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Posted by David Johnson on October 1, 2012
Technology Vendors for IT Focus on IT Spend
Forrester's technology vendor clients prefer data over analysis, whereas our IT clients prefer analysis. The vendors are gracious and will sit through a few slides of customer problem examples and politely let me wax on about where their real opportunities are, but most only really perk up when I get to the data slides. Having been responsible for product strategy for software product lines myself, I understand precisely why this is the case: When you're in middle management, your ability to get oxygen (read: funding) to sustain your team depends on your ability to make a case, and the case is usually predicated on IT spend.
Their Strategies are Often Tied to the IT Buyer Data so They Miss the Underlying Human Factors
Why? Because the garden variety general manager in the technology business understands numbers. Human factors? Not so much. For many of them, understanding the underlying human reasons for a disruptive technology shift like, say, the rise of Apple, is not in their DNA. Only the numbers matter. It's tragic really, because if they could reflect on the human factors that I bring with the analysis, born from observation of hundreds of firms who are not yet their customer, their investment priorities would be clearer because significant unmet market needs and competitive risks would be obvious. The best possible question a vendor can ask: What are we missing?
Vendor Strategists Need to Combine Market Data with Human Factors
There's nothing wrong with data analysis. The right analysis of the right data is a critical capability - especially in commodity or maintenance businesses where quality, price and service are your primary weapons. But what about innovation? Can the numbers help? Yes, but not in the way most middle managers think about them. More on that in a minute.
Example: I recently spent a day with a vendor client in the workforce computing business, clearly frustrated by Apple's disruptive effect on their revenue, and intent on digging into the data on market shares, adoption rates and what Forrester's latest surveys reveal about IT spending habits. In fact, most of the discussion was about *IT* spending habits. The vendor sells mostly to IT organizations (though that wasn't always the case), and their company culture is very numbers-driven, so human factors didn't come up from their side. So I raised it.
The Top Vendors Are Not Selling to IT First
I asked: Have you given any thought to why Apple, the most valuable company in the world right now, is probably making more money in the enterprise than you and your five largest competitors combined? And...that they're the only ones *not* selling to the IT buyer? At all? Have you given any thought to the reasons why Amazon, the top cloud infrastructure-as-a-service vendor, isn't selling to your traditional IT buyers either? Do these clear and present realities matter to your strategy more or less than the numbers we just discussed? It was suddenly time for a bio break!
Employees and Lines of Business Are Accountable for Execution
Here's my take. IT is saturated with *stuff*, and they're tired of being the whipping boys when they can't keep up with demand. They've spent the last 15 years trying to "optimize," "secure," "control," "enable," and "ITIL" their way to less variety and fewer PC problems to deal with. Their thanks? The people they're doing their best to love and support march right around them the second they hear the word *no*. Who can blame them? They're still being held accountable for execution in their own jobs. "IT wouldn't help me" won't hold up as an excuse in their performance reviews.
The Solutions: Cut Management Needs and Focus on Self-Service and the Needs of the Employee
So why not solve both the employees' and IT's problems at the root before they have to? Microsoft: how about making an operating system that doesn't require an army to manage and secure (Windows RT has promise!)? HP, Dell, and Lenovo: What if there was a way for empowered employees to assure their IT organizations that their personally owned computers are well-managed, secure, and fit for the office (i.e., would pass an audit)? Why does IT have to do all of the work? Can't most of endpoint management and security be self-service...or better yet...inherent to the design (e.g., iOS)? Isn't keeping the employee in the driver's seat Apple's core strategy?
The Gap: Employees Want Freedom From Tyrannical Controls and IT Wants Out of the PC Management Business
My point: it's time to look past the IT buyer numbers to what empowered people in companies are trying to accomplish in their jobs, and innovate around making it faster and easier for them by getting rid of the real barriers. The best analogy I can think of is the famous quote: If Henry Ford would've asked his customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse. Ford understood that his customers' requests could only come from what they already knew - horses. But the disruptive solution that would change the game had to come from beyond. Right now, employees want out from under the tyranny of IT organizations too underfunded and overrun with auditors to help them, and IT organizations want out from under the weight of management and security burdens for their PC estate. If we ask the IT buyer what they want, the answer will of course be better tools. But what they really want is out of the management and security business.
The Numbers That Matter are the Numbers That Reveal a Widening Gap
To tie this back to my earlier point that the numbers that matter are not IT spending habits: The numbers that matter are the ones that reveal unmet needs. For example, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is a numbers guy, but the numbers he and Amazon likely analyzed when developing the EC2 strategy was the delta between IT spend and unmet employee or line of business demand for server capacity. My colleague James Staten has been charting the rise of EC2 from the beginning. Right now, there is a rapidly growing delta between IT spend on personal computing tools and employee demand for more options and freedom. The conditions are ripe for further disruption in the personal computing space. It's time for enterprise personal computing 2.0. Who will it be?
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