by Eric P. Jackson

Apples to Apples is Rubbish

No, I’m not dissing Steve Jobs and Apple Computer, nor am I denigrating the delicious fruit or talking about the party game. Our culture is fond of (and maybe even obsessed with) making reasoned, fact-based comparisons of two products or services that are equal in features – an “apples to apples comparison.” Our goal is usually to compare and choose the “cheaper” of the two.

My grandparents were notoriously tight with money; the Great Depression will do that to you. I have a fond memory of my grandmother who, upon discovering that the ice cream truck driver had shorted her by a quarter, jumped in the Dodge to track him down. While I’m sure a 1977 Dodge Aspen Coupe burned more than $0.25 worth of gas in a quarter mile, it was the principle of it all. She wanted the best deal and wasn’t going to pay a penny more.

Frankly, I’m fine with getting a good deal. I don’t think any among us go into a business transaction with the thought “Gee, I hope I’m paying top dollar.” Keystone frequently works with business owners who are looking for a great deal. Unfortunately, a great deal today can be a raw deal tomorrow.

Allow me to illustrate. The “Plastic Goat Manufacturing Company” is not pleased with its computer network infrastructure and decides the time has come to upgrade. Keystone Business Solutions, LLC and “El Cheapo Networking” are invited to bid on the project.

The ideal move for the mythical Plastic Goat Manufacturing is to invite both Keystone and El Cheapo to separate meetings to discuss Plastic Goat’s IT needs. Plastic Goat’s operations person should paint a clear picture of the company’s needs and challenges for both potential vendors. Plastic Goat should ask the vendor for relevant business references and a high-level recommended solution.

Make sense? If you truly care about your company’s IT infrastructure, you’re looking for a vendor who understands your needs and delivers smart, robust, productive solutions. You’re NOT looking for cheap.

Can each IT consultant adequately grasp the unseen challenges of your business data needs? Has your data security and disaster planning been taken into account? Most importantly, have they successfully identified the IT problems of other similar companies, recommended the correct solution, implemented that solution and provided support for that company’s infrastructure for years to follow?

The worst possible thing you can do is hand each potential vendor a ready-made plan and asked them for the best possible price. That sounds stupid when compared to a more logical approach that makes a consultant actually be a consultant. Oddly enough, we at Keystone are frequently asked to participate in an ill-conceived “apples to apples” bid designed to get the best up-front price but woefully devoid of any thoughts regarding real value.

So the next time you have a knee-jerk reaction to buy based on “cheap,” think about the real value of a more appropriate long-term alternative solution. And if your company’s data and productivity aren’t important to you, feel free to cheap out.