They say great inventions are 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. The corollary to that is that great information technology (IT) marketing is 99% hard work and 1% "s**t luck."
I remember in the 1980s working at Data General with great PR and ad people to try to promote a new IT concept called "integrated office automation (OA)." It was more than just word processing (WP), a concept that Wang "then owned." Because of Wang's prominence in that market, we didn't want to promote our product as just some super word processor. Integrated OA was better than that. It combined WP with this new thing called email as well as with calendaring (which no one then or now uses) and a few other bells and whistles. Shortly after launch, DG's particular OA product was interfaced with some bizarre little program called CompuCalc (whose co-author -- a former DG programmer -- then decided that these bizarre little programs called "spreadsheets" would probably run better on PCs).
We were somewhat successful in our efforts between 1982 and 1985 in terms of sales but it was a slog. Then in 1986 an obscure Marine Lieutenant Colonel named Oliver North got called before the U.S. Congress for doing some no-longer-remembered thing wrong and said "I know nothing." Unfortunately, everything he knew nothing about was preserved forever on the Reagan White House PROFS (the PRoffessional OFfice System from IBM) minicomputer and a battery of Congressmen mentioned PROFS about a zillion times that winter on TV. After that, all our great PR and ads meant nothing. All we had to say was our OA product was like PROFS, only better.
Those good old days came flashing back to me this week when some poor lawyers from the U.S. Homeland Security bureaucracy got hauled before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee because the lawyers weren't processing freedom-of-information open-government requests through the bureaucracy fast enough. The lawyers' excuse was that they couldn't get the approvals of the bosses fast enough...
- "But" said the lawyers, "but don't worry we just put in a SharePoint system to solve the problem."
- "I know SharePoint," said the top Congressman, "I used to use it in the company I owned before I became a Congressman. It's a great product."
Wow. I can just visualize the marketing meeting at Microsoft (MSFT) the next morning.
- Can we use a Congressman in an ad?
- Do we really want -- yawn -- to link to C-Span?
- Did our PAC contribute to his campaign?
- Is Homeland Security using a licensed copy?
- On and on.
Marketing people just live for the one or two mornings per career that go like that. Of course, the sales guys take the credit anyways.
-- Dennis Byron
(Sidenote: Apparently Homeland Security didn't get the Obama administration memo that you can only do "open government" on open source. They chose SharePoint over Drupal!!)