Matt Brunk
Matt Brunk has worked in past roles as director of IT for a multisite health care firm; president of Telecomworx,...
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Matt Brunk | January 18, 2012 |


You're Going To Do What To My Customer?

You're Going To Do What To My Customer? Just because someone in IT says so, doesn't mean the customer is going to accept or not challenge what's being offered.

Just because someone in IT says so, doesn't mean the customer is going to accept or not challenge what's being offered.

I've marveled in the past about decisions that customers make based on input from a consultant or IT guy, unaware of the reality of what it'll take to achieve the desired goals. Herein is the first problem, and that is selling the customer on something when the seller has no idea what's involved in delivering the customized products and services that the customer really requires.

In the case of one customer, the same group of "players" contend that, because the customer is investing roughly $1M in an Electronic Medical Records (EMR) effort, that buying into a 10Mbps span connecting the offices is going to solve all the existing issues the customer has--and do note that the issues are "resident," meaning it's only been three years with the same issues not being resolved. The justification now is that, by upgrading the spans to 10Mbps, the issues will go away, but, "We were wondering if we could move your voice traffic too because there may be significant cost savings."

First I listened to the method of backup being proposed and it was a 3G/4G wireless service in each router. When the customer brought up that the consultant and contractors still haven't done a site survey to become more knowledgeable with their network, configuration and needs; the conference call then took a turn. The customer asked, "Matt, what do you think?"

Anyone that knows me well enough, does know I'll give my answer without the usual sugar coating, especially when it involves a customer. Unknown to the consultant and contractors, they thought that they could throw in an IP-PBX solution to my customer's network that they had bought into, and ease the costs. Not only did my customer adamantly oppose this and informed the consultant prior to the conference call; the consultant errantly proceeded to push this again. I learned this later after the conference call when the customer called me and thanked me for, "Giving the consultant and contractor what they needed to hear."

When a customer buys into a "solution," it's not necessarily easy to abandon the path they’ve taken, and it's not always easy to just fire those involved. After the consultant and contractor took a verbal beating on the conference call they agreed to gather their forces and meet with the customer and my team to discuss: first, resolving existing issues and secondly, how our configuration and design already includes call mapping, Wi-Fi site surveys and design, SIP traffic and backup routing and facilities. This capital knowledge about the customer sites and unique requirements remained unexplored by the same consultant group and contractors since they redesigned the network 3 years ago when deploying MPLS.

The latest issues included users getting knocked off cloud services that were hosting front office applications for health care; going from zero workstation virus issues for over two years to increasing workstation virus outbreaks; increasing carrier disruption and prolonged issues and decreased productivity among staff because of network issues. This was all going to be resolved in a swooping effort by adding a 10 Mbps span to every office and raising the monthly carrier cost by 40%.

Masking underlying issues by throwing bandwidth at the problem is akin to the U.S. Government by spending more money, increasing the deficit in hopes of buying ourselves out of poverty.

Moving to EMR will definitely require more bandwidth, but keeping the customer in motion without resolving past issues that have lingered for 3 years seems to me more than a stretch. In the past, we believed that whoever owned the firewall, owned the customer and that's not necessarily the case. Our customers tend to be like this one in that we've worked together for many years. The simple lessons to my story may not ease the pain of the consultant and their contractor. There's an underlying message that, just because someone in IT says so, doesn't mean the customer is going to accept or not challenge what's being offered. There's no implication that all IT folks and consultants are like the ones hired by my customer, but if you are among those like the one described above, just be forewarned that you may need to step up to the plate before telling a customer you have the answer to all their problems. Of course many heads will shake an emphatic yes we will, but how many of those same heads will shake an emphatic yes when the customer expects and demands that skin be put into the game?


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