The Measure of Value

I recently read this post from Anthony Spiteri with some interest. A few disclaimers before I head into a response.

  1. Anthony is a good friend of mine, despite the fact that we live on opposite sides of the country. I value his opinion and input as provided by his blog and his involvement in the ANZ vChampion Program.

  2. In case you haven’t read my bio, I work for VMware. You might say I’m wearing rose coloured glasses. I challenge that. It’s more like rose coloured contacts, with rose coloured glasses and then a welding helmet with a rose coloured lens over the top.

Now that is out of the way…. I took away two key points from the post – Service Providers are beautiful and unique snowflakes, and access to NSX should be delivered in eval the same as the rest of our suite. The underlying message that I took away from the post was “I don’t see the value in a paid PoC”.

I’m not going to address the points specifically, because everything is contextual – access for individuals to learn a technology for personal experience is vastly different to access for those same individuals in the context of evaluating a product attempting to address a business issue.

What I am going to attempt to address is the concept of value in a paid PoC – be it NSX or otherwise.

Let’s start with a simple analogy. Your business needs to go through some significant change because it’s business processes are not allowing you to deliver something effectively. You know that you need to change, but you’re not sure how. You go out to a firm like Deloittes, PWC or similar and explain the challenges that you’re facing and ask them if they can help you. They indicate that as a matter of fact, yes they can. You then ask them to send you the documentation around how they perform analysis, and the metrics by which they measure organisational maturity so you can test the process internally and validate their approach. That happens right? Well, no – it doesn’t, because you need their experience to apply that IP. What actually happens is that you tell them to come and do their dicovery and analysis in one area of your business, take on their recommendations and if they deliver the outcome you are expecting then you pay them to roll that work out across the whole company. Actually, no – that’s not it either. If you want them to deliver something, you pay for it.

When you pay for professional services you are paying for IP. Not the IP of the individual who in assigned to your engagment, but the IP of the organisation who delivers it. They are able to bring the full weight of their experience, support and engineering in order to deliver you the outcome that you are looking for. The application of that IP is based on experience and deep understanding that is very different to reading a couple of blog posts and attempting to deliver an outcome based on some experience in your lab.

I know that sounds condescending, but it’s the truth from where I’m sitting. I have deployed and used NSX in our internal lab, exploring use cases and most specifically integration with vCAC but I would never consider myself competent enough to deliver a solution using NSX to address the outcomes they are looking at. Do you want to know something funny? Acknowledging that is liberating. “Sorry, I don’t know that. You really should get an expert in.” Guess what? Expertise cost money.

Now for a somewhat interesting digression. There are social constructs that we deal with every day which affect our behaviour. One of these is the idea of reciprocity. For example, I bought you a coffee this morning and when we go downstairs for lunch later on and I mention that I’ve left my wallet upstairs you will feel an inclination to offer to pay. Some sales people (most famously AMWAY) use this intentionally as a way to convince you to spend money. They leave behind products for you to try and when they return to take away what you haven’t used you feel obliged to spend some money. For the unscrupulous sales guy in your case, this might sound like: “Ok, so we’ve successfully proved your Use Cases, and in order to do so we gave you 80 hours of engineering in good will. When are you intending to roll this into production?”

Making a PoC a paid for engagement means that it is a transaction which both parties can walk away from with zero sense of obligation.

This applies to so much more than just NSX. I think the we as an industry need to mature and hold ourselves to a higher standard, valuing the expertise that both we, and others can bring to a situation. That requires regulation and a whole raft of other measures, but everyone needs a dream right?

One last comment. Even if you accept my arguments, the question remains “how much should a PoC cost?”. That is a can of worms which I am in no way ready to even try to address. All I would ask is “what is it worth to you?”.