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Instant Experts Floating in the Cloud

by Daryl Plummer  |  December 9, 2008  |  3 Comments

I was traveling with Frank Kenney a few weeks back – and for those of you who have not done that, trust me, it is an experience that will make you at least question your “game” and whether or not you have a nice enough watchthose of you who have done that need no further explanation. So, we got to talking about how many people seem to all of a sudden have become “cloud computing” literate but who have almost no grounding in the reasons why it is emerging just now. Now that’s ok because I talk a lot about food but am the second worst cook I know.

But, the triad of concepts called virtualization, service orientation, and the Internet have catalyzed cloud computing such that it is almost inevitable that most of us will trip over it on our way to either massive failure in the cloud or some moderate level of success (massive success is very rare in the IT field but worth pursuing). Along the path of our journey, we will continue to bump into what I call “Instant Experts”. Yup! They are floating around the cloud and around every other hot IT-related trend. So, I decided to pull out a piece I had done a little while ago because I think it is as relevant as ever. And yes, I updated it for a more “puffy” future. Enjoy.

The Instant Expert

Have you encountered the “Instant Expert”? I have. I see him whenever I look into the mirror. I’ll bet you’ve seen him too. The instant expert is one of those people who seemed to know nothing about a topic two days ago but now sounds like they invented it.  Now do you recognize him? It’s the guy who read up on Web Oriented Architecture because Nick Gall or Tim Berners-Lee said it would be hot. It’s the woman who studied all night to learn the difference between the cloud, cloud computing, and cloud services because Daryl Plummer or Reuven Cohen was so eloquent about it.  Get the picture? Instant Experts are all around us; and, oddly enough, we need them now more than ever.

The IT industry is rife with complexity and confusion, leading to failures. The number of standards efforts being maintained around Web Services alone is enough to drive any IT manager to drink. Worse still, it drives business management to ask – what does this all mean? Truth be told – who knows? The sheer weight of all of the opinions in the industry threatens to crush any single person’s ability to explain anything. So in order to make sense of this, we need advisors – some of them will be instant experts.

Separating Pretenders from Contenders

Instant Experts are not hard to find. The easiest way to gain fame in an IT organization is to be able to spill out technology concepts and ideas like pouring Bud Lite down a “frat” guy. Unfortunately, it’s easier to sound like you understand something than it is to truly internalize what things mean. True understanding is necessary if you want to make good decisions. I have met many people who can absorb the text of a technology book overnight. They come in the next morning all smiles and teeth full of righteous superiority. Next they want to show their knowledge by making pronouncements about the future success or failure of the industry. Ok, stop them right there. Are they pretending to be smart, or are they contending to become a trusted advisor in chaotic times?

Let’s separate the “Instant Expert” pretenders from the contenders:

  • Pretenders want you to know how much they know. Contenders want you to know what you need to know.
  • Pretenders want you to believe they truly understand concepts. Contenders want you to know how concepts relate to other concepts in a specific context.
  • Pretenders spout facts. Contenders deliver insights.
  • Pretenders dismiss differences in meanings and definitions of concepts as “just semantics”. Contenders specify the context of their ideas and the meanings of concepts within that context.
  • Pretenders use their knowledge to reflect glory on their past accomplishments. Contenders use their past accomplishments to inject knowledge into their new ideas.
  • Pretenders can easily be tripped up by a well placed question. Contenders pose well-placed questions.
  • Pretenders can only slice an inch deep. Contenders cut straight to the bone.

Using the Instant Expert

Instant Experts can become a tactical and strategic weapon in IT planning. Identifying the right people for this role can lead to vigorous discussions and rapid decisions. The best experts are those with lots of past experience. They can place new ideas into context with old experiences. They will tend to know what has worked before and what is likely to fail now. Making these types of people “Instant Experts” helps to overcome their most blatant flaw – the “dinosaur syndrome”.

The “dinosaur syndrome” affects anyone who stops learning. They view new things only in the harsh light of what they have seen fail in the past. These people think there is nothing new in the world (“Never mind that asteroid coming our way, bronto-buddy. I’ve seem hundreds like it and they just go whizzing past. Not to worry!“). New knowledge in the context of old is what really counts. Drive experienced people to learn new things quickly. Establish people as the knowledge centers for new technologies, standards, concepts, or even products.

Three Instant Expert guidelines:

  1. Use Instant Experts like scalpels. You need them to do sanity checks on all those new things you keep hearing about and to pull out synergies with your current plans.
  2. Make sure your “Instant Experts” don’t just Google all of their information. Go to the source or to trusted industry advisors (shameless Gartner plug).
  3. Have your instant experts challenge one another. If they can’t explain it to each other, you won’t be able to explain it to the business.

So, the next time you encounter someone who seems to have sprouted a PhD overnight, examine them closely. Make sure they are looking for synergies, not just new ideas. You may find there is indeed a way to bring order to the chaos – for this month, at least.

Are you an instant expert? Well, maybe not, but if you want to look like one I’ll give you these:

  • The Cloud is a euphemism for an abstraction. Simply put, that means it is an abstract concept that cannot be touched. It exists only as a collection of IT-related services that can be consumed – like the Web/Internet exists as a collection of servers, protocols, and content. Some would say the cloud exists as virtualized infrastructure, but they would probably be vendors – who sell virtualized infrastructure.
  • Cloud services are services delivered over the internet or, if you will, through the cloud. They must first BE services, which implies that someone has decided they will take the responsibility for making sure they work. Can you say “service guarantees”. Well, neither can most new cloud providers. But they are learning.
  • Cloud computing is a style of computing – meaning, it is the way you create cloud services and solutions using cloud services.

Ok. Now go sound smarter than the guy who did not read this blog.

Category: 

Daryl C. Plummer
Managing VP & Gartner Fellow
18 years at Gartner
35 years IT industry

Daryl Plummer is vice president, chief of Research and chief Gartner Fellow. Mr. Plummer manages the Gartner Fellows Program, which is designed to allow senior analysts the opportunity to explore new research ideas and to elevate… Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Instant Experts Floating in the Cloud


  1. Reuven Cohen says:

    Thanks for the mention. Loved your point “Cloud services are services delivered over the internet or, if you will, through the cloud”

    That sums up my issue with the concept of fully quarantined “private clouds” For me this, kind of defeats the purpose of instant capacity anywhere at any time with you can move beyond your own data center.

  2. Daryl Plummer says:

    I agree. I remember your comment about simplicity being valuable when we talk about this. I also believe that dynamic and just-in-time capacity is a critical aspect of cloud computing but is infinitely more valuable when you can do it the public cloud securely rather than behind walls. That allows models like arbitrage to emerge where you can get capacity from a select group of providers based on current conditions. This can give great advantages to an organization.

  3. […] Gartner blog on “Instant Experts in the Cloud” – before you hire your first consultant, read this article. […]



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