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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Are You Glad You Bought It?

Remember how you felt during your first meeting with the vendor of that shiny new thing? Do you remember all the possibilities? You could not capture the seemingly endless use cases fast enough. Surely this was the product you had long been looking for. All you had to do was write a business case to secure the needed funding. You knew deep inside that your enemies were already starting to tremble in fear at the thought of the new shiny new thing running in your environment. Move along folks you said, nothing to see here.

All that mockery aside, how well did your shiny new thing actually do everything the sales person claimed it would before you made the purchase? Can you honestly say you feel the same way after using it for a year? If not, what changed? 

Take a moment to look back on these questions as you approach a new vendor relationship.

  • Are you glad you bought the shiny new thing? Really?
  • Should the vendor get all of the blame for a failed experience? 
  • What role did your lack of understanding or lack of attention play?
  • What new requirements would you add based on your previous experiences?
  • What do you wish you knew back then? 
  • Would you recommend the shiny new thing to your closest friends? 
  • Would you make the same decision today?

Like most all of us, I had a similar experience. One in particular was a rush to purchase products for compliance purposes and do so in very short order. Looking back, I should have slowed down a lot and not just looked for a quick win. I recommend staying focused on the "why" behind the purchase and doing and over communicate this to all possible stakeholders ahead of making the purchase. The last thing you want is to have one of your stakeholders asking basic questions during pivotal moments such as the change control board meeting where you are seeking approval to put your shiny thing into production.

Get to know the technical product manager ahead of the purchase. Make sure you can get along with them and more importantly that they know why you are a customer. I have found they are in a better position to know the roadmap better than the people in sales. Also call support and ask questions to which you already know answers. How do they treat you? That will be very important in the future.

It is far too easy to blame the vendor for a failed implementation. It is not as comfortable to ask what could YOU have done better during the evaluation of the shiny new thing. Take a moment now to reflect back on what worked and what did not work and more importantly why it did not. This will help make sure the next time is the best time and it exceeds your expectations. 

If you could go back in time, what additional questions would you ask and new conditions would you place based on what you have learned from past vendor experiences?

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