Bulletin 1 December 2018. We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are

“Why do simple when you can do complicated” – A Breton proverb

It’s a quote from Anaïs Nin, I believe. As well as a lyric from that popular beat combo Marillion, in a song which deliberately pulled together a series of proverbs, platitudes and quotes, and set them to a country dancing back beat. But I digress. 

A webcast I was recently involved in hosting incorporated one of my pet hates, namely a conversation around “the market for” a certain technology. Last week I talked about characterising problems as solutions: it’s also possible to characterise solutions (and therefore problems) as markets. 

You know the thing, and if you don’t, it goes something like this: “The technology area is called NNT (New New Thing). Just to put it into context, Gartner estimates the size of the market for NNT to be $3.2 billion…” 

I’m not calling out Gartner here, but the company (or IDC, Forrester or a number of others) is frequently quoted. You can pretty much guarantee that nobody would ask how the figure was derived, even if Gartner would tell them. Which they won’t. 

Markets thrive on figures, so they are a necessary element of doing business, even if perceived by some to be flawed. I’m not sure they are, any more than the fact that we are all in the land of the blind, a wilderness of future-facing mirrors in which any estimate is better than none. 

But that’s not my point, or at least, not the point I wanted to make. Which is: what is a technology vendor doing talking about market sizes, however calculated, when the audience is nothing to do with people who care about markets? 

For the record, I’m not calling out this specific vendor either: it’s a bad habit of the industry. I suppose it could be justified for reasons of comparison: it kind of says, “this area matters.” But so does, “We spoke to 3,000 large companies and they all think NNT is awesome.”

So why does it wind me up, get my goat or otherwise cause a ripple in my otherwise flat calm? The simpler answer might be what I’ve already said, that it is in some way irrelevant or inappropriate… but no, I’m not very good at simple answers. Perhaps I’m part-Breton. 

More to the point is how the framing might skew behaviours. By seeing a solution (or indeed a problem) as a market, the goal becomes less about resolution of a challenge, and more about achieving a sale. Of course, one necessitates the other, but the cart should not come before the horse. 

I’m a great believer that technology provision, done right, should manifest as a win-win: nothing makes me happier (okay, a pint on a Friday night makes me happier, but bear with me) than hearing a customer say about a product, “This thing is brilliant, couldn’t do without it.”

In this scenario, everyone gains: the vendor makes money, the purchaser does whatever it makes possible, and all can smile. Make it about market sizes however, and the win-win is no longer part of the equation. 

No articles this week as I have been pillar to post at AWS’ annual event in Las Vegas (yes, I should have posted this before I got on the plane). Definitely two articles next week, not least my thoughts on cloud in general, and the conference in particular. Watch this space! 

All the best, Jon

Bulletin 1 December 2018. We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *