Software Selection, Mafia-style

  • Written By: David Clark
  • Published: May 14 2008

The Guardian's excellent article How to Do Business Like the Mafia lists 7 rules for running a successful business—legitimate or otherwise.

And where there are business rules, of course, there’s enterprise software.

Which led me to wonder just how the Mafia would go about the enterprise software selection process.

Happily, we have Cosa Nostra's “10 Commandments” to help us, thanks to an odd document that surfaced in November 2007.

These so-called commandments were discovered by Italian police when they arrested Salvatore Lo Piccolo, the Sicilian Mafia boss.

I’ll abstain from commenting directly on the commandments (thanks mostly to our legal department), and simply present you The Mafia’s 10 Commandments, with translations for software selection purposes:

1. No one can present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be a third person to do it.

Software selection lesson: I think it’s fair to say that if a software product has landed on your shortlist thanks to certain direct connections to certain executives on your board, you may be headed for a world of trouble. This happens more often than you might think.

Need more third-party impartiality in your life? Start a free, impartial side-by-side software comparison.

2. Never look at the wives of friends.

Software selection lesson: Ha ha, bet you’re wondering where I’m heading with this one. Don’t look at your friends’ , uh, software. Look at your competitors’ software. This is the invaluable reference-checking stage of the selection process, where you look at how vendors on your shortlist handle organizations that share your market, business challenges, and industry-specific processes. Don’t skip this part. Many do.

Also see Your Guide to Enterprise Software Selection: Part One

3. Never be seen with cops.

Software selection lesson: Here, I guess the underlying lesson for mafia types is “don’t sow confusion within the ranks by consorting with the enemy.” In the software selection process, confusion is the enemy, particularly when you’re trying to reconcile thousands of criteria while comparing apples to oranges.

Simplify the process—and keep all your options on the table.

4. Don't go to pubs and clubs.

Software selection lesson: Keep your wits about you. Beware of bells and whistles, is what I’m saying. This is especially true during the demonstration phase of the software selection process. Best practice is to develop a demo script, and ensure your selected vendors stick rigorously to it—to the point of making sure they understand they’ll be penalized if they don’t. Be sure not to let them dazzle you with functionality you don’t need.

Also see The Demo Crime Files! and Beware of Vendors Bearing Solutions.

5. Always being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty—even if your wife's about to give birth.

Software selection lesson: Um. Well. Actually, I don’t recommend this. Trust me, quote me, Digg it, whatever. Stupid commandment.

6. Appointments must absolutely be respected.

Software selection lesson: Make sure all vendors on your shortlist understand that they will be penalized for not respecting document submission deadlines, for anything from RFP responses to reference checks. However, within your software selection team, you should have an agreed strategy for deadline extensions—and be sure to build them into your selection process timeline.

Also see Your Guide to Enterprise Software Selection: Part Two.

7. Wives must be treated with respect.

Software selection lesson: Replace “wives” with “users,” and not only will you be sleeping on the couch tonight, but you will also have a gospel truth when it comes to software selection. User buy-in is one of the most critical parts of the software selection process (also see commandment #9). Without it, you’ll end up with shelfware.

Conversely, you should know when to draw the line where excessive customization requirements are concerned. Any customization endeavor can be fraught with expense and risk. Besides, the software applications on your shortlist are likely the result of thousands of hours of research into best practices for your industry. They’re worth considering.

That’s why the business process modeling step of your software selection process—where you compare your “as is” processes to your “to be”—must not be given short shrift, painstaking (and often painful) though this step may be.

8. When asked for any information, the answer must be the truth.

Software selection lesson: Amen. If your software selection project is behind schedule and over budget, don’t hide the fact. And for heaven’s sake, don’t try to make up the shortfall with shortcuts. Every shortcut you take is a software selection disaster waiting to be published…

9. Money cannot be appropriated if it belongs to others or to other families.

Software selection lesson: Like most of these commandments, commandment #9 centers around respect for your own. Which, in software selection terms, is code for “consensus.” If you fail to drive consensus within your user community, users are likely to feel that they have had no voice in your final decision. Which is a sure recipe for a system that looks good only on paper.

10. People who can't be part of Cosa Nostra: anyone who has a close relative in the police, anyone with a two-timing relative in the family, anyone who behaves badly and doesn't hold to moral values.

Software selection lesson: Replace “relative” with “business process,” and what do you get? A tortured metaphor, that’s what.

I’ll keep this brief: What often happens in badly run software selection projects is that organizations end up automating processes that actually do more harm than good. In the industry, this is also known as “doing the wrong thing much, much faster.” To eliminate your two-timing business processes, nip them in the bud, at the business process modeling stage of your selection project.


Like any business leader—legitimate or not—Mafia bosses could certainly take advantage of some form of process automation.

Warehouse management, for when you’re running low on cement shoes? Check. Talent management systems for that oh-so-hard-to-find good help? Why not? Waste management systems, for that thing, you know, that thing? Obviously. Customer relationship management? Not so much, maybe, but who knows?

If you know, I’d certainly like to hear from you. Comment below.

And if you liked this post, you might also be interested in How to Kill Your Software Selection Project in 10 Very Easy Steps.
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