The words “Customer Installable” have been bandied about with great frequency in the IT industry in recent times. The term itself carries no warnings, caveats, nor implies the troubles that could lie ahead for the customer not properly briefed or initiated on IP or FC SAN installation. The professional services associated with a properly installed and integrated SAN will pay for themselves over time. Experienced IT professionals are aware of this and integrate services into their project budgets. To keep it real, we are not talking about buying a TV installation or a service contract at Best Buy, this is the Data Center, the home where all a company’s Intellectual Property and a great portion of its value lives.
So what are some of the things that can go wrong? They are too numerous to list and some which have still to be discovered by unfortunate souls who prefer to brave it alone. I have seen situations where the customer had the array installed by someone on their staff only to have them leave the company with those left behind not knowing how to perform even the simplest tasks on the array. Another customer has an array that still shows as shipped in the manufacturer’s system because it was not properly registered and another that cannot complete the installation because they missed a step and need to start over. Then there was the case of the customer who dedicated all the space on the array to the file side – oops going to need a factory reset. There are also the little things, the nuances and subtle distinctions: protocols, OS, host and application integration, and networking associated with say for example integrating a virtual environment with a storage array.
“Just plug in the cables and fire up a storage pool” – Is this the simplicity that the customer has been lead to expect? Let’s keep in mind what has been happening in the storage industry since the beginning of time: Enterprise level features and functionality drip down in the market. Features that are now taken for granted in the SMB/Mid-market like flash caching and automated storage tiering once graced only the Fortune 500. The complexity of a shared storage environment should not be taken lightly or thought of as an easy task, there are plenty of gotchas only a certified technician has been trained to maneuver.
What does the customer say?
“Not interested”… An effort must be made to present the compelling case for services, explaining the caveats of not using them, and the benefits that will realized for the present and future-proofing of the environment. The case to be made in favor of services should happen from the salesperson on up the IT Management chain to the C-Level executives who hold the purse strings and must be given the vision to make the risk/reward analysis that always holds in favor of implementation services.
“It will slow down the buying cycle”… Patience Grasshopper! We all want to complete our projects quickly, but ensuring the appropriate installation is the best guarantee of success, satisfaction, and job security.
“I cannot afford it” – nonsense, you have put aside what is undoubtedly to you an immense budget for the success of the entire project – not simply for the equipment. What good is having the best SAN if it does not work properly. Professional services are a small portion of the cost associated with data center excellence on any level.
The top sales professionals sell services as an integral part of their selling motion. They want to see their customers be successful not just with the right equipment, but also an installation that puts them where they expect to be with the product from day one and not left to troubleshoot the one mistake that may have been made that bungled the implementation – do you want to tell your boss you need professional services on the front end or the back end of a SAN install? A great starting point is to believe that you are doing your customer a solid by providing services, so talk to your rep about their services successes.
Most importantly, because we focus on the customer granularly and holistically – so both their success in their position and the success of their company – let us look at the benefits to them. We provide a project manager and an onsite resource accountable for the success of their project, freeing up their own resources which maintains their employees’ productivity. We can assist in analyzing the current data center environment prior to installation to prevent unexpected outcomes. Knowledge transfer can be provided as well as complete documentation of the work done in the customer’s environment which can be used as a reference guide for success. Our professional services mean job security and protection of reputation and legacy for decision makers when they leave for a better job or get a promotion because of their success.
So the question the customer, C Level down, needs to be prodded to ask themselves is: do they want a science project performed by someone with general knowledge who believes it is as easy as following instructions or do they want a trained professional who installs arrays on a regular basis who will hand off a fully functioning array with a properly configured SAN and a system configuration document that will present the basic knowledge necessary to administer and manage their new system? The responsible answer and decision that will not be second guessed… “Please add professional installation services to the quote.”