Back when Louis Gerstner took over IBM, there was a bit of a scandal. An analyst, it was not me (I was working for IBM at the time), asked him, after seeing a pitch saying IBM’s then technology was so powerful it would pay for itself in months, why, if it was so good, IBM did not use it? Gerstner replied, “would you rather I used this technology for our customers or us?” This answer was a false dilemma because there was no reason that the technology could not be used both internally and externally. I thought this was a unique position, but I often am amazed that tech companies, in general, do not deploy their technology internally aggressively at all, which suggests they don’t believe in their marketing.
I mean, if the technology at retail prices were so effective at paying for itself, wouldn’t that same technology at cost be far more attractive? NVIDIA is the only company that seems to use its technology in presentations and practice aggressively. Like with their AI workstation technology, they first seem to develop it for themselves and then sell it. This use of their technology is their superpower because people know that NVIDIA is the first customer for a new product they develop, and they take pride in using what they developed.
I think this should be identified as a best practice and that one of the first things we should ask any technology vendor is how widely they use their technology. This suggested response is because if it doesn’t make financial sense for them to deploy it at cost, it will likely never make sense for us to deploy it at all.
Eating Your Dogfood
There is a concept in our industry called “eating your own dogfood” that applies here because it refers to vendors using what they create. But that process can also have problems if the product isn’t competitive. Over the years, I’ve watched companies like Oracle (their un-competitive office suite), Sun Microsystems (Sun Ray One), and Microsoft (Zune) try to force the adoption of non-competitive products, and not only did these efforts not help sales, except Zune, they did a lot of damage to the related firms.
My example at IBM was on PROFS, a horrible product that was supposed to compete with Microsoft Office, even the executive responsible for the offering had never used it. Still, it passed off the use to his secretary. It wasn’t until a top IBM saleswoman, who I later worked with, when he asked why it wasn’t selling, took him to use the product that he concluded it was crap.
What makes NVIDIA somewhat unique is that they develop technology for themselves that they eventually sell externally. They use their technology aggressively in their presentations to the press and customers. They don’t just do demos; in a way, their entire pitch is a demo, and you’d think they were from Missouri rather than California because they aggressively prefer show over tell.
In NVIDIA, the product users are also often the ones involved in its creation, so there doesn’t seem to be the problem of forcing an uncompetitive product down the throats of employees. NVIDIA’s process assures the quality of the result, but their use validates and builds in a vital marketing element while also making NVIDIA more effective and productive.
Wrapping Up: Best Practice
One final story before I leave you is GM, where the then CEO looked out his executive window and noticed that the parking lot was full of Toyotas. He proclaimed that employees were mandated to drive GM cars. At the time, GM finance had too much say, and the company was building mostly cheap crap and this did partially resulted in better cars over time because no one wants to drive crap. However, the fix would have been quick if that executive had first asked why GM employees hated GM cars and fixed the problem of a too powerful and relatively clueless fiancé organization, resulting in positive change sooner.
It is not only a best practice for vendors to aggressively use their products and showcase that use but for buyers to aggressively look into the use, internally, of the vendor’s offering. Suppose the vendor could but doesn’t use their offerings. In that case, I suggest that the vendor is lying to you about the offering’s strength, if a vendor’s employees who get employee discounts don’t use the vendor’s products, avoid them, and if your people refuse to use your products because they suck, then prioritizing fixing the “suck” part should result in a far more viable offering.
Of the vendors I watch, NVIDIA does this the most aggressively and sets a standard that more of the rest should more aggressively emulate if they want similar success.