Interview with Diane Schwarz

Executive Interview SeriesWhat are the key issues and concerns that senior technology decision makers face when making strategic technology purchases?

We asked that question and more in an exclusive interview with Diane Schwarz, CTO of Textron, a Fortune 500 company in the aircraft, defense, industrial, and finance industries with revenues of $12B and 33,000 employees in 25 countries. Diane is a member of IT Central Station’s CIO Advisory Board and we sat down with her to hear her thoughts about evaluating enterprise technology solutions.

When looking for technology solutions offered by vendors, how do you typically evaluate the products?

 

Diane Schwarz

Diane Schwarz

“We do a very comprehensive evaluation process, and we consider a solution’s pure functionality as contributing only about 40% to the ultimate decision.”

At first, this might sound like a surprise but what goes into the evaluation grid that Diane and others use? She gave us these ideas from her perspective at Textron and a 20+ year career in successful technology purchasing:

Alignment with Vendor Culture

For example, a fast-paced startup might be more willing to go with a vendor that might be considered as risk takers while—on the other hand—a more mature stable vendor might be more suitable to match a steady-growth mature organization. Diane states that if the cultures don’t mesh, the relationships can erode or conflict after the initial collaborative efforts are established.

Vendor Financial Health

This might seem like a “no brainer” because building a foundation on a new solution, which may not have sufficient investments, can leave you with a long-term support challenge.

Vendor Transparency

Diane explained that finding out the goals of the stakeholders in the transaction can provide some great insight into whether the vendor would be collaborative and looking for win-win solutions. This is in contrast to a vendor just trying to hit their sales goals for new business or farming their existing customers for more products and services without an expectation to collaborate. During a meeting, she observes the body language and listens carefully to how a vendor presents information for clues about transparency.

We asked her who’s her favorite vendor and she dodged the question nicely by saying this, “know thy supplier!

There is no “easy button” when comes to tech-buying. In fact, what goes into an enterprise tech purchase can surprise you. Ok, granted, what most tech-buyers and the end users look for is the “easy button” in the solutions. Who wants to go in and edit text files and work with the API if they don’t have to?

When a fully-vetted solution comes along with captivating interfaces, preconfigured workflows that work after clicking finish on a download (or out-of-the-box for old time’s sake)—and, integrate across other platforms and solutions without a hitch—this is when we’ve done a nice job of buying cloud and app gear for our users that make business processes run smoothly.

Diane provided us a good starting point of questions to ask while evaluating enterprise-level solutions.