Archive for the ‘Sun Stuff’ Category

Goodbye Sun Ray

23/07/2013

I’d welcome comments from anyone involved in the ‘Sun desktop world’, so read to the end!

The product set that is responsible for much of this branch of the Saul family’s fortunes was cancelled by Oracle on Friday 12 July.

Thank goodness I left well before this.

Because of my personal association with Sun Ray – I attended the first ever UK training course in 1999 and became the Sun Ray architect for Sun’s SEE region in 2004 – it’s easy for me to describe this as a tragedy. Other more choice phrases might be used by the sales and development teams who were abruptly fired with no notice after a quick conference call that Friday morning.

This is the way these mega corps do things – one minute you’re on a training course in Germany with the rest of the pre-sales team, learning about the new release, the next the powers that be have decided that you are surplus to requirements and you are out, along with the entire product set and to hell with the existing customer base, partner commitments and staff. No attempt to fit you into another role elsewhere, no warning. Even customers only found out via an obscure support statement – no direct contact, explanation or time to plan. Odd.

That’s not to say the writing wasn’t on the wall. But it needn’t have been, in my opinion – and this isn’t 20/20 hindsight, this is observation based on spending a long time in the frontline, actually selling to real customers. I and my then colleagues were all saying this stuff ages ago.

I learnt a lot from my time selling Sun Rays across the large region we covered in Sun. I say we, because it wasn’t all down to me, honest, though I can safely claim I played a role.

We were successful – my region was the number 2 region for Sun Rays after the US, with a fraction of the sales staff.

So where did things go wrong? There are some basics that were never addressed during the Sun years, some technical aspects that affected sales momentum and a major strategic sales error on Oracle’s part.

Let’s address these one by one.

The basics were often missing –

Sun never got around to creating some of the basic documentation and sales material that were fundamentally required when it came to selling this sort of stuff. The type of content about which an engineer familiar with the product would say ‘but this is basic stuff and not needed as it’s all obvious’.

The point is that it wasn’t obvious – not to customers and not to partners, even the more capable ones.

When you launch a product like this, you need basic sales material – a sizing guide, an FAQ, material that covers not just your solution but the third party stuff involved as well. The field created a lot of content, but this was often duplicated effort and was not shared properly. There was ‘traditional’ documentation, but that didn’t provide the answers people often needed.

During the early days, when people would ask for a sizing guide, the response from engineering would be ‘there is no sizing guide, you need to pilot this in your customer’s environment for a few months and then you’ll know what you need’.

This is plainly nonsense. When you walk into a car showroom and explain your requirements, the car salesman doesn’t make you rent five cars to drive around in for six months so you can work out what you like, only then to tell you what they cost.

From the first customer meeting you need to be able to stand confidently in front of the customer and give realistic estimates of what deploying your product will involve. If you can’t do that, the message you are giving your customer is simply this – ‘we don’t really know how our own solution works, but spend your money and time with us and let us know what you discover, then tell us what you’d like to buy’. This is not a sales strategy that works.

The principal thing that I learnt is that even in a developing market, it is possible to sell solutions that are, on paper at least, more expensive, complicated and confusing than similar solutions on the market. My mantra was always to ‘own’ the total solution – don’t go into a customer and tell them how your product functions but then say ‘you need to talk to Microsoft, VMware, for this bit, the storage guys for that part and work out the sizing on your own’. I was paid on Sun Rays that shipped, but made sure that I and the partners I worked with presented, explained and understood the complete solution. I wrote clear proposals that answered every question that would always get asked and I put together myself several of the documents that HQ never got around to writing – fundamental things such as sizing guides, answers to the usual things that come up, example RFPs, Statements of Work for PoCs, etc, etc, sometimes alone, sometimes with the help of key colleagues.

(To be fair this situation had got better by the time I left in 2011, but the product was released in 1999…)

In addition there was very little sharing of information amongst the team and very little team spirit in the later years.

But enough about me!

Technical aspects –

The Sun Ray was way ahead of its time but, towards the end of its life, had been overtaken by other devices on the market. Sun were particularly late in the game when it came to functioning multimedia features. It still remained a good solution for many customers.

Sun should have moved more quickly to making the Sun Ray a way of accessing a Windows desktop. During the early years, the feedback from the field was always that customers were not interested in moving to a Solaris desktop with Sun Rays – the only way we’d make this a success was if we could deliver Windows desktops in a supported fashion. When this move did occur, things got a lot better a lot more quickly, but it’s a shame this didn’t happen earlier.

