He points to hospitals that he's worked with that standardized on a single vendor. The initial deal seemed good, he says, but when their upgrade cycle came up a few years later, they didn't have any choices and the offers they received were far different than they would have been otherwise.
"The value you get varies widely depending on whether you have any options," Muscarella says. "Use a multivendor strategy. Once you identify your upgrade cycle, make sure you go through all your agreements to make sure that in the vendor's mind, you have the option to switch."
Additionally, be careful with support for your storage. Make sure your support pricing is in a fair range, and be rigorous about identifying decommissioned hardware in your storage portfolio and negotiating the cost of supporting that hardware out of your support agreements.
Pay for an analysis when buying data mining, BI software
Data mining and business intelligence software and services are most often sold in the context of a business case, which means that vendors will fall over themselves to provide you with a free business case analysis, Muscarella says. They'll want to bring consultants to your site for several days, speak to your business owners, and help you understand what they can bring to the table.
"They'll make you feel very good about spending," Muscarella says. "But those business cases are often full of holes, or there are lots over very optimistic assumptions."
It's better, he says, to pay them for the analysis or hire a third party to conduct the analysis. That gives them liability if the analysis proves mistaken and gives you a much better chance of receiving an honest, complete assessment.
Beware of the big data bundle
Whether you're buying hardware, software, or services, avoid the all-you-can-eat agreements, Muscarella warns.
"We always tell people to beware of the bundle," he says, noting that vendors often offer a deal in which customers can use any of the tools in their toolbox for one flat fee. "After a year, they'll look at how many tools you've installed and are using, and they'll just charge you ongoing maintenance for what you use. We find those kinds of arrangements often lead customers to deploy far more tools than they need. Three years later the vendor comes back and you're using three times more than you need to be. And then you pay maintenance for three times more than you need."
Instead, make sure to ask for time and materials quotes in addition to fixed bid quotes. He notes the time and materials bid can provide valuable insight into how a vendor looks at a project and how many hours they think it should take by resource and task. That information gives you the capability to benchmark pricing, margins and discounts among your vendors, providing leverage during negotiations.
Thor Olavsrud covers IT Security, Open Source, Microsoft Tools and Servers for CIO.com. Follow Thor on Twitter @ThorOlavsrud. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Thor at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about business intelligence (BI) in CIO's Business Intelligence (BI) Drilldown.