Vaporware – It’s Out There

I’m both surprised and disappointed every time I hear about a potential new client signing on with a company that we all know over-sold their tools and solutions.  In some cases, the seller believes what they are saying, and figure “so long as we deliver something at some point it will all be ok.”  In other cases, companies or people likely know they are over-selling, but have a “do whatever it takes to close the deal” m­entality.

Both situations are seriously damaging for our space.  The industry as a whole can be seen as over-promising and under-delivering. And the thinking becomes, “Why spend money on that?”.  So why do they do it, and how can you protect yourself?

There may be many reasons why they over-sell, but I can think of two that stand out.  First is simple greed.  The second, which may be even more dangerous, is merely ignorance.  Greed can be expected and sometimes recognized and is easier to uncover through effective reference checking.  Ignorance presents a bigger challenge, as the salesperson may truly believe they can fix your problems, or that the tools they are selling will work the way they say they will.

Sometimes, it really isn’t entirely their fault.  And frankly, if you buy something that cannot be delivered, it’s on you.  The easiest way to protect yourself as a potential client and user is to speak to other existing customers of the vendor/partner in question and dig into the details.

  • Did they deliver what was promised, and on time?
  • Were they able to use previous experiences to offer ideas and solutions on how to make your tools/processes work better?
  • How is their ongoing customer service and support?
  • Can simple changes be made quickly and easily?
  • Who controls the tools – can you or must you rely on your vendor for most of the help?

Beyond these questions, don’t rely on just the contact provided as the reference.  Ask that person if there is anyone else there using the tools a lot and try to speak to them, as well.  Are their answers consistent?  Personally, I also recommend the following two questions when exploring vendors/tools/solutions – “What’s the best thing about working with them and using their tools? And what’s the worst thing about working with them and using their tools?”

No company is perfect, and human beings do make mistakes.  The real value in choosing vendors is in the effort put into long-term partnerships.  Are they responsive and do they fix problems quickly, effectively, and completely?

With technology and data providers changing so quickly, doing your due diligence is more important than ever before.  And the stakes keep getting bigger.

Author
Greg Rutan