A NetApp IT ‘Loud & Proud’ Perspective

We sat down with Mike Morris, IT Director of NetApp IT’s Customer-1 program, to find out about the program, what the team does, and what he is working on these days.

 

What is Customer-1?

Over the years, we have found that NetApp customers and partners are very interested in how we implement NetApp’s products in our IT operations. They want to learn about what products we use, how we use them, and our observations during installation and daily operations. That’s the idea behind the NetApp Customer-1 program. We are the first customer or adopter of NetApp’s products. In turn, we share our experiences, both with customers and internal product teams

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What exactly do you mean by early production adoption?

Early adoption means that the Customer-1 team receives new NetApp products after final quality assurance and just before or in the early stages of general availability. We assess the products’ installation processes, functionality, feature sets, and enhancements. We provide candid feedback on the general support process, from on-line self-support to incident management to escalation procedures. Our findings are shared with Product Development, Customer Support, and/or Professional Services. It’s a collaborative effort: All of us want to achieve a first-rate customer experience.

 

Does IT adopt every NetApp product?

Like other organizations, NetApp IT adopts technologies that solve an existing business challenge. We adopt NetApp products that help us address known business challenges. We do not artificially create a business case to adopt NetApp technology.

 

What kind of feedback do you give?

We candidly share our observations and lessons learned with the product- and customer-facing teams from day one. For example, NetApp IT and Professional Services collaborated on a hardware replacement program. Upon announcing its release to our customers, Customer-1 tested the service thoroughly to ensure it was repeatable in the field. Sometimes the process felt like tough love. But the honest feedback improved the replacement program, making it easy and predictable for NetApp customers.

 

Can you give us an example of a Customer-1 adoption process?

We have a program called FAST (First Application System Test) since we are “fast” to adopt product. As part of the program’s policies and milestones, the Customer-1 team began installing new versions of our Data ONTAP® storage when it was first released, often as release candidate versions.

 

Over the course of 45 days, we install and run new versions of Data ONTAP in our development and test systems. After validating changes across our application landscape, we then upgrade our production environments. We provide statistics and reports on our findings that are used to improve “general availability” (GA) releases. If the Quality Assurance team finds an issue, we replicated it in our environment to understand its impact. In the first 16 months of the FAST program, our team was able to make a significant contribution to the performance and stability of Data ONTAP for our customers.

 

How does Customer-1 fit with NetApp on NetApp?

We tell the story of our technology experiences through the NetApp on NetApp program. We work closely with this team to develop case studies and blogs as well as give relevant stakeholders insights into our IT operations. Our shared goal is to communicate about NetApp IT’s experiences in a way that benefits for our customers.

 

What are the benefits you have seen from a Customer-1 program?

We are an enterprise IT organization responsible for supporting a Fortune 500 company with more than 13,000 employees and 150 locations globally. NetApp IT has high expectations of its vendors; we only want to use products that will help keep the business running without disruption. The same is true for NetApp’s products. We don’t want to compromise our expectations as an early adopter of our company products. Our goals is to ensure that our customers install and use NetApp products and services that are consumer tested, easier to install, rich in features, and that meet their high expectations for reliability and stability. Whether the company is NetApp or a vendor, we hold ourselves to the same high standards.

 

The “Loud & Proud” blog series features the viewpoints of NetApp IT employees who tell their stories, discuss their work, or talk about lessons learned as IT professionals. We salute these individuals who proudly share their experiences. Want to learn more about NetApp IT? Visit www.NetAppIT.com. Follow us on Twitter: @NetAppIT.

NetApp Staff