Friday, March 27, 2009

Evaluations and implementations fail because of people, not the software - (usually)

At one time, Open Source software had a stigma about being poorly documented. In my opinion, I believe that has changed for the most part. While working for Pentaho, a Commercial Open Source BI company, I have taken part in tasks that help create awareness around our software. It involves many resources made available to understand it, use it, explore it, modify it and even evolve it. Whether it is creating Wiki pages, video tutorials, tech tips, and blog entries or working with documentation services, I have come to find that having a successful implementations or evaluations really comes down to two things. Not only is the (1) content as good as the people that "write it" but it is also depends heavily on the aptitude of the (2) person who CONSUMES IT.

The new Pentaho Knowledgebase is one of those excellent resources. It is made available to paid subscription customers and trial evaluators and contains professional documentation, technical tips and more. Our documentation services team has been exceptional in getting information out there as quickly as possible and to those who need it most.

Those who depend on the vendor to provide support and those who care to be successful when using the software to meet their objectives. Sometimes, they are also the ones that sign up for training, whether it be at a customer site, at the Pentaho HQ or over the web. (You don't have to be a customer to get training.) These are the people that are the most successful with the software, any software. In addition to the KB, there is also a wiki page that I maintain in the community for non subscription customers and evaluators. This is an additional resource that allows me to quickly post information at a moments notice which can help others. This resource also creates an awareness and makes me become more scalable.

However, as with any vendor's collateral, if you don't use it, read it or care to learn it and at the same time expect someone to hold your hand, your chances of becoming successful are low. It is that simple. If you are one of those people, there isn't anything wrong with that, (ala Seinfeld) just make sure you hire the proper talent to get the job done and expect to pay. (Keep in mind that with Pentaho, you are not paying for software license fees, you are paying for people's knowledge and expertise to help you meet your objectives as well as the other things covered in a subscription- additional features, IP indemnification etc. )

Of course, there is always an expectation of vendor support, but when one does not take the time to review the collateral and expects to get a POC, CRM, EDW or ERP system up an running with a push of a button, they are in for a rude awakening. These are the same type of people that blame the vendor for their failures.

(These are not exact quotations - but I think you get the point I am trying to make)
  • "I called your customer support and expected to learn all your tools."

  • "I have unlimited support and the project still failed. I only opened 4 cases ,that were resolved to my satisfaction, but I never called you for more help. So your support did not help me."

  • "I want to test your software. I want for you to help me create a POC,. I do not have budget or a time line or a defined project in place, and there is no guarantee that I will become a customer, can you help me?"
Please be aware that there is a difference between development assistance and training. There is also a difference between kicking tires and having clearly defined project criteria. Can you imagine if I called Microsoft, and asked them to walk me through creating a DB application in MS Access, at no cost? Have you even seen their support guide lines? HERE it's a mile long.

In closing, this is just another example that supports my prior blog claim (in regards to BI) that BI (or an application that use any software for that matter) is truly in the heads of people that know the software best. See entry here.

It is up to you to work with those people and get the help you need. It is a theory that makes sense not just with BI but with anything that is new to anyone. If you are new to sky diving would you go it alone the first time? Wouldn't you research it first, or at least jump tandem? In fact unless you have your own plane I don't even think you can go it alone without some sort of training or knowledge awareness. Whether you "SOLICIT" , "CONSUME" and "APPLY" that awareness is up to you. Remember, it is not just the vendor that can assist, but it is you as well. You can help make anything successful if applied correctly.

Teamwork, with each party doing their part can create successful evaluations and implementations.

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