Things I Hate, Episode 1

Read­ing Time: 3 min­utes

Things I Hate, Episode 1

Brought to you by the Imped­i­ment-to-Sales Sales depart­ment

It was not long ago that I was sit­ting across a con­fer­ence room table from our [insert large soft­ware ven­dor of choice here] expect­ing to have a con­ver­sa­tion about the fea­tures and ben­e­fits of upgrad­ing one of our major soft­ware pack­ages to the newest ver­sion.  This was our inter­nal mail sys­tem, and as we had quite a few inter­con­nect­ed sys­tems and sites, along with what we already knew of the major archi­tec­tur­al changes in the new ver­sion, we knew the upgrade would­n’t be easy.  So, we acqui­esced to our sales­per­son­’s requests and set up the meet­ing.  That was our first mis­take.

After the req­ui­site ini­tial pleas­antries were exchanged, we began dis­cussing the prod­uct in ques­tion.  We weren’t sold just yet on actu­al­ly doing the upgrade, so one of the first ques­tions we want­ed answered was basi­cal­ly just a sim­ple “Why do we want to upgrade?”  In oth­er words, we already have a work­ing sys­tem, so what does this newest ver­sion bring to the table vis-a-vis new fea­tures, ben­e­fits, man­age­abil­i­ty, etc.  Ask­ing this question–and expect­ing a clear, use­ful answer–turned out to be not only an exer­cise in futil­i­ty, but also mis­take num­ber two.

It allows you to cre­ate pock­ets of col­lab­o­ra­tion by lever­ag­ing out-of-the-box, par­a­digm-shift­ing, syn­er­gies of strate­gic plan­ning.”

But what does it do?

The new ver­sion bet­ter lever­ages ver­ti­cal inter­est seg­ments in a tran­si­to­ry user base, which rep­re­sents a shift­ing par­a­digm in strat­e­gy-focused mind-share and thought-lead­er­ship.”


The con­ver­sa­tion went on like that for a bit before we final­ly decid­ed to cut our loss­es and move on to some oth­er top­ics around our upcom­ing license renew­al, etc.  As it turns out, sub­stan­tial pock­ets of the sales-force at cer­tain large soft­ware ven­dors seem to be trained in a lan­guage that sounds a lot like Eng­lish, uses a lot of inter­est­ing words strung togeth­er in fair­ly obscure pat­terns, and in the end almost exact­ly fails to com­mu­ni­cate any­thing at all use­ful.  The unfor­tu­nate thing is that this was sup­pos­ed­ly the expert in the prod­uct line who could answer our questions–he was brought along to the meet­ing specif­i­cal­ly to speak “engi­neer-to-engi­neer.”

Now, I am not only a net­work engi­neer but also the IT Direc­tor for a mul­ti-nation­al man­u­fac­tur­ing firm.  I am used to strad­dling the line between engi­neer­ing and man­age­ment, and actu­al­ly pride myself on being able to com­mu­ni­cate com­plex engi­neer­ing prin­ci­ples to c‑level exec­u­tives in a way that makes sense, and accom­plish­es some­thing.  I don’t think that I’m so far gone on the engi­neer­ing side that I have to have a team of PhDs come in every time I want to learn about a prod­uct.  That said, I do expect that my time will be respect­ed and when I want to know what your prod­uct has to offer that you will take the rad­i­cal step as a ven­dor of bring­ing along some­one who knows what the hell they’re talk­ing about.

The moral of the sto­ry is that we did not then, nor have we since, upgrade to that new prod­uct ver­sion.  Not out of spite or any bad feel­ings for the ven­dor as a whole, but sim­ply because we final­ly found the answers we need­ed from a com­bi­na­tion of white papers and some peer groups with whom we main­tain rela­tion­ships with.  For you ven­dors who can’t seem to artic­u­late what your prod­uct actu­al­ly does with­out using a hodge-podge of terms poached from a buzz-word bin­go card, my gen­er­al gut reac­tion is that your prod­uct is prob­a­bly not unique or help­ful in any mean­ing­ful way–and that is not the first impres­sion you as a ven­dor or sales­per­son want to make.  I sus­pect I am not alone in that feel­ing, either.