After all, all you have to do is buy/use/implement a few simple things, and the rest is easy, right?
Just consider the marketing phrases we’re using: single pane of glass, pushbutton automation, cloud, one click to upgrade, etc.
It conjures up the naive picture that in some strange alternate reality, IT admins sit comfy chairs -- idly monitoring a bunch of green lights and occasionally clicking on an icon when needed.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
While it’s true that enterprise IT is inherently complex — and could certainly be simpler — no one is doing anyone any favors by creating a false impression of the challenges involved.
Doing enterprise IT right is hard work, and it means knowing the details. A healthy dose of skepticism doesn't hurt, either ...
A Short Digression?
I went through an expensive period when I was seriously into home theatre. Amps, pre-amps, multiple video and sound sources, multiple speaker routings, etc. I could make it do exactly what I wanted to. Geek nirvana.
But there was a tiny problem — I was the only one who knew how to operate the setup. After all, I had built it. My wife put it succinctly: “you’ve made it so I can’t watch a movie”.
So I invested in automation: a programmed uber-remote with big buttons like “WATCH MOVIE”. Nice, but that created another problem: when it didn’t work as expected, someone had to know the underlying details of exactly was connected to what, and how to debug it. And that happened a lot.
Here’s the point: getting to simple isn’t always easy.
Where Vendors Lose The Thread
I fully understand what it means to be working for an IT vendor, and the strong temptations that inevitably result. Here, it's simple: most enterprise IT organizations are fighting a constant battle with complexity, and are always on the lookout for something that makes their lives somewhat simpler and easier.
Hey — all we as a vendor need to do is tell customers that our new product/service will make their lives simpler — and we win!
They inevitably result from any effort to simplify things. They cannot be ignored, and should be fully considered.
I think IT professionals deserve full disclosure on the gives and gets associated with any technology proposition — after all, it should be about helping people make informed choices - especially in resource-limited enterprise IT environments.
And no one likes surprises.
One of my favorite examples of “unexpected externalities” involves public cloud services. The marketed premise is simple: public clouds are simpler (and cheaper) than using internal IT resources.
No argument: simplistic workloads can potentially be simpler/cheaper on public clouds. But enterprise IT isn’t comprised of simplistic workloads. Thus, most of the public cloud discussions result in a trivialization of the harsh realities of enterprise IT.
I have met a few larger IT shops who have made the decision to go “cloud first”, and I inevitably see one army of IT professionals being exchanged for another.
Not exactly clear to me where the win is — or when they’re going to get there.
Another example of an unexpected externality I’ve found in IT shops who have decided to go all-in on IT automation. Don’t get me wrong — automation is a great thing, to be sure.
But so often these top-down automation projects run into the twin harsh realities of technologies that aren’t designed to be automated (e.g. software defined for lack of a better term) as well as organizations with traditional silos and workflows. Getting the right technology underneath isn’t trivial; evolving an IT organization and its culture is certainly not for timid.
A close cousin is the infamous “single pane of glass”.
In any IT operation with multiple roles, you’re inevitably talking about the need for multiple focused presentations, each tailored to the needs of the individual involved. Not everyone is doing the same thing.
Forcing everyone to use the same pane of glass is a recipe for rebellion — and completely unrealistic. Shared context for the team — great. New converged interfaces for a new class of converged roles -- great. But too often, “single pane of glass” is a meaningless trivialization of what’s really going on in enterprise IT.
The most recent addition to this growing marketing lexicon comes from one of our competitors, who has decided to get behind the term “invisible infrastructure”. This one strikes me as particularly dangerous.
Anyone with an enterprise IT background will tell you that infrastructure certainly isn’t invisible -- and if you pretend it is, bad things will inevitably result.
Yet another frustrating example of the trivialization of enterprise IT.
Are Vendors Responsible?
Yes, I believe so. Maybe they aren’t entirely responsible for the state of affairs in enterprise IT today, but they are certainly responsible for communicating with their customers and prospects in a transparent and clear-eyed manner. We owe it to people.
Here are the plusses. And here are a few other things you should consider before investing.
That second bit gets left out a lot.
When I see an IT vendor crossing the line, I cringe a bit. Yes, our industry is full of steely-eyed pros who’ve seen it all before and have an appropriately jaundiced view of vendor claims. That’s the good news.
But that’s not the whole picture, and that’s where I despair.
There are many people involved in enterprise IT who might not have the benefit of twenty years of servitude in the school of hard knocks. Other people will exhibit a strong need to believe in the potential of a better world, and not ask the hard questions. And, of course, a few people who end up falling for vendor hype — plain and simple.
I do what I can. In any product team I'm working with, I’m the one who’s pushing back on the eager marketeers towards a more balanced (and realistic) perspective. I don't make many friends when I do this.
I’m not always successful, but I feel it’s my duty. In addition, I occasionally will call out competitors who have lost sight of their customers (and their integrity).
This doesn’t make the most popular person in the world, though :)
You Can Help
When you see something, say something. That’s what all this social media stuff is for. All you have to do is toughen up a bit, and have at it. The right kind of vendor will attempt to engage you in a fact-based discussion. The wrong kind of vendor will round up their social media gang and attempt to bully you into silence.
No, it's not pleasant when that happens. But if anything, you owe it to your colleagues.
Because enterprise IT certainly isn’t trivial, and shouldn’t be marketed that way.
Like this post? Why not subscribe via email?