How Vanilla Ice Could Help HP Software

Note: This article was originally posted on Loadtester.com, and has been migrated to the Northway web site to maintain the content online.

Loadtester is focused on implementing solutions around HP Software, and specifically the BTO product line acquired by HP in their Mercury Interactive purchase a couple of years ago. I thought it was time to take out my HP barometer and analyze what I have been seeing out in the field each day. What are the biggest obstacles HP Software faces at this point? Where do they stand with their partner community and customers? I wanted to share my concerns, but I never want to say anything critical without some alternative solution on what can be done to address it. I don’t claim to be the smartest guy out there, but perhaps I could share some words of wisdom I have learned over the years that has helped me. As I glean advice from my 80’s music catalog on a regular basis, it should come as no surprise (to those that know me) that I have found a bit of sage advice from that timeless classic “Ice, Ice Baby” that speaks directly to all my concerns about HP software today. If you are not familiar with the song, look here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_Ice_Baby

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen. It’s that simple. “Really?”, you may ask.

Stop

My world consist of the Mercury product suite HP acquired, which includes Quality Center, Performance Center, and Business Availability Center – along with all of the components of them such as LoadRunner and QuickTest Pro. As a user and consultant around these products, it seems like HP is more concerned about getting the next release out than getting it out with everything working properly. The last two versions of LoadRunner were a bit of a disappointment, especially when it comes to things like support for .NET record/replay hooking, WEB/AJAX Click & Script protocols, and other major features that were touted for those releases. The day Quality Center 10 was released, there was a patch listed as available in the README file! I get a sense that there is something out of sync with product development and product marketing. Stop the madness! Take a break to evaluate what you are putting out these days.

Marketing keeps changing the BTO message every six months or so, and it seems like it is just for the sake of change. BTO used to have a philosophy behind it that was easy to explain, and now it’s just become an ever increasing list of products that HP has doggedly determined to bundle in some kind of cluster, no matter what. For example, I just returned from a BTO sales training class. I noticed that the traditional title for Application Delivery products in the BTO framework (Quality Center, Performance Center, etc) is now called “Application Modernization”. What the heck does that even mean? When it becomes difficult for partners to keep up with the message (who care about it and want to make sure they are accurate), I believe we have lost the real BTO focus. Stop and let your customers grasp BTO for just a second. Educate them, and explain it to them without mentioning products (yes, it can be done). Do it before you lose them in a sea of terminology. Stop the marketing department from claiming these products do something they cannot. As I write this, we have an open ticket with HP support on a LoadRunner scripting issue for a simple AJAX application that has been opened for several weeks. Not days. I said weeks. We’re talking standard ASP.NET with a little AJAX thrown in. We’ve been hearing how LoadRunner is cutting edge and fully supports Web 2.0 applications. A little AJAX, and Vugen pukes all over the desktop. I’ve had people email me recently to tell me their frustrations trying to test new applications built on Web 2.0 asyncronous technologies and became very frustrated with LoadRunner being able to automate the business processes. Hey HP – don’t tell the CIO of a company that they are living in a “Model-T” world with their applications, when all you have is a mule to get them to the next level! Stop running around trying to make something from nothing, and FOCUS on making your existing products do the things you have already promised. Stop worrying about the timeline for the next service pack so that it can be coordinated with a sales play or the next HP Universe conference. Your customers would rather have a more stable product with just one release a year, than several releases that don’t fix past issues and just introduce new ones. Don’t brag about being able to support something unless you can really support it.