Later down the line, the VDI architecture became unnecessarily complicated. I don’t know if this changed in the last two years, but during my time, to have a redundant solution three servers were required. The engineering logic behind this was that we were aiming for larger enterprise customer with larger installations and those large installations would easily need three servers, probably more. This was fair enough, but ignored the sales logic that even largest customers started off with a smaller number of users and the investment required to purchase three servers that would mostly sit idle whilst running a smaller number of users was prohibitively high an entry point. It also ignored the average size of the majority of the deals that I was aware of. Make it easy!

The Sun Ray architecture was always, at first glance, ‘more complicated’ than competing solutions, but in my experience, when pitched properly, it was easy to overcome the objections – providing you had the right supporting info to hand, namely the sizing info, answers to common questions, etc.

Sun Ray didn’t have the full complement of surrounding products that a company like Citrix had, even back in the mid-2000s, but again, this is something that could easily be explained away to new customers. You wouldn’t kick Citrix out of an account, but if you were first through the door you could easily position Citrix as being overkill – there is truth in both sides of the story, as in every sales situation! Sadly, after the acquisition of Tarantella, the Citrix relationship cooled considerably, so we were always competing. Had co-operation continued with an up to date Citrix client for Solaris Sparc and x86, Citrix could have been a key ally and enabler.

The major error –

We were affected by some of the same malaise that affected Sun as a whole.

It’s easy to hide behind technical failings when a product is canned, but in my limited experience, blaming the product is very often the case of a workman blaming his tools. The industry is full of mediocre products that become big successes. Microsoft are an obvious example. It’s how you sell them.

For example, Sun was never very sophisticated at incentivising their channel with rebates and other tricks of the trade (to the best of my knowledge, at least. I am happy to be corrected). This sort of thing was a real eye opener during my brief tenure at HP, who incentivise their channel in all sorts of ways.

There was a culture at Sun that seemed to say to partners ‘this is obviously the best technical solution for you and your customer and if you sell it you will make money’. Perhaps having a mediocre solution encourages people to be more inventive? ‘This is obviously not the best solution on the market, but the price to customer is similar and if you sell it I will pay you a rebate so your margins are better than with anyone else’s offering’. As a partner, which solution would you push?

The Sun Ray focused channel I had available were typically very good, however – usually smaller, capable partners looking to differentiate themselves from everyone else out there, with good skills in house and the right attitude to using me and my colleagues’ time and effort. I never flew to Tunisia or Beirut and had a wasted minute, for example. When we were in competitive situations with HP and Citrix, our partner was usually streets ahead of their competition, who were simply forwarding quotes rather than putting together a total solution.

The channel could always have been better, but this isn’t where the main blame lies. The blame lies with a lack of sales management during the final days of my time at Oracle and, I am assuming, during the past two years after I left, coupled with one major mistake.

The most successful period of Sun Ray sales was when we all reported to the software sales team – there were software sales reps, ‘desktop’ product sales like me and pre-sales, all in one team, working alongside the ‘normal’ Sun account managers or regional sales managers who got paid on anything that was sold in that account or territory. There was also some kind of desktop overlay overlay team, whose role I never really understood. If a Sun Ray was sold, multiple people got paid commission. Too many people? Definitely, but the whole point of Sun Ray was that it was a growth product intended to drive new revenue in new accounts or expand business in account who had bought pretty much everything else Sun had to sell. There may have been too much overlay, but there was no fundamental problem with having a product focused sales teams to assist everyone else. The software sales team had clear targets and regular forecast calls. We were also incentivised to overachieve – doing more than 100% was well worth your while.

Sales were good.

Towards the end of Sun the software sales division was changed and Desktop split out into its own management structure – people like me now reported into the overlay overlay team mentioned above. Again, there was nothing wrong with this in principle, as the primary route to market for us – the hardware account reps on the ground – still existed.

The problem was that this overlay team either lacked direction and appeared hamstrung by internal politics as opposed to playing the role of a sales driven organisation. I will admit, it’s easy for an infantryman like me to blame the generals – I truly don’t know what was going on upstairs and I can’t attribute blame to those in charge at the time, as I don’t know what they were going through with their management. However, the fact remains that despite a dedicated field sales team, all of whom had long experience with the product set, we still didn’t see the changes the field was asking for and there was little sales direction and drive coming from above. No one seemed to own the number and drive that number. Where people did nominally own the number, it was all a bit waffly.

