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Management tools shopping dos, don'ts

There's a systems management software upgrade on your 2002 to-do list. But you fear finding just the right product may be a painstaking process. Here are some ways to make the shopping experience more productive and less painful.

There's a systems management software upgrade on your 2002 to-do list. But you fear finding just the right product may be a painstaking process. Thankfully, you can minimize the vendor and product selection process if you do your homework first.

You'll have to listen to less vendors tout their product's benefits if you refine your search from the get-go. To help save you time and propel you into 2002, searchWindowsManageability got the "dos and don'ts" to selecting the right systems management products and vendors for your needs from industry analyst Richard Ptak. Ptak is senior vice president at Framingham, Mass.-based Hurwitz Group.

Do understand what your underlying problem is. Once you realize this, Ptak said, you can more carefully define what your requirements for the product are.

"Don't buy technology for a problem solution. Buy it as a solution to a problem," Ptak said.

Don't try to solve every problem at once. "Focus and prioritize."

Don't solve your problem on the basis of criteria set by vendor, said Ptak.

Similarly, don't let vendors "hijack your requirements definition," he said. Be strong -- you know your environment better than the vendor, so don't let them take over.

Do insist on speaking to other customers for third-party validation. It's unlikely that a vendor's product is "unique," as many like to say.

Do recognize that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is, he said.

Do understand that no single vendor can solve 100% of your problem. Find the vendor that meets the majority of your requirements, Ptak said. Understand how the product will help you best compliment your business. Bottom line: look for the best business partner that will be with you in the future.

Do understand that the vendor is in the business to make money, too. You'll have to negotiate for the product. Again, recognize that you'll be in a partnership. "The best situation is coming away feeling like you both got what you needed from the negotiation," said Ptak.

Do acknowledge that memories linger. Understand that if you want to use a particular vendor again, tread lightly. If you have an unflattering encounter with one vendor, don't expect you can use them in the future. "Work to make a good business deal, but not one that leaves your vendor with no blood left in his body," Ptak said.

Do run the product in a test environment if you can afford it. This will give you proof that the concept can work in your environment.

Do undergo a phased implementation once a product has been chosen. Document, measure and define what your benchmark for success will be. "Once you have implemented the product, measure your change in performance against your benchmark."

Don't define your success based on what happened after you implemented the product. You need your benchmarks as a starting point.

Don't be afraid of making mistakes. Do pad your implementation time to allow for glitches, though. Setting up a plan that has no room for a setback can cause missed deadlines. "That's not problem solving," Ptak said.


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