May 252011

Not all top executives are great. Some are lost and clueless, but when they get their fancy position based on political friends, the system under them may still be very capable of self-healing and running on auto-pilot, so their bad decisions don’t immediately show bad results (what makes their successors suffer much more). They keep preaching about the importance of technology while accepting the game and blindly trusting some corporate giants whose real purpose is to sell their solutions and make money. These executives first drink the manufacturers Kool-Aid and then they rather turn the institution or company inside-out to match the solution instead of insisting that the proper solution matches the organization’s exact needs. On these vendors’ path to cash cows and the executive’s path to a “successful project” (pouring in whatever money and resources it needs in the process so they don’t look bad), critical thinkers who mean well then appear as obstacles, so they either leave or get ditched in the process. I don’t want to call any names here, but those of you who know me will know exactly who I’m talking about. Avoid acting like this.

When you’re a key IT or executive player, you shouldn’t trust everything vendors say, especially if you haven’t established a rock-solid trust and worked with them for ages. They will use a great deal of half-truths to persuade you to buy their solution. The bigger they are, the less you should trust them. Everything can work great on paper and in theory. Real life situations are so much different from vanilla lab deployments, so be skeptical and relay on your subject matter experts.

Throughout the years of my navigation through technology budgeting, research and purchase of technology products and services I’ve learned that the best way to acceptance of big systems and solutions is requesting a free in-house pilot run and evaluating how successful the solution can be in our environment, also considering that since usually best system engineers work with sales people, the level of support will most likely deteriorate once we make the purchase. That was my best way to get the manufacturers to do things right and to run when there’s a problem instead of dragging their feet. This way you also get a feeling for their support services quality, at least of their ‘A’ team. Without tests like this some vendors can sell you a solution and forget about you until a year, two or more later when it’s time to (not) renew, like it happened to me years ago. If you resist their attempts to sell you a fancy and super expensive solution, some of them may even try to show that you’re failing your company without their product. Fortunately and hopefully, like most of my past bosses, your good managers will trust you more than them, so you should always keep good communication with your management (if possible, if not, it’s time to look for a new job) and be able to tell these sales sharks you don’t want them around if they overstep their boundaries.

Once I had a big sales team come in very aggressively after few years of subpar support when we decided to ditch otherwise pretty good product and worked out our own in-house solutions. They dug around, pushed all the buttons and tried all the tactics while we kept repeating it was too late and that they should have been around during the years when we weren’t getting proper support. They even managed to fool an executive assistant and socially engineer themselves into a big meeting and waste extra time of my CIO and fellow Deputy CIOs, trying to impose their solution on us. I don’t know what they were thinking, perhaps they thought I wasn’t talking to my management, or maybe these were just desperate measures for desperate times. Their efforts were meeting more resistance with each try and they lost my CIO, me and my staff members (as we constantly kept each other up to date) as customers not for a year or so, as it would have been had they not played dirty tricks, but for life, wherever we go. Arrogant, deceitful or overly aggressive sales reps always end up on one of my lists, and I don’t want to mention its name here.

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