During my time with this team I never once had a forecast call – not once, in several months. A call where my manager grilled me on very opportunity in my pipeline, asked for my commit for the quarter and held me to it. I still can’t quite believe this state of affairs. If I missed a forecast call or report two weeks in a row at Citrix, I would be fired.

So, no one was driving the number in a ruthless, sales focused way. Even the most disciplined field sales rep needs a second set of eyes and ‘encouragement’ to ensure they are doing things right and are focusing properly. Plus, during this time, what numbers were being reported to the new Oracle overlords and how were those figures and forecasts arrived at?

Secondly, the amount of admin was ludicrous.

To manage my pipeline I had to use Siebel. Every Sun Ray opportunity I added to Siebel required 15 fields to be filled in using a very old version of Internet Explorer. Changing a field led to a screen refresh. It took ages.

To add insult to injury, about 14 of these 15 fields always had the same info as every other opportunity – region, sub-region, product set, etc. I once asked if it were possible to have these sections pre-filled in with the default entries every time I created a new opportunity. This was apparently not possible.

So you had sales guys, who are not the most disciplined people when it comes to admin, being forced through hours of tedium to add an opportunity, with no forecast calls to review the sales situation. Presumably you then had people looking at Siebel and making business decisions from numbers that were pretty shaky.

But enough reliving the agony of Siebel, it’s time to summarise the key sales mistake that I believe eventually led to Oracle canning the product. The issues described above are present in every organisation to some extent. Sun Ray failed because of something very specific.

After the Oracle takeover, Oracle decided that ‘no overlay sales teams’ would be allowed. No ‘double bubble’ commission. What this meant for us was that the account reps across my huge region with whom I worked to sell Sun Rays were no longer goaled on Sun Rays. This was the major error that stopped sales growing as they could have.

For example, a deal with $400K of Sun Rays and $80K of servers had previously represented $480K of revenue for an Oracle hardware sales rep. Well worth pursuing with Chris’s help – longish sales cycle, complex sell, but rewarding at the end.

Now, overnight, that deal was only worth $80K of revenue to that account rep.

‘Chris, you’re a nice guy, we’ve worked well together in the past, I’ll hand over my contacts at the Ugandan Water Authority to you and you’ll have to take it from there…’

All of us ‘Desktop Sales’ people were in the same boat. I had a target that was larger than the previous year’s, but overnight my entire salesforce – the Oracle hardware sales team – had gone. It was now me, a pre-sales engineer and most of the Middle East and Africa to cover, with a channel still in disarray following the Oracle takeover.

There was some good news – I now got revenue recognition for keyboards and monitors…

With this situation it was clear I would never come close to doing my numbers, even if the other problems had all been solved. This is when I realised there was no future for me and I had to leave. Either I stayed and bumped along with no commission coming in for as long as I could, or I got out. As I couldn’t see the pain of the Oracle transition fading for the foreseeable future, I chose to leave the company. At that time I also learnt a lesson, which was not to be too loyal to a company or product – it’s arguable I should have left that role a couple of years earlier. With hindsight, I should have done my best to join VMware at the time, but that is a different story.

What was particularly odd about the supposed ‘no double bubble’ mantra is that Oracle did form overlay sales teams – there were x86 and Sparc overlay product sales teams, for example. There was no reason I can see why the desktop sales team could not have continued as it had previously, with double bubble for the desktop guys and hardware field sales reps. Had we done so, I firmly believe the product would have lived on successfully.

Oracle is a powerful brand whose name gets you direct access to senior people. If the hardware account reps had continued to be goaled on the desktop products, there would have been revenue growth coming in from the dedicated and passionate desktop sales community who had backed the product for years and made a career out of it. Fix the management layers above and you’d have had a real success story. (I hate to use the words ‘passionate’ and ‘community’, but they do fit in this case).

As it was, you had a few lonely reps trying to flog Sun Rays and compete with the noise in the top accounts against all the other Oracle sales guys in there. The targets remained the same but our extended salesforce had gone. How can the Middle East and Africa rep do direct sales across that huge region? It would be a challenge even for a rep with one country to handle. (To his credit, I believe the UK sales guy did very well, as he had been able to grow his business via a more direct model during his time in a previous role before transferring to the desktop team).

