Bridge of the Enterprise - Enough With All These Platform Bigots

Am I the only one tired of talking to these so-called information systems professionals who -- in their infinite wisdom -- pick a technology and/or a platform and become married to it? They swear that all other technologies are old and passe, or new and untested, or some such thing with nary a recent experience with the platform in question.

Rest assured, nine times out of 10 this attitude is a direct result of ignorance. No, I am not calling these people idiots ... yet. What they are is uneducated in what is currently available, new or recently tested.

A great example is the LAN bigot, who swears the AS/400 is old (in chronological years maybe) and incapable of any current technologies. It doesn't matter how you respond -- they won't listen anyway.

Just as bad are the AS/400 bigots who swear that anything from Microsoft stinks and has no value whatsoever. Not that I have never been guilty of this behavior myself, but the more I have learned about different platforms, the more I have come to realize they all have their value and place.

No, the AS/400 is not old and antiquated. As a matter of fact it is one of the most technologically advanced solutions available today. Windows NT has problems, but all operating systems do, especially when they run on multiple hardware alternatives. NT is an excellent product in certain applications. Novell is also an excellent solution for certain needs - RS/6000s, mainframes and so on. Lotus Notes/Domino is great, but so is Microsoft Exchange.

The attitude toward the desktop is no different. It seems any time I write something about Microsoft desktop operating systems and don't mention OS/2 someone writes a letter accusing me of being on Microsoft's payroll. While OS/2 is a great product, most people will note that IBM laptop and desktop PCs ship with Windows these days. That tells me something.

The worst part about these bigots is they are so adamant about their position that they come off as being extremely believable. They are usually quite adroit at their chosen systems, and have credibility within an organization for that reason. On the downside, the main reason these people are so good at what they lean toward is because that is all they have been working with for some time. They have led their company down the same path of dependence they had been going out of their way to avoid.

People resist change and embrace familiarity. This is human nature. The problem is, once people make a conscious decision based on perception -- or comfort level -- rather than fact, they are probably doing themselves and their companies a disservice. I am constantly reminding myself not to fall into this trap. It is difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with the changes in platforms, tools, operating systems and the like today. As a result, no one should be expected to be an expert across systems anymore. It is alright to not have all the answers, as long as you are open to hearing and learning about the options. Summarily dismissing an option is a bad business practice and may lead to a bad business decision.

Remember to look for functionality first. This will help you keep your focus on the real goal. Then, and only then, if all else is even, make a platform decision. Even if it means following your emotions. As IS professionals, it is our responsibility to make the most informed decisions possible on behalf of our companies.

--A veteran of the IBM midrange arena since 1983, Chris Gloede is executive VP for Business Solutions Group in Wayne, Pa.