It's a challenge for every company with a software "solution" for sale: it's a solution, but for what? Are customers looking for an all-encompassing solution to a big problem, or a targeted solution for a small problem? Do they want an interconnected suite of software modules, with a common data model, common look-and-feel, and discounted price tag, or a small-bore program that will automate a currently manual process?
For the suppliers of enterprise carbon and energy management (ECEM) software, this age-old problem is especially challenging since the range of potential functionality is so broad, and the array of potential stakeholders, influencers, and buyers is so wide.
Consider the "word cloud" depicted in Figure 1 below, which shows a subset of the labels for such software.
And in parallel, the motivations of potential buyers of ECEM shown in Figure 2 below:
Since most companies do not face cut-and-dry regulatory requirements for emissions reporting, matching up the motivations of the buyers with the functional scope of the product sellers is a time-consuming exercise of workshops, pre-sales consulting, assessments, and, inevitably, drilling a lot of dry holes.
Call me crazy, but there's a revival of interest in sustainability underway. Despite the Collapse in Copenhagen, the Demise of (US) Cap & Trade, and the ongoing Great Recession, companies around the world continue to invest in IT solutions to improve their operational efficiency and reduce their environmental impact.
My travels these past few weeks had me visiting with two sustainability practice leaders at large consulting/integration firms, the product heads for two of the leading energy and carbon management software providers, and the internal sustainability champions at a very large IT systems company.
In all five instances, folks were surprisingly chipper given the economic environment and its drag effect on sustainability spending. One of the sustainability practice leaders, for example, told me of their plans to grow from 150 people at the end of 2011 to 1,000 people three years hence.
What's going on? Here's my theory: Sustainability is becoming embedded in corporate behavior, metrics, and strategy. It's not a separate investment line item, a separate set of metrics, a separate organization . . . it's embedded into mainstream operations. As one of the software leaders put it, "Sustainability is sitting at the adults' table now."
What does that mean for these suppliers and their brethren? A big change in the way they go to market.
I meet with about three or four sustainability solution providers each week, getting an update on their customer and product progress and sharing our latest research plans and client inquiries in the IT-for-sustainability (ITfS) space. In the past few weeks, I heard again from vendors about their excitement for new regulatory mandates appearing on the horizon.