General Rant – If you work for a software vendor read this

Today’s Lab Gear post has been delayed to next week.  Hopefully you stick around for this, but I understand if this post turns a lot of people off.  Still, I feel strongly enough about this that it needs to be shared.

I have an hour commute to work every day.  That means I also have an hour commute home every day.  This extra two hours out of my day is often spent chewing on how to deal with work tasks for the week, or what to share on this blog for the week.  Today’s drive home was spent fuming, instead.

I will not name the vendor, but we have a product we’ve been wrangled into purchasing due to certain certification requirements we are required to maintain.  As such, we went through a small array of vendors for this kind of product, and settled on “The One That May Not Be Named.”  All was well and good for the on site product demonstration.  We bought the product, and then made arrangements to have professional services on site for installation.

The problem is there were two products purchased.  We got two weeks of services.  One week was used for the installation of each product.  Normally this would not be a problem.  In fact, it’s pretty standard practice in the industry to take about that long to get things stood up, configured, and turned over for production.  In this case, it was handled poorly.

Over the five day period that the vendor representative was on site, at least four of those were used to do what SHOULD have been done prior to engaging us in person.  Architecting the solution.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it might have only been in the bonus content email my subscribers get.  I’ll say it again, just in case.

My job title at a previous company was Unix Systems Engineer/Architect/Admin.  Those are three distinct roles, and most people in this field will wear all three hats.  An “Admin” deals with day to day mundane configuration tasks, such as user provisioning (add/remove/modify) and configuration file changes to services such as SSH.  And “Engineer” deals with break/fix scenarios, troubleshooting, and engaging vendor provided support when necessary.  And “Architect” deals with vendors, end users, and other teams to design and provide a solution that meets the end users’ goals.

This particular company, (The Vendor,) dodged almost every attempt at architecting the solution before coming on site.  The end result was that by the end of the 5 day on site professional services visit (for BOTH products… happened twice) we ran out of time to finish configuration.  Things weren’t working 100% when the services people got on the plane.  Emails to keep them engaged were less than helpful, and a lot of our questions were left unanswered.

Then we ran into a lot of technical issues.  Again, these issues should have been identified during an ARCHITECTURE pre-on-site-meeting.  This project has stagnated several times, sometimes due to internal company politics at a level or three above my head.  This means every time I get the green light to go back to installation, I have to refresh myself on what all has been done.

The Vendor has been on site a few times to try to help make things right with us.  They see our frustration (as a customer) and I feel that they honestly want to help, but today I just got a bad taste in my mouth about the whole deal.  One person responded to an email with “should we get you on the line to purchase more professional services?” as a response to an email I sent regarding one more technical road block I hit.

I was as polite as I could be in my response, though I fear I still came across a bit caustic.

Part of my frustration is this whole deal feels almost like “The Dale.”  If you have Netflix streaming, check out the “White Rabbit Project” season 1, episode 4.  In it, they talk about a car called “The Dale.”  It was the most hyped car the year it was supposed to be released.  Only three were produced in the end, and none of them really worked.  While this software doesn’t quite meet that bill, the way it was marketed certainly does.  Getting it installed using the custom script that the vendor provided works well, when it works, so I can’t do a direct comparison.  When it doesn’t work, though… digging into the guts to figure out why quite literally sucks.  It sucks my soul and my give a damn, and I’m running really short on both these days.

I have until the end of this month to finish rolling this thing out.  I’ll keep rolling with it, and I’ll keep engaging them as best I can, but the damage is done.  I’m less likely to tell people how “great” this vendor is if asked, simply because of how the services for standing this thing up were handled.  It’s hard to make things right when there’s a missing limb spurting blood in the mix.

If you work for a software vendor, please, please, PLEASE make sure you review how you engage your customers.  Learn about their environment.  Let them explain to you how things are done “today” so that you can understand how to help them use your product to make those things easier, more efficient, and better in general.  Don’t take advantage of them by sending “professional services” to architect the solution when those services really should be focused on just installing/configuring in general.  Don’t be “The Vendor.”

General Rant signing off.

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