Vendors - lemmings or another species?

I had several interesting discussion with some vendors about the future of some market segments in the IAM market. And when I look at these markets (and many other IT markets, including the emerging cloud market) one thing becomes obvious: Established vendors tend to act as sort of lemmings. What do I mean by that? There is an idea that appears to be successful for one vendor. Then other vendors tend to follow without really analyzing whether this is really the best approach. They frequently claim that their customers are requesting that type of solutions. But: Their customers are frequently just looking at different solutions which are available at that point and pick features which are available. Once they have the tool in production, they might ask for additional features. But customers don't tend to invite the products they might need for being successful for the next years.

This customer focus (most product management is focused on customers only, with some competitive analysis) is important - no doubt about. But there are some threats:

  • It is hard to create an USP when being sort of a follower to the market. OK - larger vendors might rely on their sales strength but that doesn't always work.
  • Building products and product architectures for what is common might lead into dead rows. Changing that, either by acquisitions and their integration or re-architecting products, is expensive.
Overall I strongly recommend that vendors add the look beyond the current state and the obvious next steps. Some of the more innovative features might require significant changes to the product, thus development has to start early. Besides: Adding this view to your roadmap neither hinders you in developing mainly for the features which are requested today by customers nor is it really expensive - some few days of workshops with thought leaders and the creative guys within the vendors will probably lead to a big step forward towards this.

But until now, there are more lemmings than other species. Or, to stay within another comparison from a management book I've read years ago ("Dolphin strategies", I can't remember the author - sorry): There are more sharks than dolphins. The author divided the business people into three categories:

  • Sharks: Aggressive, trying to make their own way with elbows out.
  • Carps: Doing there job at the minimum level, nothing else.
  • Dolphins: Jumping out of the water, trying to detect new horizons (and, by the way, very willing to kill the holy cows of other people - I liked that...).
And dolphins are what is needed to detect new horizons, with some carps making things real and the sharks selling it. But lemmings seem to avoid dolphins, for some reason.


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