Save Us from IT Extremism

Wayne Rash

Years ago there used to be a saying that no one was ever fired for buying IBM. This was back in the days of mainframe computers when IBM was the dominant player. Eventually, of course, someone was fired for buying IBM, and that saying, if it was ever true, no longer held water.

But it was hardly the end of the power that True Believers have over IT procurement. During the years that I've been writing about technology, True Believers have shown up in many areas. Once, when I was also managing a consulting project, I nearly lost a customer when one of my programmers insisted that we absolutely, positively, had to use his favorite development environment. He was sent home and removed from the project, and I was eventually able to get the customer back.

Since then there have been True Believers in all sorts of areas. The most memorable were the people who would call and verbally abuse me if I didn't give a sufficiently positive write-up on whatever their platform of choice might be. These platform partisans loved the Commodore Amiga, the Apple Macintosh, OS/2 and the iPhone. Now they're gathering around the Android mobile platform.

I found this out when I wrote a positive review of Verizon's new Droid Incredible that apparently wasn't sufficiently glowing to stem the hoards of Android Aficionados who read it. Message after message in the review comments accused me of everything from being in the pay of Apple to simply lying about having reviewed the device at all. Never mind that none of these people had ever seen or touched the device since the review came out before the device was on the market.

Fortunately, I'm used to platform partisans, whether they're favoring Android devices, iPhones or something else. I know that rationality goes out the window, that nothing the device does is wrong, and that there can be no faults in their object of worship, especially by outsiders like me. That's fine, and it's OK with me. It does drive up page views, after all.

The danger is when these people become part of the IT procurement process. Sometimes you'll have someone in charge of creating the specs for an item you need for the company, and they make it match their love object perfectly. Sometimes they insert themselves into the buying process, and will do everything including throwing a hissy-fit if you don't do it their way. They'll show up at one time or another in most companies.

As you can imagine, they are a danger. They will see their favored platform as the solution to all problems, whether or not it will meet your compliance requirements, the needs of your employees or the demands of your customers. If you give in to them, you will find yourself spending money you don't need to spend, perhaps not meeting your requirements, or even losing customers as I almost did.

So how do you avoid this problem? First of all, be careful who drafts your specs, and ask questions if they seem to be tilted too much to a single vendor. Then see what happens if you suggest a different option. The True Believers will show themselves then. Your best choice, even if they're critical to your IT infrastructure, is to exclude them from the buying process. Your company needs to choose its solutions on rational economic and technical grounds, not on what a platform partisan wants to see.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 28, 2010 3:04 AM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
Hi, I just want to say how much I apreciate your take on this issue. It's no big deal what someone's favorite device or system is for personal use, though they'd get much more out of their tech life if they chose rationally & objectively based on their needs. However, as you said, when it comes to business use, one must be objective & rational in their tech choices. Our company's IT guy is awesome at doing that. I know I've tried to make my choices of personal systems and devices that way, and have ended up being highly satisfied (I've used apple products, android products, pc's linux, etc). Thanks! Reply

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