From the desk of: Sam C. Chan

"Official Responses" & Over-Lying

An open letter to address the commonplace phenomenon
among Vendor-Consultant-Client

May 31, 2006 (with minor update on Aug 19, 2006)

What this is all about:

In an effort to self-preserve, many organizations resort to official responses/statements, (essentially, well-crafted, overly aggressive denials and blames) which appear authoritative and convincing. That amounts to hiding behind manipulations and deceptions. Such practices are counter-productive and needless.

The primary underlying causes:

  • Ignorance & misunderstanding on the part of support personnel due to:
    • general complexity of technologies
    • rapid obsolescence (humanly impossible to keep up)
    • being misled, or facts withheld by superiors, for plausible deniability
    • generalizations, assumptions & over-simplifications
    • (understandably) poor philosophical understand of nature of things
    • inability to recognize ignorance in specific areas
    • reluctance to acknowledge ignorance in specific areas
    • being trained only on products, lack understanding of IT principles
    • no awareness of cross-organization protocols, processes and best practices
  • Tremendous pressure resulting from:
    • overwhelming workload
    • inappropriate performance metrics from bosses
    • competition and cost cutting
    • user frustrations/hostility
    • giving unbiased report make them look bad and potentially liable
  • Compensation schemes & incentives:
    • promote "hot-potato" mentality
    • driven by short-term localized objectives, willfully disregard the big picture
    • conflicting agenda among parties involved
    • lack of fair, effective, and sustained accountability over time
    • customary unbundling of products and services
  • Small business clients typically...
    • have inadequate infrastructure & apparatus, and limited personnel
    • have unrealistic expectations
    • are ignorant of industry conventions, and rules of engagement
    • don't recognize the difference between vendors and true consultants
    • easily fall prey to techno double-speaks and nonsense
    • are unable to detect incompetence and non-compliance of acceptable practices
    • lack insulation needed for objectivity & professionalismthe same person is:
      • appropriating funds (based on merits)
      • being the one actually footing the bills, and
      • participating in the implementation/troubleshooting process
    • are more emotional than logical

A few typical scenarios:

  • Client calls with a problem. Without much investigation or understanding, the tech concludes (wrongly) that it "must be a problem with your firewall."
  • Vendor is unable to perform a certain step, and focuses (rightly) on firewall issues. Instead of routinely stating the requirements to accommodate their product, they profess to be baffled by your case, and "something is wrong on your end." They're unwilling (as it's client's responsibility) and unable (as they're untrained on client's firewall) to help with resolving that.
  • Vendors tend to deny flaws or outages until it is absolutely undeniable. Consequently, futile efforts/expenses are needlessly incurred.
  • Vendors typically have no regard for the client's IT well-being. They simply take the shortest path with known unsound practices to demonstrate that the feature in question is working at that moment. Along the way, they undo proper settings, create hidden vulnerabilities, inevitable future failures, and general unmanageability.

What's wrong with that?

  • It poisons the situation, triggers defensive mode & confrontations.
  • It confuses and conceals the real issues, and hinders path to resolution.
  • It sends the helpless victim (the mutual client) on a futile wild geese chase.
  • It causes escalation by all parties, leading to vicious cycles.

Advocacy to Vendors:

  • Say it as it is. No more. No less.
  • Unfounded accusations and blatant disregard of clients' well-being, once it becomes apparent, reflects poorly on venders' professionalism and credibility.
  • Debate in earnest. Providing specific facts, not vague statements, misconceptions, unfounded opinions, or pre-drawn conclusions.
  • Be forthcoming about limitations of, and required accommodations for your products.
  • Clearly assert areas where you're not responsible for and/or have no control over.
  • Upon completion, alert clients they're responsible for furnishing the finalizing steps, documentation & IT debriefing, per their company policies.
  • Declare any changes made, and state the justifications, for reporting to IT.
  • Clients must provide a qualifying person in-house (DIFA), or hire a professional to represent the firm's interests and facilitate the process, or actually implement the solutions.


  • Lying and exaggeratingjust like slaughtering, is a necessary evil.
  • Over-lyingjust like brutal over-killing, is pointless, will backfire, and therefore, must be avoided at all costs.
  • It is entirely possible to achieve self-preservation, without playing the blame game.
  • Cooperation and coordination will ultimately lead to win-win-win situations.

P.S. For those of you familiar with philosophies in general, or the concept of game theory in particular, this is related to the classical Prisoner's Dilemma.


See also:

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