Xamine: The search for a solution

The third part of this three-part Web-exclusive column from "Ben Keith" explains how to Xamine for the right solution. You might be surprised what you can learn from an anonymous 20-year-old CMMS telemarketer.

By Ben Keith

Part I | Part II

I reached the third article of this series and hadn't heard a single complaint. I thought it must be a cold day somewhere, but then I found out those idiots at Plant Services lost all my e-mail. Please resend your old messages and lots of new ones to bkeith@putman.net. If they bounce, call Paul Studebaker at (630) 467-1301 x433 and tell him what to do with his spam filter.

Speaking of work, I find that I have an endless supply of new things to complain about from working in telemarketing. (Put that under “Job perks I never thought of.”)  Maybe someday I’ll tell you about the “Curse of the RFP” and the “Demo that wouldn’t die.”  Don’t worry, they’re too boring to put in writing … then again if you’re finding this interesting, I probably could write an article about my whiteboard that would be epic.

Enough rambling let’s get back to the good stuff — complaining.

Here’s where we’re at in the equation so far:

XhaustXcite + Xamine

Xamine: The search for a solution

So here you are, and if you’ve followed my advice in previous articles, you’ve Xhausted your internal needs and are now surrounded by a bunch of Xcited fellow employees and managers. So what do you do next? Well at this point you’re inclination will be to tell the CMMS world you’re ready to see what they’ve got, and I’m here to tell you to zip it. Can it.

Lock it up and throw away the key.  Don’t say a word. This will be an extremely hard step for you especially if the internal Xcitement has been done right. But fight this inclination like you fought your mother-in-law’s decision to move in for six months after your wedding …to the death! Why such drastic measures? Well, let me paint the picture for you.

You’re primed to gather some information on potential vendors for the project. So with a couple clicks of the mouse you have contacted vendors A through Z. And while you were at it, you casually visited “Third Party’s’ website about CMMS, and told them of your upcoming project. Then, unbeknownst to you but knownst to us, they proceeded to send all of your information to the vendors a second time. The horrific frenzy that follows is comparable to jumping into a lake of piranhas. [Editor's Note: PlantServices.com does not distribute your contact information to third parties unless specifically noted when accessing vendor-sponsored materials. Our CMMS Review, Web site and e-newsletter registrations are not shared with vendors.] Not only will you be torn in every direction but, if you manage to get out alive, you’ll swear to never go back there again.
Now in that last illustration I, as a telemarketer, would be classified as a piranha.

Remember though, that the end result is not the piranhas’ fault. After all, the piranhas only want their piece of the pie. It just so happens that you are the pie, and that is your problem. You jumped in the lake, remember. So if I’ve ever nibbled on you before, please forgive me — it’s my job.

I know what you’re thinking, “I would never be as stupid as ‘Organization A.’”. Before you associate such a harsh word like stupid to their actions remember this: Vendors are constantly trying to attract interested organizations, gather their information, and spend millions while doing so. That means not only are they ready for you to come along they’re waiting. They’re also experienced. So, it’s practically inevitable that this will happen to many unsuspecting victims. And it does. Most people interested in CMMS start their quest Xternally, and fall prey to these traps. This is a huge mistake. Don’t forget that the first two steps, mentioned in previous articles, were strictly internal namely: your Xhaustive self-study and the generation of Xcitement.

The lesson therefore is this: Don’t get into that lake until you’re ready, and at this phase, you aren’t ready. So how do you Xamine then? Treat any prospective vendor just like you would any other real life stranger, start from a distance. Instead of blurting out your name, project, budget and favorite color do some background checks. Here’s a good word: Research. Reading from third party sources is probably the best way to start. Kind of like what you’re doing now…only I’m not really third party, if you know what I mean.

Surprisingly, good research can even be done on vendor websites, if you know what to look for. (Notice that’s a really big ‘if.’) Some areas of interest are: technical briefs; case studies; customer lists; and white papers on regulatory compliance, technology, and implementation methods.

A word of caution: Web sites are rigged with information traps. Don’t give out your personal information …yet. This includes third party Web sites. I really can’t stress this enough. Once your information is out it can never be brought back in. The piranha thing is no Xaggeration. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, there was an ‘X’ I had to use it.) Vendors can be relentless. You’ll be so confused fending them off by establishing time frames and budgets that you won’t have time to focus on where you’re at right now with the project. This leads to the dreaded backburner as your organization reevaluates their process to procure CMMS. So, Xamine carefully. There is more than one way to skin that cat. And another word of caution: The information that you read must be taken with a grain of salt, or perhaps a spoonful. These things are really selling tools. That’s why they’re rigged with info traps and put on the website. So don’t jump to any major conclusions based on such things. However, some weeding out may be accomplished by it. Which is really you’re goal. You will likely at this point start developing a list of potential vendors. This is where things start to get hazy.

There are as many ways to Xamine a CMMS vendor, as there are organizations that want to. Some will only solicit vendors via Consultants and never make direct contact. On the other extreme, some merely skip this step and send a PO, to a desired vendor. In case you’re wondering, yes, it has happened. The majority, I’ve found, have slipped into an RFI, RFP, Demo style pattern. Organizations can be cumbersome in this area, only allowing a certain procurement process to take place. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be that way. Do your personal Xamination and know as much as you can without tipping your hand by sharing your info.

Be an educated customer, one who knows what he wants, understands what can be provided and learns how to obtain it. It must be a little surreal for a telemarketer to tell you he doesn’t want your information. In truth, I do want it. I’m in sales. I need it to survive. So do all the other vendors out there. My point, though, is that an educated customer is more valuable than a dumb one. The goal here is to help you learn what’s available, recognize sales tools and keep you away from piranhas, well at least premature exposure to piranhas. (We’ll eventually get to you. Trust me.) If you can manage to do that, you may survive long enough to not only purchase a system, but also buy the one you need as opposed to the one you’re sold, making you a more satisfied customer. See how that works?

Education = Satisfaction, another important mathematical equation that really is the principal behind the step Xamine.

When your information is finally shared with Vendors A through Z, you will have plenty to review and evaluate. This evaluation process will be summarized in our next steps: Xpansion, Xperience, Xceed, and Xcel.

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