One of the IT market segments I'm observing for a quite long time ist the System lifecycle management market, including software distribution, OS installation, inventory, patch management and some other technologies. There are few segments which are that crowded. If I count the vendors/brands which compete in the central European region I end up with something aroung 20 at least. Given this number of competitors it is obvious that not all of them will survive. There will be the big ones to survive - and there will be the smart ones.

There are some different strategies to observe:

  • Moving towards BSM (business service management) - a valid strategy as long as a vendor is able to deliver in a market segment which is at least as crowded... Most often done by acquisitions (either of or through the system lifecycle management vendor)
  • Moving towards security - patch management as the most important link. A strategy that can be observed sometimes but doesn't necessarily end with a complete (and competitive) security offering.
  • Moving towards business support. One of the most appealing strategies, supporting real IT asset management beyond dumb inventories, contract management and integrating up to the level of ERP systems. Thus, being the expert to add to these business systems.
  • Moving towards GRC (usually called "compliance") - in most cases understood as license compliance, which definitely isn't sufficient. If the vendor ends up with a broader GRC offering, identifying different risks (like security risks, like identity risks) beyond the license topic, that might work as well.
  • Moving towards services. There is much room for improvement. Between Microsoft's Live OneCare approach and today's outsourcing there is a huge gap which is filled only very slowly. Becoming a supplier of either a technology which can be used for managed services (e.g. supporting many different customers in one installation) or a SaaS (software as a service) offering is very interesting. But it requires partners like large system integrators or internet providers.
  • Moving towards SME - with real SME offerings which are easy to install, easy to use and which support the requirements of the SMEs IT manager with some reporting, some license compliance and other features above the technology level. Interestingly there are many smaller vendors in the market but only few of them offer real SME offerings.
Obviously, some approaches are restricted to larger vendors. And some vendors are still part of a larger corporation. But even the real big players have to think about their strategies - beyond today's view on BSM which is still often very technically driven and not really "business" service management. For all of the smaller vendors their strategy must be to find a niche - which can be achieved by any of the strategies mentioned above.

No doubt, there are (and will be) vendors which are smart enough to make the right move and to survive. And there will be others, as well amongst the larger vendors, who will fail to do this shift. The larger ones will shrink or, more probably, become acquisition targets themselves. The smaller ones might disappear because the number of potential vendors is by far bigger than the number of offers. It will be interesting to observe who will be amongst the winners and who will be a looser - I have made my mind but I won't unveil my top 3 or top 5 list of neither category. At least not in this blog. But our upcoming research on the entire BSM field will give clear indications, as well as our consulting offering (strategy, product shortlists) for this market segment.