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The Pulpit
Pulpit Comments
May 16, 2008 -- Reality Check
Status: [CLOSED]

Dang Bob, next you're going to say no one ever got fired by buying IBM

Tim | May 16, 2008 | 5:03PM

Preach it bro! "Much of this comes down to the decided lack of professionalism in IT," I can't believe what a true statement this is. As a person trained as an Engineer, but operating as a "software engineer," I'm dumbfounded how many IT decisions are made based on the 5P's. I believe that it's not only at management levels, but throughout all levels entry to CIO.



Thanks again for your willingness to talk about this issue.



Now... How do we solve it?

Matt B. | May 16, 2008 | 5:08PM

Dang! What's the point in being 'professional'in IT when the managers are not and don't understand or trust anything you say and make you do research and attend endless meetings to explain the blindingly obvious over and over and .....

Stewbabay | May 16, 2008 | 5:24PM

In terms of professionalism and usefulness IT consultants are right up there with lawyers, except lawyers are SOMETIMES helpful.

As for original research, it is funny everytime something interesting and original pops up on the internet it becomes a subject of one of those useless Forrester Research reports two months later.

Deal with IT idiocy every day | May 16, 2008 | 5:33PM

Bob:

Bad Bob, bad. The 11th commandment, "Thou shall not bite the hand that feeds thou." Gartner is one of your sponsors, Magic Quadrant and et al.

George Morton | May 16, 2008 | 5:35PM

Bob,

I have only dealt with Gartner once. I worked for a major insurance company. We were in the concept validation phase of building an Executive Information System in the mid 90's. When our team learned that our company had a contract with Gartner and getting their "advise" on the multi-dimensional database tools we were looking at would not cost our project any more we jumped at the chance.

Well, it was worth what we paid for it... nothing. Gartner recommend a particular product, but when we asked if they had done any testing of the product they said no. They were recommending one product over one another they also had not tested. Their experience with the two products was based on the literature from the vendors and some kind of demonstration from the vendors.

What was more interesting was that we were looking at 4 vendor's products and Gartner dismissed the other 2... because they had not "reviewed" them. In other words... the vendors had not done a "dog and pony show" for Gartner.

As a Programmer/Analyst I am caught in exactly what you are talking about. Management almost exclusively would rather we work on new projects rather than spend the time to fix the problems we have. All of my peers would love it if the business would just stop coming up with new stuff for 6 months so we could do nothing but fix the existing stuff. There is no growth in fixing what we already do, so they pay cheap labor to handle all the workarounds. Argggg!

Scott

Scott Lewis | May 16, 2008 | 5:41PM

It's rare that I completely agree with Bob, but I agree completely. We sell solutions that require experienced IT professionals to operate. Shops that have skills are successful. Shops that don't fail miserably and blame everyone but themselves. Every now and then a customer will realize what they don't know and actually spring for training, and we're gradually learning something interesting... five years ago, we'd train you how to use our tool to do your job. Now, the guy from five years ago is laid off, and we're training his under qualified replacement how to do his job using our tool.

one eyed vendor in the land of IT workers | May 16, 2008 | 5:43PM

I remember seeing the start of this in the 70's.

The larger the company, the worse the problem.

The mantra then was "We are using consultants so we can make an objective decision."

As soon as your heard that you knew the fix was in.

Richard H; | May 16, 2008 | 5:44PM

Two words fuel this IT PPP "Vendor Certification". Ask a windows cert to do a UNIX(your flavor) install of webservers he will shout about how secure and scalable IIS is.

Reverse the roles, exact same thing happens. Crazy how quickly though management in IT and software look for these certs.

Add into the mix the lack of performance, scalability and relability metrics from a third party certification system and you get what happened back befor UL, FDA and other systems were in place. People swapping numbers, hiding numbers, or flat out requiring that others not post numbers's without thier approval (of course you can but good luck not being sued).

Vendors define everything in IT. We need more intelligent customer's with a set of requirments that force the vendor's to compete by proving they can meet those exact needs.
Heck google took this logic and applied it to aerospace and ended up convincing you ( cringley ) to have a run at it.

Till the clients of the industry wise up (all those CIO's out there take note) and save thier consulting fees to instead offer slightly more money in the it contracts and just require working prototypes and reliability in the contracts, this stuff will not change. It leaks money like old piping that needs to be replaced and to few honest plumbers around to tell you about saving money by spending a little more upfront.


Rob | May 16, 2008 | 5:45PM

Interesting insight, but it is an overgeneralization. I have some known some folks in IT who are extraordinarily sharp. Also, I have known simple-minded, but college educated engineers. Of course, there is the opposite and all ranges in between. One's level of knowledge depends on consistent focused self-education. A key strength I see in successful consultants is the ability to relay knowledge with confident communication – similar to my favorite author Robert X. Cringely ;-)


Scott Curtner | May 16, 2008 | 5:46PM

Vendors who don't pay Gartner generally don't get included in their "recommendations" and the Magic Quadrants.

Roger | May 16, 2008 | 5:46PM

re: "How often do these consultants tell their customers that everything is fine and no action is required? Almost never."

Absolutely right, and it's also true about Auditors of all flavors.

Tim Brown | May 16, 2008 | 5:49PM

Sorry, Bob, but Woody Allen said this much better than you - in five words actually:

"Nothing works and nobody cares."

Summed up the human condition - and especially IT - perfectly in five words.

Richard Steven Hack | May 16, 2008 | 6:22PM

I have a bit of an off-center perspective, having worked for a state government, which in the end is just another large business. The least competent programmers move into management, or people with no technical background at all become managers. All managers are then by definition clueless. People like me get hired, work hard, try to do good things, and are totally ignored. When decision time comes management types are only bright enough to know they don't have the chops. They never stoop to ask anyone who actually has an answer because those are people like me, underlings. Therefore come the slick consultants wearing suits, bringing their own contract programmers. Ultimately there are two parallel organizations. One is "staff", on the books. They do clerical work, or at best learn to drive applications left by the consultants. The other group are the gods, the contractors, who earn two, three, four or more times the salary and throw together products that can't even stand under their own weight. But the gods are off the books, and there is infinite money to pay them. That's why I quit.

Dave Sailer | May 16, 2008 | 6:28PM

I tried to start a business in New York City doing software prototyping.

This is the center of the financial world and the people here didn't want to know about prototyping for nothing.

I know why too.

They were "managers" and "IT Professionals" so they'd die before they'd admit, even to themselves, that they didn't know what was going to happen when they developed or installed software.

Which is more expensive? A project that is slow because of all the prototyping or a project that you end u having to scrap because it under-performs, under delivers, costs way more than anyone thought it would, or won't scale to meet condition that changed as the result of the very introduction of the system.

Its a mugs game and I'm glad to be out of the business.

Chales-A Rovira | May 16, 2008 | 6:30PM

Did not miss the mark on the HP/EDS thing either. Like mixing poop and icecream; doesn't hurt the poop but wrecks the icecream...

Bill | May 16, 2008 | 6:48PM

Bob, why don't you do a column on the current value of 64-bit operating systems on the desktop versus 32-bit ones. This thought comes after being told - insisted to actually - that Win XP-64 was vastly superior to Win XP-32 - especially in the speed area. And that with the compatibility libraries loaded there were no compatibility problem(s) with 32-bit apps any longer. (I might also point out that the person saying this, despite their 10-year computer experience, still considers Win ME superior to its predecessor Win98SE, and preferable over WinNT/2K.) My figures have long shown no advantage in a 64-bit operating system while running off-the-shelf desktop apps. Has the time for 64-bit operating systems arrived yet now that 64-bit processors are all that's been sold for the last 3 years?

David B. | May 16, 2008 | 6:59PM

You are right on target with your comments. When you look at the last twenty years of being spoon-fed dribs and drabs of technology that was obsolete or poorly designed without vision, it is a wonder we haven't bankrupted ourselves (or maybe we have and the day of reckoning is upon us).

The problem is everyone expects "technology" and IT to be the magic panacea to cure all the shortsighted business decisions that seem to permeat American business. There are no "one button" solutions, Virginia, just like there is no Santa Claus. But, hey, Gartner (and their friends) to continue to try to convince you there are, as long as someone is willing to listen and may them the big bucks!

Paul Toth | May 16, 2008 | 7:14PM

While a lot of what you say makes sense Bob, I think I can put a finer point on your comment "...IT workers are a commodity and are treated as such. Many IT workers are clueless about the technologies they are working with."

As you point out, the majority of IT workers are hired based on cost (why does offshoring exist?) and like most things, you get what you pay for. Most of those of us who do have a clue toil in a work environment populated by those that don't. We are compensated and treated like the rest of the herd and unless our opinions are shored up by studies by the likes of Gartner, we have a hard time getting anything done. Professionalism isn't encouraged--no wonder people don't think it exists. Management doesn't want to spend money and time on the part of their business that doesn't _make_ money--they want to make sure it costs as little as possible to operate. No one lives by the adage "you have to spend money to make money" anymore. The company that saves the most money and cleaves to Gartner's "best practices" looks better to their peers.

I say cultivate the skilled workers in the IT industry instead of trying to destroy it by diluting the gene pool with cut-rate contractors, offshoring, outsourcing and just plain silly "so-and-so-recommends-so-it-must-be-good" reports.

coppertop | May 16, 2008 | 7:17PM

Hmmm... sort of a one sided rant from the Cringe-man.

A lot of people pay for the research service as a status symbol to brag about.
Upper Damagement thinks they need to go to a conference thingy to appear to be
keeping tabs on the industry and this fits the bill. It's pretty silly to think
that people are spending big bucks for market research on the future of desktop
operating systems... But they do! It's like these people are still studying at
university but they get paid for it.

