Does Your Company Have an Intelligence Problem?

As high profile examples from IBM to HP demonstrate, sometimes IT leaders fail to get the information they need – with disastrous consequences.


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Executives like good news, and people like to give it to them. For instance, Steve Jobs used to have the reputation of firing people in the hallway just because he could – all you had to do was look at him wrong.

It was called “being Steved.” Most may not be that bad but it often seems like the concept of “not killing the messenger” is lost on many, and it sure is a lot more fun telling executives what they want to hear. Only problem is, a company lives or dies on what a decision maker needs to know.

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It amazes me how few firms formally do market, business, and competitive intelligence outside of that needed to prepare marketing collateral (which corrupts the integrity of the process anyway), and then wonder why new products fail in the market. It isn’t just Microsoft nor is it just in the tech industry.

The biggest problem is that when I do see market research being done it is typically done to promote a product or service. That type of work is heavily biased yet, I often find, executives use the results as if it was valid information. When you create an artificial reality to sell something and don’t realize that what you are looking at is your own creation – and not real – you will likely make some incredibly stupid decisions.

In addition, because you have a study, the checks and balances that might prevent the bad decision will be overcome by the corrupted research.

Time Warner: Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD

For instance, I reviewed a study done by Time Warner a few years ago that was clearly corrupted by design. It was on Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD, and Time Warner based their decision to back HD-DVD exclusively on the result of the study. They had two samples, one that was presented with Blu-Ray information and the other with HD-DVD, and the folks were vastly more excited about HD-DVD.

I’m very skeptical of studies so I asked them to walk me through the methodology. For Blu-Ray they provided what was on the Blu-Ray web site to the site reviewing that product, but for HD-DVD they developed custom marketing collateral and provided that to the HD-DVD sample. In effect they “convinced” the HD-DVD sample to like HD-DVD while they put no effort into doing the same for Blu-Ray. All they proved was that if you “sell” someone they will prefer the product they were convinced to prefer. The results were invalid with regard to consumer preference.

Shortly after pointing this out, very publically, Time Warner took the right path and went agnostic, supporting both Blu Ray and HD-DVD. The company currently sells far more High definition movies than it otherwise would.

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