Enterprise software: Beware the loud voices of charlatan thought leaders

Enterprise software: Beware the loud voices of charlatan thought leaders

Summary: Beware of advisors who lack experience and give you bad advice. Never hesitate to ask consultants, analysts, and other thought leaders the tough questions.

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Many enterprise business processes have lots of moving parts; as a result, software tends to be complicated to develop and challenging to purchase. Consider the complicated flow of information through a manufacturing company, for example, or the steps needed to execute financial accounting in a large company. Layer on issues like security, scalability, cost, and risk and it becomes clear why many buyers find enterprise software daunting.

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This situation gives rise to pundits, analysts, bloggers, buyer advocates, market influencers, evangelists, and other so-called thought leaders  who weigh in with opinions and advice. Although some of these folks possess incredible experience and excellent judgment, others talk well but offer little substance.

A recent blog post by my friend, Vijay Vijayasankar, describes his frustration with influencers lacking the experience to render solid advice. Vijay is an executive at IBM who helps determine the SAP products and technologies in which IBM will invest; He works closely with IBM customers and therefore represents the voice of genuine experience.

Vijay directs his comments specifically to issues around the cloud, but the issue is relevant to a broad range of topics:

A lot of evangelists of cloud, for example, have never seen a data center, worked closely with an IT organization , been involved with a CAPEX/OPEX decision in their life at big scale, or negotiated a software contract to know how lock in happens in on-demand and on-premises world. Yet, they have no problems advising CIOs (at least allegedly advising) on what they should do about cloud. And they are the loudest – so I always worry some CIO will inadvertently fall for it and make a bad decision. A lot of reasonable voices on cloud just drown unnoticed because of the loud evangelizing of the people who are unreasonable.

There is a simple reason I worry about this topic. I get paid for actual execution of projects. When unrealistic expectations are set for my clients, my job gets harder because a lot of my time will be spent in convincing people to let go of fantasies and get realistic. That is time that I should have spent in executing the project.

Moral of the story: beware silver-tongued influencers who lack practical experience in the field about which they write and speak. Never be afraid to ask tough questions and if the answers don’t seem right, then find another source of advice.

Topics: Enterprise Software, CXO

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9 comments
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  • So true

    Also when you find a jewel don't let him/her go. There aren't many of them.
    Richard Flude
    • Yes very right!

      Richard, thank you for raising this point; I was remiss in not expressing it in the post. When you find an advisor with experience and good judgment, then treat them well. Such people are indeed rare.
      mkrigsman@...
      • Am not sure if this is a right argument

        Yes, there are the fake-gurus, but tainting everybody with the same brush is not fair. It's like calling a film reviewer unqualified since he/ she has never even done a small part in a movie. Not all car-reviewers are automobile engineers. There are people who have experience in the real world advising companies. They also carry their bias. Very unlikely that somebody with a LAMP stack background would recommend MS technologies. There are some recommendations from these 'gurus' which make it difficult for the implementation teams, who too at times try doing some shortcuts (Collateral damage in a fixed price contract). Implementation teams hate it when an outside expert points out something contrary to what they believe. There are fake experts & over-smart implementation teams too. There is no black & white. Truth lies somewhere in between.
        mm71
        • Or more accurately

          It might be black, it might be white, it might be somewhere in between.

          Until you've established the facts of the particular situation and thought them through logically you are not in a position to judge.
          jorwell
        • Am not sure if this is a right argument

          Interesting that you should bring up the analogy of film reviewer / automobile engineer. I am astonished how often this argument (about lack of relevant experience) is used to condemn an argument / shoot the messenger. It appears that people are unable to make the distinction between a person's knowledge of a subject and their ability to execute based on the knowledge.

          I suspect that this only betrays an unwillingness to accept advice.
          cloudmunch
  • As an Influencer

    Hi Mark,

    Interesting follow up article to Vijay's post. I think we probably all agree that the best influencers are the folks who were actually in the field or role at some point for the area they 'trying' to influence, and can talk from real world experience.

    However, if you look at the most common role of 'influencer' in the social media realm, what we see are individuals who are 'very interested' or 'super excited' about a topic. As a result they develop very loud voices online (#of tweets and blog posts) and hence attention.
    Before long, they are tagged as an 'influencer', and have gained a high 'Klout' score for that area.

    If you ask me this is an unfavorable bi-product of social media and only through really sifting through a self proclaimed influencer's 'Linkedin' or online professional profile for credentials and recommendations can one gauge the real 'experience' and 'reputation' of the person they are gaining advice from. Realistically though, which Executive really has such time?

    My point is this. generating relevant content and discussions faster than the other individual is really the name of the 'influencer' game online IMO. It's becoming much less about what you've 'really' done, and more about how much 'time' you have to make your voice heard.

    As an influencer in the business intelligence space I see this everyday. I smile at folks who have worked with a single customer for 10+ years, but are offering up generic industry advice across multiple LOBs. To those of us who know better and have worked in multiple environments globally, we look at some of their advice and just smile.

    Cheers,
    Mico Yuk (@micoyuk)
    Mico Yuk
  • As the saying goes

    Those who know loudest know least.

    Here is a handy guide to dissecting the arguments of snakeoil consultants:

    http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/poster*

    If their arguments aren't coherent (which they almost certainly won't be) then you know to stay away.

    *Or you could use it to play a more sophisticated form of bullsh*t bingo.
    jorwell
    • This one crops up all the time of course

      http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/bandwagon
      jorwell
  • Moral of the story

    Just because someone sounds like an expert, it doesn't mean he is one. Any fool can have a blog and many of them do.
    John L. Ries