Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tenet #11: Proof of Concept? Isn’t the Sales Presentation Enough?

Here's tenet #11 from my whitepaper "Tenets of Identity Management". Part #1 of the "Tenets of Identity Management" podcast is posted on the Quest web site. Part #2 is also now available.

Proof of Concept? Isn’t the Sales Presentation Enough?

It certainly is not! When I was selling identity management products at ZoomIT, there were a number of things that customers would ask me that I hated to hear. One of them was the dreaded, "Can you do a proof of concept?" Sometimes, it would come out as, "We want all the short-listed vendors to do a proof of concept". Even though the requests made me shudder, you should not move forward on an identity management project without asking vendors to do a proof of concept (POC) statement. Vendors may push back and ask you to pay for it, but don’t back down. They should either absorb the cost of a POC statement as part of their pre-sales expenses or, at a bare minimum, offer you 100 percent credit for anything you spend on the POC statement. Remember what I said earlier about partnering. If vendors don’t want to do a POC statement or are forcing you to pay for it without any credit, then are they really interested in partnering with you?

Here are some points about POCs:

• Visiting the vendor’s lab to see the software work is not a POC; that’s called a demonstration! A POC has to be done in your environment, not theirs.

• Assemble your most important (or all!) scenarios and use them as the basis for the POC. Don’t make a decision to purchase by only seeing 10 to 40 percent of the functionality you need proven.

• Stress test any system by simulating a full load of events or all of your users. Many systems work great but fall apart when they are stressed. Make sure you don’t find out about this after you’ve purchased the product.

• Don’t forget your network infrastructure! Most organizations have varying networking environments, which might include: satellite or slow links between sites, intermittent connectivity, varying topologies, communications with mainframes, and any number of other weird networking factors. Don’t forget about these in your POC. Most software assumes gigabit, continuous, no-lag connectivity everywhere!

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