The Philosophy of Vendor Agnostic in Information Technology

IT philosophy

Introduction

Agnosticism is often understood in the context of philosophy and religion specifically the belief in the existence or non-existence of God, although the word itself is far more broad, generally meaning, as defined by biologist Thomas Huxley, “It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe.”

I was lucky enough, early in my life, to understand my existence in the context of religion, science, and philosophy which to me represent the three corner stones of our being. More so, I was even more fortunate  to learn the fundamentals of religion, science, and philosophy from original sources, text, and scriptures while keeping an open mind rather than be tainted by the subjective interpretation of these topics from media, books, opinions, explanations, arguments and so on …

Fundamentals of these topics shaped my views on life in general and I established a set of moral code that must be abided-by in all aspects of life including my career which happens to be in IT. This moral code which is a set of values, beliefs, ethics … is to me an absolute until well established proven scientific grounds deem it otherwise.

In the same sense, this moral code also taught me that many things in life are relative and almost always change according to context. These relative topics will always vary between individuals and cannot be deemed right or wrong without context which in many cases is very hard to grasp.

Agnosticism

Agnostic is a term that is relative not absolute although in context under many situations it should abide by absolute moral code. In the context of IT, agnosticism is the act of being completely open to any technology regardless of profit, association, politics, or any other factor that does not directly contribute to the pure benefit of technology covering a specific requirement, challenge, and/or need.

Philosophically speaking, being completely agnostic is impossible just like saying someone can be completely objective. Scientifically speaking, being completely objective is impossible although our brains trick us into believing so.

As I write this, I acknowledge that I am not completely objective and some bias however deeply hidden in my brain is currently in motion. What I believe to be true is an objective reality to me and may or may not relate to your objective reality however that is oriented by your brain based on your education, experience, society, work, status, perception, factors and so on …

We as humans are immune to our own bias which is scientifically called “the bias blind spot”.  That been said, we can all agree that we must do our due diligence to be as objective as possible when approaching any matter specifically IT vendor oriented sales and technical pitch.

What is absolute to us, which under any circumstance we cannot waiver or compromise on, might be relative to others in different contexts, situations, and circumstances thus the non-technical introduction. This common grounds in understanding lays the foundation of our main topic, the myth of agnosticism in IT vendors.

Note that I have zero tolerance for generalization so I only refer to my own experiences with no specific mention to a certain group, definitely this does not apply to all IT vendors out there.

IT Vendors

IT vendors in the context of the field of information technology is generally any company that manufacture and sell specific IT products that being software and/or hardware. IT partners are reseller companies that approach customers with these specific vendors products and pitch/design/sell/implement/support these products. An example of a vendor is Microsoft, Dell EMC, AWS, HP, Cisco , and so on …

The myth, I believe , applies to both IT vendors and partners but mostly to partners as vendors themselves are by definition exactly the opposite although in some context some hardware/software products are platform agnostic in which they can run under different platforms or can host different platforms.

The Myth

In Plato’s Utopia, a vendor would approach a customer, discuss the customers challenges, need, and requirements, map these requirements into products, architect these products into a solution, propose the solution to the customer, list the positives and negatives for the proposed solution, and finally sell/implement/support this environment with very clear costing. In Utopia, the vendor would be objective enough to direct the customer to a product from a different vendor that technically may more meet the customer requirements and eventually overall outcome of the project. In Utopia, vendors discuss the short comings of their solution openly while providing mitigation plans that may direct a customer to a different competing vendor. In Utopia, technically qualified partners win deals based on know-how, experience, effort, and qualifications.

Unfortunately we live in a Dystopian world where the relativism of some individuals distort the essence of what some of us fundamentally believe in. In this world, a vendor always has the best products, a vendor is always right, a vendor is always the best, a vendor has no real competition, customer requirements can be manipulated to conform to vendor requirements not the other way around, a vendor can choose to conceal certain information that effects the outcome of a project if the customer does not ask, a vendor can state manipulative and misleading information on competitors, a vendor can choose to sell products even within the same portfolio for more profit rather than another product that more meets certain customer requirements, vendors win based on politics rather than qualifications, vendors have leverage and control over customers not the other way around, and lastly profit, profit, profit is the main driver behind everything.

