Software

Six dirty tricks from enterprise vendors

Enterprise software vendors sometimes play unpleasant games to sell their products. Here are six tricks vendors use against customers.

This is a guest post from Michael Krigsman of TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet. You can follow Michael on his ZDNet blog IT Project Failures, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Enterprise software vendors sometimes play unpleasant games to sell their products. InfoWorld describes these tricks in a story called, Dirty Vendor Tricks, written by veteran journalist Dan Tynan, who has covered many stories of IT failure.

Here's Dan's list of six tricks enterprise vendors use against customers, but the descriptions are mine:

  1. The magic demo. Using presentation slides and canned demonstrations, the vendor claims to solve the customer's most challenging problems. It's all good, except when there is no real product to back up the promises.
  2. Underbid, then overcharge. A beautiful trick often played elegantly by consulting companies and system integrators. These folks neglect to inform the customer that the initial software purchase price does not include much higher associated costs for equipment and implementation services.
  3. The customer headlock. One of the cleverest tricks in the book, this one uses high switching costs to lock-in customers. The time, cost, and hassle of swapping enterprise systems mean vendors have their customers by the... well, you know what.
  4. The billing "mistake." Really a utility services game, providers over-charge customers with incorrect invoices, knowing few will notice and complain. Sleaze at its finest.
  5. The forced upgrade march. Upgrades make the software business a beautiful thing-for the vendor. The customer's system may work well, but when vendors tell customers to upgrade or lose support, the buyer has little choice but to play sheep.
  6. The clueless customer. Less a trick than an unpleasant fact, remember there are two parties to all these tricks: vendor and customer. Inattentive or inexperienced customers are often their own worst enemy.

The project failures analysis

Strategic enterprise software purchases are complicated to buy and expensive to implement. Since these products automate core business functions, they reflect genuine complexity in the buyer's organization. Some vendors use this complexity unfairly to manipulate potential customers into making uninformed and poorly considered purchases.

In general, the software itself is not to blame; these are human, not technical, issues. It's worth noting that some observers incorrectly believe that faulty software causes most IT failures. That perspective is wrong and misinformed.

Enterprise customers should treat software purchases with the same care and attention as buying a home: research the vendor, talk with other customers, and ask objective, third-party experts for advice. Although enterprise software is a minefield, many customers do buy and implement successfully.

The tricks described in this post range from subtle persuasion to outright deception. However, they all rely on aggressive vendors taking advantage of uninformed customers. In the end, caveat emptor applies and education is the great force for achieving success.

Have you seen vendors play these tricks or others? Please share your thoughts!

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