Social pressure has never been so present in technological decision making. Vendors' sales and marketing, viral marketing, blogospheres, O'Reilly radars, podcasts, open source geeks, conventions (Web 2.0 sold-out) and cocktail parties – all create levels of social pressure unseen before. I would like to bring some figures, to portray the typical prey and to try and give some advices.
The Technology Acceptance Model, introduced by Davis et Al., 1989, has shown that two beliefs are in the basis of technology acceptance: perceived usefulness and perceived ease-of-use. Of the two, perceived usefulness has been identified as the principal determinant of system utilization. Later researches found Social Pressure to be the strongest environmental variable influencing perceived usefulness.
In one phrase: Social pressure significantly affects perceived usefulness which, in its turn, significantly affects technology acceptance.
Analyze this: Social pressure sells better than a user-friendly, easy-to-use product! No wonder most of Enterprise software are so complex, and that most of the vendors' budget is invested in marketing & sales, rather than in R&D (on an average 75% [sales] vs. 25% [r&d]).
So we're under social pressure. Interestingly, though, we don't perceive this pressure as similar to the one exercised by non-IT vendors. I know many people who wouldn't buy iPOD, or read Harry Potter or wear Nike as a revolt against the herd phenomenon; I don't know many people who would scornfully dismiss ESB, EII, J2EE, SOA, "Aligning IT with Business", BPM, BAM, Ruby on Rails, O'Radars etc. We revere technological brands and logos because they signify advancement, innovation and knowledge. This makes us, in a sense, pressure-prone.
A significant pressure-source is Web 2.0, or the advent of Vox Populi/Power to the people. Blogs and podcasts, transported over RSS feeds, have become ubiquitous marketing channels. They are blitzing us with new startups, technologies, tools and products every second. Del.icio.us, Furl, Technorati, O'reilly "distributing the future" Network and the entire blogoshpere have fused into one huge technological, brain-washing, herd-ish megaphone. Social pressure under the Vox Populi paradigm is higher and louder!
But the average CIO, who takes the million dollars decisions, is not listening to the blogosphere. (S)he's got vendors meetings, conventions and cocktail parties. Two of the tales vendors are so fond of telling in such occasions are that their product is in a POC/alpha/beta at Merrill-Lynch-Morgan-Stanly and that it is actually the outcome of a detailed design work done by the vendor and some Fortune 10 companies. The vendor is therefore nothing but an emissary bringing forth the Gospel of the Fortune 10 Enterprises to the entire IT world. The conveyed message is simple: Join or Lag Behind!
That's social pressure.
I would therefore suggest that the most important role of today's Enterprise CTO/Chief Architect is "Being Hans Brinker". Like that Dutch boy, the CTO has to deeply thrust his/her finger in the Enterprise IT Hypes & Trends Dam and stop the flood.
Only, in most cases, there's no Enterprise dam.
This is the first post in the "Pressure" series (Pressure, The Man In the Web2.0 Mask and Mind the Gap)