Who Do You Trust?

Let me start off by reminding you that I work for a corporation that is considered an end-user of technology services. I am not a consultant and I don’t work for a vendor.

I do a lot of vendor research these days. Maybe too much. I have a strong desire to know what each major vendor’s solutions are and try to compare them to each other. I can go and talk to each vendor if I want. I know they will tell me all of the reasons I shouldn’t buy their competitor’s gear. They’ll tell me why I should buy their gear. Sometimes their points are valid. Other times they’re just making stuff up. Opinion. FUD(Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). It happens quite frequently. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t sell as much product as they do.

“You can’t go with that vendor because they are new.”

“You can’t choose that product because it is proprietary.”

“You won’t get the attention you deserve from that vendor because they are too large.”

“You’ll pay too much if you buy their product.”

“Our product has much better performance than our competition’s.”

“They have a history of poor product support.”

“They’re using old technology.”

“They can’t support XYZ.”

Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.

I would imagine if I was given a preview of sales information behind the scenes of every major networking vendor, I would find that they keep detailed documents on their competitor’s products and how to win deals against them. I know this stuff exists for certain vendors out there. I assume it exists for all of them. The small amount of this type of documentation that I have seen was very insightful. I’m not talking about a slide deck from marketing with their special math designed to make capacity and throughput seem a lot bigger than it really is. I’m talking about the stuff where they tell you how to answer certain questions that may come up in the sales process. They give you the talking points to use when countering statements made by other vendors in regards to your particular solution offering.

Every single time I talk to a consultant or a vendor, I have to remember one thing. No matter how friendly we are with each other, they still are in business to make money. Everything I am told by anyone outside of my organization, I have to take with a grain of salt. You could probably make the argument for people within your organization as well. I have to consider their angle. It doesn’t invalidate their particular argument for or against something. It just might be that they are only espousing the positives of their offering and the negative of their opponents. Of course, the really good vendor reps and consultants can steer you where they want you to go and make you think you came to that conclusion on your own. My overall concern must be for the good of my employer.

Everyone has an angle. Everyone has bias one way or another. Even within your peer groups. Not everyone has experience with a bunch of vendors. Vendors don’t always make it a habit to provide the small details around how their solutions work, and when they do, they gloss over the negatives or don’t mention them at all.

So I ask three questions:

  1. Who do you trust?
  2. Do you take all vendor/consultant suggestions with a grain of salt?
  3. What can vendors do to help us make better decisions?

Humor me. I’m getting older feeling more philosophical these days.

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3 Responses to Who Do You Trust?

  1. Devin Akin says:

    Amen. Not a word of your post was untrue. Certainly most of this is expected in a capitalist society though. If you brought toe-nail clippers to a knife fight, you won’t be around long enough to matter. HOWEVER….

    Who do you trust?

    Devinator > You should trust your friends. Friendships are stronger than kool-aid any day. You should also listen to people with experience…people who have tread where you’re about to go.

    Do you take all vendor/consultant suggestions with a grain of salt?

    Devinator > A word of advice: you should. What’s more, you should read every word of every vendor document with the nagging questions at the forefront of your mind: “what are they NOT saying!?” and “how carefully is this worded to gloss over things or to lead me to a conclusion that they’re not actually saying!?” I would say that is the thing that ticks me off the most about vendors in general… the marketing deviousness. You know, there IS such a thing as a lie of omission…and it’s still a lie.

    What can vendors do to help us make better decisions?

    Devinator > Open the Kimono…be transparent with customers and partners. Teach/educate. Let you try before you buy. Allow groups of…say…11 to come to your facility and get out their Ginsu knives in preparation of filet-de-vendor (if necessary). Open honesty is the best policy. If the vendor’s solution is right for the customer, then it is. If it’s not, then it’s not. No sense shoe-horning the wrong thing just to make a sale.

    Do vendors goof? Sure. Will they hose themselves sometimes with a policy of open honesty? Sure…they’re human. Will they do better in the end to build lasting relationships with the industry-at-large through transparency and honesty – yes.

    I’m just sayin’.

    Great blog bro.


  2. Ethan Banks says:

    1. Who do you trust?
    No one, not anymore. We all have agendas or biases, vendors most of all, but sometimes I think we engineers aren’t far behind.

    Now, if you’d as “what” do I trust, I’d say I start with the numbers. How does the box perform (raw)? How does the box perform in my application (usually pretty different from the raw numbers)? How much power does it require? How much port density? How much does it cost today? How much will it cost recurring? How many RUs will it take? Etc. If you know what the numbers truly represent, they generally don’t lie.

    2. Do you take all vendor/consultant suggestions with a grain of salt?
    Oh my, yes. In those cases, I assume there are facts buried somewhere in the slides and the rhetoric, but I’ll have to draw them out with pointed, blunt questions, or determine reality for myself through a demo or eval.

    3. What can vendors do to help us make better decisions?
    Tech Field Day is the closest thing I’ve had to relevant vendor contact in my IT career. Take the format regional.

  3. Somename says:

    I like to buy from vendors who I know, through experience, will make my job easier. If a vendor will help me do my job, I’ll help them make their sales quota. It’s a win/win.

    What can they do to help us – loan us equipment for independent head-to-head “bake off” testing.

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