Nineteen years ago, I was one of the senior developers in a project to develop a new factory automation software package under the Windows NT operating system. I received, as part of this project, a “Solution Provider” tee shirt, with the tagline “Microsoft Delivers.” Being a stereotypical New Englander (read: cheap), I wore said shirt periodically. My friends, who knew me as an advocate for UNIX, would often question me about this behavior, and I would tell them a story.
My grandfather owned a vegetable farm in southeast Massachusetts. Though he sold most of the property long before I ever knew it, he continued to farm a small plot of the original land to supplement our diet with fresh produce.
Across town, a friend of our family owned a dairy farm. Every spring, when the dairyman mucked out his barns, he took a truckload of manure and spread it on my grandfather’s field. Years of this habit led to my grandfather having excellent soil on his property, which in turn made it easy to find nightcrawlers there for an afternoon of trout fishing.
Unfortunately, the neighborhood around my grandfather’s farm was not the same as it had been in the days when my father was a child. Over the years, a residential neighborhood had sprung up where once oaks and swamp maples had grown across the street. These neighbors, as you might expect, had a different perspective of the manure delivery:
- As far as my grandfather was concerned, he was making an annual purchase of fertilizer for his fields.
- As far as the dairyman was concerned, he was providing a service to an old family friend.
- As far as the neighbors were concerned, however, somebody had just driven up in a truck and dumped a big load of crap in my grandfather’s back yard, and it stank to high heaven.
Clearly, this story has absolutely nothing to do with the slogan “Microsoft Delivers”, but as the storyteller I can choose to tell you whatever story I wish. Still, I think that perspective matters, whether you’re buying a product, selling a service, or witnessing a transaction.