- Those who are incapable of debating the Brightwork Research & Analysis arguments often use the hominem of an “ax to grind” against Brightwork and Shaun Snapp.
- The proponents of the hypothesis of the ax to grind, fail to provide evidence of the ax.
Introduction to the Ax to Grind Hypothesis
This article is to address the comments that people that have brought forward Brightwork articles on SAP to generally to SAP-centric IT environments. The accusation leveled by some individuals is that the work by Brightwork and Shaun Snapp are biased because they or I have an “ax to grind.”
The Definition of an Axe to Grind
The criticism of an ax to grind means that the person writing the article or otherwise providing the information should be disregarded because they have an intent to damage the entity that is being discussed. The idea is that the author has a grievance with the entity or person.
Sometimes the grievance is part of the discussion. For instance, women who were sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein had an ax to grind with Harvey Weinstein.
However, curiously, when the grievance is public, the term ax to grind is not used. For whatever reason, the term ax to grind is only used when the supposed grievance is not part of the discussion. For example, when the term is used by those in SAP IT departments against Brightwork, the grievance (as far as we can tell) is not stated.
Therefore the reason for the supposed ax to grind is never declared.
Why Use Ad Hominem?
Ther term ax to grind can be seen as a type of ad hominem argument. It does not address the arguments presented in any particular Brightwork article.
It is well known in the study of logic and argumentation that ad hominems are used as a way of distracting the listener from focusing on the content of the information provider. For this reason, they are not considered a serious form of argumentation.
Let me provide an example.
In the case of inaccurate information published by Forbes or Fortune on SAP, we usually explain why the Forbes or Fortune article is incorrect. That is, we directly address the arguments of any article.
Fortune on Article on the SAP Cloud
An excellent example of this is found in the following article dealing with Forbes repeating SAP marketing tropes in How Accurate was Forbes on SAP Cloud?
In the article, we observe that Forbes and Fortune are typically paid to write articles that are, in large part, either written by SAP or have most of the content provided by SAP.
But, we do not start by stating that Forbes or Fortune’s information is inaccurate because of some undefined ax they must have to grind. Instead we provide the evidence that Forbes or Fortune receive money from SAP to publish what is called paid placements. These are articles that are not declared as advertisements. Most people do not consider Forbes of Fortune or other media entities biased because they are unaware of how the IT media system works.
As should be apparent, this places our criticism is a very different category than the criticism of an ax to grind that is often used by SAP-centric IT departments. We would never use the criticism of an ax to grind because it is an evidence-free claim — and we are a research entity, and therefore only about what we can write based on evidence.
What Ax is Being Ground?
The question we have to ask, is what is the ax that we have to grind?
It seems quite lazy to state that we have an ax to grind without proof or even a statement of what that “ax” actually is?
It occurred to us that the individuals bringing the claim aren’t interested in specifying the ax. Could it be they don’t have evidence of the ax we are grinding? What better way to quickly move away from discussing the arguments in the articles than making up an unspecified ax. Indeed, it takes virtually no effort on the part of the person making a claim.
Marketing Versus Research. Trust Information from a Company that Maximizes Profit
What is curious about the claim of an ax to grind is that SAP centric-IT departments commonly accept claims on the part of SAP — even though it is, of course, known that SAP is a profit-maximizing entity. Bill McDermott is both paid $50 million per year and has a long history of making exaggerated claims. Hasso Platter is worth $20 billion. Is it possible that money motivated Hasso Plattner to make some quite exaggerated claims in his life? In the interest of full disclosure, the total revenue of Brightwork is a bit south of $50 million per year, so we could be said to have considerably less motivation than Bill McDermott to “make things up.”
Furthermore, Brightwork is a research entity, which, while for profit, does not seek to maximize profits. If we did try to maximize profits, we would simply, as do Forbes and Fortune, begin to publish paid placements. This is quite the opposite of SAP, Deloitte, Gartner, and other sources that provide information about SAP. These entities are distinctly profit maximizing. At Brightwork, we consider profit maximizing to be contradictory to research. For obvious reasons, if you seek to maximize profits, you will alter your research to match the desired outcomes of the highest bidder.
SAP’s Aggressive Sales Culture
SAP performs R&D, which is primarily for improving their software. However, they are not and have never been a research organization. The information they do release has only one purpose, which is to increase the sale of SAP software and services. And SAP has a long history of releasing hyperbolic or inaccurate information. SAP’s inaccuracies go back to their beginning when they made a wide variety of claims regarding ERP systems, the vast majority of which did not come true.
SAP’s History of Inaccuracy
We have documented a large number of these statements at the Brightwork website. Exaggerations can be found in the quarterly analyst reports, Inaccuracies in AP’s Q2 Analyst Call.
SAP’s inaccuracies rise to the level of creating entirely false storylines. For example, how SAP and Hasso Plattner made up the story of Hasso inventing HANA in the article Did Hasso Plattner and His Ph.D.’s Invent HANA?