That ‘no overlay’ decision, I believe, is the main reason why revenues never grew to the level Oracle would have wanted them to be. I’m surprised things latest as long as they did, but now it’s all over.

Sad.

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Old posts, whither in the wind

19/03/2012

Bother. I’ve just noticed that lots of my old posts no longer have their images working properly.

It seems the photos were hosted on blogs.sun.com rather than on Flickr. Who would have thought, in 2005, that blogs.sun.com would be disappearing so soon? Sad.

Travel grump

21/09/2010

Kuwait then home on Sunday I did roam, then Beirut for two nights this week. Next week Oman on Sunday for a night, then two nights at home, then Kuwait for two days, then Cape Town from Sunday to Thursday.

Work travel has started up. Goodbye regular circuit training sessions and a bit of routine, hello mostly enjoyable work trips and efforts to stay fit leaping around my hotel room or the gym cupboards of the hotels I’m starting to find myself obliged to stay in.

What’s infuriating me at the moment is the new way we have to book and pay for travel.

In the past we emailed our travel agent who then got us the right flights, based on company policy and timings. He’d also make hotel reservations, most of the time at least.

Flights would be paid for by the travel agent and invoiced to our accounts department. I would pay for my hotel and other expenses on my credit card, claim the money back and pay my credit card myself. At one point travel would be approved via an online request tool, but in more recent times things go much easier, with an emailed approval from my manager to the travel agent.

The process now is somewhat different.

The most infuriating part is that I have to use my corporate credit card for everything. I’m forced to use it as this is company policy. In theory it makes life easier as the bill is linked to our expenses system. That’s nice, but it’s outweighed by the fact that I am being made responsible financially for the card, am obliged to use it wherever I can and get no benefit from it in the way of points, reward schemes, etc. In addition, the cost of flights goes on the card.

This means I have a much larger credit card bill every month, which I am responsible for and for which I get no benefit whatsoever. To top it off, I am invoiced in dollars, have to do the conversion to dirhams myself and pay the bill at a petrol station as direct debits aren’t possible.

I used to use my Citibank credit card for my previous work related expenses. This gave me an easily manageable way to pay for things and got me lots of nice Skywards miles – 1 Skywards mile for every dollar spent. If I was a bit late claiming expenses, it didn’t matter as I could manage a month or two’s bills. With the new system, I am forced to claim my expenses immediately as the amounts going through are now much larger, as flights are going on my card.

Claiming expenses promptly is obviously something every company wants their employees to do. The fact is that I am not always able to do so during times where I am travelling a lot. It is simply not possible to get onto our company network through the VPN in many of the countries I visit. I’ve been in a partner’s office all day today in Beirut, where the network speed made most online tools totally unusable. This region is not like the US, with ubiquitous wifi and 3G dongles giving you a highspeed connection that lets you get admin done whilst sitting in the airport.

This means that where I am not able to claim expenses on time, I still have to pay them myself to avoid interest fees on my credit card and paying my credit card can sometimes be totally impossible to do due to the logistics involved. I’m not sure they even provide us with online bills – hopefully they do, so I can at least get Mrs Saul to go and pay the thing on my behalf if I am travelling.

Booking travel is also a rigmarole. The easy online tool is annoying but usable with a fast connection. With a slow connection it is infuriating. Multiple page refreshes, idiotic routings, stupid ‘helpful’ suggestions. ‘I don’t recognise which airport you want as you mistyped Dubai. Here’s a list of provincial airports in Tennesee we think you might need’. Why do I have to fill out my address, gender and date of birth in for every trip – why is this not added automatically? The system knows it’s me and has no issues making sure it’s my credit card being charged, but I still have to fill in these same details every single time.

It used to take, as the absolute maximum if a complex trip was involved, about ten minutes of emailing and maybe the odd call to book my travel. It now takes at least twenty minutes of faffing around with things, provided I am on a good connection, followed by having to foot the bill myself with none of the modern conveniences of having a credit card.

Just before writing this twenty minutes of nonsense trying to book a flight to Kuwait spectacularly failed, forcing me to start from scratch.

I have better things to do with my time.

No doubt this system is super efficient and saves the company millions though. Hurrah. I can’t help but think that the old way can’t have been more expensive in real terms when compared to this approach. Maybe it’s all part of a secret incentive scheme to make people like me work as hard as possible in the vain hope that we’ll get promoted to a level where we’ll have an admin who can go through the pain of these online ‘processes’ for us.