Collaborate

Has anyone ever wondered why you can’t go to Barnes & Noble and buy a book on LoadRunner? Could you imagine having something outside the User manual that might show you how to use it effectively from others who are experienced with the product and have picked up some best practices? Even though HP can brag that they own a 78% market share in the load testing space, and their nearest competitor only has 11%, no one is allowed to publish anything on how to use LoadRunner with print screens of the product. HP’s legal department does not allow it. As a result, you have a lot of people with LoadRunner on their resume, but only a handful who really understand it’s power and potential. How about a book so that the masses can finally “get” it and lose the mystery. A collaboration of HP and several of their best power users could author such a book. I believe it would sell a lot of copies, and could pave the way for even more market share for HP. More knowledge in how to use the product means smarter purchasing of software licenses and more purchases over all. HP could also collaborate with their partners (ALL partners big and small) about where they see the market going and what customers want to see in the next product releases. Stop worrying how much software a partner sold last year and look at their value as a subject matter expert around the product. How about collaboration with customers, and not just the ones that buy the most software annually, but have people mature in the use of the products? Why not use all information to know where to take the next releases? It would be hard for me to believe HP is doing that now based on where we find ourselves today. Finally, how about collaboration with other vendors and the testing community as a whole? I know this is a hard concept to grasp, HP, But you can handle it. Wouldn’t it be great if scripting could be done in any language and compiled into a format that the LoadRunner Controller would understand and be able to execute? Perhaps there could be support for third party vendors for monitoring and reporting which could utilize the power of the Analysis tool within LoadRunner. We could see new reports about test data that no one has even thought of yet.

Listen

Listen to your partners and customers when it comes to support. LoadRunner is an expensive product when compared to others that do some of the same things. It’s not expensive when you consider the true ROI it brings in the hands of the experienced. It is the best game in town when you must have a true Enterprise level testing product. When it comes to support of this product, our expectations are at the level of Pavarotti. In some respects we have been provided William Hung! HP has had two years to fix this, so we are not interested in hearing excuses any longer (like claims of inheriting this problem). Give us a support center that speaks fluent English to English speaking customers, and resources that have actually used the products they are supporting. Give us quick time to resolution and full transparency of our support tickets as they are escalated, so there is no way they can fall through the cracks. Make the four-week support ticket the UNACCEPTABLE CONDITION instead of the rule. Start firing people who cannot get better time to resolution all the way up the chain. This one thing – poor support – has cost more sales due to reputation than anything else I can think of. GIVE PARTNERS THEIR OWN SAID NUMBER FOR CREATING INCIDENTS! You can figure out internally how to map it to the customer they are at later.

Sales people, start listening to what a potential customer says they need and provide the RIGHT solution, not just the latest one from this quarter’s sales play. My customers tell me they are getting a little tired of the same old sports coat and strong aftershave elevator pitch with the latest technology buzz words thrown in. Many times I have gotten accounts where they will not talk to HP because directly because they didn’t know asking for a general price quote meant 14 phone calls a day from 3 different people with increasing intensity towards the last week of the sales quarter. Put down the Gartner studies and open your ears to the talk on the street and what is being said right in front of you, and you’ll sell more software and might make a good client relationship in the process. Question the stuff marketing is making up in their hidden bunker somewhere in Silicon Valley and compare it to what the products can actually do, and get your respect back. Oh yeah, and it matters if you actually care about the people you are making the sales relationship with and not just making them a walking budget approval signature in your mind.

Word To Your Mother

I’m not here to just criticize. I will be the first to give HP credit for having some great products and a great overall story to tell. I often try to find the positive things we can do to make some of these situations better for both HP and their customers. However, I am the one who is on the front lines selling HP and having to look my customers in the eye and stand behind the products. I am the first one they call when the products don’t meet their expectations that has been set for them. Partners are the ones who have to open support tickets for customers on new product implementations. When we’re still working on support issues with them weeks after our consulting engagement ends, how does that make us all look? If partners lose faith, HP loses a lot more than they may realize. They’ll miss us when we’re gone. Just remember: we were your biggest fans. Some may think I am being a little harsh, but just be glad I did not base this article on a song by 2 Live Crew. Yo, I’m 5000…

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Scott Moore

About Scott Moore (153 articles)

With over 20 years of IT experience with various platforms and technologies, Scott has tested some of the largest applications and infrastructures in the world. He is a Certified Instructor and Certified Product Consultant in HP’s LoadRunner and Performance Center products. He currently holds HP certifications for ASE, ASC, and CI. A thought leader in the APM space, he speaks regularly at IT conferences and events