One of the keys to purchasing technology tools is understanding the marketplace for those tools. I was at a meetup a little while back (the fine NY Enterprise Technology Meetup, which I highly recommend) and presenter Jon Hawes of Panaseer, a cybersecurity tech startup shared the slide used as the featured image to this post. If you think it looks busy on this small version, take a look at the full size version.*
I’ve never seen a marketplace breakdown slide that convoluted. The cyber security market may be more complicated than web content, but this should give the enterprise buyer pause, if not heart palpitations. With that many players in the market, with that much choice, how can an organization proceed to sensibly narrow down the options in front of them?
The approaches to this problem vary considerably by company:
The Route of Least Resistance – “we already use provider X for other systems, let’s use them for this new purpose as well.” The benefits include they already know your company and the systems that have to be integrated, and sometimes the movement between the systems they already have and the new one becomes simpler. On the downside, there’s no guarantee the new system they offer provides the best fit for your needs. It also may be an afterthought if the provider is not a major player in this new tech you’re adding. It may simplify life from an integration perspective but as a daily tool it won’t do what you actually need.
Paralysis – as we discussed in the post on Systems Selection a focus on perfection can lead to lengthy selection processes that delay more than they help. In the case of a varied and complicated marketplace, paralysis can easily set in as the team struggles to narrow down a massive spread of potential products.
Surrender – certainly the most dangerous approach to take for a business owner. You can surrender partially by punting the decision over to IT or some other segment of the company. You will definitely find yourself in a hole quickly. Either they will select a product with no input from the business owner, leaving you with a tool you didn’t choose that probably does none of what you need. Or more likely they will constantly push your project down the list since they haven’t got the input they need to make a choice. The other form of surrender is to give up on the project completely – it may be a sensible business decision, but you’ll miss the opportunity to make an impact.
Focus – the best solution here is to be extremely specific in what you want to accomplish and how it will function to meet those needs. You should be able to focus the products and the salesman on the things that mean the most to you. You’ll certainly be giving up some great options with products you reject, but you have to get moving somehow. Better to get your list in order – must haves, nice to haves, maybes and don’t needs – and do some diligence on which products come closest to what you want. Ask around from colleagues in the field; go look at their approach and see how close it comes to your needs. And keep in mind the people who will live with this every day on both the front end and back end. Their success with the product depends on your choice, and getting their needs identified first will help you narrow down the market considerably.
Call me and we can review the marketplace affecting your projects and let’s find the right path through the maze.
*This is from a presentation by Momentum Partners – here’s the full presentation.