Posted by: S R Balasubramanian
CIO career, learning, procurement, Secret tactics, vendor relations
Much of what I know about technology has been learnt from technology vendors. While it’s true that I have read about various technologies and also used them, at times the real understanding has come from vendor interactions.
Vendors know best about the technology that they deal with. Vendor representatives possess considerable literature, are trained internally by experts, and carry demo packs with them. They also have substantial amounts of experience when it comes to dealing with various customers, answering their queries, and also by being a part of their implementation — whether it’s a success or failure.
Many years ago, I realized about the fallacy of my approach while dealing with vendors. I would often call in the vendor and tell him what I wanted — say, hardware of a certain configuration, a software package’s latest version, a tool that I might have read about, and then ask him to submit his quotation. The poor sales representatives chasing numbers and targets would rush back with his proposal, hoping to cash in with an order. Little did I realize about the opportunity that I lost when it came to doing a proper evaluation and choosing the right solution!
I later changed my approach, and called in vendors to explain my requirement. After the detailing, I would ask them to suggest the most appropriate solution. Each vendor went head over heels, and used their ingenuity to suggest the best solution. This was revealing, as some of these were options that I could not have thought of myself. I used the suggestion of ‘A’ to confront vendor ‘B’, who came up with his own counter arguments. Vendor ‘C’ had his own story, and was critical of the other approaches. This interaction gave me an in-depth understanding of the subject. It was armed me with enough knowledge to make a decision based on facts.
I will talk specifically of a few incidents to explain my viewpoint. Faced with ever growing storage requirements, I asked our vendor to get me an additional extra storage box to bolster my storage. Those were the early days of enterprise storage. When the vendor suggested that I go in for a storage server instead, I blew my top. However, the vendor explained his stand. His suggestion was that given the projected growth, I would otherwise be continuously adding more boxes — a management nightmare. That made sense, and as I went about studying the details, I learnt a lot about storage technologies and the merits of using them.
Similar was my experience, when it came to introducing server virtualization. While evaluating servers, I would often ask for technical details. I was rewarded with considerable knowledge on IBM Power processors, HP’s Itanium, Sun Sparc processors, and other such platforms. The knowledge picked up on other technologies like UTM, digital asset management and unified communication also went a long way in developing a certain confidence.
I often ponder. I spent a lot of money over the years in getting myself educated and learning new tricks, but here I was picking up knowledge without having to pay any sum. Just turning a buying opportunity into one of learning — oh boy, what a reward.