This is my journey to building a world-class “Ready” Program and understanding what validation means to me and the customer….This will be a multi-part series of my journey.
The early days of understanding the concept of “Ready”
I’ve spent the better part of my life in IT consulting. It has been some of the best and worst times of my life ;). But when you make a choice to work in this industry, there are certain givens. Sometimes as consultants and IT Pros we don’t get the recognition we deserve, but if you have the passion for technology, it doesn’t matter. I’m happy with the fact that I resolved or completed a project for a client. And enabled them to make their businesses stronger and more efficient. These IT pros tend to be part of grassroots communities, like the Microsoft MVP community, which is all about giving back and enabling others.
Anyways, moving along on with the story. As a consultant, my many years in the field gave the opportunity to deploy a wide range of technologies.To name a few: InfoBox, Riverbed, Plexxi, Cisco, Microsoft (of course), CheckPoint, RSA, Silverpeak, A10, Carbonite, Comvault, CyberPower, EMC Solutions, F5, Fortinet, Sonicwall, Juniper, Palo Alto, Splunk, Trend Micro, VMTurbo (before they were Turboonomics) Veeam and the list could continue on, but I think everyone gets the point. Try saying that line in one breath :).
Deploying and supporting all these solutions for years is what prepared me to understand what “Ready” really means for a solution. When I first joined Nutanix, I was hired as a Microsoft Solutions Architect in Technical Alliances. My job was to help advance and evangelize the story around Microsoft and Nutanix. Also, I supported the field with sales motions around Microsoft solutions. Or as my new colleagues knew me, I was the resident “Microsoft Guy” :).
Introducing “Ready” into my Journey
About 2 or 3 months into my journey at Nutanix, I was approached by my manager about starting a “Ready” program for alliance partners. When he first told me, it took me a day or so let it set in “I thought wow, this is right up my alley. I’ve been in the field and felt the good and bad of these solutions for years.”
Building a ready program is like building a highway through a mountain, especially in a startup. It’s not just about rubber-stamping a solution for anyone willing to pay to have their logo on your site. It’s a critical validation process that requires a team experienced and critical enough to ask; 1) Is there a real need from my customers that this solution answers; 2) Is this solution possible? In other words, the customer has to be the first and last consideration. Yes, as with the highway. There is an advantage to the solution builders (Who hasn’t wanted a highway named after them, not to mention collecting tolls?). If it doesn’t solve a problem, it’s not worth the investment.
Validation implies that you have guidelines and standards that the partner must meet. If they don’t meet the criteria, then they don’t get the status of “Ready” and all the benefits that go along with it. As Indiana Jones would say “No Ticket, No Ride” (from the Last Crusade movie 🙂 ).
So you ask, “What’s the importance of validation?”
Well, let’s look at the pharmaceutical industry. Validation for the pharmaceutical industry is the process of establishing documentary evidence demonstrating that a procedure, process, or activity carried out in testing and then production maintains the desired level of compliance at all stages. In the pharmaceutical industry, it is very important that in addition to final testing and compliance of products, it is also assured that the process will consistently produce the expected results. Validation is “Establishing documented evidence that provides a high degree of assurance that a specific process will consistently produce a product meeting its pre-determined specifications and quality attributes. This, for the pharmaceutical industry, is to maintain and assure a higher degree of quality for drug products.
Breaking it down simply, validation gives customers a degree of confidence that they are getting exactly what is advertised. Without validation in the pharmaceutical industry, there would be a lot of quality control issues. And this results in people getting sick or death in some cases.
So now, you can see why validation is so important. In the software industry, this can be the life or death of a customer environment resulting in costly downtime. It also puts doubt in the customer’s mind about if they should move forward with the solution.
Crazy story about Validation and QA with a Vendor Solution
Back in my consulting days, I was working with a large enterprise client deploying (at the time) Exchange 2010. The client was on Exchange 2003, which at the time, did not really have a simple solution for failing over Exchange to a secondary site, in case of failure. This led to the rise of third-party products that made this failover process easy and gave you lots of options. Continuing on with the story, I was at the end of the day at the client. We had just finished getting the Exchange 2010 DAGs (Database Available Groups) in place between the US and UK. This was so we could start the migration from Exchange 2003.
I had left for the day around 6 pm to head home. Within an hour, while I was in Boston traffic, I got a call from the client. They proceeded to tell me that their Exchange 2003 environment was down. The product solution that was supposed to auto-failover is not working. The client asked, “Can you please come back and take a look. We have already called the vendor support and making no headway?”
I arrived back and started my troubleshooting. Sure enough, before support called I found a serious bug that was not accounted for during the vendor’s QA process. In addition, the solution had completed another vendor’s “Ready” program. Now, I’m not going to name vendors, but this caused the client to go down for a number of hours while I worked with support to get this rolling again.
For this client or most clients, any downtime on email is a loss of business. They took a big hit that day of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, I’m not saying that validation is a silver bullet or could have saved this client headaches that day, but it certainly reduces the surface area of a problem arising in the field.
More about “Ready” with Technical Alliances and the Customer
Having a “Ready” program in the software industry is not just about approving and denying a solution, it’s also about helping partners resolve their issues whether it’s on either side, so they can eventually achieve “Ready” status. And with that, “Ready” for a customer gives them the peace of mind that a solution will run on the given platform or hypervisor.
I was up to the challenge, and so starts the journey to “Building Nutanix Ready, What “Ready” means?”……Up next, paving the road to “Ready”.
Until next time, Rob.