That having been said, information technology is huge, complicated and constantly
changing and most folks don't have the time and discipline to do research.
Research is hard work requiring sustained focus with out too much interuption
from day to day operations. Generally, if someone digests the output of these
research tanks, they will eventually get enough information to make a relatively
informed decision. But I think that $2 billion is a pitance compared to all the
money wasted by BAD decisions on IT. Given that information is power, then IT is
of critical, strategic importance to long term success. I see so many very
critically important decisions which are badly made based on the likes, dislikes
and bias of kids just out of college. Not to mention that what kids learn in
college is at least 5 years out of date.

The cost of paying for research from the Gartners of the world may be $2 billion
but the cost of bad decisions and poorly implemented tech as got to be at least
greater than $200 billion.

D. B. | May 16, 2008 | 7:23PM

Still one of the most laughable things I heard from the Gartner Group's "experts" was how wonderful IBM's MicroChannel architecture was. I was working at a large corporation and we were suddenly freed from buying over-priced IBM PS'2. I was preparing a large order from a little known company called Compaq. The order was going to save us thousands. Along comes a Gartner "expert" with his MCA analysis and the order went to IBM. Where is MicroChannel today? Dead and long gone. Basically the "expert" was nothing but a shill for IBM. Thanks Gartner Group!

DavidT | May 16, 2008 | 7:38PM

Having had lots of experience in both organizational development (20+ years) and IT (10+ years), you are right on. I personally had to live through a Gartner Group Grope that wasted 1000s of work hours and produced absolutely no useful results and was paid for with taxpayer money. Far too many senior managers would rather listen to some outside consultant who doesn't have experience or a clue about the business tell them how to improve. If they invited their employees in and asked how to save money, produce more at a better quality, they would get real, useful answers that could work.

Keep up the rality checks. More are needed, many more!

Barry Winters | May 16, 2008 | 7:42PM

Isn't this all a ME_II problem?
Everybody wants to do what everybody else does. Look no further than Bear Stearn. Business is run by they same morons like IT.
Short term over optimization instead long term investment. Why? How long is the avg. term of the big one (CEO), 2 years. After which _his_ options vest because he got fired.
But the damage is done and the next one plays by the same rules.
Investors have a very short term memory these days. Let the suckers long term invest, while we just want "results" for the next 3-6mth.

ronald | May 16, 2008 | 8:43PM

How a consultant works:
1) find the one guy in IT actually knows what's going on, who's been lobbying for years to get some things changed;
2) take one or two of his never-read reports, rewrite in consulting firm's format (or just retype it) and add pretty pictures;
3) submit it as new analysis and recommendations, bill $150 per hour for several hundred hours;
4) assume that nothing in the report will be implemented;
5) accept laudatory letters from client;
6) plan on coming back in five years to repeat the process - you might even submit the same report.
- told to me by a friend who was consulting for one of the Big Four or Five at the time.

Gary B | May 16, 2008 | 8:55PM

I work for HP. If the EDS acquisition goes through, they'll actually be acquiring a customer. I came over to HP from Opsware which they acquired last year. EDS is Opsware's single largest customer.

Warren | May 16, 2008 | 9:40PM

I have been working in IT for 20 years and I have to agree 100% with everything you are saying Bob. You nailed it! I was particularly struck by your line.

"Many IT workers are clueless about the technologies they are working with. They aspire to be project managers and are often not very good at that either."

True!! So True. I've been plotting my escape from this none line of business. I just had a thought with all the millions of VC dollars being poured into software as a service and the growing attractiveness of social software might we be seeing the slow decline of the IT? Software as a Service (SaaS) is just another form of outsourcing. Just a thought.

TJGodel | May 16, 2008 | 9:55PM

I once interviewed for a job at Gartner. It was interesting to learn a little bit about their business from the inside. One of the things that surprised me is how they get information. They rarely work with a product or technology. They have very little first hand experience with it. They get their information from the vendors and early adopters. If an analyst has a connection with a company with a "smart" IT department, then his/her research papers could be pretty good. Many more analysts were pretty clueless. I found the old InfoWorld labs to be a better source of information on some technology decisions.

john | May 16, 2008 | 10:06PM

I think the root problem with most large companies described in this article is that they're run by sales people.

Steve McKisic | May 16, 2008 | 10:35PM

The one important component you didn't mention is the role these IT consultants fill in helping people within the IT department get a promotion. Since IT is a cost center there's no way to achieve glory with a great product. So, the fastest way to get a promition is to get one of these consultants to say the current approach is wrong, lead an effort to replace the current approach until promoted (which *must* happen before the project ends), and make sure to be gone before the dust settles and everyone realizes IT is out lots of money and is no better off or even much worse off than before the project.

Brian Gilstrap | May 16, 2008 | 11:31PM

You missed one big area, they sell warm and fuzzies.

I worked at a big consulting company, and we had all the reports from Gartner and their kin, and I never found anything of value in them, but since they were in the library, it was free to me to check.

Then I went to work for a "major mortgage financial" firm, and they brought in Gartner to verify the design that IBM/PriceWaterhouse was presenting as the solution to all things bad.

It was clear that Gartner had zero experience past reading marketing product sheets, and talking to other big companies with big IT budgets.

But their blessing of the design was what the PHB wanted.

I left soon after that, and 400 people and 1200 staff years later, the project died as expected.

Pat Farrell | May 17, 2008 | 12:05AM

According to Wikipedia:

Professions are usually regulated by professional bodies that may set examinations of competence, act as a licensing authority for practitioners, and enforce adherence to an ethical code of practice.

I'm not sure that IT meets the requirements.

Steve | May 17, 2008 | 12:05AM

Bob,
well done.
Another set of sacred cows bleeding, but not dead, unfortunately.
Having worked for all 3 IT firms you mention and in a "customer", I have yet to see anything that disagrees with your this or your previous article on logistics and Walmart vs the US marines.

However, as for IT professional competence and quality, not many of the clued want to work in computing, when years of learning, skill and experience can be dumped by a beancounter. This bean counter will _never_ be made accountable for their recommendation. Try that with civil engineering or medicine sometime.

Denarius | May 17, 2008 | 12:45AM

I'm a IT Manager... a competent one.

Our laptops are 3 years old (work fine, but are starting to break so I'm planning on buying a few more now to avoid Vista). File Servers are made from old desktops (some PIII!) and new, cheap disks. We run Linux on the servers. While old, they can still saturate the network.

I don't have much of a budget... don't need one.

I've been thinking about moving on, but wonder how I'll do since IT managers are typically judged based on the largeness of their budget.

That's similar to how Gartner (and the like) do well... they sell to the MBA's in the head office, encouraging them to ignore their own staff and spend. At most companies there is no incentive for an IT staff to spend less.... it just makes them look bad.

Robert

Robert | May 17, 2008 | 1:02AM

This goes beyond IT.

I've been in online marketing for a little over a decade now (it's my first and only career), so I'm one of the bad guys that should be shot first when the revolution comes. Still, early on I realized I needed to understand technology to deisgn and work with common web languages and databases if I ever wanted to actually get anywhere in this job. I wasn't particularly great, even at the pinnacle of my scripting and SQLing, but I undertood what I was doing in large part. Today I just dabble for fun.

In my world, the Gartners and Jupiters and friends serve a slightly different purpose than they do in IT. They review online companies, technologies and markets give expert analysis on them in the form of surveys, reports and whitepapers. It's roughly the same product they sell in IT re-packaged. Back when I was starting out in this field in the mid-1990s it didn't take long after learning about various web technologies as a primary user before I started to figure out that no one who knew anything about actually building things seemed to give a shit what Gartner or Jupiter thought. Sure, a bunch of MBAs doing their gap year as Silicon Valley entrepreneurs loved to quote them when they weren't out buying trendy gadgets or bragging about what Prada product they used this week on the industry cocktail circuit, but for the people actually creating value this stuff simply didn't matter. I started to wonder the same thing - if these guys are experts then how did they get that way and what qualifies them? Read their resumes and you find a notable lack of actual experience with anything relevant. What you instead find is that very few experts actually are experts in what they're consulting on, otherwise they'd be doing these things for a living. It sounds trite, but it's pretty much true. A friend with years of hands-on experience in IT for the government and a Masters in public policy was recently offered $35K GBP by Gartner and told he was overqualifed when he asked for $50K in return. What qualifies an expert? Someone who is willing to work for less than they could make by actually doing what they're an expert in.

That's a localized version of the problem, but it's just a microcosm of the larger issue in America - the rise of the expert. Journalism in general and politics in particular has seen an explosion of out-of-nowhere experts in the last couple of decades and this has paralleled the rise of the consultant, or the expert, in the business world. Are these two phenomena separate? No. They're both about co-opting trusted information channels to attach to oneself the patina of legitimacy and then marketing what you say along with the borrowed legitimacy as a product. Then all you need is a captive market who requires a steady supply of "legitimate" and "trusted" data in order to justify their own position and bing bang boom you've got an industry. And who are these markets? CIOs and milquetoast managers who, as you alluded to, don't really know their field and need to borrow at second hand the already borrowed legitimacy to, ironically, lend themselves legitimacy. That's the market you mentioned, but the other huge one are journalists and other content-hungry entities that we'll group under "media." What would journalists and half-assed news portals do to fill space if they didn't have a useless whitepaper or a new Gartner study to talk about at least once a day? They would have to actually go find news and go find hands-on experts out on the ground, but that's hard work and that's expensive and if there's one thing we know about modern mainstream journalism in America it's that the field revolves around spending as little labor as possible to make as much money as possible.

Would anyone take Gartner seriously if they held open meetings at the local Unniversity to give advice? No, they'd be shouted down by people who showed up and knew what they were talking about. The students and professors and local workers who actually work with the technology. Their experts would look like the buffoons they are. Similarly, would someone like Lou Dobbs or Bill O'Reilly stand a chance in any forum where he didn't control the microphone? No. But on TV they're opinion leaders and experts.

As a marketer I work to abuse these trusted channels regularly - that's a large part of what marketing's about. But I also know it when I see it. The scary part about a lot of these people on both the supply and demand sides of the expert equation is that they drink the kool aid and actually believe that they're bringing something of value to the market. Working in marketing (or PR or advertising - etc) is like being a drug dealer: you're never supposed to get high on your own product.

