doing the right thing for the company and doing the right thing for me. I know what I will end up doing - whatever is right for the company.

But I wonder if nine months down the road I will question whether perhaps I should have done the opposite. My sincere wish is that I hope not. Sometimes easy isn't right and what others view as right is certainly not easy.

However, I have the peace of mind of knowing that I am staying true to my company and what's best for it no matter what position that puts me in - including being the last person to find a seat in a corporate game of musical chairs.

I am not willing to put our customers or company in harm's way because it is politically expedient for my career. That, I have to believe, is a good thing.