Grumpy.

Hello Oracle

04/02/2010

Here’s a slightly edited version of a post I put up on my Sun blog and then took down, nervous that I was violating the new social media policy.

Well, we can finally comment on the Oracle acquisition.

The webcast last night contained pretty much everything Sun people wanted to hear – investment in people and Sun products.

It’s still not clear what will happen to me, exactly, but I am pretty optimistic.

The last few months have been fairly miserable for all of us – I can’t wait to be up and at it, working hard as part of Oracle. Critically, I want to be empowered to get on with things, through improved processes and a different approach to management.

Larry Ellison’s comment hit the nail on the head – he said, more or less, that Sun had great engineers and engineering, but they didn’t seem to like selling much. I’m looking forward to being part of a company that has great products, but also knows how to go out and sell them.

Lots of commentary on Sun’s ‘demise’ has focused on Sun not quite having the right product set, or being behind the times for a while and then struggling to catch up. That’s certainly true when it comes to Solaris on x86 and Sun’s slow to arrive x64 kit, but we’ve had a fantastic range of products and solutions for ages now. Every year I have been back at Sun has seen the best line up we’ve ever had, with constant improvements, year on year.

The main problem I always experienced, from my position in the field, was a lack of empowerment for sales teams to go out and sell as well as they could. It wasn’t constant reorganisations that were needed – the core problems needed to be addressed from the top.

These core problems, in my experience, were not who was in what team or practice or business unit, or what our long term strategy was. The problems were poor sales tools, such as CRM, quoting and discount processes. These things meant we were much less agile than our competitors, despite often having better solutions. Equally, there was a lack of basic sales content – whitepapers, references and suchlike.

There was also no clear story coming from Sun any more. Yes, it was right to talk about open source, Web 2.0, etc, etc. There was a need however, for some clear, simple messages about what we had today and what we were selling, because that was the sort of thing customers wanted to buy. Look at us – we’ve got some great kit that’s fast and that gets the job done better than anyone else! Talk about what you have today, as well as musing on the long term route IT is following. Get people excited. By all means burble about concepts and trends, but don’t forget to promote the stuff that’s actually making you money today.

Creating a great product is obviously essential, but it’s only part of the process. For your employees and partners to sell that product, you have to make it as easy as possible. Chucking a great box over the fence with some technical documentation attached does not empower your guys to go out and sell it. You need datasheets, whitepapers, aggressive reference programmes, easy ways to create well written proposals, sizing guides, easy ‘how tos’ when it comes to setting up demos and the like. You need to make it easier to sell than anything else your partners have in their portfolio of products. You need your own sales guys to be able to walk into a meeting with a full arsenal of sales material. When they walk out of the meeting at midday, you need to have them be able to give the customer a well written proposal and pricing by five o’clock that same afternoon.

Sun made an excellent decision, in my opinion, to focus on the so-called emerging markets. So much so, that we had a region that was called Emerging Markets and which, whilst geographically separate, was experiencing the same kind of growth, with similar challenges.

If you see a region as being key to your success, however, you have to make sure that you are selling in a way that suits that region. If you look at the Middle East, for example, you will find, in general, that skilled technical resources are scarce compared Europe or the US. Whereas an IT manager, sys admin or partner engineer in Germany might be happy to fiddle around with things to get them working, take a risk in being the first to use a solution and put up with complex technical documentation, that sort of thing won’t fly elsewhere. It has to be easy to set up and install and easy to understand, size, architect, etc, etc. These principles apply everywhere, obviously, but you can get away with things in the UK, for example, that you can’t get away with in Yemen, or Uruguay or Uganda. I don’t mean this to sound condescending in any way. I am simply stating that selling complex computer solutions differs from region to region depending on the availability of skilled resources at customers and partners and at your own offices. If you don’t account for that in the way you approach the market, you will not be as successful as you should be. All of the knowledge needed to make things easier existed in the company – it just needed to be properly distributed.

Yes, the price has to be right as well – but looking at the IT industry it’s clear that having ‘best price’ is not always what’s needed. Every one of the regions I visit will be filled with Sun and partner people saying the product you represent is too expensive, despite ample evidence all around that customers don’t always buy the cheapest solution or piece of hardware. You need people in customers’ faces convincing them you have the best solution, that the price is worth paying and that going with you rather than with someone else is going to be the least risky option. Arm the guys to be able to do that and you will sell. Oracle will goal us on margin too, which will be an interesting change.