Kevin | May 17, 2008 | 5:03AM

In my experience, IT consulting groups exist to cater to the feudal structure of large corporations.

They just provide a "decision-making support" service: that is to say, they manufacture reasonable-looking reasons for dubious executive decisions.

They're somebody people can call to get tailored *justifications* for the cronyism and golf-buddy kind of terrible decisions the managers make, and/or to overrule any sound technical and business decisions that lead to greater efficiency and thereby challenge their empire-building.

Anoynimous | May 17, 2008 | 7:27AM

It's bad enough when companies take take bad decisions based on "expert advice" , but here in the UK we have a government that has the same need for "focus groups" and "IT Czars". It has resulted in most of its projects going over budget and over time, with user dissatisfaction and workers dissatisfied. Worst of all, when evidence is presented by academic groups it is dismissed, and becomes a war in the press of soundbites between opposing factions. Truth suffers

Nigel | May 17, 2008 | 9:25AM

what i hate most about gartner, et al, is that their most public predictions about technology are always wrong or just overstating the obvious, if they were right, apple would've been dead 10 years ago, steve jobs would be a failure, microsoft would've already been killed by netscape (though they may be killing themselves), etc.

bob | May 17, 2008 | 10:53AM

I completely, totally agree with Bob on this one. Every interaction I've had with corporate IT people has resulted with my scratching my head over why they don't get it. I've seen "we have to switch to Windows servers because the consultant we want to hire only knows Windows." I've seen "we have to use Access for our database, though it'll double our development time, because we already have it." And of course, "You can't hook up your Mac to our network. It won't work." Followed by, "It stopped working because Macs aren't compatible with our network." (They'd pulled out the network cable at the router.)

Oh, yes, and the group that bought used, broken down, obsolete Dell machines "because Dell is always cheaper" though I got a lower price on better machines from two competitors.

I suspect computing would look a lot different if IT people (I won't say "professionals" because I HAVE seen IT professionals at work, and they act VERY differently) would take the time to learn more than "buy from the biggest vendor" and "learn whatever language Microsoft is pushing now." Now, though, building a better mousetrap means that you get a tiny, niche audience until Microsoft or Apple decides they want your niche.

David Zatz | May 17, 2008 | 11:06AM

I've never met a consultant who was worth his salary. Even those people who retire and come back after the weekend as consultants. I feel the same way about compnaies like Gartner. They are humongous scam outfits built on the premise that you can empty any IT ignorant company's pockets be slinging technical gobbledygook at them.

I've garnered more valuable information from regular IT people who've been in the trenches for a while. You can't assume and invent when talking about IT; you have TO DO IT. I can't help but feel like the costs of IT are grossly inflated by these scam artists calling themselves experts; which they really are not. Any intelligent manager can find out anything he needs to know about the computer industry related to his company's needs.

Like the old joke says: "An expert is someone from out of town."

Dan Marois | May 17, 2008 | 11:09AM

I retired after almost 40 years as an "IT Professional" having done my time on both sides of most fences - in-house vs. outsourced, technical vs. project mgr., hands-on vs. consultant, manager vs. resource, sales vs. customer, etc etc. I believe one of the main reasons "consultants" are in demand lies not with a lack of trust for in-house technical skills but with a lack of trust for the decision criteria of in-house staff. People understandably play to their own strengths. In-house staffs often have personal stock in their advice which trumps concern for the company's best interests. I may be an indispensable god at supporting a critical system held together with bandages/baling wire. Would I be the most objective advocate on whether or not to replace (or re-architect) that system? I know that consultants are sometimes used to validate decisions that management read about in a magazine on the airplane on the way home from the last seminar in Las Vegas. But barring that, sometimes the objectivity of a consultant is more valuable than the consultant's mastery of all the technical details. In the customer phase of my career I seemed to have expertise that was "a mile deep but half an inch wide." In the sales/consulting phase of my career I seemed to have expertise that was "half an inch deep but a mile wide." A consultant’s whiteboard diagram can save customers from a trial and error approach to architecture. But consultants are lousy implementers and the best implementers are "in-house." No vendor lab can match the complexity, site uniqueness and volume of production systems. Add to that the policies, security, decision making, and workloads of IT organizations. A technology that takes six weeks to implement on a new, clean system in a lab may take problem-filled months/years to integrate into an existing customer system. So consultants and in-house staff both bring value to the table (actually to the conference call).

Steve | May 17, 2008 | 11:15AM

I have worked in £multi-billion UK government IT and your article is right on the money. It isn't the only factor of course, many other method-based "IT-by-numbers" fads (GOSIP, SSADM, PRINCE, etc.) follow the same line of thought: deference to an external "expert". We used our Gartner contract to see if there was any backing for what we wanted to do, if there wasn't we'd forget we looked.

There are professional IT approaches, but they too cost money. Much easier to take the rent-a-brain option (like 'consultants') with the added benefit that it's never YOU that's wrong. ;-)

Rob | May 17, 2008 | 11:19AM

I guess HP will require repeated bad purchases to get the message. Or die in the process. Compaq was too easy I suppose; they need something more complex and useless.

The late founders of that once-great corporation must have spun their dead selves into dust a long time ago.

Dan Marois | May 17, 2008 | 11:22AM

One of the first things HP CEO Mark Hurd did when he came into office was to hire uber-CIO Randy Mott to reduce 87 datacenters to six, saving untold dollars in the process. He apparently thinks he can do the same thing with EDS. Unlike top-line growth where the benefit is reduced by all kinds of overhead expenses, cost cutting goes directly to the bottom line.

Dean | May 17, 2008 | 12:13PM

Re: Reality Check: What does Gartner really DO?

Bob,
With the hopes that you’re not yet “swimming with the fishes” after taking on the very core of IT commerce with this article, I add the following.

I’ve always believed that those surrounding the IT industry, from sales reps to media, serve as industry pollinators. Always just short of industrial espionage but applying enough peer pressure to make you “want” to buy, upgrade, or switch vendors. We salivate at new gizmos in magazines and want so much to have a big win project of our own.

That said, I’ve seen a lot of misdirection and abdicated responsibility based upon industry advice and “consultation”. When I worked with engineers they designed with end-costs in mind. In software, we design with end dates in mind.

At the end of the day those in IT must own the IT decisions for their companies – no abdication. Don’t expect to stand upon industry bad advice after-the-fact. Expect to find a new job in that case. Hey – correlation to high turnover rate here?


Bob Reid | May 17, 2008 | 12:53PM

I work for a rather large outsourcing outfit that is currently doing inside outsourcing ("insourcing"). I used to work for the original company, the original company sold us to the Big Consulting Outfit who wanted to become an IT outsourcer. So I work in the SAME building on the SAME project, but now have a different name on my paystub and two extra layers of management which charge to our projects and our clients wonder why things are more expensive.

*sigh* But getting to Gartner. Gartner can do some good things like surveying across the high walls of IT and finding out what people are doing and how they're liking it, but mostly they seem to generate "generic" comments like "Security should be a number one consideration for WiMAX deployment." That's nice, Gartner. Care to give us details? You have none? Oh lovely!

My experience with building custom apps has given me several observations about IT: 1. Not Made Here Syndrome.

I've lost count of the number of passive-aggressive decisions I've seen by people to go their own way because it's not what they would have done. Lost hours and wisdom. 2. Outsourcing outfits make too much money from maintenance.

Although my company has tried to move to fixed-price contracts, the fact is that our client company and my company are far too comfortable with the deploy-fix-break-fix-put-lipstick-on-a-pig-fix cycle.

Fixed price contracts only work if the company's people are all on board with working under a fixed-price model, but they just foisted the model on us without getting the right people in place, or at least helping its people get used to the new model with good processes and thinking. 3. I didn't learn that in school/at work so I am not going to do unit testing/agile development/etc.

Unless it was force fed to them at some point, new and better ways of working are passively resisted. Sometimes actively. The few people who get it are worn down by the others who just want a job, get paid and go home. Jobbers, not professionals who take pride in their work. 4. Prejudice

Against vendors, technologies and approaches. Gartner plays a significant role in supporting IT dept prejudices. Small UNIX servers are disdained in favor of more expensive, less reliable Windows Server 2003 servers. Development teams and even our clients used to install rogue Linux boxes for years until finally the company admitted there was a demand and officially supported it.

Our client's ex-CIO was dead set against SharePoint in favor of an expensive IBM solution called FileNet. FileNet was so reviled in our client's organization that half our projects were ways to do an end-run around FileNet. When our outsourcing company starting using MediaWiki for collaboration tools, our clients _demanded_ from their CIO to have their own wikis. The ex-CIO was unceremoniously dumped and the new CIO has started approving SharePoint in limited use.

I have a hard time thinking of myself as a professional. I think of myself as some sort of factory worker on an assembly line in 70s Detroit: making crappy cars, knowing I _make_ expensive, crappy cars and having no power to affect the situation.

I miss working for a small software company. :-(

Anonymous IT Outsourcer | May 17, 2008 | 1:46PM

There are several things I see that are at play in this phenomena.

"The introduction of the GUI."
I worked for large corporation for 10+ years. During my first 5 years the central database was an old VAX based system that we were able to access via our Windows 95 machines. Interacting with the database was not "glamorous" and required knowing a fair amount of text commands but the system worked and required a relatively small support staff. When the company switched over to a new sybase database with a GUI, many more people were suddenly able to directly access the data and suddenly thought of themselves as computer experts. The size of the support staff also grew exponentially. The roles of the support staff also changed dramatically. Under the VAX system the focus was on keeping the legacy hardware running. Under the new Sybase system the focus was on supporting/training all the new novice users.

"20% of the people do 80% of the work."
This rule applies not only within the IT department but also outside the department amongst the users and managers. The aforementioned new GUI manager/user experts started providing all sorts feedback to the developers for new features they would like to see implimented ASAP. The only problem is that under the old VAX system these people were part of the 80% and they knew it so they would keep their mouths shut so as not to expose how little they actually knew. So now the poor IT guy has to wade through a sea of feedback and somehow decipher which requests are mission critical and those that are just eye-candy.

