An independent survey of about 200 IT decision makers reported a wide gap between what data storage customers require and what storage vendors are prepared to offer them.
The survey, released Sept. 11 and commissioned by data security management software maker Bocada of Bellevue, Wash., interviewed executives at enterprises employing more than 500 people.
The survey revealed that storage vendors consistently fail to demonstrate an understanding of their customers business issues and often try to hard sell complex solutions with hidden costs routinely misaligned to stated business objectives.
The blind survey was designed to determine how well storage vendors understand and meet the business objectives and needs of storage managers and buyers.
“The storage industry is a very competitive market and as a result customers can get caught in the crossfire,” said Brad ONeill, senior analyst at Taneja Group.
“Vendors, however, need to recognize that storage is a major cost center for IT, and they need to make recommendations that support the business objectives of their customers.”
The survey revealed significant flaws in the due diligence and sales processes and require a call to action for all storage vendors to improve their practices to better serve their customers, said Bocada President and CEO Drake Pruitt.
“Storage vendors are not showing enough knowledge of what their customers actually need,” Pruitt told eWEEK. “Sales people are basically telling customers: Heres my company, buy my corporate mentality. Vendors have got to get down deeper and focus on business requirements.”
The survey results indicated that 45 percent of respondents believe their storage vendor or vendors dont do an adequate job of understanding or learning about their organizations business objectives.
This lack of understanding results in the vendors inability to make the right technical recommendations for their customers storage environments, respondents said.
Similarly, half of respondents said their storage vendor should do a better job listening to their requirements before making recommendations.
Wild claims and chest-beating
“Every purchase seems to be another WWF Smackdown, complete with posturing [on both sides], wild claims and chest-beating,” said one respondent.
Others cited “too many empty promises” and “too many companies trying to claim they have the best solutions” only later to “fall way short of my expectations.”
Ironically, the level of dissatisfaction comes at a time when the need for effective storage solutions is greater than ever, with 73 percent of respondents reporting that, “end-users at my organization are demanding access to more information,” and 81 percent indicating that they would prefer to “spend more time interpreting information, rather than hunting for it.”
The fact that enterprise storage customers arent getting the benefit of even a rudimentary understanding of their business issues at a time when demand for storage is skyrocketing is alarming, Pruitt said.
The lack of qualitative research, paired with the absence of a method to assess “apples-to-apples” claims, places the burden of objective evaluation upon potential customers, results show.
Vendors Are Not Seeing
the Big Picture”>
Respondents stated that vendors regularly:
- Over-promise and under-deliver on product capabilities and functionalities;
- dont provide adequate factual and technical information;
- push pet products and add-ons that obscure true total cost of ownership.
“They dont take the time to see the big picture. They just get enough information to recommend the products they are pushing,” said one survey respondent.
Another found fault with “vendors own lack of understanding of how their own products can supply a solution … so as to make the current pet product being the one you must have.”
As an industry, theres no excuse for keeping customers in the dark, Pruitt said.
“Theyre making high-dollar buying decisions that impact the success of their business and their careers,” he added. “Customers should be provided with accurate and complete information that enables them to properly evaluate the breadth of solutions available and make the right choice for their storage environment.”
Some suggested solution ideas
Pruitt says vendors can take certain steps to ensure that theyre aligning their recommendations to customers business needs.
- Accept the heterogeneous storage environment.
Vendors should abandon the fantasy of owning 100 percent of their customers storage environments, according to Pruitt. Instead, they should focus on how to maximize the effectiveness of their products through APIs or management tools that enable interoperability across platforms.
“Standardization is the quantum leap vendors need take—to help customers evolve from managing islands to managing integrated systems,” Pruitt said.
- Understand how new business rules can disrupt technology adoption.
Pruitt said that customers are in a constant battle to define and execute standardized, repeatable processes across distributed environments in open systems.
“Compliance is a great example. Audits force many storage and data protection teams to interrupt critical planning and operations activities to respond quickly, thereby disrupting processes, increasing errors and burning out their personnel in the effort,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt said that, in reality, evolution toward best practices happens more slowly than suits the needs of sales quotas and companies dependent on rapid replacement cycles for success.
“Instead of pushing products, storage vendors should be assisting their customers to achieve maximum, repeatable use of those products in place,” he said.
- Dont just sell components, sell management.
“If storage vendors really want to see the pace of technology adoption increase, they need to put management tools back into their product roadmaps so they can help customer IT staffs actually do their jobs,” Pruitt said.
“Expecting IT pros to live by command-line interfaces, to build and maintain their own scripts, and to fend for themselves via forums and list mail groups, only serves to widen the gap of distrust between customers and their vendors.”
Bocada, which was not visibly associated with the questionnaire, developed a series of eight survey questions for this project.
Bocada makes patented, agentless software that provides security for data that can scale for small businesses to large enterprises.
IBM is its largest client. Others include Amgen, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Deutsche Bank, SBC, Sprint, Unilever and Xerox.
Bocada is privately held. More information on the company can be found here.
The entire survey, in PDF form, can be obtained here.