The Fear of Contradicting SAP
While our articles lay out what amounts to a smoking gun (or a series of smoking guns), it is curious how quiet SAP proponents become when faced with this evidence. Actually, during repeated discussions on the topic of SAP’s exaggerations, the most common response on the part of SAP proponents is to pivot to some other topic.
In discussions on LinkedIn, SAP proponents will ordinarily not comment at all as to the inaccurate quotation by SAP that we provide. They appear to prefer to pretend that the quotation does not exist. This is not something that has happened quite a few times. My response to a LinkedIn debate participant was as follows:
“I have you an opportunity to critique ridiculous statements by Bill McDermott and Hasso Plattner and Steve Lucas, and you would not do it. I asked you whether you agreed that HANA would run 100,000 faster than any other technology (Bill McDermott) and you would not comment on it. You fear to criticize even the most bananas statements by SAP because while you may not work for SAP, you are remotely controlled by them. You fear to contradict SAP in a public forum where people that work for SAP can see any disloyalty. So you very conveniently disappear when I have gone down that path. If Bill McDermott said he was going to go live on the moon, would you hold your criticism then also? How insane does a statement have to be before you disown it?
In a previous article where I invalidated several of SAP’s claims about HANA, you attempted to pivot away from SAP’s false claims by stating that the database does not matter. Several people emailed me that your statements were odd because since 2011 (since HANA was introduced) SAP has claimed that the database is critical and that customers need to migrate away from Oracle to HANA. Also, you entered that discussion without having any knowledge of databases. Which I also found odd. You professed you did not care about something you don’t know much about. SAP’s claims being proven false, and HANA not only not improving S/4HANA performance, but actually underperforming previous versions of Oracle (ECC on Oracle) is a subject of interest to many, particularly to customers being pressured into migrating to HANA.”
Repeatedly Testing the Hypothesis of Bias in SAP Consultants
We deliberately find opportunities to test this hypothesis, and the result is consistent.
SAP proponents seem to have a deficient standard regarding the honesty of statements if they come from SAP. A likely reason for this is that these proponents make money from SAP, and therefore are unconcerned with what is true, as what is true could potentially reduce their income.
The Ultimate Test of Bias: Accuracy
At Brightwork, we consider the bias to be incredibly valuable. We have written on bias in forecasting in many articles, including Understanding Forecasting Bias.
We have explained how SAP spreads money to IT media entities, and through outsourcing, its consulting receives highly biased recommendations on the part of the large consulting companies. And that SAP would not accept these recommendations if it did not allow consulting companies to create an entire business model around recommending SAP. As far as we can tell, we are the only media entity that explains how these things work. We also seem to understand SAP’s history going back to its origins before it became the darling of the major consulting companies, and made the strategic decision to outsource its consulting.
However, demonstrating bias is not enough. As in the article, we provided on Forbes and the SAP Cloud; we also explain why the information that is provided is incorrect. That is, bias should show itself in inaccuracy. If an entity were to be shown to have a preference, but their media output was shown to be accurate, it would appear that the bias did not impact the media output. And that is the most critical issue, for obvious reasons. It is the output, which is critical.
Evidence of the Ax?
In the case of the ax to grind criticism, critics of Brightwork Research & Analysis provide neither evidence of bias (ax to grind is merely a claim, it is not itself evidence), nor do they explain why the information provided by Brightwork Research & Analysis is incorrect.
Quite the contrary. Brightwork’s history of prediction on SAP has been remarkably accurate. There are several reasons for this.
- Years of SAP Implementation Experience: We are one of the very few information sources on SAP that combines many years of SAP implementation experience as a backdrop to our research. Not Gartner, not Forrester, not ComputerWorld, or others have this expertise among their analysts or authors. (and of course, they all take money from SAP).
- Financially Independent: Unlike SAP, Deloitte, Gartner, Forbes, etc.. we have no financial incentive to promote SAP. We also have no incentive to promote other solutions over SAP, as we are primarily funded through consulting work. That is, we can stand outside of the media bias, which so damages IT reporting because we don’t make a very high percentage of our income from media output.
We invite those that find the “ax to grind” argument persuasive to try to find a prediction about SAP that we have published that ended up not coming true. Yes, that is a challenge. Currently, we are predicting that S/4HANA is far less mature than is known in the IT media. This is covered in the research article A Study into S/4HANA Implementations.
Where Our Confidence Comes From, Out Track Record
We are very confident in our predictions because, after years of doing this, we have yet to be wrong in a forecast. You can check our track records versus SAP’s track record in the article A Study into The Accuracy of SAP. At some point, because we make so many predictions, we will be wrong. But when we are wrong, it won’t be because we were paid by SAP to repeat what SAP told us to write.
Meanwhile, entities like Forbes, Fortune, Gartner, ComputerWorld, etc… are repeatedly wrong about SAP. This is what happens when you rent out your media storefront to SAP to publish anything they want for money. However, these entities rely upon the short memory of their readers and the fact that people tend to observe the size of the media entity for whether the entity is credible.
The Contradictory Claim: Axe to Grind or Biting the Hand that Feeds You?