"The wise man built his house upon the rock."
Big projects are built upon a foundation of hardware and software that the user never really "sees." The managers job is to provide the developers the time and protection necessary to get this right the first time before they start adding all of the eye-candy that the users think they need. The managers mantra should be function before form, but nowadays our culture seems to have that reversed.

"Humans are extremely poor at managing moderation in anything."
Translated: to hell with prototyping and testing just get it done.

One final note.
Dave Sailer said: "having worked for a state government, which in the end is just another large business"

Let's get one thing straight. Government IS NOT just another large business. If a government runs short on funds they raise taxes and simply take what they need. Businesses at least have to convince customers to buy the crap their selling.

drewby | May 17, 2008 | 3:54PM

I just read the three comments above and once again am impressed by the quality of the people who read your articles. Talk about dead on! The comment about FileNet is crazy funny for me, as I use to work for FileNet and couldn't agree more with his "opinion". Thank god IBM bought them, they deserve each another.

Thank you for the articles and please keep it up.

Lyle | May 17, 2008 | 3:58PM

I've been doing IT for 26 years, the last 13 as an independent, and all I can say is... there's nothing in the article to disagree with.

I have servers running openBSD that are ten years old now, and they're still running at maybe 3% of capacity, and like another poster noted, they can still saturate the net if anyone actually pushes them. They're secure, they never crash, and, ironically, in order to make a sale I can't push that aspect of it. Frankly, I have to size up the prospect, figure out what *they* think their project is worth, and even if I know it can be done profitably for three grand, if they think their project is worth 30 grand, then I have to quote thirty grand, or their will be no sale.

But what really pics me is that 11 years ago I called a meeting of every IT person I knew to suggest we form an association that would actually have certification of honesty and credibility.

In particular I was choked by the way so many so-called "consultants" were: 1) pushing only the thin branch of IT they understood (if they knew NT, they would swear that NT was the only way to go... if they knew Linux, they would swear Linux was the only way to go, as if they were making objective recommendations, when in fact, in some cases, NT (is* what you should use, and for others, Linux *is* the best option), and 2) the way they were so often recommending fuzzy solutions that would require ongoing technical-support contracts when I could see that the client was looking for applications that could be built once, and then left alone to run just fine (there's still stuff out there running ten years later that I built once, installed, then walked away from, and the clients are still using it to this day, and if I ever did get a call, it was always over something minor and justifiable... like a disk crash or something.)

Well... those guys nearly bit my head off. They knew they were milking the clients, and were freaked that someone would dare to actually have them perform according to some fair standards.

At the end of the day, I ended up developing a philosophy: The Free Market system only works when people know what they are buying.

They might know how to squeeze a loaf of bread in order to keep the bakers honest, but if they do not understand what they are paying for, it all turns into a game of flim-flammery, and it's annoying as hell to people who actually do want to deliver a good product or service.

David | May 17, 2008 | 4:10PM

Good discussion - one very minor point. Actually it was the 1955 to 1956 Chrysler New Yorker where they added the fins. 1957 was a new body shell

Bob | May 17, 2008 | 4:22PM

Funny, I was thinking about how Gartner works the other day! Here's what I came up with.

Gartner watches what the beta geeks are doing. The alpha geeks have no need for Gartner, they figure stuff out. Beta geeks watch the alpha geeks, and usually can't afford to buy Gartner. When the beta geeks start to embrace the stuff the alpha geeks are doing, it's time for Gartner to write a report predicting that whatever technology is the aim of the report will start to gain in popularity and is a solid bet. (Because they're predicting the past this is a good strategy for being correct.) The beta geeks have already validated them for this, but the readers of their reports are the gamma geeks (which strains the term 'geek') and they don't deign to talk to the beta geeks and would have trouble communicating with the alpha geeks, who have already moved on to new technology by time Gartner delivers their report.

This has value to the middle managers of America. They benefit, Gartner benefits, the beta geeks benefit from some validation of what they're doing. The only people who this hurts are the alpha geeks who work for the companies that buy the Gartner reports, as whatever they want to do is not recommended by Gartner. So, they quit and go work for companies who are not Gartner's customers.

Overall, this isn't an awful arrangement, and may even benefit the whole IT ecosystem. It is interesting to study their niche from an anthropology perspective.

Bill McGonigle | May 17, 2008 | 4:42PM

Gartner will give you whatever reinforcement you need. If you don't want to buy anything, Gartner will validate that decision. In most cases they have papers/analysis that comes out on both sides of the issue, so you can pick and choose to "validate" your decision to management.

I'm an IT consultant, and I hate the Gartners, et al. They are worthless, and a TREMENDOUS waste of money.

Scott Carlson | May 17, 2008 | 5:17PM

I went to a Gartner conference once.

The other developers where off at Tech-Ed and my boss couldn't make it to the Gartner conference so I went instead.

It was all about SOA.

At the end they had a group discussion where they were pushing the line to the Business Managers that developers would be a thing of the past. The future would consist of putting modules together like LEGO. The best part was that the Business Managers could do it themselves.

I was left with the distinct impression that Business Managers:
a) do not like developers and do not want to talk to them
b) have little knowledge of IT and believe anything you tell them
c) believe they can do it all by themselves given the right expert advice

What the Business Managers didn't seem to realise was that their new infrastructures were going to need just a *little* bit of customisation by expert consultants somewhere down the track.

Andrew | May 17, 2008 | 5:43PM

I think when you step back and look at this whole industry it becomes clear that much of the workforce is highly unfit for the sort of work in which they are doing. Moore's law has correctly predicted cheap computing. Good talent to work on these cheap machines unfortunately has not kept up with the rate at which they become available. This creates a big predicament. The void must be filled by people... and some of these people can be pretty low tech. I've found many of these people are not "scientific minded" individuals. I address this because you pointed out the "lack of professionalism". These people were barbarians at the gate... 15 years ago. Now they have stormed the castle. Thanks to the revolution of the internet the field is littered with IT professionals. These people hold little or no appreciation, dare I say interest, of the computing discipline in which the tools they use had been conceived. They simply shambled along until they ended up where they are at.

Before I end my rant I'd like to point out a scenario I have lived through. Small IT communities (not NY-NY, SF, LA etc.) suffer many times worse the problems you outline in this article. For these small fries it can be harder to recruit since HR must do a better job of putting the feelers out. There tends to be weaker management, which can provoke the "validation" problem. Small community type IT managers really seem to feel the need for the "big guys" to validate them. Thats all from me :) Thanks for another good write up on a subject that certainly needs more examination.

Rob Ottaway | May 17, 2008 | 6:10PM

I agree with all of the various comments. There is a big problem with management and vendor certs. I have endless arguments with our CIO and IT manager about hiring new people. The management always want vendor certs and I look for qualifications and experience.

I argue that a vendor cert trains people to push a button and a qualification such as a B eng, B Comp science or higher teaches people how to think and reason. I once had an MSCE tell me that AIX was a copy of Win 2000 server without the GUI. I fired him the next week. BTW I did it the hard way a B eng (electronics) and an Masters of comp science...and no vendor certs.

Stephen | May 17, 2008 | 7:22PM

I can't speak to the real motivation behind HP/EDS -- but it doesn't seem to have actually pleased Wall Street. EDS stock rose to a bit less than the offer price, and HP market value went down by more than that.

Jim | May 17, 2008 | 8:45PM

In my 25 years working as programmer I have never encountered a consultant working for the big firms who had a clue how software really works. I'm always amazed how people who know so little about the inner workings of hardware and software are entrusted to make decisions about these very same systems. It would be like asking the sales person at Home Depot to recommend the building materials for a skyscraper.

l.a.guy | May 18, 2008 | 1:21AM

Bravo!

I couldn't not agree with this article more. The last company that I worked for had some IT directors that would validate there IT opinions with Gartner. I would always cringe when they said "well Gartner recommends blah blah blah". All this really did was verify on how clueless the IT management really was. I think that it was funny how "cutting edge" this companies IT was but, at the same time a complete failure.


homeslice | May 18, 2008 | 3:05AM

I have met some useful Gartner Group people. These were ex-IBM mainframe people who knew how IBM - in those long off days - worked and could use their contacts to get in touch.

The newer breed have the same sources of information as the rest of us (and of course the publicity depts. of the software companies) and mostly don't even bother to have test installations of the software they are reporting on.

So whereas Gartner Group and the rest were once useful they merely replace a cheaper internal person who could do the same kind of "research" alongside normal work.

So you were wise to count this alongside outsourcing as one of the major cons of our day.

Of course a subscription includes attendence for the people that take out the subscription to the Gartner yearly conferences. I wonder sometimes is this is the big attraction to the people who take out the subscriptions. They always seem to go themselves and they are always in exclusive surroundings ...

Nic | May 18, 2008 | 8:00AM

Wow! Your best columns (such as this one) draw concise, well thought out and interesting comments that expand and clarify your premise. I can't think of any other columnist where the comment section is as worthwhile and relevant as the Pulpit's. This is why I look forward to your weekly rant – even when I disagree.

Most of the comment sections attached to other columnist's work should (and probably will) just go away.

Steve | May 18, 2008 | 10:57AM

This is a very good article. I work for a Fortune 50 company and IT decisions are made on the basis of Pride, Prejudice and Politics almost exclusively, it seems.

The same argument can be made about financial "analysts," too. Most are not analysts, but investors, typically institutional investors. Their "analysis" is often (usually/always?) nothing more than veiled market manipulation. If it will have a positive effect on their portfolio they will say it under the auspices of "anaysis."

JJ | May 18, 2008 | 12:54PM

A former employer of mine was using Anderson Consulting (now Accenture). We noticed a very clear pattern in their modus operandi. They would bring in rookies. Due to time constraints, we had no choice but to train them so they would be as effective as possible for our purposes. Once these neophytes had become reasonably competent, they were transferred to a different project with a different client leaving us to train another rookie. We terminated the contract.

