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An Engineer's Guide to Working with the Customer

So when your customer says they want to purchase a product, and goes through with it, does that mean they really, truly, actually want it integrated into their system? Yeah, they know it will help.  Yeah, they know the way they are troubleshooting now isn’t an effective use of their time.  But time and time again it is so difficult for the customer to integrate a platform, such as Splunk, into their day to day activities. Why?

A possible answer to explore is that while management wanted the product, because they understand it will help, their different silos did not want or ask for it. They either aren’t interested in implementing it or don’t have time to integrate a new tool into their daily lives.

How do we change this mindset? That is a difficult question to answer and there are a number of approaches to it.

You could try the heavy handed, management push from the top down of "you will use this or else." As you can imagine, that rarely works and ends up causing more problems and wasting more time then it is worth.

You can attempt to win them over from the inside. Find an internal “champion” of the product, and slowly and steadily show them how awesome the product is. Make them want to integrate the tool into their daily life. This is not a quick process and typically is not worth the trouble. Your proponent may not have a good relationship with their team, may be interested in the technology for their own reasons, or might not be a great sales partner to help integrate the product.

Our best tactic to help move this process along is to join the team for a few days, get to understand their operational workflow, and produce “quick wins” that can be something as simple as showing how networking interface errors correlate with performance during an outage event.

We hold ongoing educational sessions about how Splunk can help the team do their job, which is an excellent way to reach many people and various teams. Often, a win for one team is similar to a win for another.  When the questions start to come in, you know the sentiment is starting to turn.

"I can see my virtual machine is not accessible….and my storage went down at the same time?"
"I can get an alert if the system sees that a user was attempting to SSH to a system he was not authorized for?"

These are often the bigger picture challenges and fixes that admins simply did not think about. Once these use cases start applying to the users work, migration to the tool comes quickly.

Some advice: Try to avoid common pitfalls that can sidetrack your efforts of Splunk adoption. If you are being ignored(a common tactic) by key individuals, move on to other team members, or even other teams and circle back at a later time. Once you have held a productive session, it is important to not lose momentum.

All of these approaches take time. After the successful initial setup and deployment, it is critical that communication be kept flowing with management on the successes and setbacks you are seeing on a day-to-day basis. The customer needs to know that their investments are paying off.