I like to start by asking management what are the business goals that the company is chasing. Let's face it, Information Technology decisions serve the purpose of supporting the business goals of the firm. Only when one knows what the goals are can we sit down to determine what choices or options should be in the IT decision set.
At the end of the day, cost is a very minor part of the equation. To many companies there is a significant risk to the business if there is only a single supplier of a given raw material. Should the same standard not be applied to IT? Does the firm have policies regarding the ownership of it's confidential business information? If so, then what is its position with respect to data files like documents and spreadsheets? If files like these may be accessed only using one vendor's products and only after recurrent license fees have been paid, who then owns the data? Does access control equate with ownership? How important, within the framework of the goals of the business, is backwards compatibility and forwards support so that the firm can continue to access and use historic data? What price or value should be placed on solutions that offer appropriate assurances?
This was first published in December 2003