Justifying Storage and Backup Technology to Different Stakeholders
IT can no longer be seen as a department because it’s a part of every department. So the relationships between IT and the C-Suite need to start before you go and ask for budgetary approval. There needs to be an understanding of purpose outside of taking care of technology. There needs to be integration into where the organization is going. Understanding the personalities of who you are pitching to is key.
CFOs will typically be focused on the numbers. There has to be a counter to just saying we need to spend this. You need to show what the risk is if you don’t spend. You can do research and easily find the cost to the organization for losing data. However, there are further risks – security risks, penalties for losing compliance-regulated data, how quickly you can get to data if something happens. The conversation needs to focus on what happens if you don’t get this technology.
On the CEO side things can be very different. CEOs are typically more concerned with how it affects the way the organization is viewed. If you frame the conversation around employee retention and recruitment, for instance. People don’t want to work for organizations if they don’t have the systems that allow them to do their job well. Conversely, people want to work for organizations that have systems in place that will allow them to succeed. In this conversation, you’re showing the CEO a strategic advantage of getting technology, and a strategic disadvantage of forgoing technology.
Similarly, a COO is concerned with operational efficiency. How employees will be able to reclaim time or get things done faster. With sales and marketing it’s about how fast they can connect with people, how much data they can track, and how they can visualize that data. So understanding who your pitching to is key, and catering your pitch to their needs will get you your budget.
Writing a Storage and Backup RFP
The key work for the IT manager writing a storage and backup RFP is context. Understanding the context of the organization and being able to share that through the RFP document.
You need to understand what is non-negotiable because you know how your organization runs. You need to understand the solutions that exist in the market that meet those needs before sending out the RFP. That will help you weed out a lot of providers that will respond with a single solution in mind. They’ll try to convince you that it’s the right solution only because it’s the only one they push. That’s what you want to avoid in the RFP process – leaving it so open that you get a bunch of responses that you can’t compare to one another or to your organization’s needs.
As you’re evaluating the needs of your organization, you can decide how to evolve those needs to fit the market. It’s a chicken and egg problem – do you decide how to do data storage based on what’s on the market, or do you decide how you do it and let the market fit your strategy? There needs to be a level of compromise, but the research that is done before putting it into an RFP will narrow down your focus. Ideally, you’re comparing 3-5 potential suitors rather than 15-20.
The more information about your network and processes that you can provide up front, the easier it will be to distill down to the solutions that will fit. What types of data do you use most often? What is the context around that data? How do people use it? How do people need to use it moving forward?
The other side of that is excluding anything that doesn’t exactly relate to that. A lot of IT managers will put an entire network diagram in and ask for a solution that works within the structure. That isn’t as helpful to the vendor as saying where you expect the solution to fit and how you expect the solution to fit more directly. Disclose anything where data already exists to date. Let them know whether it needs to be replicated or interfaced with.
If there is a hard budget, say so. If the organization has a philosophy around what they prefer in terms of operational expenses versus capital expenses, include that information. Typically the market has shifted toward anything cloud related being subscription-based, either monthly or annual. There are a great amount of advantages with hyper-converged solutions, with deduplication, high availability, and newer technologies. However they can be cost prohibitive. Cloud solution pricing is a little more well-known, but include your budget here as well to be safe.
If you have an idea of the solution you need, you have a distributed staff, you need cloud storage for all of them, and they’re all in a location with solid internet access, the specific locations of the employees are less relevant. However, if you don’t know what kind of solution you need, then the locations and infrastructure of your employees is necessary to include. Let them know how many employees you have, where they are, and what they need in terms of access.
Information provided by Peter Melby of Greystone Technology. To learn more about storage and backup, check out Peter’s interview on My TechDecisions Podcast.
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