Some of the accolades handed out at legal IT ceremonies defy parody as organisers dream up ever-narrower niches in the hope of attracting sponsorship or just attention. I do not know if anyone has in fact received an award for being the “most innovative law firm information services manager in the West Midlands”, but his or her time will surely come.
We need some shorter, snappier terms to express approval and ones which, furthermore, broaden the lexicon. Some words have been dulled by overuse, and I have drawn attention before to the numbing effect of the polysyllabic triplets so beloved of marketing people. These give us phrases like “systematised, revolutionary and groundbreaking” or “exciting, defensible and intuitive”, where the words look as if they have been pulled at random from a cheat’s guide to Scrabble, and been arranged more for their rhythmic quality than for any real meaning.
It would be really cool if people used words like, well, “cool” which, paradoxically, would indicate warm feelings towards a company or product. And now Gartner, of all people, has done just that (I say “of all people” because I have always pictured Gartner as rather in need of lightening up; either I was wrong about that, or someone else thought so too and did something about it).
Gartner has just named four cool vendors, one of whom is outsourcing specialist Integreon (I do not know who the others are, which suggests that they are from other industries, or are coy about their prize, or were less quick off the mark with the press release about it than Integreon was).
Garter defines a “cool vendor” as a company that offers technologies or solutions that are: Innovative, enable users to do things they couldn’t do before; Impactful, have, or will have, business impact (not just technology for the sake of technology); and Intriguing, have caught Gartner’s interest or curiosity in approximately the past six months.
As one who is driven almost entirely by what catches my “interest or curiosity”, I am all for criteria like this. “Cool” obviously means rather more than is implied in common parlance – you need more than Aviators and a Belkin jacket to win the outsource deal which Integreon has just closed with CMS Cameron McKenna to provide services valued at £583 million over ten years. . “Cool” perhaps implies also that Integreon quietly gets on with more everyday business – its recent agreement with Foot Anstey, for example – in parallel with the big high-profile deals. It would be pretty cool if some of the big e-disclosure players were able to show that they can also reach out to the mid-sized firms – they can, and they do in fact do this, but most do not have Integreon’s knack of getting that message across. It would often benefit the law firms themselves to be seen to be party to such deals, a point which is easily missed: who would you instruct – a firm which does cool deals or one which runs its services in the same way that its founders did between the wars?
If I needed to justify my shamelessly attention-grabbing headline (and I don’t, really – it caught your eye or you would not be here) it would be on the basis that success in marketing requires more than a good product at the right price – these are prerequisites for success, but there are less easily-defined qualities needed to convert a hot prospect into a sale. Being “cool”, in the sense which Gartner defines it, will do as a label for this. It brings some positive-sounding connotations – cool as a cucumber, cool under fire, cool air, cool thinking. A Wikipedia article on cool cites everyone from Aristotle to Homer Simpson. Precise definition is not required; we know what Gartner means.