Introducing the Buzz: assessing IT vendor mindshare

In this, most oxymoronic of industries that is the IT industry, founded on the hard logic that characterises computing, procurement decisions shouldn’t be about the whims and desires of our all-too-malleable race. But, in the words of an agent in the Matrix, we are “only human” – our judgments are coloured by an ever-shifting set of perspectives taken from our peers, from what we read, from the assumptions we make. And they have to be. Things are changing too fast, as genuine technology advances combine with the leapfrogging tendencies of IT vendors, whisked into a flurry by product marketing and hype. The result: an unending stream of ‘new and improved’ delivered with the suggestion that last month’s investments are now ‘old and inferior’.

Within this, ongoing process of distillation there is a smoke-filled chasm of grey between genuine perspective and uncorroborated opinion. As technology buyers, we continue to develop business cases and conduct our due diligence, but our views, and indeed the very process we go through, will be affected by what’s on offer, and who’s providing it. “Nobody ever got sacked for buying IBM” is the old adage, and IT vendors are forever looking to occupy such a number one spot in their particular markets. The ultimate decision on major procurements may be with the CIO, but influence registers all the way down the stack: in certain geographies the views of front line engineers is courted as part of the due diligence process, and elsewhere, IT operatives have the power to block procurement decisions, or render the resulting deployments next to useless.

So, what drives such opinions, and how much of an impact do they have? We call the overall perception ‘the buzz’, but its not always the case that to be front of mind is to be well considered. Freeform Dynamics partnered with The Register to produce The Buzz Report, collating readership views in such areas as leadership and culture. So, for example, Microsoft may top the list when it comes to mindshare, but it is VMWare that top the leadership and culture charts. Meanwhile, there is only one thing worse than being talked about. Languishing at the bottom of the pile are companies like CA, Nortel and SAP, either because they are less well thought of, or quite simply, that their products just aren’t sexy enough to give them higher profile.

Such information should be handled with care, of course. While Apple may be the current darling of the desktop, it is unlikely in the extreme that we’ll all be taking our laptops out of manila envelopes any time soon. Neither should we read too much into low mindshare, particularly for companies that are doing very well indeed within their respective niches. However, the buzz does offer us some deeper insight into the industry itself: while market share statistics help us understand how successful vendors have been in the past, it is the buzz that gives us an indication of how successful they might become in the future. For technology pundits as well as IT buyers, indeed for the whole industry, nobody wants to be betting the wrong horse.

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Introducing the Buzz: assessing IT vendor mindshare

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