I know it’s not just me feeling this: Today, there are too many vendors announcing “innovative solutions” that are, at best, incremental improvements to existing products or, at worst, new products in search of actual business problems to solve.
The term innovative itself is on the precipice of falling into the abyss of meaningless marketing rhetoric: When every new product, every technology iteration, every small step is termed “innovative,” then what you have is a collective, irritating din that, conversely, makes anything new and notable exactly the same as everything else.
Let’s be honest with each other: Outside of the Internet’s impact on businesses (which, by the way, occurred in the mid-1990s), has business really changed that much?
With ERP suites, for instance, have the core business principles, processes and mechanics really changed that much to merit such a wide range and massive amount of innovative technology solutions? Are we really at the point where every incremental software advance qualifies as innovative?
The answer, of course, is no. But a slew of high-tech vendors think very differently—from Apple to Oracle and most every tech vendor in between.
The worst, of course, is that these vendors—their executives, salespeople and public relations folks—continue to tell us how amazing, wonderful and game-changing their “innovative innovations” are.
Thomas Otter, a research director at Gartner, recently made this observation on Twitter: “Software vendors [need] to stop telling us what innovation means. Innovation is bestowed by customers and the market.”
Like beauty, innovation is in the eye of the beholder. Ultimately, each customer will judge whether the new thing is truly helpful or not to his business. The customer decides.
You don’t see supermodel Gisele Bundchen telling us how beautiful she is in her latest magazine spread. She just is. If she kept telling us how gorgeous she was, it’s more than likely that we would start to think otherwise. (For that matter, her husband, NFL football star Tom Brady, doesn’t tell us how great he is at football. He just is. And, of course, their new baby, Benjamin, doesn’t have to tell us how cute he is. He just is. Well, that and the fact that he can’t speak. But you get my point.)
One of the more odious examples of this behavior was Oracle’s 100 days of innovation last year: 100 press releases touting Oracle’s 32 years as “a technology innovator, transforming the way business is conducted.” (The bile in my mouth tastes pretty awful right now.)
Let us not just pick on Oracle, for it is not alone. In the enterprise space, Larry Ellison has plenty of company in finding new and different (dare we say innovative?) ways of exploiting the term.
But the more vendors talk about the innovativeness of their technology innovations, the less likely it is that their customers will hear anything their vendors are saying.
Enterprise technology vendors would do well to remember that CIOs and their companies don’t want to own any more software or systems than they already have: The solutions they want right now aren’t innovative technology solutions. They’re business solutions to business problems.
Thomas Wailgum covers Enterprise Software, Data Management and Personal Productivity Apps for CIO.com. Follow him on Twitter @twailgum. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. E-mail Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.