The Barbie Syndrome

In my 10+ years as a CIO it is painful to see how many IT purchases turn into shelfware. It is difficult to keep management focused on realizing the benefit of investments made.

I believe this is human behavior. I have tried to create an analogy so our business leaders can see this behavior in ourselves. In my attempt to change our culture I have begun to preach about the “Barbie Syndrome.”

Barbie SyndromeAs a father of two girls I have observed that when they are in a toy store they seem to forget the closet full of Barbies® and accessories back home. The Barbie on the store shelf is always more desirable than the one in their closet. Like those girls, we seem to think that the systems we don’t own are much more appealing than those we already own.

Unlike those Barbies, new systems are not ready to use out of the box. These systems require a great deal of coordination during implementation to ensure they begin useful life without negatively impacting operations. Just as importantly they require a great deal of effort after implementation to ensure that they provide the benefits that were envisioned when they were purchased.

I am not looking down on my co-workers. I am guilty of this as well (and there isn’t anyone there to remind me that I am under the influence of the Barbie Syndrome). I have purchased a couple of systems over the last few years because I thought they would be the quick answer to a problem. Of course it was just software and I still had to do all of the hard work I was trying to avoid.

Too often we are lured to purchase new systems, somehow forgetting the closet of systems that we already own that are awaiting our attention.

I realize I am not using the word “syndrome” properly. But the phrase reminds me of the Pepsi Syndrome skit from Saturday Night Live, so I am sticking with it.

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