Techno Babble And Parachutes

This might best be filed under a topic like, "beware of what you laugh at, because you might be laughing at yourself."

Michael Hickins, Contributor

February 5, 2009

3 Min Read

This might best be filed under a topic like, "beware of what you laugh at, because you might be laughing at yourself."

The bit you can laugh at is this pitch letter:

Hi Michael,

Spreadsheets are a necessary tool for most businesses, but oftentimes open source business intelligence can be slower than most commercial solutions.

However, with ABC Company's commercial open-source XYZ Product, enterprise businesses can pick up 10 times the speed compared to in-memory OLAP database applications used for planning, reporting, consolidation and analysis run that much faster. In addition, the program reduces the typical chaos created by other programs because it provides consistent data, web-based access, integrated business intelligence functionality, and business process compliance.

ABC Company has just recently come out with their new upgrade, XYZ Product 3.0. Would you be interested in learning more about XYZ Product 3.0, a demonstration of the program, or speaking with the CEO? Please let me know.

I've reproduced it here verbatim, other than changing the name of the company and product.

You can tell that the flak who wrote this incompetent nonsense doesn't know the first thing about spreadsheets, open source, business intelligence, or database applications.

Your first reaction, after cracking up (and maybe forwarding this to your brother-in-law), might be to wonder how someone this incompetent can even hold onto their job.

But maybe we should really ask ourselves if we don't suck at something, too -- and not because we don't want to cast the first stone.

And I don't exempt myself, either. Most of us have grown up in an era of strangely imbalanced economic super-growth, where corporations have grown wealthier while most employees have simply been given more work to do.

So we've accepted those new workloads for better or worse.

But we've been like a cartoon character racing up a staircase while the steps fall away beneath us, and we keep racing upwards in order not to fall.

And that vacuum beneath us? That's all the stuff that we don't know how to do, but which we have managed to get done (or faked), hoping nobody would notice. And as long as corporations kept making money, no one did -- or cared.

I've tried to avoid thinking about how much less I know than the people who came before me, and I can certainly see how dramatically less my own kids know than I did when I was their age. Yes, they're better at playing video games, but they actually know less stuff.

And then I think about the poor flak who sent that ridiculously ignorant pitch letter, and I wonder where the hell are her teachers, where is her mentor, where is the boss who will stop her from making a fool of herself and from wasting her client's money?

Because the market is becoming less forgiving these days.

I just heard about yet one more company that is centralizing certain mundane IT functions so that divisional IT staff can spend their time on more productive tasks.

"More productive tasks."

Even while reporting the euphemism as fact, I couldn't help thinking that those productive tasks will turn out to be filling out unemployment forms.

Which leads me to this: We'd all better start looking in the mirror and being honest, at least with ourselves, about what we suck at doing, and what we don't know, and then get busy plugging those gaps, because the staircase is falling away beneath us, and we'd better have a parachute handy.

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