“What is the difference between unethical and ethical advertising? Unethical advertising uses falsehoods to deceive the public; ethical advertising uses truth to deceive the public.” — Vilhjalmur Stefansson
The process by which we in the IT industry evaluate and purchase new equipment is broken. The entire cycle from product inception through marketing, evaluation, purchase and on to installation, is almost as useful as snake mittens. And as far as I can tell, it’s only getting worse.
After spending millions of dollars of research and development money on the road to a final product, and needing to get to market as quickly as possible both to recoup their investment and to release something, or anything, companies turn to their crack marketing departments. For many people this is regarded as a wholly bad idea, and a process which should be set to the flame like a witch. However, as the people of this opinion are not in charge of anything, the world marches dutifully onward. Slide decks are made, white papers are written, hours are spent in the service of a great product name, until eventually the baby can be revealed and judged not on its merits but on its saleability.
Other companies, sensing that they are now behind the proverbial eight-ball because they don’t have the newest Binford 9000, rush to call the new baby ugly while simultaneously trotting out their current product, now re-branded as being the same as everyone else’s, only better in every way. Sometimes there is a new product that can be wrapped in the appropriate language on launch, other times its an old product being polished like so many fetid turds. But at least the product is out, it’s competing (maybe), and a market segment is born.
Of course the analysts must get involved at this point, lest the masses be confused as to what they should be buying. They evaluate the new product, the existing products with their me-too swagger, and any other products that might conceivably be useful in rounding out a newly formed slice of the silicon valley dream. Things are studied, questions asked, product managers cajoled into filling out forms and answering questions, chins are scratched, foreheads rubbed, looking glasses consulted. Finally, charts are made, resplendent in their multi-colored, important sounding axis and titles, the winners and losers laid out for the world to murmur over in trade shows all over Las Vegas.
These are all important processes and must be followed very exactingly. After all, without the marketeers inventing a name, or the analysts categorizing those cohorts, how can a reasonable C-level executive possibly be expected to be told what they should buy? Charts are very important here, vendor sales people equally so, and analysts are perhaps the most important of all. Shortchange any of this process and bad things are likely to happen; technologies might be evaluated on their own merits and against the needs of the company instead of what everyone knows to be the correct process, namely, buying the best entry in the best category of the best analyst’s colored charts.
“Damnit, Johnson! Do we have the new foop-splort 52xy-C port-box
“Um, we could be looking into…”
“And what about moving our stuff into the fog bank? Are we fogging yet?”
The staff responsible for using equipment on the network, ostensibly those for whom the challenges are well known, bear little responsibility for making a final decision and are well-served by appearing to be on board, whatever the final decision. In fact, if they appear as not paying proper fealty to the pitched technology they run the risk of being branded a heretic, a crabby malcontent only wanting to keep things the way they were in the era of the punch card, someone to be shunned and hidden away from anyone reeking of importance. For those not inclined toward management, and not desirous of being involved in any decisions going forward–including lunch orders, types of free drinks in the kitchen, flavors of coffee, work hours–this is probably not a wholly bad thing. They’ll grow a beard, grow bitter, and eventually be found half delirious clutching a stapler.
However, for those engineers who haven’t quite given up on life, the marketing, analyst, and sales machine can be a juggernaut upon which many careers are made. If executives are on board, and why wouldn’t they be, it’s probably best to agree their clothes are quite lovely thank you very much, or feign only mild concern, “I wish that came in blue.”
But, a few million dollars later, and some cold nights searching for your soul among the crumbled dreams of your broken life, a pile of shiny new gear–or software, licenses, and broken promises–will arrive upon your doorstep, ready to be integrated into whatever remains of your apparently old and busted infrastructure. It might not work, or do anything useful, or even really integrate very well at all. But think of it this way, by the time you install it, learn it, and figure out just what you can do with it, a new category will have been born and you can start the process all over again. Unless you’ve been hidden away with your heretical ramblings and your stapler.