Not long ago, a client in the cognitive data management space came to us with a request to survey the industry landscape in search of competitors to its platform offering. Simple web searches were turning up literally hundreds of companies whose products were deemed to be in the general field. However, a closer examination revealed that very few were actually leveraging cognitive computing technology, and many seemed to be included in the search because of some artful tagging and search engine optimization tricks by the vendor's marketing department.
We have seen this all to often, and we have a strategy for getting to greater clarity.
Using our journalistic credentials, we framed the project as an e-guide to an industry product segment, designing criteria for comparing the products of many vendors, then explaining why the criteria would be important to planners evaluating the technology for use in their own data centers.
The criteria used were both practical and user-driven. Information was collected from participating vendors via a survey, then validated with follow-up interviews with each vendor's engineering team. The guide was published for use by consumers.
We delved further into our research notes to provide the client with a customized version of the document. This one identified the strengths and weaknesses of each competitor product in relation to the strengths and weaknesses of the client's wares.
The task was labor intensive, but it produced one of the first documents of its type for the consumer population. Here's a draft copy, which we are still refining for publication in Virtualization Review.
DOWNLOAD THE PDF
More than one vendor has approached Toigo Partners International over the years to solicit our assistance in launching a new product or version of a product using our creative methods and techniques. Not long ago, a start-up in the cognitive data management space approached us with a small budget and a handful of ideas that needed to be translated into a web presence and thought leadership strategy. We had a look at their offering, decided that they were "doing the Lord's work" (that is, offering something with potentially great business value), and set up a multi-month project to support their efforts.
Today, the company involved has a website containing creative themes, images and narratives developed by Toigo Partners that both communicates the vision and the product capabilities offered by the company and "entertains" the visitor to facilitate "site stickiness" and brand recognition. The company is doing very well, with sufficient sales to be debt-free and quickly moving toward profitability.
In addition to web work, we have included discussions of the company's wares in our data management training programs and webinars, in social media and blog posts, and in collaterals from TPI that can be downloaded by users. They are also featured in an e-book that will shortly be released on the subject of Cognitive Data Management.
This is only a sample of the work we have done in the industry to promote and advocate technology products and services that meet our rigid standards for value. We have turned down many such solicitations, even those promising an extremely lucrative payout, when the products were not what we deemed to be of high business value. An example was the content-addressable storage technology from EMC a few years ago. We traveled to Hopkinton, MA to see the pre-release version of what would come to be their Centerra product, and despite a lucrative project offer, turned down the former stalwart of the storage array business because we didn't like what we saw. It should be noted that the product did not fare well in the market and was ultimately discontinued - after we provided space in our DrunkenData blog for users (their identities confirmed by us) to tell their stories about the shortfalls of the product anonymously. (EMC was a vendor that leveraged a contractual threat of reprisal to prevent customers from speaking publicly about the foibles of EMC products.)
We see our job at Toigo Partners to be, in part, the illumination of business value in IT products and services. We love it when we can deliver full-throated advocacy for a product or service that delivers what it promises. But, we also feel compelled to speak truth to power and to call out snake oil and woo when we see it. Let's talk about your product launch and how we might be able to help.
Certification training is a "cottage industry." Recently, there has been a proliferation of certification training programs offered by vendors, industry associations, and private companies. Some programs are thinly-veiled promotional vehicles for proprietary products or services. Others are offered by sources that may have expertise in the principles of adult education, but no real subject matter expertise at all. Too often, vendors of expensive certification classes deliver little value, but at a high cost.
Truth be told, there are significant shortfalls in key technology skills areas - particularly at the management level. Critical thinking and common sense are not innate; the value of experience is too often dismissed. Not surprisingly, skills gaps are increasingly blamed for the failure of organizations to meet their IT-dependent goals and objectives.
Addressing this problem requires both instruction (from the Latin "to put in") and education (from the Latin "to draw out"). Certification training is only as effective as the knowledgeability and experience of the trainer -- both in terms of how to engage adult learners and in the real world problems that the training addresses. Toigo Partners offers both the adult education background and the "in the trenches" experience that has made our training programs very successful.
We have trained and certified over 80,000 IT operatives over the years in storage technology and infrastructure, data management and archiving, continuity planning and security planning, and even business-savvy IT strategy. Are programs have been so successful, in fact, that we spun off our basic training courses for free delivery, via the web, at our Data Management Institute e-training portal. There, trainees can take courseware - either hosted by us or by one of our partners - at any time that is convenient and receive a certification just for completing each course. There is no charge for this service as we are seeking to help cultivate the capabilities that will make our clients successful.
Toigo Partners also develops custom training and delivers it via the web or on premises as our client needs dictate. Some clients - vendors like CA Technologies, for example - have used us to provide workshops for their customers on data management and data protection. Their goal was to maintain and build upon the existing knowledge of their customers and prospects in order to facilitate critical thinking about specific challenges and to increase awareness of solutions offered by CA and its competitors. We have performed similar work for other vendor clients.
In other cases, clients who are users (rather than vendors) of IT have brought us in to train their personnel to develop data archive strategies, business continuity plans, or data protection strategies using common sense methodologies we have developed and used in customer consulting engagements ourselves over the years. Toigo Partners has assisted in the development and implementation of over 200 disaster recovery and data protection plans for clients ranging from the NFL to Edison Electric and the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey. We have published five books on disaster recovery planning, two books on storage management and storage infrastructure, one on automated training development and adult education, and nine other books on technology subjects. Many are foundational texts used by businesses worldwide.
If you need assistance with realizing your business IT objectives, we may be able to help. Let's talk.