My product set is definitely a hard sell if you focus on price. Where we’ve been successful selling it, there’s been one consistent factor – providing the teams with as much helpful and practical information as possible and then watching them go out and talk to as many of our target customers as possible. Noone picks up the phone and asks Sun or Sun partners for some Sun Rays. You have to get out there. In every country where people have done that, we have sold (supported by me, naturally – that part of the equation is obviously key to anyone’s success 🙂 ).

The Sun teams I’ve worked with have sold despite all these obstacles. Imagine how successful we can be with those obstacles removed.

ps Can I have a pay rise please, Larry?

The joys of filling in expenses

13/12/2009

One of the nicest things about not travelling so much earlier this year was not needing to fill in expense reports.

Today I have finally knuckled down to the task of getting up to date with things after being away pretty regularly over the last two months.

Torture.

I would like to find the person who configured our system in a way that forces you to enter the exchange rate for every single foreign currency entry. This alone adds hours to the job.

On the plus side, expenses days motivate me to work much harder so that I can get promoted as high up as possible – at some point, surely I would qualify for my own personal assistant to fill in my expenses for me?

Happy Birthday Sun Ray!

11/09/2009

The main product I sell, which keeps Mrs Saul in the life to which she is becoming increasingly accustomed, was ten years old on Wednesday.

Happy Birthday Sun Ray!

Straight to the point

09/09/2009

I’ve always liked Oracle’s adverts.

There is no wittering about ‘passion’ or other nebulous and meaningless terms – the term ‘passion’ in particular has always got my goat.

They give a clear, easy to understand message in nice bold type, with no need for multi-ethnic clip art of people in suits smiling at each other over desks.

I think they are particularly effective in the Middle East, where so many cultures and languages mix.

We’re fast, we’re the best, everyone uses us.

Everyone reading that gets the point pretty quickly. I don’t think anyone who’s seen Sun’s ‘passion for innovation’ posters has walked away any more enlightened about what we do than they were before.

The ultimate network technology – the Bassett Hound

03/05/2009

I’ve just been reading a document that’s been translated from the original French using some kind of automated translation tool. The overall quality is surprisingly good, but just what is…

‘A telegraphic network Ethernet 10/100 Basset hound of the star type.’

…?

The image of Fred Bassett running around the server room made me chuckle.

Oracle will love Sun Ray

20/04/2009

I like this article.

We know what product Oracle really want from Sun – the Sun Ray, which just happens to be what I sell!

Joking apart, there is a good fit for this particular product set. Who knows how things will progress, however.

The article mentions Ellison’s ‘The Network Computer’. My first job out of university was for a London PR company that represented Oracle’s spin-off network computer company. I still have the mousemats somewhere, if someone’s interested in seeing a bit of thin client history. If I remember rightly, I organised a meeting or two for Network Computing Inc, as I think they were called, in London and Holland.

My interview for the job at the PR company also included my presenting about the desktop and ‘network computing’, which meant talking about Oracle and Sun’s plans. I knew nothing about the IT industry at the time, but enjoyed learning a lot very quickly. The ‘thin client’ side of things seemed promising.

I had no idea that, 12 years on, I would be making a living out of thin client computing, working for one of the companies I was talking about during my interview, with the second about to acquire that company. It’s amazing where a graduate job you get thanks to your knowledge of French and German can help you end up…

Sun Microsystems kit = low WAF

16/04/2009

I have finally managed to get hold of some of our own kit for demos and internal training.

At the moment a shiny new U24 workstation and a Sun Ray 270 are installed and sitting in our spare room, next to my desk, ready to help me get up to speed with the latest release of one of our software products.

After getting everything unpacked and set up, I rushed off to find Mrs Saul and show it to her. I think Sun kit looks great – stylish and well put together. I was also excited to show her a Sun Ray, the product that has ensured I have been paid every month for the last four and a half years.

Mrs Saul’s verdict? ‘Urr, that looks awful!’.

The Wife Acceptance Factor for this particular product range is clearly pretty low… I would like to keep everything in the spare room for the coming week, but based on past experience, I expect I will find myself forced to drag it all back to the office in a day or so.