Data Center Apparatus

Sep 28 2011   1:07PM GMT

Avoiding disaster with IT vendors

Stephen Bigelow Stephen Bigelow Profile: Stephen Bigelow

The biggest impediment to successful IT operations is often IT product vendors. Modern IT hardware and software vendors seem to go out of their way to confuse buyers with outlandish claims and lock them in with draconian licensing, rather than assist them with tangible guidance and support realistic business needs in a heterogeneous setting.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve watched vendors–often large, world-class vendors–tout their wares as a universal solution to every business problem. “Just sign here,” they say with a smile. “Our new widget will make all your problems go away. We promise.” And IT, often overworked, understaffed, and fending off pressure from the C level, foregoes some portion of due diligence, assuaged by vendor claims of interoperability and support.

And after that sparkling new product is deployed, you find that it doesn’t work the way that the vendor claims, at least, not in your environment and not without additional capital-intensive upgrades. Assuming that you manage to discuss the matter with vendor support, the onus usually winds up on you to identify the root cause. Wasted time, wasted money, frustration…sound familiar?

The reality is that the business role of IT is more important than ever, but most IT departments no longer have the staff or funding to wrestle with vendors. IT departments also cannot deal with vendors’ deployment catastrophes after the fact. IT and C-level executives simply cannot afford to risk the server farm on a vendor’s promises.

There are two crucial messages here.

First, (pay attention all you C-levels out there) IT is not about “firefighting.” The true value of IT is in its ability to identify, integrate and manage technologies that allow your business to function and generate revenue. So for the love of God, step off and let IT do its job. IT is always busy, and it may take time to evaluate the best solutions for your business problems, but IT can find the best solutions for you if you support them in that goal. Bring IT into those executive planning meetings and solicit IT feedback and input on new company initiatives. Edicts from the top almost never translate well into a data center. C-level executives that play golf with a vendor and push their new widget on IT the next day are undermining IT efforts–and jeopardizing the entire business.

Second, IT administrators will also need to show more backbone. Folding under pressure to purchase products is a guarantee of sleepless nights and long weekends, usually spent listening to Musak versions of “Muskrat Love” and waiting on hold for vendor support. Push back on vendors and talk business objectively with your own executives. Get those new products on extended loan and tackle the due diligence testing in lab and limited production environments. Compare similar products, see what works and what doesn’t, and put those vendors on the spot. Make the time up front–you won’t regret it.

Avoid the path of least resistance. It’s the only way that IT and the business will be successful.

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