Strategic Purchasing

Writing an order for millions of dollars is stressful. The pressure put on you to make the right choices is immense, thousands of man-hours were required to amass the currency that is now going to be invested in assets that the organization will need to use effectively to extract the ROI required to justify a purchase so large. The decisions of what to buy, from whom, how to implement the change it brings with it are massive responsibilities.

IT buyers fortunately have many options to choose from, not that it makes the process easier, but with a plan of attack the problems that are faced by many groups that have bought the wrong product, paid too much, had difficult implementations or any other shortcoming in ROI can be avoided, even with strategic vendors that are difficult to change.

Beginning with the end in mind flattens the choices that are available, bringing new options in that might not have been seen before and eliminating others before investing time and resources to them. Teasing out the needed performance characteristics, future-proofing inside of the lifecycle, connected systems that require or would benefit from updates due to the proposed changes of the first system, changes in workflow, labor and systems management, the more detail that can be brought into the brainstorming, especially when it is specific to your organization’s needs, processes, innovation opportunities and long term strategy, the more that you will get out of the activity in the form of actionable guidance for the purchase.

You can then weight the wants, needs and nice-to-have features that you’ve created in order to directly compare all the products and services you will be entertaining as possible solutions to your need. Obviously a need will have to be fulfilled by every option you are considering, but a want, like said unit taking up less than 6U of rack space could be negotiable, even mitigated by some other aspect, and it might just be nice to have an electrical draw of less than 1400W, thus only having a minor score. Choose your own weighting scores, as many levels that you want, just apply them evenly to each solution when the time comes, adding up the scores and dividing the purchase price by the proposed solution’s weighted score to give you an abstracted measure of how good a solution is for you.

Call your sales resources in, you may use many VARs or only a single one, but that’s no matter here just have them get solutions that match your needs and bring manufacturers around to show how their product meets your needs and wants. The more the merrier, best to let all of them know of each other’s existence in the process so that they get particularly aggressive in their pricing for you.

With your organization specific feature-weighted scores in-hand you now have a simple, lower is better, score guide by which to directly compare solutions that are very likely to have more than a few differences. The weighted list of needs and wants created ahead of decision time guided your VAR resources to find plenty of compatible competitive offers to choose between. Now you’re in decision time with simple to use scores on each option guiding the order process with more than just brand logos, presentations and free lunches to base your decision on.

Would you like a worksheet to guide your own weighting process?

Fuck your processes

They’re limiting instead of empowering.

The behemoths of business have delineated processes because they don’t trust their employees, supervisors or management to do anything right when it is decision time.

Processes are the rails that a train rolls on, they facilitate ease of travel along predetermined paths, but they don’t account for all the other value available to an organization just off the beaten path.

Empowering individuals is like presenting them with a dual-sport motorcycle, where they go from then on baby, they don’t need roads.

roads

Value is created in the wild, opportunity and danger around every corner, with imagination, new approaches for answering previously unknown questions.

The meteoric rise of industries that were previously unnecessary and frequently laughed at is due to the founding members and driving forces behind them discovering the value that their creations brought to people and organizations all over the world. Facebook is approaching 2 billion regular monthly users to connect, share and brag. Shortly after their initial listing on the stock exchange they were struggling to meet their revenue goals and the future of the business was questioned despite already being one of the dominant driving forces of the internet.

There were no processes available the world over to help ol’ Zuck figure out how to right his ship, they had to fight and claw into new markets, creating new value for users and buyers. Good thing for them that is what the company had been built on, it led them to a 2016 fiscal year with $10 billion in profit.

Facebook may have figured something out and written new processes for their business in the course of fighting for their rise and survival. I’m sure that they aren’t sticking to those processes though, they’re simply using those well-worn tracks to get to that next stop where they need people who will step off that train and race into the unexplored territory to make a name for themselves and bring new value to the business.

Are your suggestions squashed for the sake of processes that were created for value that has already been realized? ‘No’ is not a rebuke of you or necessarily even your ideas, but it is a signal that there may not be enough value in your recommendations to change or set aside processes for new territory.

You should try to restate your proposition so that those around you catch your vision, it’s the new value that is praised the highest. Vice President positions are created for people that successfully bring new value to organizations, you can’t get there by sticking to your processes.

Paradigm shift – feel the sarcasm

Intel’s scalable CPUs with their metallic nomenclature and verbose descriptions seem for many to be a step in the wrong direction; Intel seems to many to be ‘all face and no trousers’ as the Brits would say. While they’ve certainly riled people up with the silly naming scheme it has gotten people talking about it, likely the whole point of their release now that AMD is trying to come back to the server CPU game. We could talk about the CPU business in depth and there could be some sense to that discussion, Intel’s changes are a good lens through which to view the entire IT landscape, it’s all about the fit.

Back to marketing hype, there sure is plenty to sift through, but what stands out is the few things that seem to be on everyone’s minds and/or checkbooks:

1) Cloud
2) Hyperconverged
3) Flash storage

There are a million experts in every camp telling you that you need an ‘x’ strategy for ‘y’ product/market/industry because of the TCO, ROI, CoGS, and ‘the whole world is doing ‘z’ about it’. This is particularly true with the few points above as well as a number of others in the IT world and it’s all bullshit.

