Bad loser

We lost a bid the other day. It’s annoying because the work looked quite interesting and it was a customer where the fit felt quite positive — up until the point we didn’t win the work :-).

I won’t say who the customer was or who we lost to (actually, I have no idea who we lost to) but, as always, the reasons we lost are probably complex.

Two interesting factors emerged from our de-brief with the customer.

We bid as a small consortium and the customer felt that was potentially too high risk. Fair enough… we clearly didn’t do enough to convince them that we weren’t a risky option. Generally speaking, we pride ourselves on being open and transparent with customers, so we wouldn’t routinely hide the fact we are bidding as a consortium but, clearly, in this case we needed to work harder to convince them that our consortium was no riskier (and, preferably, was less risky) than a bid from a single supplier.

The second factor was that the customer wanted to be able to “visit our data centre”. I mean… come one. WTF. Visit the data centre… in this day and age. This was a government-related customer buying under G-Cloud and they wanted to “visit the data centre”. FFS. I’m guessing that some suppliers still promote the option of visiting their data centre as a positive.

We were bidding with AWS. AWS don’t even let most of their staff know where their data centres are, let alone customers. Why? Well, obviously, because the fewer people who know where the data centres are, the better. As I understand it, AWS maintain a nice clean separation of responsibilities — you either work on the underlying physical infrastructure (in which case you clearly know where the data centres are) and know nothing about the higher level services running on that infrastructure… or you work on those higher level services and know nothing about the underlying infrastructure.

Seems pretty obvious right?

In the old days, like 5 years ago, Eduserv used to try and promote a myth about how our own cloud services were more secure than AWS’s. We called it Assured Hybrid Cloud and our story was that people could host front end services on AWS but if they needed to secure their data then they should store that in our ‘secure’ data centre. We provided the assured network path that joined the two.

It was complete bollox, of course.

We were so proud of our data centre, that we’d take staff there as part of their induction. We let customers come and visit it — in fact we encouraged them to do so.

But that was in the old days!

Now we have realised that as a UK SME, operating out of one and a half data centres in the UK, we have no chance of offering the same levels of infrastructure security that AWS, Microsoft and Google are able to provide. How could we? We simply can’t compete with the economies of scale that the big public cloud providers are able to realise. It’s part of the reason that I would now always recommend that our customers go to one of the big public cloud providers (by which I essentially mean AWS, Azure or Google — other vendors are available, I just don’t know much about them) for their cloud infrastructure.

In short, the phrase “we need to be able to visit your data centre” has no place in the modern buying process.