My former employer was extremely successful and profitable and, as a result, was bought by GE. I was laid off since my department was a duplicate resource.

Now I'm doing web design and computer support for a different employer. One of the clients that I support has been using Accenture. And guess what they've been doing... again. But now Accenture is also outsourcing to India with less than stellar results.

Over time I've had opportunities to discuss Accenture-type experiences with my peers. I haven't kept detailed records, but the general consensus has been largely negative.

paul | May 18, 2008 | 1:40PM

A truly insightful article!! Keep up the good work...

Neo Donald | May 18, 2008 | 1:56PM

Consulting firms provide the following value:

a) Give executives/managers who are otherwise unconfident in their million/billion dollar decissions the confidence to move forward (avoiding analysis parallysis?).

b) Give people a way to cover their asses if the decission ends up being a bad one because "Gartner said it was a good idea!"

c) Give companies insight into what the rest of the herd in their industry is doing so that they can be sure other companies aren't jumping off a bridge without them and that they can also cover your ass by pointing to everyone else who also jumped off the same bridge.

HR | May 18, 2008 | 7:11PM

I'd like to address a different point Bob makes; about not getting the IT to work properly. I am retired but managed a software division of 12 programmers, working my way up from OS assembly level programmer. I got pushed out after five years of management because I insisted our software pass tests to prove it worked. Despite the fact that this policy worked, the programmers liked it, and we made steady progress for five years and had software with near-zero defects and about 3/4 of our time was spent writing new code, for new features and supplements, I could never get upper level management to "like me".

For one, I wouldn't roll out software and new features until they worked, and this irritated the sales people that just wanted to say they had feature "x" and close a sale. Because they had the attention span of flies and wanted to change our work priorities every 15 minutes, I was "uncooperative" because I stuck to a schedule and insulated my programmers from the "priority du jour". That created tension but we managed it for over four years.

The final straw that forced me out was this: The CEO had a buddy that went to work for a large consulting firm, and as a favor to his buddy the CEO hired them for $1.5M. I did not even get notified this contract was in the works until it was signed. I was given several reasons why this was necessary, and none held water. I had frequent direct contact with current customers and at least none ever even hinted at any of the things I was being told by my lying CEO.

I insisted the consultants follow our system for new software and they refused; that wasn't in their contract. I had my guys write tests for their changes and modules, and they flunked miserably, like over 50% of the tests. They refused to fix their bugs, because THAT wasn't in their contract either. I refused to implement or incorporate their crap in releases, they insisted to sales and management above me that their internal testing disagreed with my testing, or my tests were unrealistic, or I was resentful, or I refused to share my tests (untrue), or refused to document or explain my tests (both untrue), and, of course, I was "uncooperative" and impossible to work with. Eventually the CEO gave me the choice of "retiring" or being fired.

I told my programmers everything that happened, and that I had negotiated a decent severance package and I was going to take it, since I had no credibility or power anymore anyway. I stayed in touch with two of my group managers, and they say the consultants took over everything, brought in truly awful Indian programmers, and ran the packages into the ground. About six years after I left, the company went under. According to the one contact I had that stayed nearly till the end, the consultants jumped ship sometime in their third year, and the programmers that were left were spending 100% of their time fighting fires and intractable bugs with clients constantly breathing down their neck.

So yeah, you can avoid getting fired by going along, but the damage the quarterly thinkers cause will destroy the products, kill the company and throw all the guys whose jobs and careers you are supposed to be protecting on the scrap heap. But consultants don't give a crap about other people, all they care about is hitting their billable hour number for the week or month or quarter.

A prior commenter quoted Woody Allen, I think, "Nothing works and nobody cares."

That sums up at least the attitudes of the consultants I suffered.

Tony C. | May 18, 2008 | 7:14PM

Overall, a good and poignant article. Not terribly insightful. Paraphrasing: consulting is bad because it pretends to encourage efficiency while that is only a secondary goal, profit being the first.

My main complaint is your argument that because Wall Street loves investment banking fees it loves the acquisition. Fees != higher valuation. Wall Street loves the idea of a synergistic relationship between a consultant and a vendor. They may not understand the lack of necessity for this arm in HP, but that lack of necessity may not negatively impact the bottom line. And that is what Wall Street really cares about.

notorious | May 18, 2008 | 7:59PM

Alleluia!

The Emperor has no clothes!

Now, if only IT managers would really think independently, maybe not only would they save money wasted on Gartner, but they'd also realize that replacing 4 guys making $80k a year with 90 guys making $15k a year isn't exactly an improvement.

Mad Max | May 18, 2008 | 10:35PM

Dr. Bob's theory - the higher level a technology decision is made, the more likely the decision is based on power and politics and less likely it is based on technological reasons.

I agree with the generalization of Gartner et. al. - their role is to push change and churn such that IT shops are chronically investing in whatever is new.

But what enables this is the philosophy of "leadership by buzzword" and the failure to consult with the IT professionals a company already has.

It's also sad that many consultants live by the philosophy of "If you can't solve a client's issues, there's good money to be made prolonging the problems."

Last, unbelievable as it seems, it appears that some companies hire consultants to do major projects not because their in-house staff can't do the work, but rather the IT management doesn't want to be the blame for the project failing.

Dr. Bob | May 18, 2008 | 10:41PM

It isn´t absolutely essential to have an engineering degree in order to perform as an engineer!

roy r. | May 19, 2008 | 4:33AM

Nice commentary, Cringely...one of your best and most accurate. None of your usual off-the-wall speculation and bad math :)

Andrew S | May 19, 2008 | 5:12AM

blink!blink!blink!
I had to check I hadn't clicked onto Scott Adams blog by accident, though I noticed the difference between yours and his, is that yours has a total lack of bathroom humor. Nevertheless, he has discussed this idea at length, several times, on his blog (his old blog archive is still standing, go here), though probably in more scatological terms. Both of you should collaborate on a new PBS program about human interaction, technology, politics and education. You both might have a blast.

Kevin Kunreuther | May 19, 2008 | 5:35AM

This is not new.
It really started 30 some years ago when the IT departments If there was such an animal back then) depended totally on AT&T for everything it did in the Voice (PBX) and in some cases Data areas.
It was very easy to defer to AT&T in any real issue/concern or problem and to blame them in the event that a decision failed.

These Consultants are in their own way dependant on and often defer to the big Vendors and Service Providers (Cisco/Dell/HP/AT&T and Verizon)for input and or support. In short they become a Proxy to these entities when dealing with the customers.

Jim A. (aka Jacomo)

Jim A | May 19, 2008 | 9:21AM

OK, here's a confession.

When I became an industry analyst some 7 years ago, having worked at building stuff, buying stuff and managing stuff (and consulting in all that) for 14 years, I didn't really know what a "industry analyst" was. The job spec looked really interesting, and I needed a change so I took it. Think of me as your IT ordinary joe, who has been around the block a few times but not as many as the mainframe guys.

It was about 5 years before I really got the hang of how despised industry analysts were in some quarters. And, its taken me a further 18 months to work out why - sadly, my brain doesn't work that fast. By coincidence, or maybe its not that much of a coincidence, the arrival of blogging has brought opinion making to the mass market, really putting the cat in the ivory dovecote.

All I can say is, times they really are a changing. Debates such as the one here (http://sagecircle.wordpress.com/2008/05/01/what-is-the-definition-of-analyst/) are illustrative of the wider debate, as well as being an indication that I was not alone in my lack of knowledge of analysts.

Meanwhile, I have arrived at an understanding that there are actually two analyst models at play. One is about "push" influence, where only the initiated have a right to express an opinion and where hype is the main tool to bump up sales of unnecessary products, foisted onto the market. The other is the "pull" model, where the right products and services can only be created if the needs of businesses large and small can be listened to, and correctly interpreted.

It'll come as no surprise that I subscribe to the latter rather than the former; I do believe its a useful service, which is why I've made the active decision to carry on being an analyst. We may never be able to dispense with the push model, as long as there are people willing to believe in a quick fix, there will be people willing to sell it to them (or indeed, abet those sales).

I'm not alone in my understanding, I know as I've been testing it out with a wide variety of people on all sides, analyst, vendor and end-user included. Meanwhile we have companies like Redmonk (www.redmonk.com) that operate as the antithesis of what is disliked about analysts. Perhaps what is most important is to recognise that none of us have a monopoly on the truth, and neither should we treat any individual or organisation as having such infinite knowledge. That way will always lie madness.

Jon Collins | May 19, 2008 | 10:25AM

The reason why business people hire consultants is to avoid making decisions and taking responsibility for those decisions. If things work out the person who hired the consultant takes the credit. If things don't work out the consultant gets the blame.

This isn't limited to just IT.

Fred

Fred | May 19, 2008 | 2:09PM

Nice complimentary piece just published at EurekAlert...
"Software designers strut their talent at cost of profit, says Management Insights study" ->
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-05/ifor-sds051908.php

Andrew Barker | May 19, 2008 | 2:42PM

This is a pretty hard crowd. I've been in IT for 20-odd years too, and I've seen a lot of bad consulting and been disappointed by my share of poor managers. But there's a little more to this than "everyone everywhere is unprofessional". It's fun to write, and parts of it match with experience, but the fact is that there will always be incompetent managers in all walks of life and there will be sleezy operators out there to help them out, as it were.

This "unprofessional" reliance on outside expertise comes down to a single point: IT these days is hard. It's hard because it's very expensive, because it is more deeply entwined in business process than ever before, because more people than ever think they know how it should work, because the pretty face masks so much of the true complexity, because there's much more to know than there used to be, because it happens so much faster than it used to, etc, etc. And many of these boil down to a point that separates IT from traditional engineering: business folks are inside the IT decisions and feel that they are peers in owning and managing it. If you stood up and offered someone the mouse at a CAD station they wouldn't sit down, but after that cool EIS demo there are plenty that might try to drag and drop a workflow management project in six months. In an environment like that even a good IT exec faces an uphill battle for dollars and dates from business partners who were invited to a Gartner summit or reached directly by a vendor.

