Let’s do some math. You manage 1,000 nodes in three locations within one city. Figuring a three-year life per node, that comes to something like $700,000 per year for PCs, maybe $30,000 per year for file servers, $10,000 per year for concentrators, routers, and so forth, and maybe another $25,000 per year for your WAN. Add sales tax and do some rounding and you’re spending a million a year.
Of course, your bosses selected you on the strength of your skills in product selection, negotiation, and contract management.
What? Nobody ever trained you in these skills? You can bet your adversaries, professional salespeople, have had a lot of training. In fact, they have well-defined tactics for dealing with you. People in sales do what it takes to make the cash register ring.
So look out for your own best interests. That can mean neutralizing the more unscrupulous tactics many sales professionals use. You don’t believe they play hardball? Here are some steps taken from the marketing strategy of a major manufacturer in our industry. The strategy assumes that when the customer chooses a competitor’s product, it’s not because that product has superior technical features or a lower cost but because the sales team made “marketing errors.”
To remedy these “errors,” the sales representative and his or her manager will pay a call on the decision maker, asking for specific details on why the decision went against them. Then, within a few days, they will call on the decision maker and his or her manager to refute the decision. If cost is one of the reasons, the salesperson might say something like, “Don’t expect to get something for nothing.”
The next call goes to the manager without the decision maker present, with the sales manager trying to discredit the decision maker as having made errors, losing track of the business purpose, and becoming emotionally involved in the decision.
According to the document: “An important part of this strategy is to occupy management’s time, to worry the recommender and evoke displays of emotion from him, thereby giving proof positive of his loss of objectivity.”
This same marketing document describes the “Three ‘S’ tactics:” scare, stall, and sell. Included under scare is “May jeopardize your job,” “May try to get you fired,” and “Go over your head to your boss.”
When their management explains to your management that you’re just an overgrown tech weenie who doesn’t understand the business issues, do you think you’ll win by hauling out your Request for Proposal and walking your management through it?
Nope. You’ll win if, when you announce your decision, you remind your management of the facts of life: that you’ll have one winner and four losers, and that at least one of them will try to go over your head to discredit you, your process, and your decision.
Encourage your management to say it has been fully informed about your decision. Ask them to express complete confidence in it. Ask them to note that the sales force failed to get the company’s business and clearly has an axe to grind.
Then, when a sales representative calls your boss, you have some assurance he or she will answer the telephone with a clear head and perspective.
When they call you, make it clear that if they accept the loss gracefully you’ll welcome them into the next competition, but if they try to go over your head you’ll make sure they never get a dime of business from your company as long as you’re there.

It’s Halloween, so Christmas can’t be far away, and you know what that means. Yes, it’s Bah Humbug season again! So here’s my list of the 10 worst trends in computing.
10. Consultants are now the source of all wisdom.
If you need to make an investment, you first add 10 percent in overhead by bringing in an independent consultant to tell the key decision-makers what you want them to hear.
Instead, let’s be each others’ experts. So if you need me to come in and tell your executives how much money they’ll make with computer-telephone integration — no problem! I must be an expert: after all, I wrote a book!
Let’s say you’re an expert too. If you say we should abandon our leased-line systems network architecture network and replace it with frame-relay-based LAN internetworking, so be it.
9. Emergence of the Internal Customer
This is the most idiotic notion in the history of business. Here’s the theory: If my outbasket empties into your inbasket, you’re my customer. You can make the same kinds of demands on my time and complain just as bitterly as a real customer when I don’t deliver on time.
Here’s a clue: Customers pay money for service!
IS groups exist not to provide assistance to their internal customers, but to work with their internal partners to provide better products and services to the company’s real customers.
8. Microsoft has become the new Japan.
Remember when American managers whined about Japan and how you couldn’t compete with it? Well, guess what? Now we have Microsoft.
Microsoft is a formidable competitor, largely because Bill Gates sticks with a product until it becomes a tough product to beat. As IS professionals take over the process of specifying software, many repeat their old mantra but replace IBM with Microsoft, as in “I won’t get fired for buying Microsoft.”
Now there’s a great reason for picking a product.
7. Evolution of client/server, part II: It’s soooo complicated.
Novell succeeded because once you set up your PC with a 50KB pair of drivers, the LAN looked just like a local hard drive and printer.
Look what they’ve done to the simple, elegant client/server model. It’s heartbreaking. Think about the simplicity of the LAN model, folks, and emulate it.
6. Evolution of client/server, part I: SQL.
Do any of you still think SQL was the right choice? I didn’t think so.
When you figure that Codd has 13 of his 12 rules of relational whatever, and that relational purists still flinch at the idea of an index, you get some notion of just how bad life has become. Add to that the underestanding that the power of relational databases comes from your ability to define tables independently and relate them as needed and you understand the power of mythology in our lives.
Face it, folks, SQL is a crying shame. Here’s an industry secret: To define a database, you have to analyze data relationships anyway. In a hierarchical or network database model, you maintain pointers. In a relational model, you maintain indices. The only difference: Pointers give you faster performance.
5. App is now a word.
Presumably because the cost of paper has risen over the years, several publications decided to save space by calling applications “apps,” as in “killer apps” or “great new app.”
I have a hard time deciding which is more noxious: over use of the word “cool” or trying to sound cool by calling applications “apps.”
4. Architect has become a verb.
Did you mean to say “design”? Maybe you meant to say “engineer.” The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees your right to say that you “architected a great system.” Say it to someone else. I think it makes you sound like a dweeb.
3. Free support now costs money.
Do me a favor. Print one number for use when your product doesn’t work as advertised. Print a different number for me to use when I need consulting support about how to use your product. Charge for calling that number.
2. GUIs are ushering in the end of the PC.
I have one DOS-based application I still use on a regular basis. Even when I don’t really need it, I sometimes launch it anyway, just to remember what snappy response time looks like.
Any semi-educated adult with an IQ in three digits could buy a DOS-based PC and puzzle out enough of the basics in an hour or two to get it running. DOS was simple enough for everyone.
You need at least a Ph.D., and probably a Nobel Prize to figure out OS/2 or Windows, and the problem is obvious: They have syntax, and syntax isn’t user-friendly. Bill Gates may be a genius, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure this one out: One quick glance at SYSTEM.INI would tell anyone with an ounce of sense that this is a Rube Goldberg contraption just waiting to break.
GUIs certainly could have been great. Instead, we have huge, bulky, god-awful slow, multitasking behemoths on our desks so we can do one job at a time but have the rest sitting in open windows. It didn’t have to be this way.
1. Operation systems have replaced religions.
These are operating systems, not religions. I picked Windows despite my loathing for it because everyone writes for it! Got that? Windows and DOS have more than 80 percent market share, so the war is over! Let’s all agree that NextStep and QNX should have all of the market if there was any justice, and that if IBM had any brains they would have adapted Unix to the desktop instead of inventing OS/2. And then let’s get over it.
And I like this industry.