Selling change to the Change Averse

We’re all well and truly back from the holiday season, chomping at the bit, ready to go, some of us may even be doing some actual going. So, pause for a couple of minutes and consider two things:

How do I sell new technologies to people who aren’t comfortable with change?

Why are IT people bad at dealing with change?

A number of times in my career, I’ve been in a situation where I’ve thought “this is clearly the future, why can’t you see it?” and I was set thinking about these times over the holidays by an article about the Amazon Echo. The article itself was a fairly standard review of a Cool New ThingTM, the comments however were somewhat is disagreement of it’s Cool status. Generally, the comments went along the lines of:

“Why would you want a spy in your living room listening to you all the time?”

“What if someone at Amazon is listening to everything you say?”

Of course, it’s not in any meaningful way listening to everything you say and it would be trivial to work out if it were sending all audio it recorded back to Amazon. The thing is that these objections came from people who are happy to have telephones in their front room and carry mobile phones round with them everywhere they go. Many of them are happy to say “Hey Siri”, “OK, Google”, or “Hey Cortana”, just not “Alexa”.

What’s this got to do with storage then? It made me remember a similar situation: An almighty row that broke out at a company I used to work for, when someone suggested we stop using identical hardware for both recovery snapshots and Production online storage. These were high end SCSI disks in RAID0+1 configuration. Moving to RAID5 and lower spec disks for the recovery snaps would save hundreds of thousands of pounds across the company.

“It cannot be done!”

“It won’t perform!”

“What about our customers? We cannot take that risk with Production Uptime!”

You name it, the objections were voiced and loudly. Mostly without merit, or easily challengeable. Eventually we made the move, with some rather strong influence from the budget holder. Would you believe it? Everything was just fine. The objectors saw that it worked and this became the way we did snapshots. Everyone was happy.

From this and other similar experiences it appears that gradual change is easy, feeds and speeds can get faster and faster, sizes smaller and smaller, but step change can be a problem. That is, until everyone is comfortable with the new way of doing things.

So, our current Step Change: Software Defined. Why does someone spend vastly more money on a monolithic hardware platform to perform tasks that commodity hardware and Software Defined Storage can perform more cheaply, more flexibly and without hardware vendor lock-in? The answer is easy: It’s what they are comfortable with.

If you’re going to sell Software Defined Storage, you need to take your potential customer with you, rather than stand and shout them over to you. Show demos, encourage them to make Proof of Concept installations, show them other people are making the move and it’s going well. According to IDC the market for PBBAs shrunk by 8% last quarter and revenue shrank 9% YoY, so change is happening.

Above all, ease your customer into the new wold, don’t allow it to become a step change.