The TCO of FUD

Technology buyers accept the inevitability of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) campaigns, though they discount the conclusions. And tech buyers also don’t believe most TCO studies that sales people lob their direction.

So it is little wonder Microsoft’s combined campaign has gotten so little traction. Technology buyers just don’t . . . well . . . buy it.

It is then interesting to see Linux prime promoter IBM answering Microsoft’s challenge with their own TCO/FUD study. Yet both studies suffer from the same problem, which is an incomplete deference of the strategic planning that CIOs and CTOs conduct when choosing infrastructure.

To be blunt, CxO’s have a longer and more complex view of technology costs than what either camp reviews. Which means the battle for mindshare lies somewhere else in the corporate food chain. The myriad of reasons for adopting one infrastructure over another are complex, and extend well beyond cash. People, education, retooling, reprogramming, standards/proprietary tradeoffs . . . they are all weighed, as they must, because the switching cost of the IT fundament is huge, and the act of switching disruptive to the business.

Once you wade through the mess, Microsoft’s pitch says “It is cheap to use Windows if you are already using Windows” (yes, they paid money to have this “analysis” performed). IBM’s study, being slightly less transparent, saying “It is cheap to switch to Linux if you are using UNIX.”

And to both the average CxO would say “Well, duh!”

So, why would Microsoft and IBM produce such obvious dreck if their strategic decision makers are not swayed by the conclusions? Because CxO’s have to sell their decisions, either to their staffs who must live with the technology, or to their bosses — the CEO — who can cause CxOs to jump through hoops on demand.

This is an interesting aspect to technology marketing that not all technology marketers understand: The shortest path to your key buyer may be through other people. Other genotypes always influence, if not drive, a technology purchase decision. Selling to people who have a vested interest in a business function, or in the daily use of technology, will often drive a CxO to either purchase or drink heavily. Woe be to the CTO who forces their admins to use technology the admins despise.

But selling to influencers only goes so far. Decisions with complex and long lasting consequences will cause CxOs to perform their due diligence, and few decisions are as drastic as selecting and semi-permanent infrastructure. Such a decision will not be made lightly, and thus the fodder supplied by Microsoft and IBM were likely generated to give cover to CxOs who have already made their decision.


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