No More IT Stinkin’ Thinkin’

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • Vendors promise the world with new products and technology and sometimes deliver. Shift your perspective to what technology can do, not what it can’t do.
  • Pavlovian dismissal of vendor claims is a drag on IT meeting the needs of the enterprise.

Back in the day, when I was failing at car sales (in our fail-fast social fabric, does that mean I was successful?), a sales manager pulled me aside and urged me to avoid “stinking thinking.” He’d point to the sales people huddled by the sales phone who were complaining about lack of leads due to too few walk-ins, the ‘up system,’ or the weather. What they weren’t doing was working the phones or client lists or performing other tasks that would lead to sales. Worse, stinking thinking was infectious, and if a sales person was caught up in the sphere of influence, they got pulled in and started complaining. I would have starved if I stayed in sales, but I took that lesson to heart.

I see the same sort of stinking thinking in IT when something new comes along. Some IT person – young or old, newbie or experienced, doesn’t matter – hears about some new technology like SDN or SD-WAN and immediately starts telling anyone who will listen why it’s vaporware, marketecture, useless, or just like this other legacy thing they’ve been using all along without first taking an honest and unbiased look at what was promised and what can be delivered. In short, stinkin’ thinkin’.

Not only are these “nattering nabobs of negativism” a drain on those around them, if their opinions are held in high regard, they can hold enterprise IT back because these professionals aren’t effectively analyzing new technologies and their applicability to the enterprise.

Granted, not every vendor claim about a new technology is going to be accurate or reflective of what the product can do. Nor is every product or technology immediately applicable to your current situation. Nor will every new technology have enough benefit compared to cost to make adoption a good choice. Vendors often don’t help because they talk about current and future capabilities without clearly stating which is which, and that can lead to overly inflated expectations and, thus, disappointment. But, you can only know those things after someone has first performed unbiased research and analysis.

There are some ways you can tell you’re talking to someone infected with stinkin’ thinkin’:

  • They immediately discount anything new with only a superficial understanding of the technology.
  • They can’t clearly state the differences between what is claimed as new and what already exists.
  • They don’t think the new technology has any benefit whatsoever.
  • They readily use terms like ‘vaporware,’ ‘marketecture,’ and ‘buzz-worthy.’
  • They can’t tell you specifically why a new technology is not a good fit or if it ever will be.
  • They can’t produce evidence that they actually researched the topic in any depth.

There are ways to combat stinkin’ thinkin’:

  • Shift your perspective to what new technology can do for you, rather than what it can’t do. The answer may still be little or nothing, but you’re giving it an honest chance.
  • Question every claim asking even so-called simple or stupid questions. The devil is in the details, and glossing over the details hides a lot.
  • Understand the vendor’s roadmap, because the technology may not be a fit… yet. If they say they are “customer-driven,” it means they don’t have one.
  • Ask for and talk to reference customers without the vendor or VAR present. IT professionals are very forthcoming.
  • Take it to a proof of concept in your own environment. That is the best way to assess a new technology’s applicability once you’ve done your research. Don’t skip the PoC.

About Mike Fratto
Mike is a senior analyst on the Business Technology and Software team covering the Enterprise Networking and Data Center Technology markets. He has extensive experience reviewing and writing about enterprise remote access, security, and network infrastructure products.

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