The general line goes that we all worked on giant computers with dumb terminals, which gave way to PCs resulting in a rise of the server/client model and now we’re evolving so that everyone will be in the cloud, or hyperconverged, or riding unicorns instead of driving cars, again, it’s all bullshit.

What we’re truly experiencing in the technology of IT is a time where the dominant structure of the future is becoming user-defined, a term I just coined (maybe) to use instead of ‘software-defined’ because that is already a loaded marketing sack of crap. What I mean is all of the current iterations of technology will move forward, evolving to be more user-friendly, meaning programmable, orchestrated centrally en masse, delivering better management and application performance simultaneously.

That means each business use-case will be covered, serverless applications in the cloud for immense.immediate scalability, hyperconverged systems at the remote edge for business continuity, multi-layered security with firewalls, DNS redirect, and SaaS anti-virus, good old on-prem and co-located servers and networks for longevity and TCO. All of these options are currently working together in many enterprises, often called Hybrid-IT by marketing mouth breathers, but it’s the new reality, not some monolithic all-one or none option like IBM in the stone-age of IT.

The time of being fenced-in by vendor offerings is over, look at all the options, find out where the largest ROI benefit comes from and be ready to be flexible with new technologies because the tech world isn’t consolidating, it’s expansion is accelerating, how many tiny pieces of software in the form of scripts and automations have you created? You’re a part of this acceleration too.

Living, eating, breathing

I’ve only ever had a couple true dedications in my life and their payoff has always been equal to my input + a network effect. It’s the dedication that opens the effect of the network, it’s only when you live, eat and, breathe your own dedication that the network effect can come to work for us in a way that adds to that payoff.

In high school I had an uncanny dedication to American football, but I wasn’t interested in the historical stats of any team, or knowing all the particulars of the current players-du-jour, I was a student of the game itself, the positions I played, the weaknesses and strengths of our playbook. I studied film religiously; how I could improve my play and exploits open for the taking of our opponents.

It was a disastrous ‘career.’ The teams that I played on went for a combined 11 wins in 40 games collectively, we were by no stretch of the imagination, any good. Individually, a few of the athletes and I won minor accolades for our play, but my dedication was for nought, I was courted to play on lesser-tier college teams in tiny towns across the country and found myself not moving away for college after high school.

In sports there is a huge network in effect creating opportunities and challenges, particularly with such organized team sports as football where success is dependent on proper execution of coordinated individual efforts by people from many different backgrounds with their own strengths and shortcomings, a lot like a business, a political campaign, a volunteer organization is run.

In sales we get to have a direct effect on our network, maintaining and building it is how we develop the economic effect for our business and earn our paychecks. The dedication though is what attracts the network that writes those checks, are you dedicated to the outcome that your customers want and need? If you were in your prospect’s shoes would your level of dedication be enough to convince you to sign that contract?

Your life and job is on the line to produce for your company daily and oftentimes it can seem that the person you’re negotiating with is holding things up for no reason; well, have you given them a reason not to? Does your counterpart across the table see in you a dedication to overdeliver for them and the ability to do it? Do you know their business intimately? How about their personal motivations, fears, distractions and ideals? Are you consumed with the next call, meeting, deal, meal or other item trivial to their life and career?

Dedication in sales means being a friend, psychologist, career coach,  and business analyst. Your network will carry you through the hard times when they see that you do the same for them, but it means living, eating and breathing dedication to your customer, coworkers, employer and results. Your wife is in this network acting on your results, your children, boss, direct reports, indirect reports, customers, previous bosses, coworkers, friends, and family, not to mention the rest of their networks that push and pull on them. When you deliver maximum value to the entirety of your network it comes back to you amplified.

On Complacency

I’m due for some serious weeping, like Julius Caesar before me, I’m a man of 32 years that hasn’t even conquered the world, how could I have ended up on such a tragic trajectory in life?

Sure, I’ve described my current life as ‘living the dream I’d always imagined’ but Alexander the Great ruled all that he surveyed by this time of his life, being dead shortly thereafter is of minor consequence I’m sure.

Having the finest experiences is of top priority to me, food, drink, company, travel, art, I’m here for the good life. I smile frequently and laugh boisterously, life is to be enjoyed.

“Do what you love and never work a day in your life” is advice regularly given and often debated these days. I’m not sure that I subscribe to it myself, but I do enjoy the hell our of my work selling enterprise technology infrastructure. I’m often consumed by the job, pulling all-nighters to meet proposal deadlines, it’s often high-tension and draining, but I love it, especially the feeling of a big win after a contentious negotiation.

With a laser focus on my life and enjoyment some things suffer, old (sometimes new) friendships, family, I’ve regularly struggled communicating with my wife as I’m such a selfish jerk.

I’m also fat and that makes me unhappy, it’s a tall order but I’d like to be sexier, I’ve struggled to deny myself that last bite, or seconds, for a decade.

I’ve been complacent, reeping what I sow, and I find that it hurts me. Thinking about when I’ve see the word complacent, it never seems to preceed more good things for those that are described as such.

Alexander the Great was very likely a man that knew no such feeling of complacency, and a raging alcoholic, while an entire life patterned from his is likely unwise, he rarely had feelings of doubt and inadequacy.

Existence requires effort anyway, might as well get all you want out of it <I make note to repeat to myself when feeling complacent>.

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