Cheap computing power, flexible connectivity and pretty software have made it possible to put IT in places that was not conceivable years ago. It looks easy to use and it doesn't seem to cost much, and it lulls everyone into a sense that anything is possible. The best managers in such a world might just be the ones that say no. But even when that's the right answer it leaves you open to criticism that we're stranded on obsolete PIII's (even if they were perfectly adequate mail servers) or unable to make a competent analysis of data warehousing tools (even when reporting was running fine on the old stuff.)

Gartner may be symptom of weak management in a weak industry, but I think most users of the services know the difference between objective truth and what they're getting. They're typically in a spot, and if they can throw a few bucks out there in the hopes of gaining one more arrow for the quivver it's worth a shot. Most of the Gartner responses we've gotten through the years come in the form of affirmation rather than forming the basis for a direction. Go figure that middle of the road choices are constantly reaffirmed, but that's hardly cause for damning an entire industry. Consultants in any business will take the money and bolt. Go look at HR consultants selling fluffy anti-harassment courses or sales force effectiveness gurus selling nothing or top shelf accounting houses approving anything you want. IT just offers a ton of money and more ways than usual to be be wrong.

Cris E | May 19, 2008 | 3:20PM

I am a long time computer tech and I had moved from being a software tech into doing hardware and then taking over the service department for an Apple dealer. At that time, there was zero software available that could support a service department and I gathered all the paperwork needed and used through the company and designed a database/records/fields system and reports to go with it.
.
Unfortunately, I am not a programmer, but a friend and customer of the dealership was a programmer and I went to him to ask what it would take to put something together. He proposed that he would put it together for being able to buy a new Mac system and printer at the dealer cost, plus owing a percentage of the code/sales of the system to others. I thought this was a great deal and took it to the owner of the business.
.
Silly twit basically said he wasn't about to sell a system at cost. He thought the idea of the system was good and that we could definitely use it in the business, but it "cost too much."
.
I think I lasted there another year or so before I decided to move on. Of course in hindsight I should have partnered with the programmer to create the software and then peddle it to the dealer and other dealers, but I didn't do that.
.
Perhaps if someone else had proposed it to the boss, he might have gone for it. Perhaps this is what the Gartner's et.al. are for?

Reginald W | May 19, 2008 | 5:02PM

Bob

Still no listing for "The Transformation Age" either on PBS mother ship OR my local channel.

Maybe you better call upstairs.

Also can you get them to rebroadcast 'Electric Money'!!!?


Neil M | May 19, 2008 | 8:07PM

Gartner is a self fulfilling prophecy.

IT people go to Gartner, Gartner tells them to offshore because they save money in salaries for commodity work, so those IT people do so.

Gartner then publishes papers stating that people are moving offshort to save money on salaries for commodity, and encourages IT people to do so. In spite of the fact that a lot of "commodity work" doesn't get done in either the right way or with true cost savings, Gartner is able to push a solution because "everyone is doing it, so you'd better get on board."

Michael | May 19, 2008 | 10:26PM

I'm surprised no one mentioned Gartners' role in the dot.com bubble. They were issuing all sorts of stock analysis. I started working in IT in the mid-90s just before the internet. From what I understand many companies laid off their tech people during the previous recession. These were people who did things that were obsolete mostly but they were presumably knowledgable. Then they had these programs to increase the numbers of women and minorities. (In some cases they intentionally laid off white men to increase diversity). So you had no one in the entire company with any tech skills including the IT dept, which focused on training basic things like using Microsoft word. The higher level (mostly male) managers back then literally had no tech skills at all. Their secrataries did all typing, and tricky phone tech like conference calls. So these guys decided to make their secrataries into tech managers and it became normal to hire middle aged women with literally no tech background to manage tech projects. These women loved outsourcing because it allowed them to hire people to tell them what to do and who they could blame later. They could also mix in things like flex time so they could "fit their schedule". That also killed whatever professionalism that was left. This was torture for everyone so when the internet came we all quit. I sort of believe that the whole dot.com bubble was basically the same type of psychology that creates a mirage, and if it weren't the internet it would have been something else. You can only torture people so long.

After losing their best employees they had no choice but to outsource further which spread into offshoring. The idea of having people work on the other side of the globe is the ultimate flex time. The greatest irony is the hiring all these Indian based on the assumption that Asian people are better than computers. Most of these H1bs had no experience and were learning along the way but everyone assumed they're smart. So what started with diversity programs turned into pure racism. Now we've lost whatever edge we had after the cold war and as far as tech goes you burned out a whole generation. The only good thing is now seems to be a more stable period and if companies are smart they can rebuild their IT. Now that so many people have some tech skills it should be easier to find people in the company who can be involved in projects that actually know something. Thus, you don't need Gartners. On the other hand it looks alot like the late-80's again and tech depts could be slashed more so that in a few years we'll be totally dependent on foreign people. Imagine something like Gartners run entirely by Indians. At the point you could only hope our currency becomes so weak we can't afford foreign people and are forced again to hire Americans, but that's like the reverse of a mirage, some kind of accapolypse scenerio.

Frank | May 20, 2008 | 12:50AM

I think my idea of the 80's comes from watching Crigley's show, although that was awhile ago. It'll be interesting to see what's in his new show but if he's relying on Fiorina it doesn't seem likely he'll focus on the things I mentioned. It's interesting these countries that are suddenly such a threat to us don't have diversity programs.

Frank | May 20, 2008 | 1:27AM

Thank you. I've been dealing with these morons for a number of years now. I was offered an application to MENSA, more years ago than I want to think about. I tore the application up, and threw it away.

Think Tanks are a magnet for brain donors.

Gartner, several years ago, was touting IBM Professional Services. Hmm. Two oxymorons in the same title. Must be bad. But NO! Corporate "leaders" read this tripe, and decide that it is good. Never mind that the implementation is going to cost 10 times what was quoted, and support is several orders of magnitude above that.

Sorry for the rant, but the mere mention of "Gartner" makes me want to pick up the battle axe and start swinging (I'm NOT a gamer). These things are killing us all. It's time to fight back.

Alex Bedworth | May 20, 2008 | 1:38AM

I'm an IT "worker" and I confess I don't really understand what I'm working with anymore. Or much care, either.
The upside is I have an awesome resume and am highly employable despite not having done anything productive my entire adult life.

Not Telling You This Time | May 20, 2008 | 2:18AM

I fully agree with Robert Cringely on Gartner and the usefulness of (most) consultants. I'm in the IT-"profession" for more than 15 years now and I could write several books about this topic, full of examples showing why Robert is right. Of course, there are real IT professionals, but you can't identify them by there resume or CV (and not by their nose, either). You have to identify them during real projects and then promote them, make them the decision makers (or at least, advisors and internal consultants). But this doen't happen. These people (about 10 to 20% of all IT workers) are stuck with incompetent co-workers, getting the same salary and reputation (!), because their even more incompetent bosses aka IT managers can't distinguish them. Why is that? There seem to be three major reasons:

1) about 50% of all IT managers have been IT professionals 20 years ago and don't know about todays technology, but they don't know, that they don't know, as they know all the buzzwords.
2) The other 50% of IT managers have never been IT professionals. They have a business degree and never knew anything else than the buzzwords.
3) Both types of IT managers are bad in people management and psychology and therefore can not recognize a really good engineer if they even fall over one.

So, what happens in big companies and how do projects come up?
To start with, the IT management is asking for a "study" at KPMG etc. These consultants, who do not know anything about the company (how it works, what is her business etc.) tell these IT managers what they should do. What is more or less the same for any company they give advise to and what normally doesn't make any sense.
Then the IT management picks out the recommendations it likes most, gets a budget and sets up a project. The staffing will be delegated to the lowest management level.

The lower mgmt does not have much clue, either, but these people at least know 1) who gets real work done and 2) who is not able even to spell the own name correctly. The first type of people will be named programmers, the second type will become the project managers (because they couldn't do the programming).

The project will, as usually, not achieve all of the goals but some, cost much more than projected and not be in time. The real IT professionals (who will, sadly, be in the first group, the programmers, who don't have to say anything) will tell that at the very beginning of the project including proposals how to get it done, but nobody would listen. (I could present a very detailed prescription of various types of failing projects, but I don't have the time to do so now). In the end, the IT management will downsize the project goals, define the project successful and critizise the few intelligent people in the project team for their insisting attitude "I told you in the first place" because nobody wants to hear that - the reasons for this are simply:

1) As the IT managers are incompetent, they could not make anything useful of any good advise anyway.
2) As the IT managers think they are cleverer than all these stupid "programmers" (which is proofed by the fact, that the IT manager's salary is much higher) they would not even really think about any advise, therefore not even really listen.

Of course, conditions unchanged, the show will go on in the same way again and again. Note that all these statments of mine are based on 15 years experience in smaller, mid-size and big IT-projects in the medical sector, banks of various sizes and investment companies in three countries (Germany, Switzerland and the UK). Every co-worker, colleague or consultant of other companies having the same length of experience is agreeing on that every time we talk about this. And everybody will some time say something like: But we make our living out of all this inefficiency and failure, as nobody would need so many IT staff if the projects would be handled properly, that is, by the right people.

My advise to the IT management always is:
1) Find out who is a real professional in your organization.
2) Trust and promote these people.
3) Consult them frequently. Let them suggest milestones, staffing and success-parameters.
4) Don't believe some external consultants more than your own professionals. Don't spend your money to external morons. Give 50% of the money usually intended for external consulting to your own people instead, save the rest.
5) Don't spend your money and your management time for mergers, acquisitions and outsourcing deals. Spend it for your business.

Karl Riha

Karl Riha | May 20, 2008 | 5:16AM

George Morton wrote:
"Bad Bob, bad. The 11th commandment, 'Thou shall not bite the hand that feeds thou.'"

