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Dear APM vendor

by Cameron Haight  |  February 10, 2015  |  5 Comments

Dear APM vendor:

As I step back into covering the application performance monitoring market, I’d like to try to optimize the time during our discussions (particularly briefings). So with that in mind, I offer the following suggestions for your consideration:

  • Please don’t just iterate through (multiple pages of) the litany of problems that exist within the industry (and that you intend to solve). After many years within IT, I’d be a pretty poor analyst if I didn’t already know at least most of them (and besides, I probably created a few of them back in my pre-Gartner days). If there’s something new that you think is compelling that no one else seems to have observed (or perhaps if I’m missing the clue train), okay, but otherwise let’s skip to the meat of the discussion.
  • Please don’t just show me pretty charts and pictures. Everyone does this and quite candidly, with some rare exceptions, they all tend to fade into mental obscurity – even the “cool” ones. As I mentioned in my earlier blog posting, I’m interested on how APM can improve situation awareness. Thus, when you present some data-oriented aspect of your user interface (and I do like to see them), tell me who you think this information is valuable to, and as a consequence of displaying this, what actions you expect them to be able to perform (or not have to perform) as a result. This helps me to better understand not only the targeted roles and use cases, but also how work “flows” within your product.
  • Please don’t just provide a laundry list of features. I’m much more interested in how the individual capabilities of your technology interact to provide a superior experience than if I were to just go out and procure them independently from different technology providers. This is important because there is a constant pendulum within the industry that swings between integrating best-of-breed versus purchasing all-in-one with the trend for now seeming to be more the former than the latter because of developments like DevOps.
  • Please don’t just tell me about your architecture. Tell me how you’ve perhaps designed your architecture to adapt to things that we might not even be thinking about today (the famous “unknown unknowns”). In other words, as a consumer, am I going to reach a Y2K moment with your technology? A great example that shows the principles that are sought in architectures such as those at Amazon and elsewhere can be found in an old video by Dr. Werner Vogels of Amazon.
  • Please don’t just tell me about the wins. Everybody highlights these and rarely (although it happens) are we given a poor reference. Instead, tell me also why you may have lost at an account. Whoa! Why in the heck would you want to do this? First, we’ve probably heard about the loss because it’s someone else’s win so this gives you an opportunity to provide another view on the situation. Second, and perhaps most important, it helps us to assess how you are learning and adapting from these experiences. As we read in The Lean Startup, it’s (a) key to viability. By the way, IMHO, you don’t have a “real” reference unless the slide also provides the name and contact information of the user.
  • Please don’t just provide an obligatory page on partners. I’ve seen enough of these slides to know that many, if not most, of the partners on the slide are in name only. Instead, tell me which partners have tied some degree of their success to yours in terms of money or some other resource that has been committed.
  • Please don’t just provide me revenues or numbers of customers. Instead, help me to understand your sales motion and how you are creating long-lasting relationships. This is especially important with SaaS-based models where the switching costs are often assumed to be low.
  • Please don’t just tell me who you are – tell me “why” you are (another oldie but goodie video this time from Simon Sinek). I tweeted the other day that most companies don’t know their “why?” Why is this important (sorry for the pun)? Because this industry is notoriously short-term-oriented. Many companies will have been on a rocketship ride and either IPO’d or found a tempting embrace from a larger vendor. And then … well, it’s often hard to hold together the institutional values that intially made you successful when facing quarterly earnings pressure or you are now operating within the confines of some software leviathan. It happens over and over. Help me to understand how you expect your culture to outlive the founders getting wealthy, and hence, you’ll future proof the investments of your customers.
  • Finally, please don’t make it the proverbial death by PowerPoint. Something like the Guy Kawasaki 10/20/30 rule seems appropriate. If you have more to present, then think about breaking it up into several sessions if possible (I know, it’s not always easy to schedule more discussions due to demand, but again, it’s ultimately about having an effective meeting). When constructing the presentation, also think about the three or so main points that, in the flurry of other vendor interactions, that I am most likely to keep in my “cache” memory. While I do make it a point to take voluminous notes in any discussion, I may not always have the opportunity to refer to them in subsequent end user client interactions.

By the way, I am not trying to appear to be an arrogant analyst by providing these suggestions. I want to make sure that we have a fruitful discussion where we both get value. Many thanks, and I look forward to our future APM interactions!


Cameron Haight
Research VP
10 years at Gartner
30 years IT industry

Cameron Haight is a research vice president in Gartner Research. His primary research focus is on the management of server virtualization and emerging cloud computing environments. Included in this effort is… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Dear APM vendor

  1. Maybe list what they SHOULD do?

  2. Cameron Haight says:

    Hi Daniel – I thought I did – right after the please “don’ts.”

  3. Mahesh Kumar says:

    Compelling and informative. The mind of the analyst and how it works!
    On the product side an excuse (lame as it may be) could be that you are being marketed an incrementally better (features, usage, attributes, use cases) product vs. a radically alternative approach and results. Repetition and a lack of freshness usually abounds in the former – not saying we have to live with that approach.

    good pointers to live by!

  4. Cameron Haight says:

    Fair point, Mahesh. Updates are somewhat different. However, a good practice would still have most of these key elements which really revolve around context and relevance.

  5. Rachel Pepple says:

    Thank you Cameron! This is such great advice for analyst relations professionals and execs. I especially like your advice about telling an analyst WHY you are. That’s not just a good practice when talking to an analyst, it’s an important thing to keep in mind in everything you do as a business.

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