Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Foolish Pride + Unused Vendor Support = Failure

Over the years, working both inside and outside of corporate IT environments, one thing I’ve seen way too much of is foolish pride.  It comes in all shapes, colors and sizes, but one in particular is most dangerous.

If you have a product in your environment which underpins a critical part of your company’s business, hopefully it also has paid support on it as well.  The thought of depending on something which impacts and directs the lives of employees (some or all, doesn’t really matter) without some sort of insurance is just flat-out stupid.  It happens, but mostly because someone above the IT food chain is too stupid or lazy to ask why their oxygen tube isn’t protected.  When the breathing stops, heads roll.  Preventive measures are still in fashion.

But it gets worse.  Oh yes.  This is when you have a product in place which the business depends on, along with paid vendor support (maybe even “maintenance” or “subscription”, whatever), but the staff in charge of insuring that it is working (a) properly, (b) reliably and (c) optimally, feel as if asking the vendor for guidance, even a sanity-check, is an admission of weakness or failure.  This is very common.  It’s also dangerously stupid.

If you are a business executive with any oversight or impact on your company’s IT operations, please ask your IT staff some of the following questions once in a while:

  1. How often do you contact the vendor?
  2. What kinds of questions do you ask them?
  3. How would you rate their response?
  4. Did you consult the vendor directly during your planning and deployment phase?
  5. Have you ever had to contact them during a crisis?
  6. Which employees are privy to these vendor interactions?
  7. Are all of the interactions documented and shared?
  8. What things have you ever changed as a result of vendor guidance?

If you have never thought to ask these questions, in my opinion, you should be replaced.  You are in the wrong job position.  If you have asked these questions but have either been given dodging answers, non-answers or poor answers, the IT staff should be replaced (or severely beaten in the front parking lot).  The business is your patient.  Don’t let the medical staff off with bullshit answers.

So many IT environments I’ve been in (visiting or otherwise) have staff that feels that they can figure out everything they need to know on their own.  Usually through Google, web forums / discussion groups, and some mix of vendor documentation.  But if you’re paying for vendor support, I will bet your next quarterly statement that you’re paying a significant price for that service.  If you’re not using it, you are telling the vendor:

  1. We are dumbass idiots who love handing you money to do nothing
  2. Since we have money to throw around, we are asking you to pester us to also buy upgrades and new products.
  3. We really don’t care if your product is performing well in our environment.
  4. We will never know if our implementation is operating at its best.
  5. We will never know if our implementation is safe and reliable (but we keep telling ourselves it is, don’t worry)

You’re putting your job at risk.  You’re putting the company at risk.  You’re putting the jobs of other employees at risk.  You’re being stupid.  Nature doesn’t forgive stupid, it kills and eats it.  Humans love stupid.  They worship and celebrate stupid.  They buy logo merchandize to proclaim they love stupid.  But being stupid is one of the worst crimes of business.  Do yourself, your career, your company and your coworkers a huge yet silent favor and pick up the phone and start talking with your vendors.  Who knows, you might actually learn a thing or two.  You can take credit for it.  Nobody at work needs to know you called.  And even if you admit to it, it’s not a sign of weakness.  It’s an indication of taking initiative.  Something Americans seem to have forgotten about.

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