Random Thoughts

Tips for Dealing with Tech Vendors

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Why is this Important?

As an IT professional, we are notoriously perceived as lacking in social skills. While it may not be the same for everyone, I for one, find technology much more comforting than say, standing in a crowd of people. For this reason, it is common for those in sales to view us as an easy target. However, while those trying to sell you these contracts and products are using their confidence in communication (and aggressive tactics) to seal the deal, it is essential to realize what weaponry we have: a brain seemingly hardwired into technology itself.

Tactics of a Vendor’s Salesmen/Women

To clarify, many company/vendor representatives I have talked to have taken multiple (but practically the same) approaches to gaining my business, such as:

  • Trying to control the conversation (Mr. Alpha Male)
  • Believing that they know more about what you desire than you do
  • Thinking they are talking to a non-tech savvy owner of the company or someone similar (although for them, this is most often the case)
  • Sending countless emails, phone calls, and annoying follow-ups to their follow-ups (I like to call this the ‘Hail Mary Approach’)
  • Falsely believing you have no other option than to go with their company (this is my favorite as a simple phone call or email to one of their competitors in the goal of having the 2 companies contact/bid against each other, can result in wonderful price drops, freebies, and above all, entertainment for you.

When it comes to conversing with, haggling prices, and selecting vendors for your business, there are several tips and tricks that you can use to not only make the process less stressful, but decrease what you pay them, increase the services that you get from them, and create a long-lasting and profitable relationship. Some of the various tech vendors you might have to deal with are an ISP (Internet Service Provider), MSP (Managed Services Provider), Cloud Computing/Storage, Security (Network and Physical), Power, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), and various types of Software (Operating Systems, Email, Customer Service Programs.)

Vendor Haggling

Like all employees who sell products as a profession, the reps you will deal with when choosing who will provide you with either products or services can be pushy. Many of those in sales deal with minuscule salaries (if any at all), and rely on commission from their completed customer’s purchases; due to this, you must be both patient and resilient in your pursuit for the optimal vendor (prices, availability, services provided, customer service capabilities, contracts, and their company’s growth). Take your time researching all of your other options before the first initial contact with a vendor. Also, as mentioned before, getting bids from multiple companies and informing the vendor you were first talking to of their offers create competition to give you the best deal; using their tactics against them always brings music to my ears.

Vendor Selection

Vendor selection should be a significant decision. While most of us tend to favor a specific vendor, it is crucial to pick one based on performance, and not just by the name itself. Understanding the different products, services, and procedures that a vendor uses to fulfill your company’s needs is a great start. Many of the services that vendors provide such internet usage can be financially confusing to many. Monthly subscription and IT costs can blindside an organization if there isn’t someone who is monitoring how much data the company uses, requires, and how the entire network is managed. Vendors often use this to their advantage and push an expensive package that you will never even need, or suggest a less expensive package (with data caps) that you will quickly exceed, resulting in massive overcharges.

Vendor Lock-In

Vendor lock-in is something that I have encountered often in the past. Many cable and cell phone companies operate as a monopoly, pushing out any potential competitors so that they will reign supreme; this causes users to be subjected to only having a few options when it comes to their available providers. Cloud computing certainly is starting to eliminate this by allowing many vendors to operate in its network. It is hard to build a computer, network, or any IT-related project that doesn’t involve Microsoft or Apple presently. It is also hard to deal with routers or switches without Cisco; this is often repeated in many areas of business.

Cloud Computing

Now I will offer you an example of how to manage vendor lock-in, regarding cloud computing vendors. To help prevent vendor lock-in, there are several tools one can implement to aid in this effort. Ensratus, a management console, configures your workload in a neutral, open source manner. This tool allows the transfer of data to many different vendors such as Amazon, HP, and Rackspace. DMTF’s Open Virtualization Format 2.0 (OVF) is another tool that allows translation between multiple virtual machine formats. One can also prevent vendor lock-in by merely reading the fine print of a provider’s policies and inquire how they move data out of their cloud storage. Choosing providers that support future emerging standards like the Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI) is also helpful. The CDMI enables a standard interface that various applications use to make, delete, and retrieve data in a cloud.

Another service that helps businesses avoid Cloud Storage vendor lock-in is the new cloud storage service from Nimble Storage, Nimble Cloud Volumes; this is an enterprise-grade multi-cloud storage device, configured for running applications in Azure and Amazon. The service offers 99.9999% availability and durability that is one million times greater than native storage. Vendor lock-in can significantly negatively impact business with a lack of flexibility and scalability. Also, this can cause higher costs when trying to purchase applications or hardware that are vendor-specific. By following the tips and using the tools mentioned in the articles I have referenced, a business can stay away from the dreaded vendor lock-in and instead, use vendors and products that are beneficial for them.

Getting to the Bottom Line

In many of your conversations with vendors, you will definitely hear all of the ‘amazing’ methods of how their product or service will ‘revolutionize’ your company and increase profits. These (often vague) promises are there to cover up the real questions you need to ask, such as:

  • Actual Result on Investment: What is guaranteed? What isn’t?
  • Risks: Potential problems that can occur, increases in prices, contract lengths
  • TCO (Total Cost of Ownership): maintenance, materials, licensing, consulting, training
  • Price ‘Wiggle Room’: The first price they give you is not typically the lowest they can go. Find out what they can do to make it more attractive (that is what salesmen and women do).
  • Communicate Extensively: Discuss everything about your company, what your future growth is expected to be, how many computers you use, etc.; they should be able to communicate with you about their product just as much as you do.

Summary

I sincerely hope reading this gives you the confidence and knowledge required to make the best decision and get the lowest price when dealing with tech vendors. With this information, some practice discussions before a phone call, and by creating a long list of questions you wish to ask, you will be transformed from an easy target (in their eyes) to a force to be reckoned with.

Sources

Babcock, Charles. (2013). Network Computing. 10 Tools to Prevent Cloud Vendor Lock-in. Retrieved from http://www.networkcomputing.com/cloud/10-tools-prevent-cloud-vendor-lock/1477575934.

Taneja, Arun. (2012). Search Cloud Storage- Tech Target. Dealing with cloud storage service providers: Avoiding vendor lock-in. Retrieved from http://searchcloudstorage.techtarget.com/tip/Dealing-with-cloud-storage-service-providers-Avoiding-vendor-lock-in.

Forrest, Conner. (2017). Tech Republic. Nimble Storage wants to kill cloud vendor lock-in, helps users easily jump between Azure, AWS. Retrieved from http://www.techrepublic.com/article/nimble-storage-wants-to-kill-cloud-vendor-lock-in-helps-users-easily-jump-between-azure-aws/.

Valtira. (2018). Enstratus: Cloud Computing Infrastructure Management. Retrieved from https://www.valtira.com/enstratus.html.

DMTF. (2018). Open Virtualization Format (OVF). Retrieved from https://www.dmtf.org/standards/ovf.

SNIA. (2018). Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI). Retrieved from https://www.snia.org/cdmi.

HPE. (2018). HPE Nimble Storage. Retrieved from https://www.hpe.com/us/en/storage/nimble.html?pp=false&jumpid=ps_csqvu4pi6h_aid-510455007&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIj_n6yOGu3wIVBNvACh0VKwN-EAAYASAAEgKtPfD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds.

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