Trying to find the next niche

This afternoon I had an analyst briefing with one of the vendors which offspring the market segment formerly known as system management which is usually defined today as client or system lifecycle management. This change has been definitely necessary because system management covered a very broad range of different technologies.

But the system lifecycle management segment, which exists for a while, is as well pretty heterogeneous. There are vendors which still mainly support software distribution, OS installation, patch management, and some other administrative functionalities. There are vendors which are moving towards the security market, like LANdesk with their NAC products or Symantec. Many vendors are adding license management capabilities and move towards the ITSM (IT Service management market) or at least to some part of this market - Enteo/Frontrange as one example -  whereas others set their focus on compliance and related topics. The borderlines aren't always clear. There are many vendors which claim to support license compliance. But there are few which really cover all the details of licenses and which integrate their license compliance tools as well with asset management and automated inventory services as with contract management. In this area you'll find Managesoft as well as Brainware.

But even for these vendors, there's the question about how long the niche will exist. The approach of ManageSoft is pretty interesting. They are providing a strong technical integration with the inventory and asset management as well as a dashboard for the business user and IT management. Thus, they might move towards more controls they support in this "compliance dashboard", they might add risk management functionality or they might do both.

But ManageSoft, like every other vendor who has successfully done the step beyond the administration-focused system lifecycle management, will always have to find new niches fast - because other companies will enter interesting market segments and because the big BSM players always will try to position their solution as the "swiss army knife" you can use for everything.

My observations of the vendors in the system management space over the last years are, that there are some vendors which are able to reinvent themselves. There are vendors who try to grow through acquisitions - not always successful. There are the big ones which sometimes struggle when it comes to the details and still need support of smaller specialists who are able to fulfil the customer's demand in the context of an enterprise framework. And there are many companies which are neither able to reinvent themselves (at least not fast and innovative enough) nor to grow through acquisitions. In a market segment like system lifecycle management with more than 20 active competitors in Europe - not counted the ones in other areas - the ability to move forward is one of the most important aspects for product decisions. It is because the ones who aren't innovative are the ones who will in the best case become acquisition targets and in the worst case just will disappear.

Thus, it isn't done with re-positioning in a newly "invented" market segment which is just a new name for something existing. It is about re-inventing the market segment.


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