The Back Button

Years ago, one of my Sales Engineers was involved in a bake off at financial services firm in Manhattan. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a “bake off”, in the world of enterprise software is used to describe when a company, evaluating solutions, brings in a multiple vendors and submits their systems to a series of scripted tasks. The company’s evaluation team monitors the performance and attempts to get a handle on what they can reasonably expect from the system, and look for those hidden gotchas that may come back to bite them in the butt.

Out of ten initial vendors, we were selected for the final three and made it into the bake off.  There was a great deal of excitement around our office because this prospect was a major brand and to have them as a client would do wonders for enhancing our reputation as a major player in our field. Needless to say we threw our best people onto the project and sent out a small army to pull this off.

Each vendor was assigned two days.

Let me share a bit about content management systems. The beauty behind them is that they separate content from its presentation. This allows someone to simply fill out a basic web form and have it published into HTML, PDF, XML, etc. simultaneously with the proper tags, formatting, etc. The user interface is usually browser-based, so you could have two windows open, one where you are typing in your content, and the other as your content appears on your website.

At the beginning of first day, things were going along great.  We nailed every requirement, the interaction with the people was very positive and we were in the middle of showing how to create a press release when a member of the evaluation team stops us and say “Hit your browser’s back button now, I want to see what happens.”

“Excuse me?” came our reply.

“Hit your back button. I want to see if it saves what you have typed so far or you would lose everything when it goes back to the previous page”.

“Ok”. Our Sales Engineer hit the back button and navigated back one page. When he hit the “Forward” button the question was answered. Unless the user clicked on the “Save” button at the bottom of the screen, the newly typed content would be lost.

Awkward Silence.

The evaluation team left the room, followed by more awkward silence.

After 20 minutes, the head of the evaluation team came in, thanked us for our efforts, but politely dismissed us by stating that we have failed in one of the major requirements and that there would be no need for us to return the following day.

After our attempts to address the situation were politely denied, we left, and headed to the nearest bar.

Once a year, my sales engineer changes his Facebook profile pic to the picture of the name badge they gave us that day.

The bake off was held in Tower 1, World Trade Center. The date was September 10th, 2001.

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