IT White Papers: The World’s Greatest Cure for Insomnia!

Having trouble sleeping at night? Lots of people are these days, and for good reasons.

The economy is in the dumps. Jobs are on the endangered species list. We’re steadily running out of oil. And terrorists are trying to kill us. Now, if all that isn’t enough to keep you awake at 4 o’clock in the morning, there’s always the fact that the planet is threatening to terminally overheat.

Yup, life can cause insomnia, but I’ve found the cure. And here’s the best part, it’s absolutely free and available on a computer screen near you: IT white papers.

Better than counting sheep and more surefire than Sominex or Lunesta, IT white papers are highly effective at causing the eyes to glaze over and the mind to slip into REM sleep. I should know—my job is to promote IT white papers in TEC’s newsletter and email blasts, and I’ve read (yawn) hundreds of them.

Now, is this a public service the software industry is selflessly providing to an uptight, sleep-deprived society? Or have many IT vendors simply failed to recognize that opaque, mind-numbing, and indecipherable prose drowning in meaningless buzzwords can put just about anyone into a technology-induced coma?

I suspect it’s the latter. And it’s time for IT vendors to realize what the rest of us already know: the majority of IT white papers are boring and obtuse. And far too many are written in dense, overly-technical language that only an IT geek can get excited about reading.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Properly executed, IT white papers serve a useful purpose. People need to be informed about software solutions and trends in order to make sound buying decisions. And some white papers are extremely well written. They educate the reader in a style and manner that’s interesting, effective, and reasonably easy to follow all at the same time. To the vendors who produce quality white papers, I say kudos on a job well done.

But to all those vendors guilty of putting their prospects and customers to sleep—especially the customers who run small and midsized companies—I respectfully suggest that they start communicating in ways that are engaging and comprehensible. (But enterprise software is complex, you say? Yes it is, but it’s also the vendors’ responsibility to de-mystify it, and, as I allude to above, some have managed to rise to the occasion.)
After all, car makers know better than to bore people with thousands of words about the metallurgical engineering that went into their choice of engine materials. Or to wax poetic about the really clever design of their catalytic converters.
So here’s the drill for IT vendors who haven’t yet gotten the message. Keep it simple. Speak in plain language. Drop the interminable buzzwords and phrases. Tell prospects what the software will do for them in terms of benefits, not features. And use concrete examples taken from real life situations.

As for the rest of you out there, if you find you’re struggling with insomnia, take my advice and start reading most any IT white paper. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time.


So dear readers, am I being too jaded about white papers and too hard on the vendors, or have I hit the nail on the head? Let me know what you think:

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