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Finding the right products to bet on in a tough economy

In my days as a storage reseller CTO, one of my goals was to find three great new products and add them to our portfolio every year, replacing products that weren’t doing well or where the relationship with the supplier had gone south. To find these needles in the haystack, I had to interview more than 100 prospective suppliers. Then we would do hands-on testing of the most promising 30 or 40 products; the top five of those would get a detailed examination and would be brought to sales and engineering leadership.

During this process, we were always cognizant of the economic environment. Obviously, the current one that you face is changing the buying behaviors of your customers; you should expect this environment to persist for the next three years.

If I were in the position now of selecting the products most worthwhile to a reseller (to some extent, I’m still in that role), my best guidance would be to aggressively look for channel-friendly companies with one of two key characteristics, given the likely reality of the economy over the next three years. You want either companies that significantly reduce the cost of doing “normal” IT stuff while keeping quality at nearly the same level or companies whose solutions provide an almost instant ROI.

Companies that meet either of these criteria are almost always younger, more startup in nature. But with the cost savings they offer, they also bring the risk of dealing with a younger company. Certainly, the current economic environment is not going to help them be more stable, as was the case in 2001 when we were in similarly uncertain circumstances. I tended to handle this by being honest with the end customer; I told them, “Yes, there is risk, but if we can at least get the solution to get you over the hump of the next three years, then it’s a home run. If the company you select makes it beyond that, then it’s a grand slam.”

In an upcoming entry, we’ll look at the types of solutions that can drive down costs and/or provide instant ROI.

George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the United States, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, George was chief technology officer at one of the nation’s largest storage integrators, where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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