Surviving the eye of the enterprise hype storm

At the height of conference season it can seem the hi-tech 'tail' is wagging the customer 'dog', despite increasingly sophisticated business needs. As some businesses transform to bring software in house to meet strategic needs, some hi-tech marketing rhetoric stretches reality and credibility.
Written by Oliver Marks, Contributor
We're in the eye of the storm of the high-tech conference season, the results of months of tech marketing people 'curating' trends and fashionable concepts they have picked up in the business world, crafting messaging they feel will put their product offerings in the most favorable light.

With all the hype about banks and other industry verticals transforming to become tech companies in their own right, the large enterprise technology players are finding themselves in a somewhat similar position to the advertising industry. Historically companies have had an ad agency of record which handled creative work and media planning and purchase. In recent years more and more of these activities have gone in house with the client, creating something of a crisis in an ad industry already beset by the collapse of the old world media industry they had a cosy relationship with.

You can make an argument that old style tech companies are in a similar position, compounded by their past on-premise/legacy technologies often being seen as part of the problem at their client companies. There is a palpable sense of urgency around big tech as they appear for the fall conference season in the newest, most fashionable clothes of digital transformation with their constellation of partners ready to help integrate the dream for customers.

As Redmonk's Stephen O'Grady said earlier this year in The Software Paradox','software IS the business....but software's commercial value is declining'. Software is eating the world, to use Andreessens' well worn quote, but the cost of that code is declining fast as companies create their own modern infrastructures.

With the sheer volume of online material, books and speeches about the future organization of just about everything the noise is deafening out there, with all sorts of agendas and characters attempting to jump to the front of any type of parade that looks as though it is going somewhere promising. Big tech has no choice but to make even more noise than anyone else and funnel their existing clients and prospects towards continued consumption of their offerings by fluently speaking a confident form of futurism based around their products and services. The intent is to keep their repeatable and resellable template software models easier to purchase and run than letting customers build their own and turn off the old enterprise licensing models.

The challenge for the people this hype tsunamai is hitting - business customers in line of business and IT - is making sense of how pretentious vendors are being, whether the messaging is posturing or there has been genuine progress with their offerings, and what the next tech entrapment is going to be.

Speaking as a technology agnostic client side business consultant, I'm seeing increasing cynicism about old line tech and implementation companies who are way, way ahead of themselves in their public persona, where in reality their offerings and culture are anchored in the past. You can make a strong case that actually 'digital transformation' is hitting old line tech companies the hardest.

A successful 'end user of technologies' company struggling to migrate from Cobol and mainframe workflows (there are plenty of them out there) and/or more recent enterprise technologies to a viable modern business platform in order to achieve specific goals has a challenging time parsing the language coming out of the tech titans around their true intentions.

The smaller, typically newer tech players -- particularly those growing fast and perceived as a threat to their larger counterparts -- have to be watched carefully as they may well be bought by a larger tech firm and folded into a product line the forward planning firm may be trying to escape from.

Meanwhile the big tech marketing mantra this fall is inducing the paranoia about sleepy prospective prospects being out maneuvered by full stack Uber-style new business entities, along with the now evergreen power of customer engagement and tracking. This despite the collapse of Twitter and questionable value of other social networks as viable channels.

Before enterprise technology became the backbone of companies, business strategies and tactics were forged based on market opportunities and careful use of people's talents. It sometimes seems, while in the eye of the technology market storm, that the tech vendor cart is desperately trying to lead the end user horse, but in actuality the tech futurist boosters have a sometimes loose grasp of the business realities of their prospects.

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