Competition is generally a good thing for our industry, when done right. Maybe I'm naive, but I think that IT professionals deserve ready access to critical information that could impact their decision.
As every IT pro knows, a lot is at stake when you sign that PO for that new thing :)
It's funny -- not many folks want to go toe-to-toe against another company in a public forum. For some reason, that isn't a problem for me. I consider it a healthy industry behavior.
Since this isn't my first competitive rodeo in the industry, I thought I'd share how I go about being a strong industry competitor when the situation arises. Usually, the trigger is a competitor who is seriously and consistently misrepresenting reality, as I believe the case is here. And getting to the truth can be hard for many IT pros -- so I do want to help.
Who knows? For those of you who work at IT vendors, you too might be called to do what I do!
#1 -- It's About The Customer
- suitability for the task at hand -- the first question on everyone's mind
- performance and cost -- always popular!
- manageability, support, availability, stability -- important considerations
- sharp edges, interactions with other commonly used products
- and so on ...
If your competitive claim doesn't directly apply in clear ways to things that actual users would tend to care about, it really isn't that interesting. So move on.
#2 -- Believe In The Mission
I would never fight for a product that I didn't believe in.
You are always welcome to question my judgment, but I have to be personally assured that the product and the company I represent offers a better alternative (in most situations) than my competitor does.
This really isn't up for question. If I don't believe, I can't go to battle.
Currently, I am hip-deep in the VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) product. I work with the engineers, the support folks, the sales team, etc. etc. Nothing -- and I mean nothing -- is hidden from me.
And, as a result, I truly believe in the product. That's important to me.
#3 -- Get Real Data
Getting good comparison data on things like performance, cost, feature sets, etc. takes time and money. It ain't easy. I don't simply recycle other people's opinions -- I want to see data that I can trust before taking on a public position against a competitor.
Unfortunately, some companies have blanket restrictions in their EULAs against publishing any form of performance or feature comparison, which is unfortunate. Some go to great lengths to hide things like pricing, or specific feature sets. Sigh.
When it comes to performance testing, VMware is far more progressive than most in that all they ask is a chance to review the test methodology ahead of publication.
The harsh reality is that many people try to do head-to-head product testing. Not many are all that good at it. So we have a vested interest in making sure that published tests use reasonable methodologies, even if we don't look the best all the time.
Even if I'm restricted from publishing the reams of comparison data I've got, having it all at my fingertips makes me very confident in making my assertions.
#4 -- Be Professional At All Times
For example, I don't attack people personally -- and I think it's very unprofessional when I am the personal target of someone's rant.
This is about customers, products and technologies. Feel free to attack the argument, but try to avoid attacking the person making that argument.
#5 -- Be Prepared To Engage
I wrote an unfavorable piece on Nutanix here on this blog a while back, and I think I heard from each and every Nutanix employee over the next week. I posted all but the most unprofessional comments -- many of them quite unfavorable -- and patiently responded to each and every one of them.
I couldn't publish all of them, as -- well -- some of them weren't really suitable for public consumption. There are some very foul mouths out there. My house, my rules.
But it did make for very colorful reading :)
If you're going to publicly point out flaws in a given product or technology, be prepared for a response.
Don't simply delete comments that you don't personally agree with -- and I'm looking at you @LukasLundell !!
#6 -- Make Your Points Clear
If you're going to compete aggressively, make sure your points are focused and clear.
With regards to my current tete-a-tete with Nutanix, I've boiled down my arguments to three simple statements:
- Nutanix offers substandard performance running data center workloads when compared to both external storage arrays and especially an equivalently configured VSAN cluster.
- Nutanix uses considerably more server resources than VSAN, which results in both poorer consolidation ratios and poorer TCO.
- Nutanix appears to charge at least twice as much (after discounting) for equivalently configured vSphere / VSAN configurations, while delivering both poorer performance and poorer consolidation ratios.
I could make a very long list if I choose, but that's not going to be effective -- you need to hone your arguments.
You may agree or not with those particular statements above, but at least my position is very simple and very clear. Provable, too. And, I would argue, many customers would care about those things. Some might not, though -- it's a big, diverse world out there.
I've been working in IT for close to 30 years. I don't take myself seriously, and neither should you.
Lighten up, have some fun, and don't make everything a personal grudge match.
#8 -- And, Don't Forget, It's All About The Customer
Did I mention that already? I guess I did. Goes to show how important I think it is.
Unless you can show competitive differentiation that will matter in the eyes of most customers, do everyone a favor and move on to something else.