Once, white papers were very technical with in-depth details and lots of effort. We took pride in writing them.
Nowadays, white papers are sales collateral and are treated as such.
I was reading Julie Hunt’s latest post: “The new white paper”
The classic white paper was very technical and dissertation-like, rich with in-depth details and research results. Then something happened to white papers when many software companies began to generate them as “product collateral”. White papers were hijacked by many product marketing and marketing groups to directly promote products. Content became thinly veiled product brochures extolling the virtues of the software offerings, highlighting information favourable to the vendor.
White papers became just another item in the checklist of collateral to generate for a product launch. Little strategic thinking or advance planning went into creating white papers, including the recruitment of a top tech professional to write the white paper. Well, guess what: software solution buyers do not like that kind of white paper.
Understandably, there are reasons vendors no longer create technical white papers:
Competition – exposing your product’s features is handing competition an opportunity.
Legal – a white paper is harder to rebuke than a vague promise during the sales cycle.
Resource – Finding a technical resource that can write sentences without a semicolon at the end – nearly impossible.
Effort – Updating the white paper every time a new version/feature is developed – takes time and effort.
Laziness – Let’s face it – there’s a lot of risk involved, and not much gain. (“If they are serious – they will send in a formal RFI”)
I’m not pointing a finger. We all do the same…
Even if there is a vendor with a fantastic technical white paper – it’s usually hidden behind a “Register First” webpage (Julie quotes “more than 75% – DON’T sign up for papers requiring registration, which means the vendor is missing the opportunity to share and disseminate their knowledge”)
So, how can you convince management that technical whitepapers have value?
IBM-Lombardi’s Phil Gilbert (started blogging again..) wrote in his latest post:
We set out to understand “what happens in the 6 months before we receive an RFP for our BPMS?”. It turns out that most process projects are chartered by the business for the business before IT even gets involved. For example: for you to be on-site gathering those requirements, there was work done by the business to get your PO issued even before IT got involved. There are many reasons for this – but for whatever reason, the business has no desire to engage IT that early in the process
Whitepapers should not be sales collateral.
The concept, decision and route of the BPM initiative is planted into the mind of the business way before the sales cycle starts (think Inception..)