Opinion

The importance of trialling before buying

IT professionals are caught between the twin storms of fluctuating budgets and rapidly changing technology and have difficult decisions to make as a result. 

Technology has never had such integration, storage and remote capacity, yet budgets are severely restrained and unable to maximise potential productivity. In fact, technology has never been so simultaneously exciting and challenging. Unsurprisingly, with employees requesting BYOD schemes and directors demanding low costs, IT departments are under increasing pressure. 

As a result, IT directors and managers must have confidence in their purchases. There is a worrying trend of buyers returning to familiar brands and ‘safe’ options. The question for vendors is how to place disruptive and innovative technology in the hands of cautious purchasers. From experience, the only method of doing this effectively is through trialling.

The technology is out there to meet almost any architectural requirement in a way that balances the end user experience with budget restraints, but it is not always being bought. Trialling allows the introduction of disruptive brands into a conservative market because the end user is given proof of concept throughout the whole process. The Holy Grail of selling IT, proof of concept injects confidence into even the largest of technology purchases. Allowing the customer to drive the process of choice, trialling assuages the fears of the user as the benefits of products are demonstrated before their very eyes.

Trialling is a new forum for buying and selling IT, designed to accommodate difficult demands in difficult times. Dedicating time to involve the customer shows a commitment to the user and explores solutions that previously might have seemed out of reach. A BYOD scheme, for example, will involve numerous problems of connectivity, interoperability and security, which need to be discussed to align seamlessly with the rest of the business’s architecture. Even the largest brands benefit from trialling. Everyone’s heard of HP, but they might not be so sure about their three-tier storage and blade systems. Taking the extra time to demonstrate these products involves the customer and shows them what they could be missing.

Trialling should take the following format. Technology specifiers brief suppliers, service providers and value added resellers about the architecture and solutions they are looking for. The suppliers then bring them in for a face to face discussion, demonstrating the various options open to them. Taking the style of a workshop, the customer will bring knowledge of their business to the potential IT provider’s knowledge of the technology. The demonstration environment can be made to closely match the customer’s environment so, in a familiar setting, seeing and selecting different products, and controlling the decision making process, a solution should gradually come together which meets the customer’s budgetary and technological requirements.

Of course trialling can also be logistically problematic. But the time spent face to face collaborating on the gestative process is vital. 

The crucial point is that trialling gives procurers confidence. Confidence in their purchase and confidence in their concept. If you are thinking of making a large IT purchase but want to see it work before buying, here are five key qualities a customer should look for from an IT provider in a trialling setting:

  • Ability to demonstrate the start to finish process
  • The confidence to navigate a complex IT structure
  • The confidence to install and articulate architecture
  • Ability to work to, and maintain focus upon, a clear end point
  • A willingness to include the customer in the testing process

Charles Barratt is new solutions development manager at Equanet.

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This was first published in July 2012

 

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