Why do IT Upgrades Make Me Nervous?
Perhaps some of us are more trusting than others, but for many small business leaders the prospect of upgrading their IT infrastructure is only slightly less adventurous than bungee jumping over a lava pit. Yes, upgrading the technology can offer a host of advantages and cost savings. But concerns about interoperability, unforeseen complications, the ability to operate the enhanced infrastructure, and sheer uncertainty often turn technology upgrades into a heart-palpitating thrill ride that is best delayed, if not altogether avoided. For some it just seems better to leave well enough alone. Thus, among these people, there seems to be a direct correlation between the degree to which what you’ve got is good enough and the willingness to try something new.
On the one hand, it’s not that bad. Really! Most upgrade paths are carefully considered and executed by people who clearly know what they’re doing. On the other hand, people who have “upgrade-phobia” can almost always point to some nightmare experience that made them this way. They were traumatized. So their trust is either damaged or entirely lacking for some reason. This is especially true when the past experience brought about some inability to conduct business resulting in loss of revenue.
I was having dinner with some channel partners last week, and learned that this phenomenon is much more prevalent than actually realized. They all agreed that this can also be difficult to spot. It often comes across as delays in making the purchase decision rather than an outright discussion of the fears at hand. After all, tell somebody that you got concerns about something and they’re going to ask about the exact nature of those concerns. And very often, what we’ve got is fear of the unknown, or fear of what might be overlooked in the process.
Each of the channel partners said it was a lot better if the customer simply explained what was going through their minds; concerns are on critical systems that cannot be interrupted; or even a brief review of that negative past experience. “If we understand the things that they are most protective about, nine times out of 10 we can do something to make sure that those fears don’t become reality,” said one of my channel buddies. “But a lot of times customers are concerned about revealing a lack of knowledge about their own IT infrastructure, so they start throwing up delays and roadblocks until they feel they’ve got a better handle on what we are about to do. But they’re busy with other things in their business so that can take a long time, if it happens at all.”
Another dinner companion pointed out that sometimes cost can be an issue. “A lot of times customers don’t really understand the extent to which this stuff can be financed, very often for the same vendors that are supplying the gear,” he said. “Lately, we’ve been having our salespeople get more proactive about that. Especially in this economy, it can make a big difference in companies’ ability to adapt to new technology.”
The partners’ basic advice was to be more proactive in the sales discussion. Ask them to describe what is involved in the upgrade, and get an understanding of how they are going to do it and what the major “moving parts” will be. Find out how many times they’ve done this kind of upgrade before, and don’t be bashful about asking for references if you are at all concerned. And don’t forget to ask about post-upgrade support, and what level of service you will receive if the upgrade results in any kind of growing pains.
Keep in mind that your channel partner wants your company to maximize its benefit from information technology, and their role as your advisor is to make that process as pain-free as possible. That is something you should use to your advantage.