How can buyers cope with the high degree of change in technology over the next two years? Here’s the advice from several industry experts who are leaders in understanding the coming changes in software.
— Jeff Kaplan, managing director, THINKstrategies
Make software acquisitions based on the openness, APIs and partner ecosystem the vendor offers to ensure its applications are flexible and powerful enough to keep pace with upcoming demands.
— Dan Miller, general manager of software vertical and vice president of finance, NetSuite
Secondly, buyers need software that is agile and nimble enough to cope with change. That means multi-tenant cloud software that allows the vendor to push out updates to everyone at once in a rapid fashion. As trends like the Internet of Things emerge to transform entire industries, it’s vital that companies have systems that are flexible enough for them to adapt their business processes, even their financial models. Those who don’t will find themselves left behind.
— Shirish Netke, president and CEO, Amberoon Inc.
Caveat Emptor: SMAC (Social Mobile Analytics Cloud) are emerging technologies. Vendor lock-in may not be the only problem. There will be several opportunities to make bad decisions that can compromise the business. Deferring adoption may not be the answer in a competitive environment. An investment in understanding the trade-offs between short-term results and long-term compromises could be a prudent approach.
Look for the intersection of things
— Paul Giurata, Managing Partner, Catalyst Resources
Although tech blogs are itching to announce every new DevOps solution fitness tracker or WiFi light bulb as the next big thing, the reality is that almost all of these technologies are still in their infancy. Companies are struggling to find real and lasting value.
The best piece of advice is to look for points of innovation and profitability where there is the intersection of things. How do the different parts of an experience interact? Find ways of involving design early on by mapping the relationships and patterns that people follow to complete a task across software or devices. Then map how your service can play a role to facilitate these transitions or unify the experience. Keep your solutions smart, simple and designed to engage people without over-stimulating or overwhelming them.
Use a single collaboration standard
— Rob Reid, CEO, Intacct
Software buyers need to focus on collaboration in 2015. We’ve seen tremendous adoption of cloud-based solutions that help growing businesses solve their challenges — CRM, ERP, marketing automation, HR, EPM and more. But because these solutions are used by different parts of the organization, sharing information with peers across the organization tends to involve data exports, cut-and-paste and email. We lose valuable context, analytical capabilities and source data collaborating in such a disjointed fashion, not to mention the time wasted with all this manual work.
Software buyers can avoid much of this trouble by adding a single collaboration standard that spans multiple software solutions and multiple departments. Salesforce Chatter, for example, is flexible enough to be adopted by both front-office and back-office teams with notifications, context and a record of the conversation, all within each critical system of record (both CRM and ERP). This is a tremendous improvement over email or collaboration tools that are limited to organizational silos.
Remember you’re buying more than software
— Rob Reid, CEO, Intacct
For software buyers to cope with a future full of uncertainty and technological change, keep one thing in mind: you are not merely buying software, you are entering a long-term relationship with a company. When you buy software, you are buying a roadmap — a commitment from the software developer that they will solve your business challenges today, tomorrow and throughout the duration of your relationship.
Seek out software vendors that have a legacy of innovation, a proven focus on customer centricity and relationship building and a culture of employee excellence. Odds are, software companies built in this manner will deliver the solution you need for the long term and build a relationship based on mutual trust.
You’ve experienced or heard about working with software companies that lack focus due to too broad a product portfolio or too many disjointed fiefdoms due to multiple acquisitions, or you’ve been burned by a smooth salesman who promised you the moon and stars in order to meet a quota. Building trust with your time-tested business software vendor is the best way to cope with an uncertain future.
Aim for disruptive cooperation
— Suresh Chandrasekaran, SVP North America, Denodo Technologies
Good advice for dealing with tech change is to aim for what I call “disruptive cooperation.” This term implies that solutions should challenge the way things are done but continue to leverage existing solutions infrastructure. Good examples are SaaS solutions that work with on-premises software or data virtualization that enables hybrid integration in either real time, cache and/or batch while reducing the wasteful full replication of traditional ETL.
