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One thing I dont understand is vendors that hype products they could but dont use. Years ago AT&T (the original incarnation of the company) was out trying to sell my firm Windows 95 and saying it would save us $1,500 per desktop a year in support costs. One, they werent using it themselves at the time, and two, our total support budget was under $500 per desktop with NetWare and Windows 3.0. Needless to say we eventually moved to Windows 95, but it wasnt with AT&T.
More recently, and what actually triggered this column, HP acquired Knightsbridge, a specialized services company. The back-story is that this was because in their own deployment of Neoview they discovered they didnt have the right skill set to do the job properly. HP historically has not been aggressive even with their own software and that was a lot of the reason so many people purchased but couldnt deploy Open View.
It is only recently, and at Mark Hurds direction, that this changed. They are now discovering problems themselves and getting them fixed on critical products before you get them. This is the core benefit of companies who "eat their own cooking." They understand more deeply what needs to be done and rather than glossing over problems with promises and marketing, they tend to get them fixed.
Now, just because a company uses something doesnt mean you should, but at least it means they trust it themselves. And why would you ever buy anything from someone who didnt believe enough in the product they are pitching to use it themselves?
There are four simple rules to keep in mind when buying anything:
1) Dont choose the product first. Make sure you place your company needs as your first priority and establish a value before you negotiate price.
2) Assess the entire solution, not just the component. A great product without the right services or critical accessories is a hole you'll pour money in.
3) Do your homework, make sure the vendor believes enough in the product or offering to use it themselves and that there are other like companies who have had successful deployments and that the benefits promised are real.
4) Make sure you can defend your purchase. There is a reason Suns numbers are getting better, it has to do with the fact that people are now having to demonstrate why decisions were made and being held accountable for the result.
My overall recommendation is to approach any decision as a process where the goal is to make your company better and not to make a vendor richer. Youll be happier with the result and probably do better in your career as well.