Dealing with Idiot Vendors

When that software vendor comes calling, don’t seal the deal until you get everything you want – in writing.
Posted February 15, 2008
By

Eric Spiegel

Eric Spiegel


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“Have I got a great deal for you!”

As I considered the exclamation from the sales woman, who was hawking the latest whiz-bang software product, I was wondering how much of a deal this really was.

We had a parade of vendors that responded to our request for information about their products. After narrowing our choice to two, we received the elaborate dog and pony show with demos that included various fireworks and promises of spectacular product roadmaps that would solve all our problems.

Not one of the vendors had everything we required. So we flipped a coin. Okay, no we didn’t, but frankly maybe we should have. Both were very close in features (and promises). But one vendor put a “deal” on the table that we couldn’t refuse, considering how all the other selection criteria were close to even.

You know what they say – if it sounds too good to be true…

And in hindsight my gut feeling in dealing with this vendor wasn’t a very good feeling. Seemed to me they had more bluff than stuff. The problem was that the other vendor didn’t light a fire that would burn off remaining doubts. What sealed the deal was that one of the gentlemen on our executive team had worked with the CEO of the lower cost vendor and they were golfing buddies. Their relationship on the links tipped the scale in their favor. As I have learned, most close decisions are made based on relationships. Frankly, many not-so-close decisions are made on relationships.

Is this a bad thing? Let’s hold that thought and see how it played out for us.

One good feeling I had was about the brilliant engineer they brought in for the demo. This guy knew his stuff (no bluff) and he seemed to really understand the challenges we faced.

The fun started after we had signed on the dotted line. The vendor promised to get started right away. After a week with no response from the vendor’s implementation team, our technical team lead called the “great deal” sales person. She was all apologetic and said she would have someone get back to us that day. Two days later, an implementation manager called and said they were unexpectedly booked through the following month.

Even though we had a verbal commitment for a start date, we didn’t include that in the contract.

Shame on us.

Six weeks after signing the deal, the implementation finally began. The vendor sent an engineer to get started. Not only did they send an engineer that looked like he was still in high school, but the engineer that we all liked from the sales demo was nowhere to be seen. After promising to include him on the implementation, we fell for the typical bait and switch. And yes, it wasn’t in the contract.

Shame on us again.

The baby faced engineer spent the first two days just trying to get our environment set up. The vendor had not provided a pre-install checklist, so although we knew what supporting software versions were needed, we didn’t know about specific service packs and settings required for the operating system, application server, database and various security configurations.


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Tags: IT vendor, tech salesman, idiot vendor, handling tech vendors


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