The Dilemma

The dilemma here is that many of the Dystopian world characteristics when selling IT products is actually relative and conforms to the science of context. Some vendor personnel really believe their products are the best, to some not telling the whole truth when not asked is not something wrong, some vendors really think that customers sometimes don’t know what they want, vendors might have a better look into the future and propose something that fits that view, some vendors go for the best profit while meeting customer requirements regardless if other (same vendor) products are a better fit, all vendors would not refer to competitors as that is just bad judgment and non-sense , and the list goes on …

Many of these aspects that some of us might despise are actually relative and judged by context so to that I cannot generally say it is right or wrong to do these actions unless context is clear and overall situation is clear that which is almost impossible to do.

If someone puts profit as a core ethic above truth in order for example to support the education of his/her children, who am I to say this is wrong or right for that matter !? If a small bribe can close a very big deal that would close my quota and that bribe would not effect the business in anyway, why would that be wrong or right for that matter !? What if my absolute core ethics and values are prioritized differently and abide to a much bigger scope, one that you are not aware of … !!!

This is where religion meets philosophy and science to set moral and ethical absolutes in all aspects of life with no regards to relativity.

My Take

That been said, many aspects of absolute doctrine can be applied to pitching and selling IT solutions. A clear example is lying, would you lie to win a deal when you know that you are lying !? Would you compromise on that specific belief for the sake of a deal for profit ? Would you just be willing to let some small detail go unmentioned although you know for a fact it effects your customer !?

I have my own take on this, which is relative to my understanding, any absolute belief which is normally related to values and ethics should NOT be compromised on under any circumstance in any context when personal gain/profit is in the picture. Yes , this would mean that sometimes you would refer to a competitor that can do a better job or refer to a different product that may meet the requirements but produces less profit .

Be warned though, abiding by a moral code in this Dystopian world has its consequences, and historically speaking, most men and women that stood for a certain moral code paid a heavy price starting with Socrates and not ending with assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. No one is going to kill you in IT that’s for sure Smile but a price needs to be paid else doubt your moral code and challenge it. Back to the definition of agnosticism, “It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe.”

On a personal level, nothing ticks me off than general statements that target individuals that are comfortable in being informed the easy way which is listening and directly believing without questioning. I try to have no personal feelings against or with any specific vendor but generalized statements that most always have manipulative content strike a nerve in me, one which I cannot control. How my response is normally perceived by those vendors, I do expect, only because I know that many are confined by the dictated level of knowledge, education, emotional intelligence, and ultimately personal reflection of such statements. Its hard to be objective when you are taught to be subjective daily and your job depends on it …

In general, the belief in your product being the best out there should come from the study of all other products that compete with it and having proved facts that your product is the best. In specific, the belief of your product being the best for a specific customer requirement should come from the study of all other products under the customer environment meeting the customer desired outcome through requirements would dictate what is actually best. In IT , we have clear metrics to define this, only when due diligence is applied to its core abiding by absolutes of IT architecture design.

The least I would say in a situation that subjectivity imposes itself is be quiet. “Silence is a source of great strength” said Lao Tzu the author of The Art of War though I personally prefer Nadezhda Mandelstam approach “I decided it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity”.

Conclusion

In summary, IT vendors agnosticism is a myth and customer-oriented pitch is a fairy tale. IT vendors core existence solely relies on the fact of belief in the ultimate superiority of its own product portfolio to the aim of absolute profit that which contradicts with all what agnosticism stands for.

IT partners agnosticism should be de facto-standard and partners must be customer oriented although that is rarely the case. Partners have political relations with vendors to push certain products for better margin, on top of profit being the most dominant factor in pitching solutions to customers.

A plague that has been eating through our core as humans this century with the spread of social media is generalization and stereotyping. When applying this to IT, I can definitely state some vendors and partners are true to their core ethics and values and do pitch customer oriented solutions regardless of personal gain.

Religion, Philosophy, and Science are the corner-stone of our existence and if anyone is to succeed in their very short life, they must learn the true fundamentals of these three pillars from their original sources and abide themselves to what they feel is right and true. Apply this to all aspects in your life including your IT career and success is within your grasp whatever success means to you .

May the Peace, Mercy, and Blessing of God Be Upon You

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