SPIN Client

The world of business can often be a dizzying place, with employees encouraged to be ever-more evangelical about the industry’s latest product or service. This is something I wrote while employed by a large firm – somehow it never made the corporate website…


It’s a really exciting time to be working in IT.

The last few years have moved technology on from tools which address specific, ringfenced business areas into a more holistic business view: the ultimate goal being a truly agile, all-encompassing landscape that enables all aspects of the business to work together. Ten years ago we struggled to achieve this kind of integration; today, using next-generation toolsets, everyone can benefit.

SPIN-Client is a key feature of this leading-edge environment. More than a tool or even a methodology, SPIN-Client touches everyone and operates across all sectors: tangible business benefits can be achieved by implementing the SPIN-Client philosophy in both the private and state sectors, allowing a greater scope for cross-industry collaboration. SPIN-Client can truly open doors for those prepared to embrace a holistic, flexible way of working. Of course, more research will be needed to understand all that SPIN-Client can achieve: but we know it is already making headway for key industry players. SPIN-Client is hardware-light and can be easily adapted to smaller-scale enterprises: something which is often overlooked in Big Technology innovation. By getting on board quickly, we can really make the most of this trailblazing opportunity.

If I felt so inclined, I could probably write a series of articles about how SPIN-Client can help the public sector save money or how it might be used to assist a mobile workforce. Depending on where my articles are published, my audience might have a type of mobile phone in mind, a server consolidation tool or a sort of ‘super app’. If I’m persuasive enough, people will be falling over themselves to get hold of this amazing thing, or to sell it on to their client base.

What I haven’t said, however, is what SPIN-Client actually is. In fact, it could be anything at all – I think I was vaguely thinking about a chocolate biscuit. The point is that it’s surprising how often people fail to ask the basic question- “What is this thing that’s so amazing, and what does it do?”

Why is this? Advertising has been around in all sorts of forms for years, and we think we’re smart enough to see through it. No matter what the pictures may claim, a new car is a new car and won’t get you the model girlfriend or expensive apartment. And yet, when our bosses tell us we ought to be ‘pushing’ a new product or service, we often get caught up in the hype long before we ask what it is we’re supposed to be selling.

There are a few theories on why this is the case. The precarious nature of the job market has its part to play: it’s all very well saying the Emperor has no clothes if you’re a small child, but if you’re a courtier with an axe-happy employer, you’re likely to prefer going along with the stunt and keeping your head than questioning it and risking execution. There is also the fear of looking ridiculous. We’re supposed to be experts – we’re hired as such – so we fear being shown up if we ask the ‘silly question’. Then there’s the question of speed – in a fast-moving industry such as IT, new products are coming out all the time, and we’ve barely managed to consider the capabilities of the last innovation before another one comes speeding along. Sure, I’ll figure out exactly what the pros and cons of value-stream storage are, once I’ve got my head around mainframe consolidation, Big Data or the Cloud.

There’s a cultural thing at work here too. Watch The Apprentice and you’ll see a group of clean-cut young professionals, carefully chosen for their camera-friendliness, who battle it out in a war of buzzwords and competitive ‘passion’. If you’re willing to get behind the latest initiative 100%, you’re falling short of what the organisation is looking for – everyone else is willing to give it 150%! Many businesses have adopted this culture, consciously or otherwise, and while it creates a swarm of enthusiasm for the product, it doesn’t create an environment that encourages people to ask questions.

So, isn’t it better to keep your head down and avoid asking questions? The irony is that a culture that stops people asking questions is a real blocker to innovation. If I think that this all-singing, all-dancing SPIN-Client is the answer to everyone’s prayers, I won’t see problems that don’t have a solution – yet. The energy that might go into creating something really innovative is wasted in creating ever-more elaborate means of marketing something nobody’s really sure about. There’s a risk to losing the trust of clients: as a client, I’m a lot more likely to trust someone who knows that Product X isn’t suitable for me, and can articulate why Product Y would be better, than someone with 150% worth of ‘passion’ for Product X who thinks it will not only transform my business, but get me a better house, new car and erase my wrinkles into the bargain. (OK, maybe I made that last one up – but if it’s out there…)

There has to be a balance. Enthusiasm is great, and we need people to tell us about new products – otherwise nobody would know that they existed. But being enthusiastic isn’t quite enough: we need to have the maturity to step back and examine what it is we’re marketing so we can really understand how best to target it. And, as employers, maybe we should give the little boy who suggested the Emperor might need a coat a little bit more credit.

For my money, once I knew that SPIN-Client was a chocolate biscuit rather than a technology initiative costing millions, I would surely buy one for myself – as well as ordering a box or two for my business.