In 2005, the only category HDS didn't win was sales-force competence. That changed this year, despite HDS' score in this category actually falling from 5.68 to 5.49 (see "Sales-force competence"). HDS' highest score in this category was in response to the statement "My sales rep is easy to negotiate with" (5.71). Sun, the previous category winner, had its score tumble more than a full point from 5.73 to 4.61.
Sales is often a sticking point among users, capable of making an otherwise good vendor relationship turn sour. Brown-Forman Corp., Louisville, KY, engaged a consulting firm to help with the purchase of an EMC Symmetrix DMX-3. "We negotiated not only the price of the DMX, but we negotiated per-terabyte pricing at certain tiers over a four-year period," said Brown-Forman's Greenleaf. "We were pretty aggressive in our negotiations."
The biggest turnaround in the sales-force category was HP, which went from fifth place last year to second this year despite only a fractional scoring rise from 5.20 to 5.21. Nevertheless, HP was the only vendor to remain steady as all others declined in their ratings. EMC and IBM (with scores of 5.19 and 5.18, respectively) were grouped very closely to HP. EMC could have surpassed HP in this category, but its score was dragged down by a 4.70 for the statement "My sales rep keeps my interests foremost." Sun experienced rare negative ratings (4.47) to this same question, as well as for "My sales rep is easy to negotiate with" and "My sales rep is flexible." For Sun, this is a surprising slip in just one year. The ratings decline, we hypothesize, is a result of disruptions due to integrating significant acquisitions (e.g., StorageTek) and major corporate reorganizations.
The repercussions of a sale can resound long after the ink has dried on the contract. "It was a sales error that we're suffering right now," said Mark Gangola, manager of data center operations at New Century Mortgage Corp. in Irvine, CA, referring to the replication software his company bought with its EMC Symmetrix DMX1000. "Every time we've used it, it's broken something," said Gangola. They've temporarily pulled the plug on the $175,000 software package.
None of our surveys has revealed significant differentiators among vendors based on technical support. In 2006, HDS, HP and EMC all maintained scores above 5.30 (see "Technical support," p. 36). IBM and Sun, however, slid to 5.08 and 4.81, respectively. For the statement "Support personnel are knowledgeable," respondents awarded HDS a 5.61 and HP a 5.53. When we posed the statement "Vendor takes responsibility for the problem," scores ranged from a 5.68 for HDS down to a 4.72 for Sun.
"The fact that we don't have to worry about a disk going out or something happening helps us sleep at night," said Brown-Forman's Greenleaf about his experiences with EMC's technical support. But Tony Bergen, manager of server technologies for The North West Company Inc., a Winnipeg, Manitoba-based food and merchandise retailer, had a completely different experience with support for his IBM Shark. He said local IBM support staff "didn't seem to be the sharpest knives in the drawer."
About our survey, Page 4