Instead of doing a predictions blog like 99% of the punditry, I figured I would do an awareness blog to wrap up 2022. Every year, you deal with a wide variety of people trying to tell you about products that may (or may not) be useful to your IT efforts. Some of the products even make it to the evaluation phase and while a few get installed, a smaller number get used.
One of the many ways to minimize your time investment when talking about the bewildering array of new DevOps technologies and products is to know where the information you are consuming comes from. Here is my start at a list of information sources, where the information they impart comes from and how to get the most out of these sources.
Marketing: The marketing team at any organization exists to spread the word about the product’s good points. Most marketing professionals only admit weakness in the underlying product if pressed. This is expected–if the sole purpose of your job is to tell the world why the product is needed, blathering on and on about the weak bits is not going to work out. But we all know there are no perfect products, even before you account for all of the environmental differences we’re installing into. So listen – they will present the product in the best light possible and have useful knowledge, particularly early in the evaluation process.
Sales: The sales team wants to sell products, but they also are invested in happy customers. A good sales rep in high-tech is building relationships because organizations can create an income stream if the product’s value is realized on their site. This makes them practical. Their goal is definitely to represent the product and company positively, but in a light that admits more weaknesses and offers workarounds for the deal breakers.
Sales Engineers: A lot of the sales team’s practicality comes from the team’s engineer(s). They’re the ones that have to help you get things installed and running, so they have a vested interest in the organization knowing ahead of time what will require work and what the risks are. Given a choice, talk to the SE alone before signing a contract–not because sales lies, but because the SE is there specifically to note issues that might crop up and how to get around them.
Crowd Evaluations: Two things to remember about crowd rating sites–the participants are volunteers on the best sites, paid contributors on others. For paid contributors, well, the motivation is pretty clear. For many voluntary participants, the motivation is that they either love or loathe the product. Most of these sites allow vendors to respond to commentary, and some even allow vendors to have evals removed. No one offers a service where glowing vendor reviews can be corrected … keep that in mind. These sites are useful, and a few of them are mostly people that want to help. So find the good ones (I’m not advertising anything here, so no links–sorry) and use them.
Analysts: Nearly all of the analysts I know–be they GigaOm analysts or a competitor–have experience in the field. They have done it, and most of them continue to keep their hands in the mix somehow. While I have not written (or maintained) a line of code in months, I do attempt to do so regularly. At the individual analyst level, the thing to watch is how long it’s been and how current they are. Some do pure analysis and haven’t touched the toys in a decade or more, and for C-level analysis, this is great … but for implementation recommendations, best to find a different source.
Analyst Firms: This is where the real issues in analysis creep in. As an enterprise architect, I dealt with an analyst firm that–at the time, at least–would say whatever we wanted them to say. Totally useless in evaluations, but it worked well when convincing our technical advisory committee to approve the right approach. Each firm comes at the problems with its own lens, and being aware of a given firm’s slant is a good step to understanding how to use them–or if you should rely on them at all.
Press: The age of pure-play press is largely dead, leaving a lot of “Paid for publication” out there. While there is still non-sponsored content being developed (one of the few rules Techstrong Group has for my writing of this blog is that I should avoid mentioning products; for example, making sponsorship they may pursue more about their vendor relationships and how many of you are reading my drivel), the majority of what is published as “articles” is “marketing” and should be treated as such. Reading this content can be useful for early education but not so much for evaluations.
Internal Champions: Not the mandatory sponsor most projects require, but the person inside that is driving the org to look at a solution. These people are generally key. They know the environment, they know the product, they have ideas on how the product could help the environment, and they have a history in the organization. Whether their ideas about how various products help the company have panned out with other tools, for example. Of course the usual caveats apply… Security people still think you should be doing more to lock out bad actors – that is what they’re paid for, but that influences their evaluation of a new security product and how it fits in the org. Awareness of that type of vested interest can help filter internal champion input.
There are others, or course, but I’m keeping this blog-length, and most–like MSPs or hosting providers–can be viewed as an extension of one of these (MSPs and hosting providers generally act like extensions of their chosen product’s sales and marketing, for example).
And keep rocking it. All these people can help you understand how to make the environment better or your role easier. They can’t do it for you; that is your skill. Listen to what they all say and then act in the organization’s best interests. When I’m not a pundit, I tend to use marketing/crowd rating to get a feel for the space, then analysts and SEs to tell me about the space and specific products in it respectively. But figure out what works for your org and be aware of what viewpoints the various actors bring to your learning.