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Enterprise Software Sales as Corporate Pathology: The World’s Greatest Dog and Pony Show

Unlike traditional industry analysts firms RedMonk tracks adoption, rather than sales, of technology by talking to the people that deploy it. The CIO is always the last to know so we talk to practioners instead. We talk to the make-side, the makers and doers, the hackers and sysadmins that just get stuff done. Driven by Open Source and Cloud with their lower barriers to entry, sales and platform adoption are increasingly decoupled.

Yesterday in a post about Zend’s new enterprise PHP server Stephen my business partner summed up the tragedy of enterprise software sales so well I thought to myself I really need to reiterate it.

Enterprises I worked with in a systems integration capacity would do the traditional dog and pony show, having vendors come in and pitting them against each other in bakeoff death matches which were guaranteed to be irrelevant to the actual project needs and unlikely to reveal anything more than the relative strength of the sales engineers in question. On this flawed process hung the technical fortunes of many an IT shop, so important was this platform.

I knew I wanted to use the quote, but in what context? Luckily Michael Krigsman offered up just the thing, in this post, Ugly Enterprise Software tactics, which I came across this morning.

I believe selling useless licenses to locked-in customers crosses the line of unethical behavior. Sales people who perpetuate this crap should lose their job.

Why don’t you say what you really think, Michael? His post was based on thoughts from my esteemed colleague/competitor Ray Wang at Forrester who says stop selling products that clients don’t need. Ray points to some tactics vendors use.

Here is the bottom line. We already thought vendor sales tactics were aggressive in a market that was growing for pretty much everyone – so what about now, in a downturn? Frankly things are worse now. Maintenance fees are hiking while customer profits are disappearing. Aggressive tactics are the norm.

In order to better fight their corner enterprises need to be smarter and more aggressive themselves. They should:

1. Pay more attention to the people that actually do the work. Don’t buy software that your developers have no intention of using. Make sure architects are listening to developers.

2. Consider offload options:

  • application server – if you’re running a Java workload does it really require the quality of service that a WebLogic offers? If not why not look at Glassfish, say, or Apache Tomcat.
  • database- not all data are equal. That being the case put data in the most appropriate place. If it just needs to be thrown in a bucket of bits then consider MySQL or a file system rather than your “enterprise standard relational database”
  • cloud- its other there. take advantage of it, especially for non transactional workloads.

Use open source and cloud as personal trainers for proprietary software. Use alternatives to snap back if the salespeople try and bullshit you.

Focus more on work and less on dog and pony shows. If its going to take 18 months to decide what platform to adopt you’re doing it wrong.

disclosure: after a tweet from @arungupta I realise this post definitely needs some disclosure, given the enterprise recommendations at the end. Oracle is not a client, but advice about application server offload applies just as much to WebSphere (IBM is a client). Sun is a client – reasons to consider Glassfish are that its somewhat simpler than competitive app servers and SOA stacks, and of course its open source. It offers less functionality, but that’s not always a bad thing. The key point is that not all workloads are equal, or should be treated as such. Triage your workloads, and offload those than don’t need the bells and whistles.

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Comment Feed

16 Responses

  1. Enterprise Software Sales as Corporate Pathology: The World’s Greatest Dog and Pony Show #pimptweet
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. Use open source and cloud as personal trainers for proprietary software. Push back if vendor salespeople try and BS you
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  3. “pitting (vendors) against each other in bakeoff death matches…guaranteed 2b irrelevant to the actual project needs”
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  4. Redmonk continues to tell it like it is. Right on!
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  5. as someone who works for a software vendor, I couldn’t agree more @monkchips, I couldn’t agree more…
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  6. Spot on. Buy what the men on the front lines want, Nuff said.

    Joe BaguleyApril 17, 2009 @ 3:42 pmReply
  7. @monkchips on Enterprise Purchasing: “If its takes 18 months to decide what platform to adopt you’re doing it wrong” –
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  8. @monkchips recommend GlassFish (instead of Weblogic) and MySQL:
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  9. Good post. Note that customers also have their Dog & Pony show at times. Bringing in a a second vendor for a PoC to simply get the incumbent to drop their price. They’ve already made a decision, but simply want a better price. Ethical questions should be aimed strictly at vendors, IMHO.

    That being said, I’ve seen a shift from competitive bake-offs given open-source pricing disparity, and open source quality and enterprise readiness. In most cases, open source software does what customers need it to do. Our time is now spent less on traditional bake-offs and more on migrating a couple applications that are representative of customer applications so they can estimate overall costs of a transition.

    Sometimes, if not a majority of cases, the migrations are ignored entirely and commercial open source is used for new projects, with no up-front effort at all because customers have already been using GlassFish in some applications (or at least developing with it).

  10. I forgot to add this relevant blog post I wrote about a year ago:

  11. when it comes to the cloud, the business guys are going straight there without talking to IT / CIO or the devs and sysadmins – they don’t need to coz they can just buy the stuff that does the job, and is delivered in weeks not months… IT teams of today will be dead in the water if don’t realise this and shift their focus to how they can help to manage cloud apps (rather than pretending they don’t exist)

  12. @marilynpratt Here’s @redmonk’s ode to software sales and corporate pathology
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  13. No doubt vendors use aggressive sales tactics. They have been forever and will do more now. Why is that? Well may be because it works?

    If the customers rewarded vendors who don’t subscribe to this type of behavior, would there not be more of them? I don’t think it is accurate to see the customers as victims who don’t have control over what happens. They can do many things such as embracing some of your advices above, but in recent years focus has been in “consolidating vendors” which gives more and more power to limited number of large vendors.
    You reap what you sow ..

  14. Catching up w/ today’s tweets/posts. Check out the software dog and pony show from star analyst James @monkchips
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] computing James Governor calls it enterprise software sales a “pathology.” ZDNet colleague Michael Krigsman calls it “ugly enterprise software sales tactics.” Either way, […]

  2. […] I admit it. I was totally drawn in by the provocative title of James Governor’s post. It was that “pathology” word that got me. According to Meriam-Webster: […]