Buyers Grow Weary Of Vendor Hype

New technologies can be awfully tempting -- but hype and buzzwords are making many would-be customers' heads spin.
It's easy to get excited about shiny, new technologies that promise to solve thorny problems or provide better ways of delivering applications and services. New technologies also often open untapped markets for tech vendors, whose marketing teams plaster the latest buzzwords over products and press releases until would-be customers' heads spin.

Case in point is the cloud, a fuzzy concept that tech companies apply to just about anything they have to sell these days. So it's no surprise that this term topped the list of tech buzzwords IT pros are most tired of hearing, garnering 21% of the votes in our survey of nearly 350 IT professionals. Web 2.0 (17%) and business intelligence (16%) were close behind.

When it comes to specific new technologies, skepticism's particularly high around cloud and SaaS vendors. Thirty-seven percent say these vendors have to do a lot more work to convince them that their services are safe and reliable, and 28% believe these providers promise more than they can deliver (see chart, "SaaS And Cloud Computing Vendors").

It's not surprising that IT professionals are wary of the cloud and SaaS. SaaS penetration is fairly limited compared with on-premises applications, and provider outages still make headline news. And while the market for this technology is growing, only a handful of vendors, such as NetSuite,, and Workday, have made significant inroads at companies. In short, SaaS vendors still have a ways to go to earn IT's trust.

But there is movement. Twenty percent of respondents believe that cloud or SaaS apps will make their way into their companies in the next few years, and 13% say the cloud/SaaS model makes sense for specific applications. We expect those numbers will continue to rise in 2009 and beyond.

Web 2.0 vendors also don't garner a lot of tech buyer trust. Only 18% of respondents say vendors like the technology because it's a compelling way to collaborate and share information in the enterprise; 31% see it as a way for vendors simply to try and sell more products.

That said, a good portion of IT pros have mixed feelings about Web 2.0 vendors. A quarter selected "All of the above," which means they agree with the above two responses, as well as the more cynical options we offered, that vendors like Web 2.0 because "if there's a 2.0, then a 3.0 upgrade can't be far behind" and "they can add a wiki to an old product and rebrand it as new."

chart: SaaS And Cloud Computing Vendors
These IT buyers see some utility in Web 2.0 but also are on guard against the hype machine. This makes sense, since it's easy to say that collaboration and information sharing are useful to knowledge workers, but it's much harder to quantify that value and to know which applications will be most effective for the business. Web 2.0 is also at the beginning of its adoption cycle in companies. As the technology matures, we expect IT will find ways to cut through the marketing blather and zero in on potent apps.

IT is more upbeat about virtualization and mobile device vendors. Thirty-nine percent of respondents say virtualization vendors have helped them get rid of physical servers. Nevertheless, 28% say that virtualizing servers comes with its own management complications.

As for mobile devices, 45% of respondents say the products have improved communications, the highest positive rating of all the technology vendors we asked about. Another 33% say BlackBerrys and smartphones improve productivity.

Only a fifth of respondents feel that mobile devices have obliterated their personal lives, which is surprising. It may indicate a growing acceptance of intertwined personal and work lives. Or it just means none of us really have personal lives left (kidding, I hope).

Photo illustration by Ryan Etter

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