Google, Evil and Choosing the Right Vendor - Page 2

EMC

 

EMC is a storage pure play. Of all the vendors, it is the most focused on customer satisfaction and advocacy, which means it'll care more about you than any other company in its class. Strongest at enterprise levels when it comes to storage, I doubt any company can match its product breadth and depth. It actually has one of the strongest security units in any company and this hidden asset is used broadly by governments and companies needing an extra level of security. EMC is strengthening its midmarket efforts, but remains focused on the enterprise. With the failed Dell partnership as an exception, EMC actually partners very well and while not appropriate as a general technology provider, it works well in a blended engagement. Currently, EMC maintains the highest customer satisfaction and loyalty scores in its enterprise segment.

 

Google

 

Briefly, given we opened with Google, how is company as a philanthropic partner and can it be trusted? Given it has massive issues with privacy, I think it is unacceptable in any role that surrounds information protection. This means it could be fine with services that are connected to public information but would be a poor choice in any engagement involving private information. Its continued public privacy problems should make it unacceptable as a solution for most businesses in any segment and it plays well only when price outranks privacy. It also has a very short attention span with regard to products and it would be best to wait until a product is successful before using it.

 

HP


 

HP has the most breadth of any company in the technology space and currently lacks an overarching corporate strategy (at least publicly). As a result, it needs to be considered in parts. Large Systems is the division to watch as it has the greatest strength; software is getting the greatest investment and its head of strategy is a software guy out of Microsoft, suggesting that it is here that the greatest short-term improvements will lie. Printing and Imaging is gaining on large-scale printers and may be the only sustaining choice for large commercial press, but it is in a declining market, suggesting the group will be under stress to downsize. Services are second only to IBM, but still recovering from Mark Hurd's oversight as the prior CEO, which crippled much of the company. PCs remain led by the leading rival to the CEO job and his longevity remains in question. Two major failed mergers happened on his watch, which suggests you can't trust HP's long-term PC strategy, but since few strategies last more than 6 months in that segment, this isn't a big problem. Enterprise-class, midmarket customers likely would be happier with HP resellers and VARs.

 

I should add that Meg Whitman is doing a strong job pulling the company together and correcting some of the massive damage Mark Hurd did there, but it remains a project in process and best viewed through its parts until this multi-year effort is complete and the company can articulate a corporate strategy.

 

IBM

 

IBM is the only company in its class with a well-articulated, company-wide strategy that speaks to all product areas. This strategy is Smarter Planet and it is likely the most aggressive, as a company, when it comes to engagements having to do with instrumenting and reporting. It helps that it is not as broad as HP and that the firm maintained a 100-year design of maintaining continuity. IBM has the strongest large enterprise servers and is second only to Oracle on enterprise database software. IBM is what Oracle would one day like to be and it is far simpler than it once was. IBM typically ranks as one of the most trusted vendors in technology, but this ranking applies to enterprise-class companies. It has historically had issues with midmarket engagements and it is best to use a reseller or a VAR if you are a smaller firm because you simply won't get its focus. Of all the companies in technology, IBM is the mostly likely to still be here 100 years from now and it is most aggressively going after AI opportunities with its Watson Division in the targeted segments of health care and finance.

 

Lenovo

 

Lenovo's ThinkPad remains the best regarded business brand for notebook computers. It has a light midmarket server line and desktop computers, but it is its ThinkPad products that remain at the top of their class. Lenovo is the fastest-growing PC vendor at the moment and of those growing quickly, it has the best regarded quality and reliability in its business lines. Like other focused vendors, it is best to engage the company in its areas of focus and it is light on software and services. Lenovo has the strongest presence in China, the fastest-growing large market and might make an interesting partner for a firm wishing to expand in that country. Lenovo remains the closest thing to a personal computer pure play in the business market - kind of a business-focused alternative to Apple.

 

Oracle

 

Oracle is the leader in large-scale enterprise software and it has a strong reputation for taking care of its advocates. It has a sales process where the top 10 percent get most of the benefits, which tends to drive the most aggressive sales people to its company. On one hand this is good because, if you are an enterprise (midmarket is generally too small for the company) and haven't yet agreed to a purchase, it will bend over backwards to take care of you doing things few others would even consider. Its hardware is based on the failed Sun platform and is best in old Sun shops that don't want to migrate. Its hardware prices are aggressive but margins are iffy. With Larry Ellison, the founder/CEO, well past normal retirement age, there is a high likelihood that Oracle will abandon hardware were he to leave given its drag on margins. Oracle has been aggressive at eliminating competitors at all levels including third-party service providers, so the risk of lock-in is higher with it than any other vendor in the enterprise space. It also has a bit of a girlfriend/wife vibe that is stronger than most: In the dating phase there is nothing it won't do for you, but once married, not so much.

 

What always sticks in my head about Oracle was what an IT executive once wrote on a survey: "I'm not sure who Larry Ellison's enemy is, but I'm afraid it is us." Oracle is extremely sales focused and that means IT buyers are an obstacle to overcome.

 

Microsoft

 

Microsoft is one of the most interesting companies in the segment because it tends to bifurcate strongly with customers either really liking it or really hating it. Typically, the difference comes down to the expectations and level of engagement. Microsoft traditionally doesn't provide the perks many other large-scale vendors provide in terms of rides in private jets and boondoggles. And if you simply buy products from it but don't engage the company, it won't force the engagement and you'll likely feel left out in the cold. However, companies that do engage with it tightly, work with it on new products, get to know key executives (Microsoft tends to operate on the squeakiest-wheel theory) and generally report high satisfaction. Steve Ballmer, prior to becoming CEO, was the enterprise troubleshooter and he has largely retained this role for very large companies that have major problems.

 

Currently, Microsoft has the advantage and disadvantage of being massively complex, but the only truly visible casualties have been in consumer lines and Microsoft scales from the midmarket to enterprise, but only in software. If you can and are willing to engage with it tightly, it may be your preferred vendor. If you want to engage at a distance, it might be better to use a VAR or Microsoft partner.

 

What makes Microsoft a bit of a problem is it isn't good at solutions, which tends to make most deal with it through third parties, yet folks are happier if they have a direct relationship with the firm. My working theory is that most problems the company is blamed for are likely not actually its fault and this is only evident to people who talk to Microsoft directly because Microsoft partners find it convenient to blame Microsoft by default.

 

Wrapping Up

 

This was becoming a book, so I've left out far more vendors than I've included. However, as you are choosing a vendor, some will be better for your size company, some will be better for your kind of engagement and some will be better as a part of an engagement rather than leading it. Also consider whether you want a vendor to wine and dine you regularly or not, and whether you mind being locked in (you know it isn't bad to be locked in a room you like; it sucks to be locked in a cell).

 

Benchmarks in this group include Apple for user focus; IBM for extremely large-scale engagements, services, strategy, and trust; EMC for storage, customer satisfaction and advocacy; BMC for its Cloud Workshops (a critical service for these times), and systems management; Oracle for enterprise software and sales aggressiveness; Dell for the midmarket, all segments; HP for industrial printers and enterprise hardware; Microsoft for software in most all segments; and Lenovo for laptops and China opportunities.

 

No vendor is all good or all bad, but knowing what it is good at and where it sucks can lead to you being happier with the result and less likely to be embarrassed by the vendor.



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