27 Jan 2015

Buying a car without Test Drive?

Fancy a car? Price range starting from $1000 – $10.000. Selected models $100.000+. No matter the price, the sales process / buying process always includes a test drive. But when buying IT, which is more expensive and surely more critical, that test drive is not a default. This is one (of the many) dilemma(s) I face almost daily when consulting and training Vendors, Channels and Clients to take a more business minded yet practical approach to selling and buying IT solutions.

All IT vendors claim that (only) their solutions will deliver many benefits including; business growth, improve cost and efficiency, deliver security & control, to name a few.  Furthermore, (only) their technology is the most advanced, and there is (always) something missing with the competitor and their solutions. Should we finally agree how these “selling” points could be tested and proven objectively?

Buying a Car Without Test Driving

For most of us, when buying a car, one thing for sure is the test drive. The other bits of serious research might include some reading up on the technology specifications and maybe a quick scan over the reviews by the experts. But still, taking the car for a “spin” around the block is proof of performance.  The test drive helps us decide whether to buy and it’s fun. (Just remember this is a not a “crash” test!).  There is nothing special here – try it before you buy it. So why doesn’t this logic apply to buying IT?

Buying IT is big business and big money and it is competitive. I have been a part of this industry for a long, long time (..ancient long, I am an ex-DEC…) and I am serious when I say that IT investment (in the right way for the right reasons) is essential and critical to running a successful business. Making an “informed” choice does matter. However, the client is often influenced (strongly) to make decisions based only on presentations, vague sales chat; FAB” and ”FUD”. Where is the proof?

When buying IT, not even the horse powers are compatible. One vendor only allows reference to the performance they measure internally. Another blames the standard gasoline for their expensive miles per gallon. A third one claims that no other uses all four wheels equally. One more highlights as a “fact” their next generation solution is a revolution, whereas their competitor engine still is based on hay eating horses.

Storage Array

(Disclaimer: If anyone of you readers reflects the above analogies to Famous Storage Vendors… I am so sorry … But ask them how their marketing works…).

All those vendor presentations look great, but when it comes to the actual purchase decision of “which one to buy”, in my opinion and experience the due diligence disappears. Buying a car, the test drive is a default so why not do the same when it comes to buying IT? The consequences of a bad IT choice and regret for not checking out the other “recommendation” can have long lasting consequences for an organisation. Unlike a car, a mistake cannot easily be “traded in” for another model. And in the worst case (actually in a typical case), not even the spare parts are compatible. What if the steering wheel would work only if the car is driven on a proprietary built and privately controlled road with randomly changing speed limits?

Being given the car manual to read does not compare to a “hands on experience“ of finding out what the car can do.  I like visiting a showroom where you can walk in, receive the keys, and go for a spin to see if I like it, and if the first test drive does not convince, I can visit again to try it out and be sure. And you sure want to benchmark to other cars around in the showroom, using same numbers and objectively comparable quantification methods. Sounds simple and that’s my point.

I challenge myself, and us all, to rethink alternative ways the IT market might work for vendors, buyers, re-sellers and IT professionals.  IT Vendors,  if your “Car” cannot be test driven, nor your claims trusted, maybe it is time to rethink? Meanwhile, have a look at PROOFMARK – this is where some cars are already on show and being taken for a test drive.

About Antti Hemminki

Antti Hemminki is an international business coach and IT & sales trainer who has over 20 years of IT market experience. A long term entrepreneur, with a strong technology and consultancy background. Sports enthusiast.

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