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2/25/2010
08:21 PM
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Smoke And Mirrors Pricing Stifles PPM Tool Adoption

I tend to check in with a swathe of real world users when I'm working on InformationWeek Analytics reports. When I did this with material from our upcoming PPM best practices report, I gained a key insight from cranky would-be PPM tool customers: PPM vendors are stifling PPM tool adoption through their used-car-salesman smoke and mirrors appoach.

I tend to check in with a swathe of real world users when I'm working on InformationWeek Analytics reports. When I did this with material from our upcoming PPM best practices report, I gained a key insight from cranky would-be PPM tool customers: PPM vendors are stifling PPM tool adoption through their used-car-salesman smoke and mirrors appoach.The approach typical of the majority of the vendors goes like this: unless you sign up for a sales call, you will get no ballpark pricing. None. Zip. Nada. Then, once you do talk to the car, er, software sales person, he or she will refuse to give you a budgetary estimate on what this thing might cost you. Or, as one PPM adopter told me, there's an attitude of "if you have to ask, you can't afford it."

This is reminiscent of 1990s network management sales tactics. It didn't help the vendors or the customers. Smaller scale customers got scared off. Then, smaller, more prospective-customer friendly tool vendors emerged and ate the smoke-and-mirrors guys' lunch. I think that is happening now and will continue to happen.

When I talk to PPM vendors, they almost universally bemoan that adopters of PPM techniques are using general purpose tools like spreadsheets or home grown databases to track their portfolios. They warn of big scary things that could happen. But here's a big scary clue for the PPM tool vendors: spreadsheet and database tools have known costs, and don't require dabblers or on-the-fence adopters to spend hours listening to a sales pitch before they get to find out if they can possibly afford it. The dabblers can, will, and do get scared off. I've talked to them. And thus, PPM vendors are at least partially responsible for slow PPM adoption.

There's a litany of reasons I've heard from the vendors. "We need to accurately size the customer." "Our pricing is confidential." But I've yet to hear a reason that makes sense in the 21st century software as a service world, where pricing stays about as confidential as Kwame Kilpatrick's text messages, and where time to market and business agility are prized over custom-fitting.

PPM SaaS vendors who act like 1990s network management vendors are dinosaurs. Before long, the vendors that do act like 21st century SaaS vendors -- with live trial evaluations, and pay-as-you-go transparent pricing models -- will crush those that don't. Either that, or PPM tool adoption will continue to be stifled by those who would most profit by its ascendance.

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