As a presales, I often come across (and/or get asked for) product comparisons, often known as “battle cards“.
Especially if you work in IT, chances are you’ve seen many of these things. I did several documents like this myself and I still do from time to time, when customers or partners ask for one.
My personal opinion? I’m fairly skeptic about their actual usefulness.
“Why?“, you would say.
Generally, these “battle cards” are very brief, since they have the purpose of telling you very quickly why some product is better than its competitor(s). But they can bring a lot of misleading information just the same.
In my experience so far, I’ve seen that a great number of them fall in one (or more!) of the following categories:
The out of context
While not necessarily inaccurate, these are basically comparisons between products having different purposes. The famous “apple-to-oranges” comparison, so to speak.
The overly detailed
When comparing two similar products (that is, true and direct competitors), many “battle cards” focus on some very specific corner features or traits. It’s easy to find something unique, for example comparing how you do something rather than what you do.
The totally non-objective, non-scientific
My 2 Cents
But to be fair, let’s face it – doing these “battle cards” is not easy. By the time you produce one, even if you are as accurate as possible, it is already outdated. Plus you can’t possibly have deep knowledge of all your competitors’ products or technologies.
When I do comparisons, it is usually a lot of work, because I don’t want them to fall in one of the categories above (but it’s entirely possible that they do, eventually): I read tons of documentation, visit forums to gather (honest) feedback from users. I often install other products to see strengths and weaknesses firsthand…
But having 100% effective, accurate and balanced comparisons is pretty close to impossible – and yes, this includes the ones produced by the company I work for.
So, are these “battle cards” useless? No, probably not. For me, they can be a tool helping you choose between products… as long they are not the only tool you’re using. I’ve met several IT professionals that insisted on asking the following, before even meeting us: financial results, analysts’ quadrants and a set of battle cards. This honestly made me cringe.
My advice? Test your alternatives, leverage trials, proofs of concept (POCs)… but most of all, involve the people.
Engage with the ones presenting / trying to sell you their products. Ask them to build a comparison based on your specific case or environment. Ask them a comparison on the features you really need, don’t let others set your goals or expectations to their advantage.
Because if you’re looking for a new vehicle, a spoon might not be your best option.
Featured image credit: MMDMODELSALL (Deviantart)