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White Papers-Not so Black and White

Written By: Sherry Fox
Published On: November 30 2007

Let’s face it; we’ve all had to deal with pushy salespeople.

How do they always get you to buy stuff—even when it’s something you didn’t need? It’s called the sales pitch. Every salesperson has one, and software vendors are no exception. In fact, they have several ways of pitching their products.

One such way is through a white paper—which often discusses particular problems that many companies may be facing. At the same time, it gives vendors the opportunity to enlighten you about the one possible solution that can “fix it.” However informative it may be, ultimately a white paper is a cleverly written sales pitch—a pitch containing certain buzzwords that gloss over the practical realities of their solution.

Here are ten of the most ambiguous buzzwords I’ve seen used in white papers—and they may make you think twice about whether or not a software vendor is truly focusing on your best interests.


The 10 Most Ambiguous White Paper Buzzwords of all Time

#10 - sustainable

Vendor spin
With environmental issues dominating the media these days, the word sustainable is everywhere—including the world of IT. Software vendors are now adopting this term to describe their software systems and how they are capable of standing the test of time. But technology is forever changing, so can a software solution really be considered “sustainable” when it will most probably have to be upgraded again at some point?

Dictionary spin
the ability to maintain a state or stay in existence over a period of time

#9 – tightly integrated

Vendor spin
Some software vendors believe that a tightly integrated system is the only way to go, because it allows for more monitoring and better control. But is being tightly integrated necessarily a good thing? Not always—and there are a few reasons why. For one, tight integration does not have the ability to scale (see scalability). Secondly, numerous integration points can actually cause “weak spots” in the system. Last, but certainly not least, integrating on an application-by-application basis can mean significant costs for a company.

Dictionary spin
to seamlessly combine two or more components to form a unified system

#8 – cutting edge

Vendor spin
This term is used when a software vendor feels it needs you to know that its product is well-advanced over others in the industry—a belief that it has a competitive advantage because it provides something the competition can’t! But is the product really all it’s cracked up to be? How advanced is it? And will your company truly benefit from all its bells and whistles?

Dictionary spin
a product that is at the frontier of progress in a particular field—for example, cutting-edge technology refers to the most advanced and original technology available in today’s market

#7 – turnkey


Vendor spin
Vendors use this word to describe just about anything—turnkey business, turnkey services, turnkey systems. Does that mean you just put the key in and away you go? There is a lot of effort that goes into implementing a system and getting it to actually work. Even out-of-the-box solutions can have issues once they’re installed. When a software vendor says it has a turnkey solution or system, it’s making a bold statement—too many unforeseen problems can occur in the software implementation process, and for a vendor to imply that you can just plug it in and turn it on is misleading.

Dictionary spin
fully equipped; ready to go into operation

#6 – mission critical

Vendor spin
Vendors use this term to claim that not only are certain business activities or operations “mission-critical,” but that the software systems behind them are equally critical. Beyond the vendor hype and drama, however, a software system is expected to improve performance—an essential element for any growing business. “Mission-critical”? Maybe. How about “does the job”?

Dictionary spin
indispensable; software considered essential to a company’s business operations and intolerant of failure, compromise, or shutdown.

#5 – features and benefits

Vendor spin
Vendors often promote their products by including a long list of features and benefits, but somehow the features themselves get confused with the benefits. With software, vendors use the word feature to describe the different product attributes—and then claim that these attributes will most assuredly benefit the user. These features exist even if there are no users—they are real. The benefits, however, exist only if the features of the product profit the user somehow—they are perceived. All the features in the world are of no use, if they don’t offer a true advantage to the end user.

Dictionary spin
(feature) a desirable characteristic; (benefit) an advantage or profit

#4 – paradigm

Vendor spin
It’s really just a fancy way of saying structure or model, but software vendors use it to describe the very essence of what their software solution is based on. They’re basically asking you to adopt a new way of thinking about what might be just an old idea that’s been “revamped.” Maybe by looking at their product from a newer perspective, you’d be more likely to buy it. What you should really do is go with your gut instincts—with all the facts in hand.

Dictionary spin
a conceptual model used to explain a concept or theory; a set of experiences, beliefs, and values that affect the way an individual perceives reality and responds to that perception—resulting from the three main branches of philosophy; metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics

#3 – synergy

Vendor spin
Used to describe how software vendors can bring various groups of people together, to form a harmonious union of technical expertise that will ultimately create the perfect solution. Combining forces to build a better product—which may not always be a good thing when it comes to software. Too many cooks can spoil the broth…

Dictionary spin
the effect of two or more agents working together to produce an effect that is greater than the sum of the parts

#2 – scalable/scalability

Vendor spin
This is tech lingo vendors use to describe a system that can be readily expanded over time. And while it is a desirable property, vendors want you to believe that a scalable system will adapt to your business’ increasing demands without significant modifications or additional investment. But be careful—although a scalable system is designed to help improve performance, can you be certain that your existing infrastructure can handle the load? Are there really no additional costs? Can a scalable system guarantee your company’s scalability?

Dictionary spin
a capability of being scaled or expanded; to easily expand or upgrade on demand

#1 – solution

Vendor spin
The concept is simple enough—you have a problem, you find a solution. Unfortunately, these days software vendors abuse the word . It seems technology companies aren’t just making products or offering services anymore; they are now providing solutions. These are magic potions that can enable experiences and make your strategic and tactical dreams come true. But how can you be certain that it’s the right solution for your company? Just because it’s called a solution doesn’t mean it’s the answer.

Dictionary spin
a method for solving a problem

Got a buzzword you’d like me to decipher? Let me know—I’ll be glad to try and figure it out for you. Just leave a comment below.

Want to see white papers that work? Download free IT white papers at TEC's white paper site.


 
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