Telling The Story

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Without context it is impossible to understand anything: we can write or speak about the details of a product but without the contextual setting for that technology it means nothing and has less relevance. What is required is to understand technology in the context of the business problems it addresses. This is what Bloor means by “telling the story”.

However, that is not the whole story. Typically, products within a market do not encompass the requirements of the whole of that market but tend to have specific capabilities that make them most suitable for one or more sub-sectors within that market. In other words, in order to understand the whole story about a product or technology you need not only to understand how that offering resolves the business problems that it addresses but also the market context within which that set of business issues is relevant.

Moreover, this higher level context may not exist in isolation but itself may represent a subset of an even higher level market sector. In other words, there are a series of sub-domains whose story needs to be appreciated in order to provide a full contextual picture. As an example, a product within the analytic appliance space needs to be understood not only within its own context, but also as a type of data mart offering, as a subset of data warehousing more broadly and, ultimately, as a form of data management.

Further, products do not exist in isolation but are used in conjunction with other technologies in order to provide a solution for the user. It is therefore important to understand what synergies exist across adjacent product segments. For example, our appliance will no doubt work in conjunction with business intelligence tools of one sort or another, and with both data integration and data quality tools. In order to tell the whole story of a product it will be necessary to know the complementary nature of these relationships.

Telling the whole story is not, therefore, simply about understanding a product and technology or even just about how it resolves particular business issues. It is instead about the overall context within which that technology resides.

Finally, there is the question of how the story is told. There are several aspects to this. The first is that markets, domains and technologies have their own terminology and nomenclature. Defining these provides a frame of reference for the story being told. Secondly, the human brain is not actually very good at extracting meaning from information (according to research, around 8% is captured) nor in retaining that data (87% is lost within a month, without reinforcement). For both of these reasons it is important that the story needs to be told in a clear and distinct manner that eliminates extraneous information and focuses on what is important. Thirdly, markets and technologies do not stand still but change over time, and the whole story must encompass this fact and evolve in lockstep along with the elements that the story describes.

IT is complex and constantly changing. It is essential to “tell the story” effectively if everyone is to optimise the considerable investments they are making. This applies to vendors and users alike, and to both IT personnel and business executives. The story needs to help vendors build the right products and communicate their value to the right people. It must support those making buying decisions (whether in IT or at the business level) in finding effective technology and solution-based investments and, where decisions are led by IT management, then engaging their business executives in the opportunities and value that the investment offers. Finally, the story must resonate with the wider audience of staff, investors, shareholders, partners and so forth, so that everyone can understand its value in their own terms. Throughout history story tellers have communicated the essential information that has shaped our society, so in this ever more complex world what is more vital than “telling the story”?

The story continues …

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