The ax to grind claim is not the only claim that is used by SAP centric-IT media against Brightwork Research & Analysis. We have also been accused of biting the hands that have fed us. Now the term biting the hand that feeds you is when you criticize a person who or entity from which you have personally benefited.
Now, this claim is true. We benefited for years working in SAP for much of the time as an independent consultant. However, for those that use the argument, the issue is that it is contradictory to the claim of having an ax to grind.
This does not address the arguments presented by Brightwork in our articles but instead is another ad hominem accusation that accuses us of being disloyal to SAP. Again, we admit, we are disloyal to SAP. We think there is far too much loyalty to SAP that only exists because it is profit maximizing to be loyal to SAP.
But biting the hand that feeds you, while an accusation about loyalty does not say anything about whether the information provided by the entity that is “biting the hand that fed it” is true.
Of course, if we did not have such intimate knowledge of SAP, our analysis would not be nearly as much of a concern to SAP and SAP-centric IT departments.
Without such intimate knowledge of SAP, we assume a different argument would be used — that is the argument that we do not know what we are talking about.
Is Brightwork Paid by Oracle?
Other criticisms have been that because Brightwork fact checks SAP, it, therefore, must be paid by Oracle. Remember, no evidence is presented; the claim is simply made.
Here is our critique of Oracle to an Oracle representative, pretending that they did not pay entities to replicate Oracle marketing information about the Oracle Autonomous Database.
“First, the documents show as I state in the analysis, telltale signs of being copy and pastes from Oracle marketing. So the bias is apparent through the writing and the conclusions.
Second, recall what I wrote. IDG accepts large amounts of money from Oracle for paid placements and advertising. IDG owns IDC. The IDC article may also have been a paid placement, or not. But either way, the parent IDG draws significant income from Oracle. That explains all the inaccurate articles I have critiqued from IDG over time on SAP (that you liked) as well as inaccurate articles by IDG/IDC on Oracle (which you don’t like). Both SAP and Oracle use the same technique of paying media entities to carry their message, without disclosing the funding. Now IDG is one of your sources for the Oracle Automated Database.
The problem is that vouching for IDG, and the ludicrous assertion that Oracle did not pay IDG/IDC for the coverage, will mean vouching for SAP’s marketing material being published by IDG outlets. It is curious how so much marketing literature gets mainlined directly into IDG publications’ articles. Isn’t it?
Very curious indeed.
Can you find any SAP or Oracle marketing literature published as fact in Brightwork Research & Analysis articles? I wonder why that is. Perhaps that is a good indicator that I am not paid by Oracle or SAP.
This assertion that IDG is not on the payroll of vendors puts Oracle in a tough spot in IDG’s HANA and S/4HANA coverage. Because if we listen to IDG, then we need to replace Oracle DBs with HANA. Oracle DB is legacy and can’t keep up with HANA’s innovation. IDG has a great business model. Publish articles on command from the largest software vendors. It makes for highly inaccurate output, but makes a lot of money.”
Our article/expose on The Oracle Autonomous Database, for which we awarded Oracle a Golden Pinocchio Award, can be viewed in the following article How Real is the Oracle Autonomous Database.
So whatever seems to demolish the argument of Oracle cutting checks to us.
What Information Sources Does SAP Consider Credible?
This goes to why most of our material is not picked up by the mainstream IT press. For example, one company reached out to us and asked why the article The Real Reason for Under Armour’s Problems with S/4HANA.
SAP funds nearly every media outlet in IT. They report some controversies in SAP, but they do so within very narrow boundaries so as not to offend SAP.
When this company asked why no IT outlet had picked up the Under Armour article, I think we have our answer. Major IT outlets want quotes from sources that limit their criticism within narrow boundaries so that when they publish the article, they do not incur the wrath of SAP, which is reportedly a powerful use of intimidation.
Finding Independent Sources on SAP?
We have analyzed this topic extensively and found there are almost no independent sources on SAP. Everyone seems to lead back to SAP, either through direct payment, partnership, etc..
This type of discussion is already well explained by a media critic called Noam Chomsky.
They will use ad hominems rather than addressing the actual points. The more they have to address the points, the worse it is for them. And who is credible according to SAP?
Deloitte, Accenture, ComputerWeekly, Diginomica, Forbes, Fortune — that is everyone they pay. The outlets they pay are credible, the outlets they don’t “lack credibility.”
Brightwork Research & Analysis writes lengthy and research-based articles about SAP. The accuracy of Brightwork’s articles is exceptionally high, as we can predict things in SAP years before they take place. Our interest is in discussing the research and the information we provide.
However, many SAP proponents are less interested in our specific arguments and more interested in making ad hominem statements that go to our motivation. These arguments range from grinding axes to the social pressure of not criticizing SAP because it will end up getting the Brightwork or being a “complainer.”
These arguments don’t have anything to do with whether our research is accurate.
If any person or company can demonstrate the financial bias that we routinely point out regarding other media entities, then please bring that claim. That would at least move towards an addressable claim of bias.
If any person or company can demonstrate that articles by Brightwork Research & Analysis are inaccurate, then bring that claim. If we can observe the inaccuracy, we will acknowledge the inaccuracy.