In the dark and not-so-distant past there was a saying: “Nobody ever lost their job buying Big Blue.” The idea that buying IBM was a sure thing now sounds pretty strange to those of us who cut our sysadmin teeth during the heady days of the late ’90s and early 2000’s.
IBM had been cut down to size by a creation of their own making. Microsoft was the new juggernaut. In the mid-to-late 90s many small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) thought that the UNIX operating systems had outgrown their usefulness.
Then the Internet happened. A disruptive technology, it brought chaos to purchasing decisions. Not only was UNIX back on the table but its offspring Linux became a disruptive technology of its own right. Suddenly it was hard to buy any technology with confidence again.
Over the last few years everyone has seen the emergence of a new disruptive technology: virtualization. Virtualization is disruptive because it completely changes how businesses think about their IT infrastructure. As more SMEs embrace virtualization it has forced many vendors to scramble to meet the new needs of these environments. The market is moving so fast that even fast growing companies who may appear to be the new juggernauts in a particular vertical are not necessarily the right technology choice.
So in today’s age where one disruptive technology quickly follows after another and where there is no Big Blue that a small or midsized enterprise (SME) can necessarily turn to and expect to keep their job, here are 10 tips to making the best technology buying decision for your organization
- Be honest about your needs. The biggest mistake SMEs can make is not being honest with themselves about the features they need to accomplish their goals. Make sure you are as honest about the features you actually need to do your job as you are about the ones you do not need.
- Research what features are available to help with those needs. Once you have identified your needs you should identify if the technologies and features exist to solve or at least aid with those needs. DCIG Buyer’s Guides are an invaluable tool during this phase. DCIG does extensive research to identify every feature it thinks relevant for a market segment before it compiles its Buyer’s Guides. Try not to research products, just features at this stage.
- Prioritize the features you are interested in. Once you identify the features in which you are interested, prioritize them. Again be honest with yourself in compiling these rankings.
- Identify as many products as possible that include the features you are interested in. This common sense step is often skipped in the rush to produce a result. Not knowing what alternatives are available is a sure way to end up buying the “Big Blue” of a particular technology vertical. Once again DCIG can help. Our analysts scour the market to identify as many products as possible that meet the definition included in each Buyer’s Guide. To stick with our earlier example, if you are looking for virtual server backup software, we would suggest the recently published DCIG 2013 Head-to-Head Virtual Server Backup Software Product Report to jump start that process. It specifically evaluates virtual server backup software intended for use by SMEs.
- Narrow your list down to three to five vendors/products. Once you have identified all the alternatives narrow your list of vendors and/or products down. For most situations three to five vendors keeps the number manageable while providing enough diversity to demonstrate that you identified more than one solution.
- Supplement your research with head-to-head quantitative data from up-to-date sources. DCIG produces fresh static Buyer’s Guides on a frequent schedule to ensure you always have the latest information. To get the most up to date information you can use our Interactive Buyer’s Guide. The IBG also includes tools for building your own reports to aid in the decision making process. DCIG often produces reports to supplement our Buyer’s Guides such as the aforementioned head-to-head product report that evaluates virtual server backup server intended for use by SMEs.
- Interview vendors. Armed with your research, always interview the vendors on your short list. A good vendor will always ensure that you are getting the right product for your needs without pressuring you to move up to an unneeded model. Use your research to validate what the vendor is telling you.
- Beware of feature overkill. Be careful not to pay for features you do not need. A good example in the virtual server backup software segment is that most SMEs no longer need support for a wide range of tape drives and often only need to protect Microsoft Windows applications such as Exchange and SQL Server.
- Match the management capabilities to your staff. Another often overlooked area is management of the product you purchase. Make sure that your staff will be able to use the product effectively. If you do not have a tech-heavy IT staff (and many SMEs do not,) look for products that ease management.
- Beware of paying for a name. Through your research you should have a facts based, quantitative feature comparison and interviewed your top vendors. When making your final decisions beware of the “Big Blue” syndrome. If you have identified a product that meets your needs better than the big name vendor’s product, do not be quick to dismiss them. In disruptive times the big name may not be responding to the market and you do not want to get stuck with the last juggernaut.
Buying with confidence in a disruptive environment can be difficult. Using these 10 factors to guide your buying decision will help both effectively research the purchase and help persuade those who will approve the final decision and sign the check.