Posts Tagged 'Terminology'

October 8, 2008

Mulch Ado About Nothing

A couple of weekends ago, I decided to enjoy some of the cooler temperatures (yes 90 degrees in Dallas is considered a cold front in September) and take care of a little yard work. One of my tasks was cleaning up the flower beds and installing a fresh batch of mulch. At my side was my trusty, eager, and willing sidekick “Deuce”, my three year old son. When I grabbed my shiny new shovel, he ran to the garage to grab his shiny blue (plastic) shovel. There was a question for every move and every object that was foreign to him “What’s that?”, “That’s yours?”, “Where’s mine?” Is there any thing called child physics, because with my kid, for every action, there is an equal and opposite question.

Anyway, with the weeds all pulled and the shrubs all trimmed, it was time to pull out that big bag of cedar mulch. As soon as I opened the bag, Deuce opened his mouth, “What’s that?” “Mulch” I replied. He looked at the bag; looked at me; back to the bag; then back at me… He gave me a confused look of disbelief and said almost disappointedly, “That’s wood sips!” (He has a little trouble with “ch” sounds sometimes). “That’s wood sips daddy!” he said again this time raising a palm full of chips above his head to make sure I got a good look of the stuff that I had mistakenly referred to as mulch. At that point, I was reminded by my three year old of a lesson that was taught and repeated to me many times before; “Call it like you see it!”

I think a lot of individuals, organizations and companies get in their own way by trying to characterize $2 tasks with $10 words. I’ve been as guilty as everyone else, more so in my experiences as a project manager than anything else. I’ve asked for an estimate on the release of the agreed upon deliverables that I and other stakeholders have a vested interest in before when I could have easily just asked “When will you have that done for us?” There’s no room for misinterpretation there? There’s irony in the thought that part of the purpose of the project management “discipline” is to promote a common language to make it easier to engage with others involved in the project. I’m not making that up.

At SoftLayer, we have an assortment of people from various professional, geographical and personal backgrounds. Though we do have “projects” that we “manage” we try not to get caught up in volleying high dollar “project management” verbiage over cubicle walls. We can’t afford to get things lost in communication so we tend to “call it like we see it”. I encourage you to try it for yourself. The next time you’re tempted to request the outputs from the user validation activities on your project, simply ask for the test results. The next time you’re tempted to order a “Grande Drip” from Starbucks, ask for a medium coffee. And, the next time you head to your local hardware store for a day of gardening on a “not so hot” hot day, be sure to get a big bag of “wood sips!”

-DJ

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May 9, 2008

Industry-Wide Language Barrier

What language do we speak here at Softlayer? What language is spoken across the industry? Is it the same, or does everyone have their own code for translation?

It seems that in the “on demand datacenter industry”, “hosting industry”, “dedicated server industry” (or whatever you prefer to call it) each company or provider has its own idea and way of projecting who they are. These projections are seldom in line with one another and have a slight difference only to give some idea of separation.

The biggest grey area that I have seen and something that gets distorted is the idea of managed services and just the term “management” in general seems to have lost any kind of universal meaning. The thing that I run into most is when a customer asks us if we are a managed company. I find this to be a loaded question knowing what I know of the industry and other providers. The reason is that you can call your service anything you want to and even come up with clever and creative names for it, but at the end of the day creative marketing doesn’t get results when the rubber meets the road.

It is imperative that the correct expectations are set so that customers aren’t lead astray and find themselves in a situation that they were unprepared for because they were disillusioned by gimmicky wording. Softlayer has the reputation of being an honorable company and I am proud to be a part of that. We do not consider ourselves to be a managed service, but we do offer support and help in many situations. We have support staff here 24 hours every day of the year that can help you, or possibly help point you in a good direction for you to be able to help yourself. We offer OS updates and patches at no additional charge automatically. We strive to be as upfront and fair on everything from the bottom to the top, so I feel that it is my duty to explain this situation in more detail. In fact, all of our sales representatives and many of our customers have felt this same way. What I have found is that this upfront and honest explanation is a rarity and that many companies are not as forthcoming as they could be or should be when discussing “managed services”.

There are a lot of companies who provide the exact same services as we do and call this being “fully managed”. There are others who promise the moon and a shoe shine with their service and then just come up short on the efforts. Now, this may not be entirely their fault because they may have excellent intentions, but a poor and impractical business model. However, intentions don’t get results and customers are the ones who pay most for the misrepresentation. The worst situation is when someone pays a huge premium for a service that is overpromised and then severely under delivered. When I am able to talk to someone who has been in this situation they really appreciate the options and control that they have over every aspect of their service when choosing Softlayer as their provider. The only satisfaction I can get is helping people that have been taken advantage of find a provider that they know they can count on and exactly what they can expect.

This elaboration of services extends beyond server management. No matter what buzz words a company may want to use to describe your company (“largest”, “best”, “heroic”, “ultimate”, really just fill in the blank on this if you’ve been around long enough.) the main thing that matters in this industry is functionality. I am confident in saying that no other company can offer anything close to what Softlayer can provide. Softlayer provides options and capabilities which are unparalleled in the industry in order to give customers complete control over their hardware and thus their own business. There are some that have tried to copy our model and others who have tried to produce a stop-gap solution between what they offer and what we offer, but they have failed. Is this, perhaps, a key reason why we have been able to sustain our high level of growth and remain stable? Possibly. Is this a sign that the best is yet to come with Softlayer? Definitely.

If you want to talk about situations or projects you may have coming up, I would be happy to speak with you and help come up with a solution that will maximize your businesses potential. In fact my entire team is here for this specific purpose.

-Doug

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