Ten Things That Won't Change in 2008: The Pessimist's Report

Sunday Jan 13th 2008 by Joshua Greenbaum
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Given the continued irrationality of the tech marketplace, perhaps 2008 will be the year of WOE 2.0.

As 2008 gets underway, I thought I’d get started on the doom and gloom prognosticating with a column on the ten things that won’t change about enterprise software, despite every indication that the market would be all the better if they would indeed change, dramatically if possible.

I plan on hopefully getting enough of these right to not look too silly 12 months from now, when someone with a little too much time on their hands emails to remind me of how stupid I was to pretend that could never change in our lifetimes, much less in the past 12 months. So, in the hope of disappointing all my future critics in 2009, here goes my top ten prognostications for what will still be wrong with enterprise software come the end of 2008.

1) Buying software will continue to be a massively irrational process. Despite all the attempts by vendors, integrators, resellers, analysts, and journalists to inject a little reason into the software buying practices of companies large and small, anyone searching for the irrefutable logic behind buying decisions – logic based on TCO, ROI, and other rational measures – will continue to be disappointed in 2008. And forever more, or at least as long as humans are the ones doing the buying. What to do about this? Not much, except stop being surprised when it happens again and again.

2) Vendors will continue to talk about strategic partnerships with customers, and how much vendors’ actions are driven by customers’ needs and wants, and then the vendors will just go ahead and do whatever it is they want. Are you shocked? Are you that naïve? If yes, go back to No. 1 and start over.

3) Based on numbers 1 and 2 above, real issues like reducing total cost of ownership, providing measurable ROI, and justifying 22 percent annual maintenance fees will be shoved under the rug for another year. (And don’t get all SaaSy with me about how on-demand reduces TCO – the net impact of SaaS on total IT spend to date is miniscule, and won’t get much better in 2008, mostly because SaaS solutions don’t cover enough of total IT spend to be much of a factor and because most SaaS solutions have a five year TCO that approaches the cost of on-premise solutions.)

4) None of the above issues will matter anyway because customers, who are the only ones who can really help the market with ROI and TCO – by carefully measuring the before and after costs of their IT projects – will continue to defy common sense and eschew any comprehensive ROI and TCO analysis in favor of using the justifications provided by the irrationality that is already firmly ensconced in the buying process (per No. 1 above.)

5) With the basic irrationality of the market forces well-established, and with vendors still wont to do whatever, we will see no end to the endless hype about how Web/Office/Enterprise 2.0 is going to change the nature of business forever, just as soon as someone figures out what the real value of this stuff is (see No. 3 above). As that is unlikely to happen, 2008 will close out as being the Year of WOE 2.0 in more ways than one.

6) Insanely uncritical acceptance of Tom Friedman’s “the world is flat” thesis will continue unabated. Also continuing to benefit from insanely uncritical acceptance through 2008 will be “the wisdom of crowds” and “the long tail,” and all the business models built thereupon.

7) While we’re on the topic of insanity, or at least inanity, a large number of naïve developers will continue to think that open source is a great way to do something good for the world of technology, while an equally large number of VCs will be laughing all the way to the bank building business models that rely on the kindness and free labor of these poor saps.

8) The blogosphere will continue to expand, and usable information will continue to diminish proportionally, and no one will be able to explain why.

9) Vendors will continue to market to a mid-market customer who is largely a creation of their own misunderstandings of the market, and then everyone will wonder why the mid-market didn’t really take off in 2008.

10) The entire market will continue to genuflect in front of the God of Free, as in free content, as in Google, despite the obvious disconnect between what you pay for and what you get. And then maybe someone, somewhere, will wonder why free content and free services don’t really get us what we want in life, or business, or anything else.

But that last comment was almost optimistic, which is not what this column is supposed to be about. So it’s time to sign off and watch how the year unfolds. Good luck in 2008 one and all.

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