5 Reasons Tech Vendors Exaggerate - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // IT Strategy
Commentary
1/23/2015
02:50 PM
Romi Mahajan
Romi Mahajan
Commentary
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5 Reasons Tech Vendors Exaggerate

From overeager marketing to the need for differentiation, vendors often overstate a product's capabilities. Vendors and buyers alike need to be more honest with each other -- and themselves.

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One reason IT departments get a bad reputation is that the tech vendors they rely on often overpromise and under-deliver on a product or service’s capability, performance, cost, and time to value. It’s easy to see why the business gets frustrated with IT when promises of earth-shattering outcomes are never realized.

Why is there a gap between what technology companies say and what their products and services deliver? From my own experience as a corporate marketer and exaggerator for technology companies, I break the issue into five categories.

1. Marketers make far-reaching theoretical possibilities the norm. Sure, amazing, seamless, business-transformative outcomes are possible -- in a perfect world with perfect conditions. But marketers use such idealistic scenarios as bases from which to extrapolate.

2. The marketing lexicon has become grandiose and fundamentally unmoored from data and real-life experience.

3. Vendors sell largely identical products (identical with regard to outcome, not cosmetics). That compels them to find ways to distinguish themselves and leads to outlandish claims.

4. The move towards proving the business value of technology has connected technology purchases to “competitive advantage.” The problem, of course, is that if a vendor is selling you and all your competitors the same solution, competitive advantage negates itself. 

5. Vendors and IT buyers share the same mindset about technology. That is to say, both are “technology positivists” who want to believe that technology per se can transform companies.

Technology certainly has transformative power, but that power will be influenced, and perhaps limited, by implementation, operation, existing business practices, and company culture.

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If we want to close the gap between promise and reality, we need a “Truth in IT” pledge. Simply put, vendors need to stop the hyperbole. But this pledge should not be limited to vendors. IT must be more realistic in what it promises to the business. IT buyers must understand that the implementation of technology and the methods by which they fit technology into the culture of the organization are the really hard parts of value creation.

It’s up to IT professionals to analyze the real problems that prevent technology from helping our organizations reach their true potential (be it culture, economics, the race against time, or other challenges) and to better manage expectations around technology purchases and value realization.

The vendor and buyer communities have to approach this problem with seriousness and an unprecedented level of honesty. In the long run this will help everyone, though it will no doubt be awkward and painful in the short run.

Are we ready for Truth in IT?

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Romi Mahajan is the founder of KKM Group, a boutique marketing and strategy advisory firm. He is also an Interop track chair for the "Business of IT" track. He spent nine years at Microsoft and was the first CMO of Ascentium, an award-winning digital agency. Romi has also ... View Full Bio
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Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
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1/28/2015 | 10:31:41 PM
Advantage
It's interesting to me that, unlike many other major industries, software providers are not subject to ethical codes that bar them from selling to multiple competitors in a field because of conflicts of interest.

Maybe that's a good thing, allowing a more competitive playing field and freer market.  Nonetheless, the point about competitive advantage is well-taken.  At the very least, however, not using the tool may (or, admittedly, may not) put one at a disadvantage.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
1/26/2015 | 2:10:03 PM
Re: IT Vendor Hype and "The Emperor's New Clothes"
Everyone has made this mistake, that's why finding a system that hasn't been hacked (or won't be shortly) is a rarity today. Business, with IT too clueless/gutless (pick one) to say no, wanted the pretty screens and customer convienence of things like online banking and POS shopping without any security baked into the tools they used to create them. And here we are, wondering who in Russia will be the next to steal our credit, or entire identity.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
1/26/2015 | 12:16:25 PM
Re: IT Vendor Hype and "The Emperor's New Clothes"
I would venture a guess that any CXO that made the mistake of replacing the mainframe for the sole purpose of cost savings probably isn't a CXO at that same company anymore. Hopefully, as they've moved on, they've learned more and may not be quite a quick to repeat the same mistake again.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
1/26/2015 | 1:45:32 AM
Re: Perfect example
In my experience, the gap arises since they overpromise. Sometimes they are not aware of their capacity.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
1/26/2015 | 1:41:23 AM
Re: IT Vendor Hype and "The Emperor's New Clothes"
This is an interesting article. We experience the same issue when it comes to working with IT vendors. From my experience they are always late.
JimC
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JimC,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/25/2015 | 5:44:51 PM
IT Vendor Hype and "The Emperor's New Clothes"
Having entered the IT vendor world as a technician more than 30 years ago, I'll nominate the two worst cases of outrageous IT vendor hype that gullible buyers at the C-suite level fell for in my opinion: Dot-com and "replace the mainframe".  The latter is worse because it wasn't a case of bravely venturing into uncharted waters and hoping for the best.  CXOs would read an anti-mainframe article in an airline magazine that (s)he'd show to his/her CIO or VP of IT and demand strategic change for supposed cost savings.  Well, there certainly was change as seasoned IT executives with tech backgrounds defended the mainframe and were replaced by people who don't know a disk drive from a washing machine.  I'm no luddite, but change for the sake of it has generated plenty of buyer's remorse.  The problem is that no one in those messed up organizations can dare point out that they're now paying more to get less.  Those CXOs will never admit they were wrong.      
pfretty
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pfretty,
User Rank: Ninja
1/23/2015 | 3:14:12 PM
Perfect example
I have to say that big data is one of the biggest culprits in this space. Organizations understandably spotlight the huge wins, yet the reality is that most companies need to work diligently to build the knowledge base and buy-in needed to succeed. Likewise, its also important that organizations realize the importance of starting with small wins to build the confidence level before venturing too far into unknown territories that challenge the corporations. 

Peter Fretty, IDG blogger working on behalf of SAS
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