Leader: Image shouldn't matter... but it does

If you look like a hobbyist why is any CEO going to give you a million dollars?
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor

If you look like a hobbyist why is any CEO going to give you a million dollars?

The world of big business has long been obsessed with image. From sharp suits and embossed business cards, a la America Psycho's Patrick Bateman, to multimillion dollar rebranding exercises, a la... well, pretty much every large company that ever spent a fortune changing their typeface or their particular shade of red.

And it is into this world that technology, and those who evangelise its benefits, must step with increasing frequency - as technology and business become more closely integrated. CIOs and IT managers are increasingly expected to espouse the business case for a technology and they are increasingly required therefore to 'walk the walk and talk the talk'.

In turn, they require the same of the people they buy from - if only to make their lives easier.

And sadly there is more to this than dropping some acronyms and throwing some "tractions" and "synergies" into sentences. One CIO has opened something of a can of worms this week by suggesting the 'sandals and ponytail brigade' are holding back adoptions of open source software.

Peter Quinn, former CIO of Massachusetts, said: "Open source has an unprofessional appearance, and the community needs to be more business-savvy in order to start to make inroads in areas traditionally dominated by commercial software vendors."

The argument would appear to be that if you look like a hobbyist, with no business sense and a rather common sense preference for comfy shoes and slogan T-shirts over hard-nosed business attire, it's not going to convince many now business-focused CIOs to invest heavily in what you've got to offer.

It's a sad fact of business that such shallowness exists but it certainly does.

An open source expert could have the greatest sell in the world but if he turns up looking like the comic store owner from the Simpsons, there are going to be some doors that just won't open for him.

It undermines the very credible arguments for such technologies no longer being the personal kingdom of the 'geek elite' and instead having real benefits to offer business. It's an image which doesn't exude seriousness in the business or the offering - and doesn't allow the CIO to tick the boxes he has to in order to satisfy his own higher-ups.

It's not right but it is a fact.

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