Monday, November 02, 2009

With friends like these... (Business Partners and support)

Some time ago, Graham Dodge posted a great discussion point on business partners and brand loyalty. (See: When is an IBM Business Partner not a real partner). Today, I got to experience this first hand.

Today, we had a discussion about Active Directory. It's something we need to install, mainly to tick the business continuity box, and not something I'm particularly keen on. It's a messy rip and replace job with very little business gain. As is often the case for Microsoft products, there's no upgrade path. That's right, we're going from Old Microsoft product to New Microsoft product and the only way to do it is to throw our baby out with the bathwater and start again. I'm not happy, but it's no worse than I expected.

Messy Introductions
Our contact arrived during a painful ISP outage (more on those amazing adventures in a different post - soon). We explained about the outage and he started telling us about how he'd been head hunted by them and was considering his options.

Observation No 1: If you are a business person trying to sell a service. It's probably not wise to let potential clients know that you're thinking about leaving the company.

Product Knowledge
Discussions moved on to our systems and I mentioned that I wasn't particularly keen on Active Directory and that overall, it wasn't critically important to us except to tick some boxes. "We're primarily a domino shop", I said, expecting him to understand. I went on to suggest that although we currently have file shares, we'd probably want to replace them with something like Quickr eventually.

Our BP then launched into a giant spiel about how it was dangerous to deviate from the Microsoft Windows platform and how "maybe you know these systems really well but when the time comes to replace you, there'll only be people with Microsoft certifications about".

I stopped him and explained that our Domino servers were running on Windows but that it was great to have a choice and not be tied to a single platform. The BP went a little loony and started talking about this dangerous Quickr thing "whatever it was", and how cloud computing would fall apart as soon as your ISP did something stupid.

I had to stop him again and ask... "Are you guys really IBM business partners?". He briefly answered "Yes" and then went back to flogging the MS view of the world.

Observation 2: If you're going to use the word Business Partner to describe yourself, then you must at least have a passing familiarity with your BP's products.

Observation 3: Nobody likes being told that their roadmap is "incorrect" - particularly not by people who aren't privy to it. That sort of behaviour doesn't sell services.

I have a bunch more observations but they essentially say the same things. As a customer, I demand product loyalty from my service providers. Sure, it's ok to not be happy about moves that a parent company makes (I whine about IBM too - as I'm sure people have noticed).

There's a big difference however between whining and betrayal.


Graham Dodge said...


I've seen your Police Box friends in other client accounts and they certainly make it clear that their Kool Aid is brewed in Seattle.

Gavin Bollard said...

I'm not naming names but are you sure you don't have the building staked out?

Mike said...

Re: "maybe you know these systems really well but when the time comes to replace you, there'll only be people with Microsoft certifications about".

Unbelievable FUD. I guess you should take it as a backhanded compliment though: anybody that's half-way competent can't easily be replaced by an army of MCSE reboot monkeys (to borrow Ed Brill's term).

Gavin Bollard said...

MCSE Reboot Monkeys - I must have missed that term. It's made my day.