As technologists, we tend to focus on a product’s technology itself. How does the software, hardware, appliance, widget, or whatever work? While this is certainly an important consideration, the people who design, build, sell, and support the product may have the greatest impact on the product’s usability.
Looking at the website of any virtualization-related vendor you are considering provides a plethora of information. However, the underlying pulse of any company can be covered up by glitzy marketing. Especially where you are planning to make a substantial investment in dollars, effort, and potentially your career, looking beyond what the sales and marketing teams tell you can provide a true glimpse of what you can expect from the company and the product itself after the contract is signed. People develop and support technology products, and if the employees of a company aren’t energized to create and maintain excellent products, then turnover will be high and product continuity will be jeopardized.
Although documentation is a requirement for all roles that develop technology, there is a tremendous amount of information that is never recorded. When people leave a company, some of its intellectual property walks out the door as well. Consider, for example, a software application or utility that contains antiquated code. Although this may be not be obvious or even troublesome at first, if an issue is uncovered that requires more information regarding a data stream, and the development team has since disbanded, it may be impossible to resolve that issue.
Although this is not the norm, consider looking at the job opportunities that are posted for any technology vendor that is being considered. Job ads will clearly show the direction of an organization, which may be positive or negative. The careers page of every company website reveals signs about the future of the organization; jobs are posted based on turnover, growth, or both. While growth is generally good, unbridled or chaotic expansion likely spells implosion for that section of the company in the not-so-distant future. Few or no job postings are a massive red flag. While turnover in technology companies is typically higher than in other fields, look for some signs of stability based on years of service, satisfaction with company benefits, focus on community activities, fun or unusual perks, and general work/life balance. For example, Splunk states in its job ads that it believes in “hosting amenities and fun activities to fuel our energy.”
In addition, ask about the technologies that the company provides to its employees from a hardware and virtualization perspective. Does the company eat its own dog food?
Companies that advertise for a large number of college hires may indicate a yellow flag. While such hiring provides a great opportunity for these individuals, the experience level and pay scale are lower, and fresh-out-of-college hires will likely not be major contributors to the company for several years. On the other hand, experienced individuals cost more but contribute more.
It is not uncommon for recent college graduates to be hired in tech support or as vendor consultants. If you are considering engaging a company’s consultants, doing so blindly may yield mediocre results at a high price tag. These individuals have little or no practical experience, yet they are going to tell you how to run your business. Not! Always ask to see the resume of any vendor consultant you are planning to engage. While the individual’s name isn’t necessary, his or her experience level and certifications should be openly provided so that you can ascertain that you are getting a qualified consultant. Several technology companies are notorious for sending junior-level consultants on engagements just because no one challenges them to do better. Letting the sales and marketing teams lead you blindly down the paths of their own consultants may be unwise.
In the end, there’s more to virtualization technology than just the hardware, software, appliance, or widget itself. If the people behind the technology aren’t top-notch and fully engaged, the product will suffer. As a decision-maker for virtualization technologies, you should consider the people behind virtualization technology to be as important as, or perhaps even more important than, the technology itself.