Redmond Negotiator

A Redmond Negotiator Mulligan Stew

Tips, tidbits and other news from our Microsoft negotiating guru Scott Braden.

This month's column contains lots of small tidbits that combine to form -- well, you decide.

First Ingredient: Read the Book About Negotiation that Microsoft Reads
Walking through an airport last week, I was stopped in my tracks by a bookstore (yes, I am a shameless bookworm with a very expensive Amazon.com habit). Why? This book was standing, facing me, looking me in the eye, demanding to be noticed: "Strategic Negotiation: A Breakthrough Four-Step Process for Effective Business Negotiation."

So I picked it up, quickly flipped through, thinking, "Oh, great, another book on negotiation," and was about to put it back until I noticed this quote on the back cover:

The Microsoft Business Solutions sales team has used the Strategic Negotiation process for four years. This process has been extremely effective in teaching our sales force as well as our certified account executives....
-
Robert Deshaies, Regional Vice President, Microsoft Business Solutions

That was enough of an endorsement for me, so I bought it and am reading it now, catching a chapter at a time on airplanes. First impression: Looks very smart, a different approach than many other "how to negotiate" books that seem stuck in the old-school world of one-to-one sales. I recommend you check it out.

Next Up: Top 10 Most Annoying Microsoft Licensing Problems
With apologies to David Letterman, this has been another of my many back-burner projects for several months now. To put it simply, I've written up the most common, most complex and annoying problems that customers have with Microsoft licensing, along with answers. To get your top 10 list, just send an e-mail to scottbradentx-172558@autocontactor.com. My mail server will respond with your top 10 list.

Vista Upgrade Coupon Update
For a while there, there was a "Will They or Won't They?" debate going on about whether Microsoft would be releasing Vista discount coupons to Windows XP buyers. The definitive answer arrived on Tuesday.

But for corporate and enterprise customers, I'm not sure these coupons will make any difference to you.

After all, you've probably already factored Vista and Office 2007 into your planning, are probably already testing the various release candidates and have already (mostly) made your decisions about Software Assurance for Windows.

If you're not a Software Assurance subscriber for Office and Windows, you should take a look at your forecasted purchasing for Office and Windows to see if the coupon upgrade strategy makes sense for you.

Finally, A Rant About Recurring Themes (aka How Customers Hurt Themselves in Microsoft Licensing)
In no particular order, here are some patterns I see again and again with my consulting clients, and what you can do about them:

  • Blindly accepting the Microsoft or reseller rep’s answers and explanations about licensing. Guess what, folks: The licensing is just as complicated and confusing to the vendors as it is to you, and they are just as likely to get the wrong answer. Just this morning, a client challenged my advice on a licensing issue, demanding proof because "Microsoft said different." Of course, I did have the proof -- because the rule in question is posted right on Microsoft's own site. Why was the Microsoft rep wrong? Who cares! The fact is, if the client had accepted the Microsoft answer, they would have to spend several hundred thousand dollars unnecessarily. The lesson here? If you don’t take the time to understand the licensing yourself, you're at the mercy of the vendor reps.
  • Not implementing basic Software Asset Management practices, such as controlling installations and purchasing, using an electronic discovery tool, and conducting periodic self-audits. C'mon, folks. The best practices and tools in this are mature and well-proven to pay for themselves in cost avoidance. There's really no excuse for a midsize to large shops to be seriously out of compliance. And the tools and processes that ensure compliance are equally useful at providing decision-making answers for licensing negotiations. If you're struggling with this, send me an e-mail and I’ll send you some good resource links.
  • Not fully exploring all of your options. There's no secret here -- just plain, old, due diligence. I know, you're overworked, there's no time. And honestly, it may not be worth your time to save a few hundred thousand dollars by researching alternatives. But at least give it a quick look; you may find some easy money there. For some ideas, check my past columns and Doug Barney's excellent article, "17 Steps to a Better Microsoft Deal."
  • Waiting till the last minute. "Question: What's the most important minute of all? Answer: The last minute, because without it, nothing would ever get done." Well, there's a lot of painful truth there, and it stings a bit for me, too. But when you’re putting together your strategy for your next round of Microsoft agreements, the last minute is way too late to get started. Please, I implore you, get out your contracts right now, check the end dates and put a note in your calendar to start working on your renewal options at least six months in advance.

Well, thanks for letting me vent. Now, go dig out those contracts!

About the Author

Scott Braden has helped more than 600 companies negotiate Microsoft volume license deals. For a free case study, "How a Mid-size Company Saved over $870,000 on a $3 million Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, in Less Than Three Weeks," visit www.MicrosoftCaseStudy.com.

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