Can IT Vendors be Objective?

Here is another guest post that I wrote for An Information Security Place.   This is something that I am worked up about, so I am re-publishing it here to maximize the audience.  🙂  
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Can IT Vendors truly be objective?  Or does everything they say have to be viewed through a lens of “they are trying to sell me something”?  

 

Join me while I rant… 

Personally, I think IT vendors can be objective.  

Sure, we manufacture and sell things…

*Gasp* – We even profit from selling.  

But that doesn’t mean we can’t be objective.  

i.e. – I try to provide solid vendor-neutral information to the wireless community through my blog, http://wifijeidi.com.  

(In fact, only 2 of the nearly 40 blog posts I have completed to-date have been about my employer, Xirrus.)

However, not everyone sees it that way.  


Let me give you an example…  

I requested press access to an industry event as a blogger.  

However, I was told that I can’t get a pass of this nature because I work for a vendor.  

Furthermore, I was told that bloggers of major publications (ComputerWorld, Network World, ZDNet, etc.) would qualify.  

So I went out seeking a spot with one of these publications as one of their bloggers.  

(I even had a solid lead directly to an editor with a reference from another well know blogger at one of these publications.)

However, I was turned down again.   Because I work for a vendor.

 

My “commentary”…

Presumably, working for a vendor means that I can’t be objective.  Which I personally think is %^&$*&

Let’s take a look at some profiles of bloggers who have been picked up by these publications.  I would like to take a closer look at two common blogger profiles: Value Added Resellers (VARs) and Independent Consultants.

I have noticed that if you work for a VAR, you can blog for major publications.  Correct me if I am wrong – as a VAR, don’t you sell some vendor’s equipment, but not others?  It would seem to me, in that position, it is possible to have nuances or conflicting agendas.  At least working for a manufacturer, you know where my “official” loyalties are

Other common profile for bloggers on these publications is that of an “independent” consultant.   I would think a large portion of their livelihood depends on their ability to provide consulting services.  If that’s the case, don’t you think they would blog about things that (at least indirectly) drive their own business?  After all, their financial success is directly tied to the success of a single person – themselves.   Working for a manufacturer (or any large organization) mitigates this factor because my financial situation is determined by the success of the group, and not by what I do or say to drive my own consulting business.  

This isn’t intended as an attack on publications or their bloggers, just an honest discussion of how they can be objective, but somehow it is perceived that I can’t.  What about my credentials?!?

Besides working for a vendor (for several months), I have also worked as a consultant and auditor (for many years).  I hold over a dozen IT certifications, ALL of which are vendor-neutral.  On my LinkedIn profile, I have the coveted “500+ connections”, many of who are employed by my competition – Aruba, Meru, Motorola, etc.  I started my blog to serve as a thought leader and I am a frequent speaker at industry events, professional organization meetings, and universities. 

If you know someone at an IT publication that is willing to have me as a wireless networking and security blogger, have them contact me at douglas.haider@xirrus.com  

Wait, I had better not use my corporate email address.  That might signal I can’t be objective.  🙂  

Instead, have them contact me at douglashaider@hotmail.com

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6 comments so far

  1. Brian D. Johnson on

    Douglas, … just in case it isn’t already completely clear, I work for a vendor too, Trapeze Networks. So, about your post about whether vendors can be objective…

    I think the question is probably better framed like this: Can a vendor have the -appearance- of being objective? Or, from a different point of view, Must a vendor always be -suspected- of having a conflict of interest? Is there an appearance of a conflict of interest?

    I think that there’s always the appearance of a conflict of interest.

    But I also think that Gartner and media also aren’t being completely honest with you about a separate issue: I guarantee you that if you got press credentials to the Gartner conference as a blogger for Xirrus, I would be right behind you in line asking for press credentials and behind me would be Aruba and Meru and… do you think Cisco would ask for the same courtesy? I do.

    And if you ended up with a column at Network World, I would be all over the magazine demanding equal time — and have a very good case for my request.

    So, where does Gartner and Network World draw the line?

    Frankly, I think the way you disclose your relationship with Xirrus is partially obscured by the fact it isn’t front and center on your blog. –But that’s just one man’s opinion that might be colored by the fact that the Trapeze blog is, unmistakably, the Trapeze blog and no one could possibly assume that it is an unbiased point of view.

    I think that as long as you earn most of your money from Xirrus, and not your blog, you have the appearance of a conflict of interest.

  2. wifijedi on

    Brian, Thank you for your comment. I would say that nobody can be TOTALLY objective. What I was trying to communicate with this post was that I *can be* just as objective as the next person, irregardless of my employer.

    I am sorry if I miscommunicated this, but I requested access to the event as a blogger. Not as a blogger for Xirrus. Furthermore, this is a personal blog, not a corporate blog.

    I think there is a tremendous difference between this blog and the Trapeze blog you mentioned. At least 12 of the last 13 Trapeze blog posts dating back to November 2008 are directly related to the company or its deployments. I have posted about Xirrus twice in 40+ posts because I was personally excited about a particular topic and I thought it added value to my readers and subscribers. I also think the difference is easily seen in the URL of each site (wifijedi.com & blog.trapezenetworks.com).

    Quite honestly, I think the answers I received from Gartner & the IT publication probably didn’t have much to do with the fact that I worked for a vendor. That was probably an easy out. My suspicion is that the real reason is that they didn’t see the value it in for them. So to answer your question about where do they draw the line – I think they draw the line where people who add value in, and people who don’t are left out. I just don’t think that working for a vendor automatically brings up a conflict of interest anymore than being employed by a VAR, or as an independent consultant. At the end of the day, each of those groups is trying to sell something. It is up to the reader or audience to make judgments based on what they know about the author or speaker. I feel that I adequately disclosed my background when I made my requests to those programs.

    Lastly, I don’t see where my relationship with Xirrus is “partially obscured”. The first line in the “About Me” section says that I am Principal Technologist with Xirrus. One of the top links on my blog is to my LinkedIn profile, which also clearly shows that I am employed by Xirrus. Lastly, in the very blog post you commented on, I mentioned that I am employed by Xirrus, and gave my corporate email address (douglas.haider@xirrus.com) I am trying to be as transparent as possible.

    Thanks again for pitching in. It’s a great discussion!

  3. gabexppro on

    Douglas,

    Since this is your personal blog (this is my first time reading it, by the way), I think that your impartiality is a non-issue. At no point do you state or claim to be blogging for Xirrus. I also agree with what you said here:

    “My suspicion is that the real reason is that they didn’t see the value it in for them.”

    However, in this age of appearances, the casual observer would only notice the fact that you DO work for Xirrus and would assume that your opinions must be in some way connected. But what do I know? I work for a major vendor in the field I work in!

  4. wifijedi on

    Gabexppo,

    I appreciate your visit to my site and comment – please pass along the URL to anyone else you think would enjoy my blog.

    I think you are right on track – people notice that I do work for a vendor and assume that my opinions must be connected. I will have to use this forum to establish myself as someone who is proud of their company, but can also remain objective on industry related issues.


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