Daily Archives: April 15, 2009

Vendor Void? the doctor Can Help!

This is an advertisement for the doctor‘s services. Regular programming will resume with tomorrow morning’s post.

In this morning’s post, I outlined a sequence of steps that solution vendors can take to return to business as usual and put this recession behind us. Based upon the large sampling of companies I’ve talked to over the last nine months, I know that many of you could use some help in at least one area. In this post I’m going to outline what I can do to help with respect to the points I discussed.

  • New Product Development
    I’m an enterprise software architect, an expert in optimization, modeling and analysis, and a PhD in computer science. I’m familiar with most of the solutions on the market. As a result, I can help you to:

    • understand the strengths and weaknesses of your architecture,
    • understand the strengths and weaknesses of your product,
    • understand where you are unique and,
    • understand what you can do next to offer the most value to your current and prospective customers.

    As I’ve pointed out previously, a downturn is an ideal time to focus on the strengths that will allow you to capture significant share when the economy recovers (and when your competitors are just waking up).

  • Marketing
    An easy way to gain product visibility is to advertise on the Sourcing Innovation web site, which happens to be:

    • the site most likely to be found by a supply management professional (your search traffic comes here),
    • the only blog in the space ranked on all five external traffic engines (SI is #1),
    • consistently ranked #1 on Ranking, Quantcast, and Compete,
    • “hit” an average of 4,500 to 5,000 times a day from over 1,500 unique IPs,

    SI offers you an unparalleled opportunity if you want to reach serious supply management professionals. And, SI has a very affordable open pricing model, so there is no guesswork as to cost/benefit.

  • Thought Leadership
    If you’ve got great ideas, but have a hard time putting them to paper in a manner that’s both clear and compelling, I offer both public label (through the Illuminations) and private label writing services.
  • Training & Curriculum
    In addition to my background in many different types of supply management technology and processes, I also happen to be an experienced professional trainer and former university professor. I can help you identify the right training program for your employees (and your customers), assist in developing custom training programs, or deliver train-the-trainer workshops, depending on your needs.
  • Process Improvement
    I can review your development processes, integration processes, and management processes and identify areas where you can go lean and mean. In addition, I can help to bridge the gap between business process execution and technology development, and help you understand how to improve your products and services to better support your clients.

I know that for some of you, a significant problem is a C-suite or an over-extended VC that’s running scared. Sometimes all that is required to break this cycle of fear is a category expert to back you up when you present a case for being aggressive now, as opposed to later. Even if you need help with something not on the above list, feel free to reach out and contact me. If I’m not the most appropriate individual to help you, I’ll happily connect you with someone who is. After all, once you get back on track, you might just realize that the right thing to do is innovate … which is what this site is all about.


The Market Dilemma II: Vendors Provide the Vision

As I said in Part I, the way out of this prolonged recession is business-as-usual. For technology solution providers, that means the following:

  • Continued New Product Development
  • Continued Spending on Marketing and Thought Leadership
  • Continued Workforce Development
  • Continued Process Improvement

Continued New Product Development

This is vitally important for a number of reasons. It demonstrates:

  • you’re a well-run company and a little market hiccup isn’t going to hold you back,
  • you realize that new competitors are entering the market every day with innovations of their own and that the only true way to provide lasting value is to continue to improve your solutions,
  • you know that the only way to make things better is to keep trying, and that
  • you take a level-headed approach to business with a plan to be around for the long haul.

Continued Spending on Marketing and Thought Leadership

This is just as important as New Product Development because, and I know this from experience, having the best product in the world is a moot point if no one knows it exists! This doesn’t mean you go crazy and spend twice as much as you spent on marketing during a peak business year, just that you take the percentage of your budget you’d normally spend on marketing above and beyond head-count, like 5%, and spend it on marketing. So, if forecast projections over the long term (to average out unsustainable demand increases in bull years) state that, with a slow-and-steady growth curve, you’d do 10M, you still spend that 500K on marketing.

Marketing lets your potential customers know that you’re here for the long haul and still developing solutions that will help them lower costs, increase productivity, and get out of this mess quicker. It’s also the only way to establish you as a thought leader (provided you take part of that budget to support, and market, thought leadership), which is key to not only being remembered when a customer gets a new technology budget, but getting invited to the table.

The reality is that, if you don’t market, you’re out of sight. If you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. If you’re out of mind, you’re NOT getting that RFI or cold-call. If you don’t get that RFI or cold-call from a customer with money to spend, you’re not getting any new customers. If at most 10% of the market is buying, how likely are you to find a lead through cold calling who’ll invite you to the table … before they’ve already bought a competitor’s solution?

Continued Workforce Development

At the end of the day, your success all comes down to your people. Companies don’t build products … people build products. Companies don’t design winning marketing campaigns … people design winning marketing campaigns. Companies don’t think … people are the thought leaders. And if your budget is tight, you shouldn’t be adding too many bodies … when you need to add brainpower. And you do that by developing the staff you already have. If we’re truly moving to a knowledge and innovation economy, then you’re going to get a lot more out of educated, experienced, well-trained staff than just a body in a chair. The best developers can be 20 times as productive as an average developer (using bug-free lines of code as a metric). The best inventors can produce 10 times as many inventions. The best through leaders can produce market-changing ideas where an average person just produces refinements that might not even get noticed at all. Relatively speaking, a few dollars on training can lead to a few thousand in productivity gains.

Continued Process Improvement

And I don’t just mean doing the same process better. I mean bringing in an expert to do a complete review of your development, delivery, and operational processes to find opportunities for improvement that you won’t notice when buried in day-to-day operations. This lowers your costs, which allows you to lower your prices, which allows you to grab more market share. You don’t necessarily have to hire a McKinsey Partner at 5K a day either … there are plenty of niche consultants who can jump in, do a focussed assessment, and net you great results for 1.5K to 2.5K a day in a couple of weeks … paying for themselves almost immediately.