Is There Any Room In The Space for an E-CHAOS Vendor?

When it comes to openness, there are three primary types of vendors. There are the self-promoters that openly talk about their capabilities with pride, with confidence that they are, at least in one way, the best at what they do and that some customers will see that value and buy from them. There are the modest types that don’t talk much, but don’t hide when you ask questions. Then there are those that try to hide behind proprietary technologies and processes, aging patents, and trade secrets, often knowing that what they have is not even as good as the company down the street, that the patents are outdated and reaching end of life, or that the trade secrets have been public knowledge for years.

However, because this third group hasn’t been innovating (as fast as their peers), have a large (and expensive) Sales & Marketing organization, have high manufacturing costs (because they haven’t upgraded facilities or capabilities), are top heavy (with too many chiefs and not enough tribal members), and/or have high-shareholder expectations, they have to do something to maintain their revenue stream and/or profit margin, and since openly flaunting what they have won’t do the trick (on its own), they have to hide behind patents, proprietary technologies, and trade secrets, even if the latter turn out to be nothing more than a lot of hot air in the end. (For example, there are still spend analysis vendors today trying to sell their mapping algorithm with its “secret sauce“, when the “secret sauce” has been publicly known for two decades.)

I call this third group of vendors E-CHAOS vendors because, in my mind, they bring chaos and confusion to what would be an otherwise orderly and well understood space, and usually attempt to do so with heavy use of the electronic medium (because it’s cheap and reaches a wide audience quickly) that includes copius amounts of press releases, extensive media coveage of those press releases, and regular self-serving webinars.

And I personally don’t think there’s any room for these vendors anymore. Thanks to the recession and jobless recovery we’re overworked and stressed to the max, especially since we have to increase productivity by 2.3% year after year or fall (further) behind on the global stage. As a result, as far as I’m concerned, we don’t have time for vendors who hide behind smoke and mirrors and won’t put their money where their mouth is when its time to step up to the plate — especially if they expect you to spend seven figures on a solution. And, as far as I’m concerned, just giving you a demo doesn’t count. First of all, you’re not the expert. You don’t know what to look for, what to ask, or when you should insist the vendor go off script. Heck, for all you know, it could be a video of fine-tuned “in-development” functionality that never makes the final cut (because that was the only example where it worked). Secondly, you don’t know what you need to see to make apples to apples comparisons. (And while you can compare apples to oranges, the comparison isn’t that meaningful, and only possible if you have a lot of time and the right analytics expertise on your team, which you probably don’t.)

And, most important, why should you put up with this when for every vendor that tries to hide behind closed doors, when an analyst or blogger tries to put them under public scrutiny, there are dozens who’ll gladly welcome anyone into their glass atrium with open arms? You shouldn’t! If you can’t go to your favorite analyst or blogger and get an objective third-party review of a solution that is going to cost you an investment of six or seven figures, and you have other options, the first thing you should do is strike that solution from your list because you can’t afford to not know what the vendor is trying to hide. Maybe all the vendor is trying to hide is a bloated organizational structure with too many chiefs and sales people which requires a high revenue stream, and, thus, a high sale price, to maintain and that’s okay if the vendor can deliver value appropriate to the purchase cost (because it’s fine to spend 1M to save 10M as no one’s going to argue with that ROI), but what if the solution is missing a fundamental capability and you don’t discover that fact until integration time?

Thus, from now on, not only will SI not cover any solution from an E-CHAOS vendor, include such a vendor on any potential solution lists, public or private, or make any further attempts to reach out to these vendors (since SI has had an open policy since day one and has NEVER refused a demo request that follows the rules), but it will also not cover any vendor in the modest category (or the open category if such vendor snubs SI, because then the vendor isn’t truly open in SI’s view), include such a vendor on potential solution lists, or make any further attempts to reach out to that vendor if the vendor won’t give SI a demo. Because, frankly, without a demo, there’s really no way to tell the difference between a modest vendor and an E-CHAOS vendor.

And, as per yesterday’s post (where I mentioned I would not be reviewing the vendors in the Forrester Wave in detail because too many fall into the small group of vendors that have refused SI a demo), this means that SI will no longer be including the following vendors in its recommendations or covering their solutions until such time as they change their minds and give SI a demo (because even though SI honestly believes these vendors have good solutions, belief is not enough — you need proof):

Oracle*2 (Sourcing/Procurement) and

If you really want coverage of the first four, you can go to SpendMatters, as long as you don’t expect much more than a services / business analysis for some of them (because that’s all I’ve seen in the past). For the last two, you can try the Enterprise Irregulars. While Oracle and SAP are finicky with whom they’ll open up to, they will open up to a few bloggers. But, until these guys open up more, just don’t look here.

*1 Yes, CombineNet recieved some fairly extensive coverage a few years ago, but that was when a different regime was in charge.
*2 Oracle is a top commercial database in my mind, and the doctor‘s generally preferred ERP solution, but Oracle is off the sourcing/procurement list until I get more than a white-paper to base a recommendation on.