What it Means to be "Neutral"

<rant> File this one under Mild Venting: I am an active SharePoint community member, but many of the presentations I give on SharePoint and surrounding technology have judgejudyabsolutely nothing to do with the products I help create and sell. In fact, I help coordinate and host industry events, such as SharePoint Saturday events in the San Francisco East Bay, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Redmond) where my day time job is more or less in the background while planning for these all-day events. My arms are open wide for any sponsor, and I am always looking for new (qualified) speakers. The fact that you may compete with my company’s products plays no part in my decision on whether you can participate (but missing the Call for Speakers or Sponsors definitely plays a factor).

However, I am in no way neutral. I have bias. I have opinions. Ask me how to solve a particular problem during one of my SharePoint Saturday sessions, and I’ll give you a fairly innocuous answer – but I will invite you to come talk to me afterward to get the full answer, no holds barred.

You may not be affiliated with any specific ISVs, but in most cases – you are not neutral, either. So stop claiming to be. Many of us came from OEMs, ISVs and SIs within the industry. Most of us have friends working for one or more competitors. Most companies have partners, investors, and board members who come from within the space. And many of us used to work at Microsoft. 

In short, we all have opinions – and relationships with a wide variety of solution providers. Some of these relationships are what got us hired by our employers in the first place. So unless you’re a judge who has taken an oath to be impartial (and even then, you’re still shelving your natural biases), you are not neutral.

I guess my point here is that you should not be afraid of doing your job. Nothing wrong with being yourself, having opinions, or representing your products and services. In fact, most people aren’t looking for neutral players when they approach you with questions — they want your opinions. Your opinions and experience were, in all likelihood, formed through years of experience, hard work, and mistakes that others can learn from. Just don’t pretend that you, somehow, are the one unbiased voice out there. Do your best to explain your background, and the lens through which you see the world, so that others can appropriately apply your feedback in context to their business needs. Be up front and honest, call out your bias, and share your experience – and let them arrive at their own conclusions. </rant>

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.