This is my contribution to the Un-SQL Friday series that the Midnight DBAs do. This week they’ve asked us to talk about vendors that are doing it right in some way. I bumped into the post and hemmed and hawed awhile about submitting a post but I decided to go for it.
I’ll be honest up front here, the approach for the way a frustration with a vendor transpired over there a couple weeks ago got under my skin. I understand being frustrated, I understand wanting to warn folks of frustration but something about the approach turned me sour. Seeing their recent poll on finding positives in vendors and this topic has disarmed me a bit so I feel comfortable throwing a post in the ring.
I picked a couple vendors to talk about today. One I know and have worked with a lot and one I only know through an employee of theirs.
A Vendor I Know – SQL Sentry
I talk about them a lot. I don’t get paid to talk about them but I did get free lunch from the once at a Product Advisory Council meeting and I did sit at the Product Advisory Council meeting (that I paid my own travel costs for). Those are my disclaimers. If I didn’t like the product I wouldn’t want to sit on their Product Advisory Council
How They Do It Right
- They Know Me – Their product started out as a tool used internally by a hosting company, a very large hosting company. They saw a huge void in tools to make the DBA life an easy one. They started developing their own tool (like so many of who have been DBAs for any length of time have done) and they saw a value in it. When they work on their product, they use this experience, their partnerships and staff’s knowledge to develop something that answers my questions.
- They Listen – The product advisory thing was new last year but they’ve always listened to their clients. So many of their features are because of requests and internal discussion about the usefulness of the request. They reach out to a network of MVPs and experienced SQL Server DBAs across verticals for feedback, beta testing and advice on what to look for.
- They Don’t Hide – In their Performance Advisor tool they don’t filter out their own tool. If they are the top SQL on your server, they want you to know and they want to know it (I’ll give you a hint… They generally aren’t in that situation these days… If they ever have a piece of code that has potential performance issues in your environment, they’ll analyze it, retool and get an update out for everyone.)
- Great Staff – From Greg Gonzalez, who runs the company and still loves taking SQL Immersion/Master training with Paul Randal; to their talented developers and support team. They hired Aaron Bertrand, a highly respected member of the SQL Community as a full time employee last year and that addition means even more community involvement (though their staff help run the Charlotte SQL Server user communities already)
- Supportive – I can send an e-mail or call support and know I’ll get a response. Usually I end up dropping the ball on implementing something they suggest and they actually follow up with me proactively to make sure I am all set. They take suggestions, give great advice and not only know their product but know SQL Server.
- Great Tool – All of the above points are great but it helps that they make an incredibly useful tool. One of my first orders of business when helping folks out as a DBA is to purchase and install a SQL Sentry “Power Suite”. The tool collects important data for troubleshooting, base lining and figuring out where to focus my attention. When a problem happens and is resolved by the time I get there, I can see how the server, sql activity, etc. looked during the problem without having to setup server side traces, manual data collection scripts, perfmon traces, etc. It looks pretty cool up on a second monitor/machine also 😉
- They Want You To Grow Too – They sponsor a lot of SQL community events. Yes, this is marketing – but it is more. Once you get to know some of the folks that run SQL Sentry you’ll realize that as much as they want to sell licenses (what a crappy business plan to not want to do that, right?) they want to give back to the community. They sponsor a ton of events. Whether it was putting 4 (I think?) people on the SQL Cruise (all expenses paid) last year, SQL Saturdays, User Groups, Community Events, etc or now helping to sponsor some of the Master Classes put on by Paul Randal, Kimberly Tripp and Brent Ozar, they help keep this community of SQL Server professionals growing.
A Vendor I Don’t Know – Hyland Software
I’ve had the pleasure to start working with a database engineer of theirs through the SQL Community – Erin Stellato (@ErinStellato on twitter) She and I just delivered a really fun presentation at a SQL Saturday in Cleveland, OH. It was geared towards helping DBAs and Vendors see how to best work together. The presentation went through how to work out things I’ve blogged about like the vendor interview questions or my pep talk for software vendors.
Ok.. But Why Hyland?
I have never used their On Base software. I have never seen their installation process but I have seen some of their DBA documentation (I skimmed through it, as I told Erin 😉 ) and I did a lot of talking with Erin leading up to the presentation. So I got a feel for how they handle some of my biggest vendor pet peeves and they are on this list for those reasons and others:
- They Tell Why – Erin is big on this and it comes out in talking to her and her documentation for DB pieces of the app. They aren’t just giving you arbitrary orders that don’t make sense. They are making thoughtful suggestions, documenting the reasons behind recommendations or requirements and work with you if you have issues.
- They Understand Frustrations We Face – At least Erin does anyway, I can’t speak for the company as a whole but I got the feeling it comes from the top down while working with her. They don’t want to be that vendor that dumps software on you and then never makes sure it is being backed up, looked at, has DBA involvement, etc. They can’t do your backups for you (can you imagine the liability!) but they remind yo about them. They can’t force your DBA to be involved but they suggest it as a best course of action.
- They Want To Hire The Best – When I see a company sponsoring an event like a SQL Saturday and they are more doing it for hiring than product placement (as Hyland did for the SQL Saturday in Ohio), it tells me they know where the best of the best hang out. They know where the people are who are willing to take a Saturday away from home (on a cold and snowy day!) to learn more about how to do a better job. That’s awesome. They are really looking to foster community growth and want to take full advantage of that in a competitive and well trained staff.
- They Represented – I saw Hyland shirts walking around the event. I know Erin mentioned colleagues being there. Not only do they sponsor the event but they must create an atmosphere that encourages their employees to continue learning. They sent Erin to the SQL PASS summit where I met her for the first time.
I’ve worked at companies that were always striving to be the best and it was a different atmosphere. I grew. Everyone grew. Pride was left outside mostly. Blame games came less frequently and the pride in delivery, satisfaction and making an awesome product won nearly every time. Those companies would do what Hyland does here, those companies would want their employees to be thought leaders in the community. I’ve also worked at companies who should have changed their motto to “we stink less” and they would never sponsor an event like this let alone encourage their employees to attend. It showed in their deliveries. So because of what I see in the SQL community, I already have a strong suspicion that Hyland makes a great product and takes pride in what they are installing with and for their clients.