Wednesday 27 August 2008

Product consistency is good for business

One of the key points to selling something, and continuing to sell that something, is based on the product's consistency.

Take for example, Oreo cookies. A little off-topic perhaps, but I am an absolute Oreo fanatic. They are the source of my radio and online handles: Oreo Man and MunCHeeZz.

Why pick on Oreo cookies though? Because, for you Americans, if you have never had a Canadian version of the cookie, you are missing out.

A friend brought a bag of US made Oreo cookies and I could not finish it. They did not taste near what their Canadian counterparts did, nor did they taste near as good.

The psychology behind product loyalty is deep and complex as any marketing campaign can point out to us ... or it can be outright simple as some product marketing schemes go.

When it comes to consistency, the look of our workstation is key:
  • We are not marketing to end users and thus do not need flashy coloured skins on our boxes. The exterior look of the box should be relatively plain and functional with a taste of elegance. In our case, our chassis of choice is either the Antec Sonata II or Minuet 350 depending on the form factor needed.
  • Our component setup within the box is consistently the same across many different orders.
For many of our clients, what is inside the box is not important. We can try and convince them that the larger manufacturers will give them any manner of component inside the same looking boxes, but they, for the most part, will not pay attention.

What they do pay attention to are the costs associated with those hardware setups. And, that is where we, a smaller I.T. shop, can have the advantage over the larger system manufacturers.

Over the two year period during which our larger clients run through their hardware refreshes, we will implement the same system configuration across the board down to the hard drives, motherboards, RAM, and other components used.

How does this save our client's money? Homogeneity. That is: Sameness.

Troubleshooting issues on all manners of hardware configuration in one office can be grief stricken, never mind the nightmare for our client audit notes. Then there is the RMA process and loss of productivity. These things cost money across the long run ... in many cases more than the money "saved" purchasing from tier 1 or 2.

In the case of our larger clients, imaging becomes a factor and having the same hardware configuration across the board makes OS image configuration, updating, and longevity a factor in the cost of supporting that hardware.

We do not build workstations here in our shop. Having people tied up building systems is not an equitable proposition. There is one exception to that rule: Our training labs, our own workstations, and any special order high performance boxes.

The exception to that rule gives us hands on experience with the systems we support at client sites. It gives us the ability to formulate new configurations based on new hardware coming down the pipe. And, we are able to learn the hardware and software products through and through to make sure we are knowledgeable in their inner workings ... or not workings.

Intel, by the way, has a two year product cycle commitment for their corporate class components.

We have a very reputable OEM System Builder in Edmonton that we turn to for our client workstations. They are also the location we can take any warranty related issues to and have them addressed in very short order. We have been working with them close to ten years now.

Some food for thought for the smaller I.T. shops out there.

Our default Corporate Class configuration:
Besides that Sameness, the above system configuration is stable, relatively quick, and provides the Intel AMT support for remote firmware/BIOS level support.

Oh, and the configuration comes with an awesome support mechanism via our OEM and Intel.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.


Anonymous said...

Just like Oreos, a Tim Horton's double double can never fail you in Canada. Great post Philip!

Philip Elder Cluster MVP said...


Thanks for the compliment.

I have one of the older 20oz fat max Tims mug that I hold onto religiously. :)

For that one, its a triple double.

I love Tims' coffee and it really loves me ... so I tend to stick to Earl Grey (loose tea) during my in shop days.

Satish's link somehow got mangled: Microsoft Small Business Specialists - Canada.