For those who reside outside the Northeast U.S. or aren't familiar with the situation, Cablevision and Fox are in a heated dispute over renewal fees to broadcast a handful of Fox stations to millions of Cablevision subscribers in New York and New Jersey. Cablevision claims that Fox wants more than $150 million to carry WNYW, WWOR and WTFX, more than double its previous fees.
As a Cablevision subscriber, the disagreement between the two companies goes beyond being inconvenient and annoying. Since the blackout began, Cablevision has been running the equivalent of infomercials that are broadcast each time you turn on the service, blasting Fox for its greed and stubbornness. As a viewer, it's aggravating to have to see this every time you turn on the TV. What's even more bothersome is that Cablevision is now encouraging its viewers to petition lawmakers to intervene.
Back to the point of this post. As millions of users are left out in the cold while this clash rages on, there are some lessons here for CIOs.
Seasoned IT leaders often speak of vendor contracts as "partnerships." Even though this is a bit of marketing-speak, there is some truth to this. User companies often rely heavily on vendors to provide them software, hardware, services, consulting - or any combination of the above.
There's a leap of faith that occurs here. Enterprise companies invest tens of millions of dollars into these types of agreements and customers expect them to be delivered successfully. But problems arise. It happens with hardware and software. Even services can experience hiccups from time to time. Smart IT leaders have learned to expect this. The best IT leaders have a contingency plan in place for dealing with these problems when they arise.
But when something goes horribly wrong - like when an eight-figure ERP system processes customer orders incorrectly - that's when the finger-pointing and name-calling often goes public, much like what has occurred between Fox and Cablevision. When there's a lot at stake - such as core operations going haywire - sometimes the problem goes beyond a CIO's control and the CFO or CEO steps in to take charge.
But when problems arise - and invariably they do - it's important for CIOs to look at the big picture and not panic. Good IT leaders do just that. They recognize that even if the vendor partner is at fault for a service failure or some other type of glitch, not to overreact. Have the IT team work with the vendor's staff to resolve the issue.
They also recognize that even though the vendor is being paid for the service, ultimately, the internal IT organization is still responsible for seeing to it that the activity is being executed. It's like the old adage about outsourcing. A company may hand off an aspect of IT operations, but it doesn't hand off the management or oversight of the activity.