Most of this blog is written by my peers in Datalink's practice management group. Generally, it's not hard to get us to say a lot about a great number of things, so when we get a blog entry request from our fearless blog tormentor (hi Cheryl), we tend to be able to write quite a bit. On Monday, I was asked to write an entry for this week. And then something happened. I was at a loss for words. Really. Those of you who know me might be having palpitations over the thought. It kept me up at night. Was I having writer's block? Me? Did I spew out everything I already know? Admittedly, it's not much and thus the possibility is high.

After some reflection, I identified the problem was what to write about. Not that I didn't have something to say. The tone of what I say also had something to do with it. So, for this installment, I'm going into some unabashed self-promotion (of my company).

At Datalink, we have the privilege of being trusted advisors to our customers and our partners. It's very cool to be in this position, and we take it very seriously. The biggest value to our customers is our ability to serve as an unbiased third party. Sure, we bring in some really smart people to design and deploy stuff. Sure, we have some really smart folks who do support. But so do a ton of other people. But we have the ability to do so and be smart about a number of things at the same time. Chances are you already know this. However, what you might not know is that we also to do this with vendors.

One of our partners invited their largest customers to their engineering headquarters for enterprise-class software. It's a unique opportunity for customers to hear directly from the engineers who design and develop the software. It's also a great opportunity for those engineers to interact directly with customers. The interaction between the engineers and customers, and also between the customers themselves, is amazing.

Well, interestingly, as amazing as this is, there's a catch: each customer has an opinion of what's the most important thing to do, what's broken and needs replacement next, and how best to implement it. The problem is that each customer is different, and some of these customers are very big customers. As in, really big (and no - I'm not calling them overweight). Unfortunately, this causes some feature creep that is addressed to their needs and leaves not-so-big customers with stuff that is really hard to use because it's made for the biggest of the big. This vendor has not let this go unnoticed, so it's not as bad as I make it sound. However, big loud squeaky wheels still tend to get the grease.

Now, the reason for this post.

As I said, this vendor is smart and recognizes this fact. So, they talk to us. They realize the value that we bring is the great number of customers we see. We can give them the truth spoken by thousands of customers, big and small. A single conversation with us gives them trends that they would only get through a great number of conversations. This puts us in the unique position of helping both sides. We help customers pick the best technology, the best application of that technology, and when it's not right, we have a loud squeaky voice with the folks that engineer the stuff. We get to do this with every one of our partners.

And, we are a big loud squeaky wheel.