Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Back Button

A few years a go, one of my Sales Engineers was involved in a bake off at financial services firm in Manhattan. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a bake off in the world of enterprise software is used to described when a company, evaluating solutions, brings in a multiple vendors and submits their systems to a series of scripted tasks. The company's evaluation team monitors the performance and attempts to get a handle on what they can reasonably expect from the system, and look for those hidden gotchas that may come back to bite them in the butt.

So we make it into the bake off, and there is a lot of excitement around the office because if this financial services firm is a house hold name and to have them as a client would do wonders for enhancing our reputation as a major player in our field. Needless to say we threw our best people onto the project and sent a small army to pull this off.

Each vendor was assigned two days. We go in for our first day and things are going along reasonably well.

A word here about content management systems. The beauty behind them is that they separate content from its presentation layer. This allows someone to simply fill out a basic web form and have it published into HTML, PDF, XML simultaneously with the proper tags, formatting, etc. The user interface for our system was all browser-based. So you could have two windows open, one where you are typing in your content, and the other as your content appears on your website.

As I mentioned, things were going along great, and we were in the middle of showing how to create a press release by simply filling out one of our web forms, when a member of the evaluation team stops us. "Hit your the browser's back button right now" he ordered.

"Excuse me?" came our reply.

"Hit your back button. I want to see if it saves what you have typed so far or you would lose everything when it goes back to the previous page"

"Ok". Our Sales Engineer navigated back one page. Its at that point that the question was answered. Unless the user clicked on the "Save" button at the bottom of the screen, the newly typed content would be lost.

Awkward Silence.

The evaluation team left the room.

More Awkward Silence.

After 20 minutes, the head of the team came in, thanked us for our efforts, but politely dismissed us by stating that we have failed in one of the major requirements and that there would be no need for us to return the following day.

After our attempts to stay were politely denied, we left.

The bake off was held in Tower 1, World Trade Center. The date was September 10th, 2001.


Gilligan said...

What does it say about me that, for about half of these posts, I've wondered if this is Sasser describing his experiences trying to sell to my company? This one came damn close...except we were located in Austin.

Beth said...

Okay...just a tad bit confused. Is your account meant to leave the reader feeling as though you would have returned the Tower 1 the following day had you not been dismissed? And we all know what happened the following day.

Sasser said...

We had originally planned to be there the second day.

Ruth said...

Wow, Kevin, I guess you were happy to lose that sale....