Lighthouse’s regular CIO surveys continue to show that the international influence on buyers of blogs, and even of analysts’ blogs, is still modest. There’s a significant difference between the impact that different ‘channels’ of information have and, even if the number of readers is the same, the impact of the average blog posting is lower than the impact of a similar article presented as a research paper.
It’s pretty easy to show that the influence is lower. However, it’s harder to understand which factors are holding blogs back, and which of them might be easiest to overcome.
Certainly, we can see that there are some general adoption trends that can already be seen in the analyst industry: there are a number of cultural difference that can be observed between different industries, markets and countries which influence the option of new information channels.
- The faster the pace of business (or more precisely, what academics call time-orientation), the less time there is for alternative sources, both in terms of slack and in terms of openess to disagreement
- The greater the risk (viewed as financial impact multiplied by uncertainty), often the less openness there is to alternative views (sadly).
- The greater the hierarchy (in particular, the power distance between participants) the less tolerance there is for instability in the quality of the information used.
- Power distance is also reflected in terms of the status of external authorities in national cultures: centuries ago, Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out that the United States’ emphasis on the authority of the individual supposes “an equality of knowledge”. In other countries, managers are more often required to source the most widely recognised authority.
- Similarly, the centrality of the technology’s impact on the business and its maturity is also an impact. Buyers of core systems are more cautious: few bloggers can influence ‘under the radar’. Technology maturity is important, because more certain choices are subject to less diligent assessment and therefore perhaps less open to outside influences. Furthermore, buying patterns for core, mission-critical mature technologies require far greater force to deflect them than do buying for other solutions.
Of course, there are also some personal traits of managers who are most likely to use blogs and other alternative resources, including those that Belbin would describe as a ‘resource investigator‘. There are also some issues of seniority: because access to research is often restricted to senior staff by firms that subscribe to mainstream analyst firms, then junior staff are more likely to access free resources, including blogs. Furthermore, bloggers tend to have a more granular, lower-level, focus on technology issues, and that meets the needs of technologists better than those of CIOs and board-level managers.
For these and other reasons, we think that blogs can cross the chasm more easily in specific countries, cultures and technologies. For example, bloggers will get early leverage on technology architects, software developers and IT managers in the US who are looking at infrastructure questions of little interest to senior executives. For the same reasons, bloggers will get much later leverage on the thinking of senior executives looking at consumer trends and core business system.
None of this eliminates the impact of blogs, but it constrains and conditions it. For example, a single mention of a new software on one analyst’s blog created 50 beta-testers. However, the value of those beta-testers could be highly variable: if it’s desktop search, for example, then it’s worth less than if it’s a high-end server. Needless to say, bloggers are currently influencing decisions which executives consider to be peripheral or tactical more than they influence strategic buying. For the foreseeable future, industry analysts will remain the preeminent independent and external influence on enterprise-scale buying.