Totally wrong. If Bob didn't bite the hand that feeds him we wouldn't read him and he wouldn't get fed.

Steve D | May 20, 2008 | 7:13AM

Being at the leading university in my country that produces those consultants and mangagement people, I can say there is little hope that it gets better.

50% of all classes have less value than this article (incl. the comments) and hardly any student takes the time to think about the business world outside the university (since that can't be put on the CV).

anonymous student | May 20, 2008 | 9:33AM

Given Karl's bleak description of the IT landscape, I'm kinda happy that the guys he's referring to ARE blindly listen to Gartner, KPMG, et al. Just think what a mess it would be if people that dumb acted on their own ideas.

As someone who's been a practicing EE/CS, worked for a Big-X consulting firm and is now a senior IT Exec I've formed some ideas on what I'd call the insider/outsider problem that underlies a lot of this:

- Insiders always know more about their business than outsiders.

- Insiders routinely become blind to great possibilites that don't fit neatly into "the way things are around here."

Intelligent use of outsiders is a good antidote to this myopia. Consequently I disagree with what I think I heard Robert (and Karl) say: IT insiders don't need help making decisions. IMO, they do. Need help. They shouldn't, however, delegate the decision making to the outsider or fail to vet the oustider's POV against their own business context and experience.

I subscribe to Forrester, even though I'm pretty sure I'm smarter than they are. :) Why?

- I just don't have enough budget / time to do all the research I could benefit from. I get value even from research I disagree with.

- I regularly need to inject some different thinking into my own. Every once in a while someone else may actually have a better idea than me. Once in a while someone else's weak idea helps clarify why my idea really is better. Sometimes aspects of the someone else's half-baked idea help me adapt my idea to be even better.

- I can't always get as good an idea of what "everybody else is doing." Popularity of ideas don't make them good, but enough good ideas become popular to make it worthwhile to considering those that are popular.

For instance, everybody and their brother-in-law is doing SOA (or at least talking about it.) In my context, I can't afford all the overhead typical of today's commercial SOA products. Chuck the whole concept? Nah. Figure out how to get its 2 or 3 most useful benefits using technologies with performance characteristics I can use.

The right approach, IMO, to GartnerForresterYankee is to consider them like the news media:" not necessarily as fair-and-balanced as you (or they) might want to believe. Cross-check every idea of theirs against your own knowledge base and only take what makes sense in your context based on your experience. Enough good stuff still emerges to make this worthwhile.

Regaring our industry: yes, it's dysfunctional. So are most. Chip away at this and try to leave it better than you found it.

-Joe

Joe Weitekamp | May 20, 2008 | 10:49AM

Some of your criticisms of the mis-use of analyst research is fair, but it is not fair to consider all analyst firms together.

Some facts, coming from a former Gartner analyst:

1) Gartner does not produce vendor-sponsored research of any kind, although many analysts firms do. Vendors can buy reprints of a Gartner article after the fact if they want, but they have no hand in the commissioning of research, or in the research creation process.

2) It is not possible to 'buy' your way into a Gartner Magic Quadrant (their product evaluations). This myth tends to be propagated by vendors that do not place well in them.

Just as there are good journalists and there are bad journalists, there are good analyst firms and there are bad. There are those with high ethical standards and those that lack scruples, who will say whatever you want for some (often pretty tiny when you consider marketing budgets) amount of money. But Gartner does not play that game.

Compare it to journalism: Despite the fact that the Weekly World News exists, you can still find a reputable newspaper to read. Sure they make mistakes (The New York Times had the Jason Blair episode), but if you don't have enough time to go out and do your own fact gathering and reporting (and who does?), then you find a trusted source. The same is true in IT - you have to filter the noise somehow.

Anonymous | May 20, 2008 | 1:41PM

Speaking of IT, it would be pretty nice of you could implement automatic removal of identical comment postings on your otherwise spiffy site.

Todd | May 20, 2008 | 2:18PM

Yes, please kill the dupes. They are caused by the very slow posting process. Conventional wisdom probably applies here - after 8 seconds of no response users are apt to go away, or in this case more likely they'll click again so they don't lose the post.

Anonymous | May 20, 2008 | 2:29PM

You could consider the slow posting process a "weeding out" process, you know.

An IT security seminar I once attended used similar tactics to weed out all but the most on-the-ball people there.

Anonymous | May 20, 2008 | 2:42PM

IMHO, while i might wish i made money hand over fist like Gartner, they're just the jackals feeding on the real problem. I started a step back with What to IT Managers do?

Stephen | May 20, 2008 | 3:18PM

My favorite "Gartnerism" is the infamous "confidence rate" they post... either 70% or 80%... on all their prognostications. So Corporate America (and others - its not just an American thing!) pay tens of thousands of dollars for the "expert opinion" of analysts who then limit their confidentiality to 70 or 80%? I guess mama did raise SOME fools! And then to ask us to pay $2000-$5000 to go to a "Summit" (not including travel and expenses) to hear a pretentious buffoon rattle on about a research report that you have already read? Did this once... won't do it again.

PayToPlay | May 20, 2008 | 3:19PM

Did you know that 78% of statistics are made up on the spot?

Stephen | May 20, 2008 | 3:22PM

"I'm guessing the Vatican is a bit like that, too."

Was this comment really necessary???

Bern Cranston | May 20, 2008 | 5:34PM

I am a programmer turned project manager. I don't want to start a flame war, but a lot of the comments here are aimed squarely at me and those like me.

Having read through the comments here, I have to say there are two things that really bug me.

First, I get frustrated by programmers who are so myopic that they see no value in anything management does, and assume managers got there because they are no good at programming.

Second (and it's related), I get frustrated by people who think the world is really black and white, and therefore that anyone who made one wrong prediction (such as backing MCA for example) is an idiot.

Fundamentally, business is about making lots of money, not making great computer software. I often see technologists who insist that something must be done "properly", then blink in surprise as their jobs are taken away by others who can produce the same business result cheaper.

Be open to the fact that the manager who interferes with your concept of "how things are done" may be trying to achieve a business outcome that preserves your job. Be open to the fact that someone who is not carried away with excitement at a new toy might actually have a more objective opinion on the business worth of that toy.

Gartner, Cringley and others are not always right, but they are usually worth reading.

Fingerbu n | May 20, 2008 | 6:40PM

Well, I'll throw myself out there as an analyst (and formerly, consultant) who actually has told people they don't need any more technology. Easier to do since I wasn't selling professional services or the solutions themselves. How about actually USING what you've bought? Integrating it? Deciding why you bought it in the first place? Admitting that it wasn't a solution you needed?

Vendors create new products both because of genuine improvement, and also to create churn, although as even Microsoft is finally getting, you can't fool all of the people all of the time, and Vista is a prime proof of that.

CYA is definitely a factor in people/organizations obtaining advice, but is also a simple truth that when you are (validly, I hope) buying new/improved technology, you want SOME indication of what the impact might be on your organization. While there are some vendors who are more capable of telling the truth rather than outright lies about their capabilities, ease of integration, heck, even pricing, it's not a bad idea to vet that a bit with a 3rd party. And not everyone is willing to be the first to purchase, so those in the mainstream/laggard herds others to go before and get the arrows in the back, and they will happily come behind at their own pace.

Great commentary - keep up the good work. Who watches the watchers, anyhow?

Dan Keldsen | May 21, 2008 | 12:08AM

@Bern Cranston writes ""I'm guessing the Vatican is a bit like that, too." Was this comment really necessary???"

It's true. What's your problem?

Dave | May 21, 2008 | 12:37AM

The vast majority of OSs and software SUCK, SUCK big time when it comes to USABILITY. If OS's, software AND hardware were USABLE; then the need for ITs would be ZERO (near ZERO). It's that simple. How many people involved on the development of OSs and software have degrees in USABILITY? ZERO?

Harry | May 21, 2008 | 11:02AM

Keep in mind that IT staff are usually in some kind of equilibrium with the way things are and have little time or resources to investigate contemplated changes. They want a road map and accountability - and since they have neither they buy it.

Communities of users and techs can provide some of that work of learning the new thing but I'll wonder how much a correlation exists between tech support staff/computer ratio and how much outside help they need to even make such decisions. A good number of years back I was in a situation with a ratio of 1 to 200 and trying things that were more advanced than were being touted at tech conferences. More recently I'm in situations with ratios like 1 to 1000 and all I have time for usually is routine stuff and the occasional read.

Steven | May 21, 2008 | 11:11AM

@Harry: Just because you don't know how to use OSs or any other software doesn't mean they all suck, you clown. If you know so much about how to build "usable" software, then just do it. You may want to start with a Tetris app, so to make it easier for you.

Fee D. Back | May 21, 2008 | 11:59AM

This doesn't sound inherently different from any other services industry. Without clear success metrics, you're working in a very fuzzy world.

Consequence of this: the people who can explain it the best (nice slides and logo) get the job - but that's in every sector, methinks.

One thing though: i work in IT, and i can assure you that i can tell who's a professional and who's not, however new the profession may be.

ehuard | May 21, 2008 | 4:21PM

Fee D Back has a point (however bluntly stated). Lots of application software stinks from the user's standpoint, but IME some of the main reasons for this are:


  1. It's software that was designed by people who don't understand how users think and do their jobs (but they *think* they understand it just fine). So you get something perfectly understandable to someone who writes AI bots or plays 3D chess but is opaque to a salesman or a customer service rep because it doesn't map to how they understand their jobs. (I've seen more than a few projects from India that were like this.)

  • It's software that was written to automate something that didn't need to be automated (more generally, it was a solution in search of a problem). (Someone got bored and had to justify it on their timesheets.)
  • It's software that perfectly implements a badly-designed process. (Lots of stuff in large corporations and governments fall in this category.)
  • It's software that was written for another (perhaps) similar process or purpose, and some executive thought it would "just take a little tweaking" and save some money.

