Are you using the features of your existing platforms? And, if not, why not?

This is going to be another post that was inspired by sheer frustration.

It’s one thing talking to someone about adopting a totally new platform and meeting with resistance – I get it, it’s not what they’re used to, it’s new stuff, they don’t know if it will work etc. etc.

However, recently I’m encountering an alarming percentage of existing users of technology that are not using a lot of the features available to them – and I don’t mean small things, I’m talking about the features that someone literally buys the equipment for.

I understand if we’re talking about a feature you actually have to pay extra for, there may not be money in the budget for it. But this is not what this post is about.

Do you use the freely available or already paid for features? How do you know?

Consider this (I have more examples but we’ll keep it simple): I have a handful of customers that use our equipment (NetApp) with VMware that steadfastly refuse to even consider:

  • Deduplication
  • Thin Provisioning
  • Snapshots
  • Rapid, thin VM cloning

Those 4 technologies are frequently the reasons someone buys NetApp in the first place for virtualized environments, since they can lead to:

  • Vastly reduced storage footprint
  • Faster performance
  • Easier management
  • Easier and faster backup and recovery
  • Tremendous money savings

In my sample base, those customers absolutely would benefit from those technologies – it’s not a “maybe” or your “mileage may vary”. I know how their data is laid out and what kind of data it is, and the difference will be staggering.

Unjustified anger

I’ve also had customers tell me “where are my promised efficiencies?” They get really irate, and when I tell them exactly what to do in order to get said efficiencies, they start backpedalling and telling me how they can’t turn the features on during production hours. They then promise to turn some on during a maintenance window, then time goes by, they seem to forget about it and call me again, irate, complaining about the lack of features and efficiencies. And the cycle continues.

Is it an education problem? Lack of time?

Maybe it’s just a matter of education, but when someone is presented with the facts, several use cases from other local and global customers (including huge household names everyone recognizes), customers with hundreds of PB of data, all of them using the technology and achieving in many cases more than a 3:1 reduction in storage footprint, and still ignores the advice, there’s something wrong.

The other excuse for “shelfware” (software you never use but you just leave on the shelf) is lack of time to implement the features. For complex software I can see time being an issue, but my example is about things that can be done with a few mouse clicks.

The not invented here syndrome

There’s a term called “the not invented here syndrome”. This is an affliction suffered by professionals in all kinds of fields, not just IT. Some symptomps include:

  • Extreme resistance to any new ideas that were not developed within the company (frequently, by that person)
  • Extreme resistance to any kind of change, no matter how benign, low-risk, low-cost and beneficial it might be
  • Dismissing irrefutable proof
  • Thinking that your problems are more challenging than everyone else’s
  • The inability to recognize the real challenges facing their organization (“can’t see the forest for the trees”)

This is a perfectly normal human condition. We each have our world view, and some of us really don’t like having that view challenged. The human mind will actually go to amazing lengths to ensure that the existing worldview stays unmodified. The examples are all around us – people ignore what seems to be common sense all the time. History is full of horrific examples. I don’t want to depress anyone, so here are some humorous examples:

“I don’t trust fire, it can burn you!”

“That wheel thing seems like the devil’s own work!”

“Nobody needs more than 640K RAM in their PC”.

Some friendly advice

Back to the IT world. There are a few simple things you can do in order to make life a bit easier for all.

  1. Please read the documentation suggested by your engineer
  2. Then read it again and take notes and prepare questions
  3. Be open to new ideas- “luddite technologist” is a contradiction in terms
  4. Be flexible – try new things on copies of data or less important data, there’s always a way
  5. Reach out to your engineer, don’t always wait for them to reach out (our schedules are usually crazy)
  6. Think in terms of the business problems you’re trying to solve, not in terms of technology (you may not know that what you have can already solve your problems)
  7. If your vendor reaches out to you, maybe it’s not just to sell you more stuff, maybe we’re even trying to help out. Imagine that!
  8. Never assume anything (including that you always know better than the vendor, or that everyone’s lying to you, especially if you already own their gear!)
  9. If presented with irrefutable proof of something, consider graciously conceding
  10. Be aware of your shortcomings and prejudices (we all have them)
  11. Accept you don’t know it all (guess what – the customer is not always right!)
  12. And, last but not least: put the business first, and your ego a distant last.

I’ll get off my soapbox now.


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