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12/9/2013
09:06 AM
Tony Byrne
Tony Byrne
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6 Enduring Truths About Selecting Enterprise Software

Pay attention to these truths and warnings about the tricky business of buying business software.

5. Technology "suites" are mostly mythical
Software vendors love "suites." Suites mean more revenue, more ownership of the customer, and usually more lock-in. Customers often like at least the idea of suites, hoping they will fulfill our eternal dream of all-in-one products that don't require reams of money.

The problem here is that vendors typically assemble suites via acquisitions designed to impress financial and industry analysts, with technical compatibility an afterthought. That means that the hard work of truly stitching that putative suite together falls to you. Oracle, Salesforce, and Adobe are my particular bêtes noires today, but you've also seen it with IBM, EMC, and the like.

Lesson: Avoid putting all your eggs in one vendor basket, and even if you do, still plan for integration work.

6. Vendor roadmaps are mostly aspirational
At some level, the best technology vendors are dreamers, but many unexpected things happen on the journey of making dreams a reality. Vendor product managers are often inspiring evangelists with impressive PowerPoint decks, but they frequently write functional checks their developers can't cash.

We came up with the nickname of "the roadmap company" for a vendor we evaluated that had a history of consistently overpromising via beautiful diagrams. (Oh, alright, I'll tell you which one: It was OpenText, but even staid Microsoft has fallen victim to this, especially around Office 365.) Incidentally, open-source projects can create mythical roadmaps as well, though they cannot so readily hide when new versions get delayed or redirected.

Lesson: Don't predicate any business plans on functionality that does not yet exist.

What do you think?
You may sense a bit of cynicism in this list, but hopefully some passion, too. As an integrator myself in the 1990s, I got so frustrated witnessing poor technology choices in the enterprise that I decided to shift careers to see if I could do something about it.

Enterprise technology users deserve the right software fit. The right technology and vendor aren't sufficient alone for business success, but they're usually a necessary pre-condition.

But what about you, the enterprise customer.? What lessons have you learned? Chime in using the comments, below.

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TonyByrne
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TonyByrne,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/16/2013 | 12:22:55 PM
Great Feedback
Belated thanks, folks, for chiming in.  A few thoughts...

Roadmaps are important for both driving and software, but for the latter, I still think they're overrated.   I prefer to hear and see evidence of broader strategic direction.  How much does a vendor really care about a particular offering?  Will their delivery model change?  Are they keying in on particular verticals?  Have they tended to meander in the past?

Google may not issue detailed roadmap guidance, but more important things enterprise customers might want to know about them is how long they are committed to any given offering before they decide to keep it, and whether they will continue a support and implementation model consisting primarily of smaller integrators who have no closer access to Google's systems than you or me.  Google's approach works for some customers; not others.

 
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
12/10/2013 | 9:34:39 AM
Ease of use
The "usability is relative" point is a good one and the advice here is apt. "Ease of use" can get muddled when those selecting the software are more sophisticated than the employees who will be using it.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
12/9/2013 | 3:25:33 PM
Re: Aspirational Vendor Roadmaps
Product roadmaps suggest some level of vendor accountability and should instill some sense of urgency, even if the vendors don't always live up to them.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
12/9/2013 | 10:52:07 AM
Aspirational Vendor Roadmaps
It's interesting that we know these roadmaps are "aspirational" -- yet this is one of the repeated complaints about Google as an enterprise software vendor, that it does not provide enough roadmap guidance.

It's like we want a good story even if experience teaches us not every chapter will come true. Do we put too much value in that storytelling, IT pros?
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