When in Doubt, Blame the Vendor!
In our industry, it has become fashionable for IT End Users to blame the hardware/software vendor when something goes wrong. There is even a term for it: Vendor Bashing. But why has this become a thing? Having worked for both a consumer of technology and a number of vendors, I thought I would take a look at this.
I think one reason is that it is easier to blame someone else than to take ownership for our mistakes. If a vendor’s software has a bug in it or a piece of hardware fails, it is easier to dial up the vendor and yell at them to fix it than to admit we did not design enough redundancy into our system.
But the Vendors Have Earned It!
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of vendors have earned this animosity. Some vendors do a worse job than others of testing their code before releasing it but all code has bugs in it. It is especially frustrating for end users when what seems to be a very simple bug makes it through the QA process and into production. As an example, we once got a shipment of router code where a “show” command caused the entire router to reboot. Those types of bugs are hard to defend.
Another problem is vendor account teams that are only interested in selling the latest and greatest product for which they are getting a SPIFF for. They are not interested in having a conversation about what you really need and trying to design a solution that meets your need. They are definitely not interested in helping you navigate the support organization and get your bugs fixed.
There Are Still Good People
Hopefully the account team I described in the previous section is few and far between. I am sure they are out there. However, I have worked with some fantastic Account Managers (AMs) and Systems Engineers (SEs) who go out of their way to design a solution that will be a good fit for the customer. As John Care says in his book, Mastering Technical Sales, prescribing a solution without understanding the problem is malpractice in business just as it is in medicine (paraphrasing is my own). I have always tried to live by that and encourage any SEs I lead to do the same.
A Better Approach
The end user – vendor relationship does not have to adversarial. If you are an end user, try engaging your SE in a conversation about the problems you are facing in your environment. Maybe they have worked with a customer before with a similar issue and can offer a solution. If you are a vendor, try asking a few more questions and heading John Care’s advice to understand the problem before prescribing a solution. You might just find a happy repeat customer.