As an industry analyst, it sometimes feels like I am flitting between two parallel universes. In one, I sit in rooms with IT marketing professionals and product managers and listen to them talking about how the latest "big thing" is changing everything. In the other, I chat with IT directors and ops managers who want to see …
Thanks for the opinion. There truly is a divide between hype and reality in IT and it seems to be getting worse. There aren't just one of two vendors making wild claims, they are everywhere. It seems to be a game of "catch me in the lie(s) if you can". That has always existed to some degree but it seems to be more rampant and bolder today. Competition for scarce dollars has created flippin falsehood factories with even more ways to get in your face than ever before. And, unfortunately, there seems to be no end in sight. I wonder what the outlandishly sensational claims will look like in the future? Vendors will surely have to trump the "game changing" theme at some point because it will become passé and people will get immune to it.
Hype cycle needs to slow down a little
Good opinion piece, and spot on.
I work in one of the IT backwaters you mention. My company is a service provider for a very mature, staid industry sector that has very little use for cloud, big data, etc. What they do care about is reliable, always-up basic information processing. The last few years in our company have been spent keeping the marketing guys and CIO from falling all over themselves and getting caught up in the hype machine, lest we alienate the customers who've come to rely on us.
Big Data is my favorite -- it's great if you're Amazon.com and have petabytes of information about what people buy and what they click on in your vast online retail empire. It's great if you're Facebook and want to sell businesses the eyeballs of 21 year old Asian iPhone owners who "like" Starbucks, skydiving and fly fishing. It's not so great for a small business selling to a small audience. And it doesn't help most vertical markets.
Cloud is another. VMs + network + storage, all more flexible than before, either in your place or someone else's. Plus software to tie it all together. That's it. End of story. When IT tries to explain this, the marketing guys say "That's it?" Yup, that's it.
IT has always been in perpetual hype mode, but it has really gotten out of hand lately. Hopefully this is just another dotcom style bubble and things will calm down.
Re: Hype cycle needs to slow down a little
"Cloud is another. VMs + network + storage, all more flexible than before, either in your place or someone else's. Plus software to tie it all together. That's it. End of story"
Ummmm no, cloud is not just infrastructure...
Evolve and extend versus transcend and transform
Despite being an IT marketer, I think you're quite right. Most organizations I talk to desire incremental improvements, extensions, and evolution rather than wholesale change.
Part of that comes down to risk.
Big transformation entails risky bets, both in terms of disruption, and in terms of allocating resources, especially if the technology is emerging or not a commodity.
No organization wants to go "all in" on a new technology, have it take up 40% of the annual budget, and then see it fail spectacularly, breaking things as it goes. There are enough horror stories of that sort to make the average sane CIO think twice about doing anything huge.
IT vendors do a poor job, in my opinion, in explaining how they control risk and minimize resource issues. They'd rather pretend all will go well, when in reality, sometimes it doesn't.
But to your point, they also do a poor job of understanding, to use an analogy, that most organizations don't want someone to build them a new house -- they simply want someone to fix the leaky toilet and install a new sink.
Sorry still the same universe.
"Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!"
"Bullwinkle, that trick never works!"
"This time for sure!"
That old cartoon gag never fails to make me chuckle.
Sorry, while I do agree that there is the hype and then there's the reality, I disagree with the author that there are two parallel worlds. Its the same world. Today its Hadoop aka Big Data vs Basic BI and Enterprise Data Warehouses.
Before it was OLTP early in the 90s, Then EDW, and then BI/Visualization tools.
The IT Software industry always moves in terms of cycles, yet there is one constant. Hype vs Reality.
The best Software sales reps are non-technical. They have the ability to believe without question the marketing drivel they are told and can easily get excited because the product they are selling is going to change the world. That is until the SE comes in and level sets the customer's expectations.
The point is that Hadoop and Big Data in general is hot right now. It will be for the next 10 years because it offers the ability to better monetize the data that they capture.
The sad reality is that its another tool for IT to use and abuse.
Re: Sorry still the same universe.
Great and insightful comments as always.
I also believe that in the current economic climate "Corporations" just don't have the confidence or budget for big change; be that Big Data or migrating their Desktop Infrastructures to the next WinTel solution dispite buring bridges like licensing support being removed. They want incremental change that demonstrates value early, that they can therefore justify and that there already overstretched organisations can absorb.
I also believe this behaviour is linked to an article last week about "Corporations" historically being sold the entire "sweetie shop" by software sales guys resulting loads of "shelfware licenses decaying like rotting veg. The result being that "Corporations" and perhaps the IT Directors are more sceptical of Software Sales picthes and overtly aggressive sales guys predicting doom......
Finally I am not sure any IT Director has a 10 year strategy, they might at best have a 5 year horizon. However I bet if they put their 5 years plans on the desk and compared the last 15 years there would be some significant shocks in terms of Vision vs Reality.
As a salesman, my experience is that
starting the conversation by telling the client that you hate fluffy marketing terms like 'cloud' is the best way to get them talking.
Matching individual clients' requirements to your capabilities has always been and remains the only way to agree contracts of any size, and any product that doesn't need that doesn't need a salesman to sell it (eg. smaller scale AWS type pay as you go stuff).
I'm overtly suspicious of meetings where the client is the one who talks about transformative change and uses buzzwords themselves because my experience is that they lack the credibility internally to get hard nosed commercial and finance people to sign up for things with no clear path to deplyoment or return on investment. Real business conversations are about getting practical things done, not about transforming the world.
Just remember 'The Last One'
Full of hype like
The last computer program you will ever buy.
Yes. Yes! YES!
Spot on. Us working in the real world trying to deliver the most bang for the buck to our users are rarely catered for by going after the latest buzzword. Big bang implementations of entirely new concepts are just ways to piss away our employer's cash. If a buzzword survives more than a season or two, I usually start researching what it's *really* about and if it seems worthwhile, keep it in mind when planning upgrades, development and such. Sure, there won't be many huge, costly and visible projects and it might take a few years to get there but there's seldom reason to be among the early adopters anyway.
This kind of reasoning doesn't seem to resonate well with most of the sales guys that gets sent our way. They all want us to rip out all we've done so far and start afresh, unburdened by past successes and failures. I guess it generates more billable hours so I tend to stay clear and look for the smaller outfits that more or less lets their techies recommend sales.
measuring things, rabbit holes and Demming
Great article! Thanks!
A few semi-random thoughts this triggered for me:
From 1930s to 1980s Edwards Demming helped make statistical process control mainstream and in the process made huge contribution to the World War II effort and rebuilding Japan after. In my opinion, successful business intelligence, data warehouse, big data, data science, .... are built on ideas he pioneered 60 years ago. Demming is often mis-quoted as saying:
"You can't manage what you can' measure."
When he actually believed that:
"The most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable, but successful management must nevertheless take account of them."
So arguably, big data is just a rabbit hole for most businesses to try and know the unknowable ('how do customers feel about my product?')
But... rabbit holes can be mind expanding (just ask Alice...) and maybe help make tangible intuition and the unknowable (or be a road to ruin and madness). Steve Jobs comes to mind ("have you ever taken acid?" interview question.)
The view from my work (similar to yours I think), Big Data (Map Reduce et. al.) is a cheaper and more scalable way to measure process, and that is a useful thing for complex processes problems (biology, large manufacturing, large supply chain) and large volume analytics (power generation, telcos). Agree that for smaller businesses it is a rabbit hole for now. Later they will benefit from resulting reduction in the price for data manipulation and management tools.