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What Vendors Are Glad Users Didn’t Know (Until Now)

by Scott Nelson  |  August 3, 2011  |  Comments Off on What Vendors Are Glad Users Didn’t Know (Until Now)


Yesterday I wrote about what I learned when I was a vendor. I looked at it from the point of view of what vendors wished their clients new. To be fair, today I talk about what I learned that vendors don’t want you to know. You could call these dirty little secrets.

Just imagine what it would be like if user organizations and vendors were completely open and honest — no lies, no miscommunications, and no failed implementations due to a sales process that over-promised and under-delivered. However, that is not going to happen, and there are a few secrets that enterprises need to be aware of as they evaluate the products offered in the market. Vendors are not likely to tell you these secrets, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them to your advantage.

Secret No. 1: The difficulty in achieving real integration will nullify many of the advantages of best-of-breed solutions

In the battle between suites and best-of-breed products, the latter sell themselves on deeper functionality, and in most cases, this is true. However, what is not generally talked about is that the real advantage of suites, prebuilt integration, is a big one. The difficulty that an enterprise will have in getting its various best-of-breed systems to talk to each other will often render that deeper functionality moot.
This is especially important for olutions swhich can include many different components, each of which may be sold by another vendor and will need to be integrated. This is not to say that suites are always better. It just means that enterprises should not underestimate the problems inherent in integration. A corollary of this is that the more vendors involved, the harder it will be to get support when something breaks down. In an integrated best-of-breed solution, whichever vendor you contact is likely to tell you that it’s some other vendor’s fault that your solution isn’t working.


Secret No. 2: Partnerships mostly mean nothing.
Practically every day there’s another press release with a partnership announcement that salespeople will leverage to show why potential customers should buy from them. The reality here is that the vast majority (probably about 90 percent to 95 percent of these partnerships) will produce nothing of value to the client. In some case, the partnership will already be shaky by the time the press release comes out.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid looking at a vendor based simply on a press release. If a particular partnership catches your attention, find out what it has really produced to date, what resources each partner is committing, what the long-term goals of the partnership are and how it relates to other announced partnerships. Then, only pursue those that appear to have real value.


Secret No. 3:“Featuritis” is not driven by a plan or by clients, but by the competition.

Software is plagued by a tendency to squeeze ever-more features into a product that doesn’t really need them. In many cases, clients cannot, and will not, ever use all of this functionality, but they will still have to pay for it. Hence, the vendor’s sales tactic is to show how responsive the vendor is to the client. The reality is that most of these features were put in not as part of a strategic product plan, or even as the result of user requests, but in response to something in a rival’s product.

Since this featuritis is a reactionary effort made in response to the market, it is often poorly thought out, and in many cases, destabilizing for the application itself. This is a reality that is not likely to change, so enterprises should try to remain active in working with vendors on their future product plans and try to influence vendors to do meaningful updates, rather than mere market reactions to the competition. In addition, clients should try to negotiate deals that only require them to pay for features they really need and use.

Secret No. 4: The squeaky wheel does get the grease.
Vendors like to talk about user councils and advisory boards. In reality, vendors tend to respond to noisy and demanding clients. These clients get what they want, and they get it first.
Many users have long suspected this, but couldn’t prove it. Such suspicions are true, and as a result, clients need to either become one of the loud clients or really hold the vendor accountable by using the user group/advisory council mechanism as a key input device for future direction. Clients that do not choose either of these options have few mechanisms available to them that will enable them to increase their spheres of influence.
Always remember: an informed client is a more successful client



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Scott D. Nelson
Managing VP
12 years at Gartner
18 years IT industry

Scott Nelson is a managing vice president in Gartner Research. He is responsible for managing research in the area of CRM. His particular research focuses on CRM vision and strategy.

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