Monday, May 18, 2015


In the world of enterprise software, we sometimes find ourselves with a mismatch between sellers and customers.  From my worm's-eye view, we seem to be wrestling with one of those mismatches right now.

My typical week is mostly spent in conversations with customers.  Sometimes it's more of a formal work scenario with higher education institutions as part of my role with Sierra Cedar.  More often than not, it's a bit more informal:  advising customers across a wide range of industries in my role as an Oracle ACE Director (and, before you ask, yes - it's a freebie.  Just part of my advocacy role as a member of the Oracle ACE Director program.)

In listening to those customers - mostly about Oracle SaaS - the conversation is based on a description of an expectation or hope of an outcome or end state:

  1. Reduce required capital (think money here) required for using and maintaining enterprise software
  2. Eliminate or repurpose hardware
  3. Reduce headcount (due to budget or competitive pressures) or redirect skilled efforts toward more unique and value added activities (the latter is actually more common these days)
  4. Better information for making better decisions: more timely, more contextual, and more useful for both evaluation of the past and prediction of the future.
Now, keep in mind that no customer ever comes out and explicitly lists any of these four items.  Every customer is different, with unique wants and desires.  But, as I dig to get a better understanding, it typically comes back to some variation on one or more of these four.  So I'm shortcutting the process here to get to the real point:  the customers are in outcomes.  Will SaaS help us to enable/reduce/achieve something that delivers the outcome we desire?  Now just hang onto that concept for a moment; the idea of expected or hoped-for outcomes.

Think back to the last time you sat through an enterprise software or service demonstration, either as a seller or a customer or a partner.  Where was the emphasis?  I'll bet my dollars to your donuts that the demo focused on the capabilities of the software or service.  Lots of emphasis on an easy-to-use search engine, or great user experience, or cool features, or a well-integrated business process, or easy-to-build-and-delivery dashboards. All of which are very important.  But it's an emphasis on products and/or services.

The mismatch is between customers desiring enterprise outcomes and vendors/partners selling products and/or services to achieve those outcomes.  It's akin to shopping for a home in a certain neighborhood with a specific lifestyle in mind, while the builders sell to you based on the quality of their tools, their craftsmen, and the different homes they've built in the past - regardless of lifestyle or location.

In the enterprise software world, organizations often act like individuals.  Each one has unique needs and desires...which lead to unique outcomes.  The mismatch comes when vendors and partners sell services and products in response to those desired outcomes.  Folks, that is the mismatch.

So, how do I plan to handle this myself?  By first working harder to understand the outcomes desired by the customers with whom I engage in one way or another...mastering the who, what, why, when, where and how.  And then by explaining how the Oracle products and the services provided by Sierra Cedar can be utilized to help achieve those desired outcomes...and that's where I'll burn my calories going forward as I explain possibilities, lay out roadmaps, design solutions, and develop products/services.

So now that your life has been enlightened by this pearl of wisdom, may I ask for a small contribution on your way out?  Comments please.

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