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Surveying the landscape

January 26, 2008

Pick up any major or local daily paper, watch the nightly broadcast news, read the most niche trade publication like American Laundry News and inevitably you’ll come across several stories based on survey results. It makes for quick and easy news for the reporter.

But what are we to really believe? Especially given the fact that most surveys tend to be self-serving in nature and even inherently biased. Vendors of technology products and industry analysts are drunk on surveys. Just go check out BusinessWire on any given day (especially Monday mornings..) and see how many useless ones cross the wire.

Technology reporter, Joe McKendrick, covered a recent survey from software vendor, Amberpoint, in this post, Survey: no SOA ‘fiascos’ out there, so far [full disclosure: I represent a competitor to Amberpoint]. Joe is a bit suspicious about the findings, being so rosy. I’m not here to talk about the findings. But what caught my eye was Joe’s comment that he was “surprised to see an SOA survey from one vendor that said, basically, everything is honky-dory, even among non-customers in the survey.”

Well, I’m not surprised Joe. The reason can be found in the following sentence from the release: “The research paints a picture of SOA in the enterprise that is more mature and successful than previous studies have indicated.”

Rather than the Amberpoint PR team contacting editors with a proactive pitch “offering Amberpoint comment about the XYZ Research Firm which says SOA is failing,” they issue a survey, which provides a more official and overt response. Amberpoint is now seen as a positive voice in the SOA world and one not pushing fear, uncertainty and doubt, which is norm with these surveys. Although, I would’ve like to have seen Amberpoint get a bit more aggressive and controversial and call out the negative previous studies.

But again, it brings me back to the question – does anyone (especially buyers of SOA solutions) really care?

I must say, this survey finding “No astronaut ever seen drunk on launch day” gave me a chuckle for two reasons: a) the headline is awesome b) a perfect example of a survey with findings that are in lock-step with exactly what the managers wanted. From the piece: “Overall, the survey paints a sunny picture of life in the astronaut corps.” Think they would’ve released the survey if the survey painted a “rainy picture?”

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