    I'm sure there are more, but this is what comes to mind.
  • beerwulf | May 21, 2008 | 10:32PM

    Sorry for the crappy HTML list formatting.

    beerwulf | May 21, 2008 | 10:34PM

    Very true D. B., a one side rant from Mr. Cringely.

    I can't openly agree with the comments about Gartner other than to say that I sense a degree of jealousy that someone could have created such a large business on such a "faulty" premise. If Mr. Cringely were the founder of Gartner, Forrester, Meta, Jupiter, IDC and a whole host of others, we would probably not be reading his vitriol.

    On the IT side there are some fascinating statistics about IT project success. In 2004 the Standish Group did a study and found out that projects that were $750k and took 6 months to complete succeeded about 55% of the time. When the project size increased to $3 million to $6 million and took 18 months, the success rate dropped to 15%.

    $3 million to $6 million, 18 month projects are fairly prevalent. The fascinating part is why anyone would pursue a project of any kind that had an 85% chance of failure!

    Applying cheap labor to that reality, then, would only reduce the price of failure. You could essentially try it twice for the same amount of money. Forget about the fact that your competition just blew by you, it costs less to screw up.

    IT is really not "engineering" in the sense that no engineer in his/her right mind would accept those odds and not seek a better way. Continuous improvement in MTBF and MTTR is a cultural obsession for engineering. Screwing up for less money is an IT pastime.

    Looking deeper, the issues related to the success rate of projects are much more complex than cheap labor. Governance, decision making, risk sharing, participation of the business community in the development project, methods, skills, execution capabilities...they all play a part in increasing the probability of success. By focusing solely on costs, the clients gets what he pays for.

    But (here's a quick plug for IT) they have the accountants to please. These are the guys who manage the numbers and have no idea of the operational impact of their decisions.

    As long as IT does not stand up for what's right, and focuses on results not costs, then the failure rate will stay high. And, that means a bright future for Gartner and the analysts.

    Doug M | May 22, 2008 | 3:31PM

    Very true D. B., a one side rant from Mr. Cringely.

    I can't openly agree with the comments about Gartner other than to say that I sense a degree of jealousy that someone could have created such a large business on such a "faulty" premise. If Mr. Cringely were the founder of Gartner, Forrester, Meta, Jupiter, IDC and a whole host of others, we would probably not be reading his vitriol.

    On the IT side there are some fascinating statistics about IT project success. In 2004 the Standish Group did a study and found out that projects that were $750k and took 6 months to complete succeeded about 55% of the time. When the project size increased to $3 million to $6 million and took 18 months, the success rate dropped to 15%.

    $3 million to $6 million, 18 month projects are fairly prevalent. The fascinating part is why anyone would pursue a project of any kind that had an 85% chance of failure!

    Applying cheap labor to that reality, then, would only reduce the price of failure. You could essentially try it twice for the same amount of money. Forget about the fact that your competition just blew by you, it costs less to screw up.

    IT is really not "engineering" in the sense that no engineer in his/her right mind would accept those odds and not seek a better way. Continuous improvement in MTBF and MTTR is a cultural obsession for engineering. Screwing up for less money is an IT pastime.

    Looking deeper, the issues related to the success rate of projects are much more complex than cheap labor. Governance, decision making, risk sharing, participation of the business community in the development project, methods, skills, execution capabilities...they all play a part in increasing the probability of success. By focusing solely on costs, the clients gets what he pays for.

    But (here's a quick plug for IT) they have the accountants to please. These are the guys who manage the numbers and have no idea of the operational impact of their decisions.

    As long as IT does not stand up for what's right, and focuses on results not costs, then the failure rate will stay high. And, that means a bright future for Gartner and the analysts.

    Doug M | May 22, 2008 | 3:33PM

    The two paragraphs starting with "It's all about churn....." define consulting in general, but I'd never in 35 years quite thought about it like that. Consultants are duty-bound to tell their clients something is wrong and they have to change.

    No wonder I don't like or trust them!!!

    rich b | May 22, 2008 | 5:13PM

    IMO, the analysis here is somewhat simplistic ...

    Gartner is in multiple lines of business -- both "advisory services" (research) and actual consulting. I don't have a great deal of experience with them as a consulting organization, but I am an advisory services customer. And, in my experience, there's value in their research -- if you use it properly.

    Basically, Joe Weitekamp's comments (above) are right on the money. Gartner provides information and point of view, often without the institutional biases of our organization. And that can be valuable.

    I also find the quality of Gartner analysts to be highly variable -- but there are some who are incredibly useful, if you know where to find them. A few years ago I was negotiating an enterprise license deal with a large software company. Gartner has an analyst who, through interaction with clients, sees a few hundred deals *each year* that Gartner clients make with this particular company.

    The analyst was able to give me information that was very helpful in negotiations, and probably saved my company more than the value of my yearly Gartner contract. Maybe I'd have have been able to negotiate the same terms anyway, but I doubt it.

    In my experience, that's the value of Gartner -- and the frustration. There's a diamond or two nestled in that mountain of crap; how willing are you to dig for it?

    CIO | May 22, 2008 | 5:48PM

    I worked in the strategic planning group for a large telecom company that was evaluating these kinds of consulting companies. As a very technical person, I always questioned their value and resented the credibility they had with our executives.

    I asked if they had a lab to conduct their own research. They responded, "No, we rely on the research of our customers." I asked, "Has anyone done an audit of your recommendations to see what your accuracy is in your given advice?". "No" was the response.

    I suggested that they were a little more than a gossip factory and felt their recommendations had the same level of credibility.

    Most of the staff at these places were at one time very technical people. I have former co-workers who work at Forrester and Gartner. They were once quite talented. With the rate of change in the industry, it's easy to get stale. To be of value, you have to live in the trenches.

    Gary Murphy | May 23, 2008 | 3:39PM

    I worked in the strategic planning group for a large telecom company that was evaluating these kinds of consulting companies. As a very technical person, I always questioned their value and resented the credibility they had with our executives.

    I asked if they had a lab to conduct their own research. They responded, "No, we rely on the research of our customers." I asked, "Has anyone done an audit of your recommendations to see what your accuracy is in your given advice?". "No" was the response.

    I suggested that they were a little more than a gossip factory and felt their recommendations had the same level of credibility.

    Most of the staff at these places were at one time very technical people. I have former co-workers who work at Forrester and Gartner. They were once quite talented. With the rate of change in the industry, it's easy to get stale. To be of value, you have to live in the trenches.

    Gary Murphy | May 23, 2008 | 3:41PM

    Gartner and the like are really the Moodys, S&P and Fitches of the IT industry. True some analysts are really helpful and good but there is an inherent conflict of interest. Luckily, IT decisions aren't securitized.

    diogenes | May 24, 2008 | 11:59AM

    Brilliant. My experience is that they offer you to advertise your company through their "studies" and ask for money to do so.

    Luis Alonso-Lasheras | May 26, 2008 | 3:31PM

    Interesting read and point of view, but there are so many incorrect assertions that I'd discount much of what you're saying about the "Gartner industry." Going with your logic, besides consultants we don't need schools, universities, trade groups, magazines, books, or any other sort of avenue by which trends, observations, and instruction are given on any subject. To counter:



    - There IS indeed an IT profession. There are schools that teach it, there are skills associated with it, and there are degrees in it. Like all professions, some people in IT are good, others are horrible, and most everyone else is in the middle.



    - Like most other "advise" professions, some people are good IT consultants and some are bad. Not everything a consultant says is gold nor useless.



    - In my experience, IT managers are some of the least "isolated" people compared to other professions. Most everyone in IT learns from others, shares their experiences, and networks for skills/jobs. IT is just too large and complex for IT managers to remain isolated.



    - Consultants rarely say "everything" is fine since customers bring them in due to things not being fine. In the same vein, mechanics rarely say a car is fine and doctors rarely say you're fine -- it's because they're not consulted by customers/patients unless things are not (or suspected to not be) fine.



    - Outsourcing and off-shoring are not trends that consultants suggested or created. These are trends that have been rising for three decades. All the consultants did was just observe these trends/practices and then recommend/not-recommend them to clients as solutions to problems.



    - There are many non-professionals in IT just like any other field. Yes, there are "engineers" in IT like Network Engineers and Systems Engineers without engineering degrees, but I believe pound-for-pound IT is a more degree- and certification-focused field than most other fields. AND the degrees and certs are updated more often since the technology is changing so rapidly.



    - IT is a vast massive complex field that's naturally progressing at high velocities in terms of technology, methodologies, and practice. No person or company has the ability or capability to continually assess technologies, methodologies and best practices within or without their industry or even their company, determining quickly and accurately their best course of action. This is where firms like Gartner come in.



    - In the U.S. federal govt alone, over $60B is spent annually on IT. According to the GAO, a large portion of it is wasted on duplicative or sub-standard systems/work. If the entire $2B spent annually on Gartner-like orgs is borne by the federal govt alone but helps it avert/improve just 5% of projects/systems, we're ahead of the game.

    Phil Cherbaka | May 27, 2008 | 4:59PM

    Interesting statement: "half the people working right now in HP Services probably worked at some point in their careers for EDS (or IBM)."

    I used to work at one of these 3 consulting companies. I see that one thing those companies have in common, they encourage all the consultants to have knowledgebase as "broad as possible". If you lookup the job description they are posting, you will see some of the trend. This maybe their strategy to obtain more business, and to have people who knows how to sell and talk with all the different aspects of IT. The trade off is, not everyone will have proper expertise in the certain area that is essential for a particular implementation. The knowledge maybe at high level that doesn't bring in enough insight for the proper aspect. Therefore, don't have the myth that "big brand is always better", it all depends on "getting the right people with the right expertise", for the "right tasks".

    People have also experienced that some Gartner consultants may not be familiar with their own report, this is normal when that's not the area of their particular "expertize".

    It's good to check the conslutant's credential and resume, sucess story...etc., even when they are coming from the "brand name conultaning companies".

    Vivian Chang | May 27, 2008 | 5:20PM