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Analyst-Induced Hype and Managing Real-World IT

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Recently, I received an article in my inbox entitled “If you’re not planning for IoT, you’re already behind” and, frankly, it just frustrated me. Although the article author was listed as simply “CIO Staff” the featured picture was that of Vernon Turner, SVP Enterprise Systems & Fellow for the Internet of Things for IDC. While Turner is an incredibly knowledgeable analyst, this induced hysteria in chasing the latest trends is, I believe, damaging to the overall market and to organizations that blindly follow such trends and even to those organizations that don’t follow. I’ll explain as I go through this article.

Note: I’m not intending to pick on any one person, firm, or trend, so please don’t read it that way. Rather, my frustration stems from the fact that chasing trends doesn’t generally solve the real problems that are faced by the vast majority of IT departments out there. Personally, I do believe that CIOs need to understand the IoT trend, but I vehemently disagree that choosing to delay planning or even skipping the trend is a mistake for many businesses. My focus here is on the constant hype cycle.

Now, I’m not saying that people should simply ignore some of these trends, particularly when there is so much potential in them, but every year (maybe every month?), we see analysts run out and tell everyone that they’re now officially behind because they haven’t jumped on the latest buzzword with enough exuberance. Here’s the thing: Not every new trend is suitable for every organization. A lot of the large analyst groups talk to customers all the time, but, in many cases, the focus is on large enterprises. There are hundreds of thousands of organizations out there, though, and the vast majority of them are generally ignored when it comes to market trends.

There are so many CIOs out there that struggle to meet the basic needs of their businesses. They face constant resourcing challenges with serious constraints around both budget and staffing. These are the real-world problems faced by so many organizations, large and small. Why do analysts glom on to esoteric new trends rather than working to help organizations meet some of today’s biggest challenges?

Overall complexity in their technology environment continues to increase and their CEOs and other executives are harassing them because they’re reading about the latest trend and want that for their business. The problem is simple: What if the trend really has nothing to do with the business or the potential value is simply not apparent? CIOs are then left with needing to explain to their executive teams why they can’t (or shouldn’t) get IoT, for example. Before you decide to tell me I’m crazy for thinking this way, read the next few sections. Although I believe that analyst-driven hype is often over the top, I do happen to believe that part of every CIOs job is to at least be aware of what’s happening in the broader technology market and understand how various trends may or may not be compatible with their business.

Personally, I believe that three things need to happen in order to realign future-thinking analyst thoughts with the reality of what CIOs are facing every day.

Analysts: Go Beyond Large Enterprises

Analysts need to expand their horizons beyond large enterprises. They need to spend time with SMB and midmarket CIOs in businesses, non-profits, government entities, and educational institutions in order to have a better understanding of the broader market. Armed with that understanding, they need to more carefully consider the words and phrases that they use to help guide the market and stop saying that a failure to adopt a strategy around every esoteric trend out there means that a business will close its doors within days (I’m exaggerating for effect here!).

The words analysts choose do matter. For example, rather than saying “If you’re not planning for IoT, you’re already behind” perhaps the title could have read something along the lines of “Does your organization need to consider an IoT strategy?” and provide some level of education around the trend instead? While it may not have garnered as many clicks, it’s a far fairer representation of the reality of the need for adoption of this particular over-hyped trend.

Further, consider your own credibility. By glomming on to every single trend that comes across your desk and then reporting on it as if every business on the planet should be doing it, you’re hurting your credibility. By presenting the material in a more instructive way rather than trying to scare people into adoption, you’re doing a much larger long-term service to the IT community.

CIOs: Look at Large Enterprises (Look Beyond Your Borders)

Yes, I’m picking on analysts a bit in this article, but if you’re a CIO and you aren’t at least keeping an eye on trends, you’re doing it wrong. There are CIOs that need to do a better job of understanding trends and how they are—or aren’t—applicable to their businesses. If your CEO comes to you, for example, and asks if you’re looking at something like cloud computing or hyperconverged infrastructure – some of the hottest trends these days – and you don’t have at least a basic understanding of what the technology is or can do, it’s time for you to broaden your own horizons. You don’t necessarily need to adopt these things, but not knowing what they are or can do means that you’re leaving your business at a disadvantage and you can’t make any reasonable informed decision regarding adoption of or ignoring the trend.

Reframe the Discussion

We need to change how we frame these kinds of analyses. The very phrasing of “If you’re not planning for <overhyped technology trend>, you’re already behind” is one that sets CEOs on fire. The immediate thought is “Oh my… we can’t get left behind. We need to have a strategy around this.” Armed with a reasonable understanding of these trends, a good CIO will help the rest of the executive team understand the trend, why it is or isn’t applicable to the business, and, if necessary, help craft an adoption plan.

Summary

I struggled with the decision around whether or not to publish this article. For years, I’ve straddled the line between analyst and consultant and have seen first-hand the kind of damage that overhyped trends can do to an organization. They leave CIOs in a state of constant chaos; they have helped to foster the gap between IT and the business; they have resulted in wasteful spending on ill-conceived and poorly considered technology adoptions. Most importantly, though, I’ve seen the impact that such activities have on IT staff morale, which includes the CIO. While the world of technology does often move at a breakneck pace, I firmly believe that some of the pace is artificially created. I would love to see more measured, more considered guidance from those that are supposed to be helping guide us to the future. At the same time, as I mentioned, we need IT people – staff and leaders – to continue to educate themselves so that they can better discern between a fad and a genuine revolution because analysts are certainly not helping make the distinction.

What do you think? Tweet your thoughts to @otherscottlowe

Scott Lowe
scott@actualtechmedia.com

Follow Scott on Twitter   Scott is Co-Founder of ActualTech Media and serves as Senior Content Editor and Strategist. Scott is an enterprise IT veteran with more than twenty years experience in senior and CIO roles across multiple organizations.

1Comment
  • J Metz
    Posted at 00:15h, 08 October Reply

    Hi Scott,

    We managed to have a chance to talk about this in person, but I think it’s worth reiterating for the reading audience. 🙂

    I couldn’t agree more. It seems to me that analysts are the very people who should be avoiding self-induced myopia – if for no other reason than doing so makes them less-effective analysts. As we discussed on Twitter as well, there is an implicit fiduciary responsibility to the end users who actually use this advice. IoT is definitely NOT a panacea for the future. On the contrary, there are several reasons (not just security, but privacy as well) to take a hard look at the applicability of any new technology – especially one that involves uncontrollable devices – into IT domains.

    But your point is more about the broader implications, to me. Too many analysts believe that their value lies in being able to learn about stuff, think about it for a while, and then make recommendations to a thirsty audience who doesn’t have the time to explore tech topics on their own. They miss the responsibility part of that as well – that they need to identify how that information can be used to harm the very same people.

    Kudos for waving the caution flag here.

    J

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