The other day a press release landed on my desk, and I must admit, I was equally shocked, pleased and disappointed to read what it said.
For once, an IT vendor well-known for its delivery of strategy, vision and not-quite-ready-yet products announced that it had finally released, to its software developer partners, a beta version of a long-ago announced, and much trumpeted, ‘total business solution’. Full versions, it continued, are slated for fall release.
I was shocked because I had forgotten about this product. It had been such a long time since I attended its big media launch, that it had, as PR people have been heard to say, “fallen off my radar screen.”
After clearing the cobwebs from my memory, I decided I was pleased to hear the release would finally happen. Disappointment quickly followed. I was disappointed it had taken so long for the company to come through.
Hype is pervasive in this industry. It is often an effort by vendors to climb above the ‘noise level’ in the marketplace and get attention. Sometimes we, the media, fall victim and further exploit the hype. By trying to keep you abreast of the important trends and latest innovations, we will write about products that are “soon to be released,” or solutions that “will be available by the next quarter,” and then we move on to the next buzzword . Organizations like yours are left to sort through the hype to find substance, often unsuccessfully.
Understanding the motivation certainly doesn’t mean endorsing the practice. It better not, because I’m the last person who would ever approve of what amounts to an endless cycle of hype and vendor artifice.
Sure, technology companies are under pressure themselves. They need to release new offerings in order to compete. They need to move in Internet time. They need to keep their investors happy by generating high dividends or by quickly building up a name for themselves before they hit the IPO road and try to make it big. Perhaps they can rationalize it by frankly saying their tool won’t be out for two years. But in that time, key executives can leave, financing can dwindle, parts can become scarce or testing and flaw-fixing can take way longer than expected.
So vendors deserve no sympathy. Leaving customers in the lurch when promised goods don’t arrive (or arrive late or half-baked) is hardly an honorable practice, particularly when it seems to have become part of the business plan.
We are constantly told by vendors, that they don’t consider themselves to be your suppliers, but instead think of themselves as your partners. Well partners shouldn’t lie to or colour the truth. They shouldn’t string you along and leave you hanging with half-finished implementations, and promises of soon-to-be-delivered products. If technology suppliers are truly your partners in deed as well as in name, you should be able to get straight talk and a straight answers. You shouldn’t have to put up with the marketing spin and glitzy packaging.
Letting you know what their future roadmap looks like is one thing – it is important that you grow and change in synch with the direction they are taking. It is another thing for them to make you believe the roadmap they are laying out details every little bump and bend and curve in the road, because roadmaps never do. And they can never account for sudden detours either.