In the midst of so much technology change, buyers also should aim to enable future capability with current ROI. CIOs need to seek solutions that not only address current and defined problems with good ROI but also create new capabilities in that space to tackle unforeseen problems. For example, data virtualization’s ability to abstract for SQL or REST API queries support several new NoSQL, IoT, Web and Semantic data types even if the current use case does not need it.
Value portability and beware of features
— Tripp Smith, CTO at Clarity Solution Group
Change in technology is happening at an increasing pace. It can be dizzying, but it can also provide a lot of opportunity. Software buyers need to be prepared in order to benefit from these changes. That means you need to be smart, ready and focused on the long-term view. Being a smart buyer means you have to value portability across platform over specialization. With so many software vendors promising specialized features it’s very easy to be lost. A general rule of thumb is that if the software has more features than you have business uses, you’re looking at the wrong software.
Further, your staff should be prepared for this evolving environment. So while they must thrive on change they cannot be distracted by every shiny object out there. Worse, the faster software changes the more it seems differentiated. That mostly arises from increased competition, which leads to pricing pressures from traditional vendors. Take advantage of that.
Keep focused on the long-term view. Using tactical solutions to solve last-mile problems is sometimes necessary. But drive stability by focusing on the long run and developing mature components of your open source stack.
Ensure quick changes
— Paul Ressler, principle, The Cirrostratus Group
The best advice on how to cope with a high degree of technology change is to pick vendors and solutions that have a clearly articulated technology strategy and have a track record of making rapid changes when required.
Also, when selecting software don’t forget about open source solutions. Although the technology strategy may not be well articulated, a strong and vibrant open source community can move quickly as technology changes.
Look for customization capabilities and ecosystem
— Dan Miller, GM of Software, NetSuite
First of all, software buyers need business software that runs in the cloud. It’s pretty obvious that’s the way the world is moving and cloud-based software that can keep up with things like a changing regulatory environment, new taxation rules and new communication channels is vital. More than just applications that run in the cloud, however, buyers should look for a complete platform with robust customization capabilities that enable them to adapt the software to their own specific needs and a strong partner ecosystem that can support a wide array of industry- or process-specific functions.
Don’t stay on the sidelines
— Suresh Chandrasekaran, SVP North America, Denodo Technologies
Most importantly, ACT! Many buyers spend months and years waiting on the sidelines reading, attending conferences, dabbling in demos and listening to vendor discussions; but they do not take concrete steps to try new technology. After all, even if an organization fails, it will have learned something in the process.
By working with innovative and traditional vendors in every category and, in particular, ones that provide the tools to act and try things without big risks, you will not only navigate the changes in technology, but be a part of the force driving vendors’ roadmaps.
Suresh Chandrasekaran is senior vice president at Denodo. Throughout his career in product management and marketing roles at Vitria, Alta Vista, Compaq and as a management consultant at Booz Allen, Suresh has helped businesses leverage information through the medium of technology to deliver a competitive advantage. He speaks frequently at conferences on technology and its business impact, drawing from 15+ years of experience in leading integration middleware and Web companies. Contact him at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul Giurata is the managing partner for Catalyst Resources, a user experience and application design firm headquartered in Silicon Valley. He and his teams have worked on more than 450 software projects in Financial Services, SaaS, Life Sciences / Biotech and mission-critical Systems. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Jeff Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies, founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace and host of the Cloud Innovators Summit conference series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daniel Miller is general manager of NetSuite’s software vertical and vice president of finance. He brings over 25 years of professional experience to NetSuite, most recently as SVP and CFO of Nexant where he managed accounting and IT corporate service groups, and led financing initiatives to support strategic growth plans. He began his career as a senior accountant with Deloitte & Touche, subsequently serving as senior treasury manager for Genentech and corporate controller for Extreme Networks before moving to executive roles.
Shirish Netke is president and CEO of Amberoon Inc., a provider of data-driven business perspective solutions. He has led companies in the area of software, services and electronic entertainment. He was one of the first evangelists for Java when it was launched by Sun Microsystems and has been quoted as an industry thought leader in the New York Times, Investors Business Daily, Chief Executive Magazine and Asia Times. Follow him on Twitter.
Robert Reid is CEO of Intacct Corporation, a leading provider of cloud financial management and accounting software. With more than 30 years of experience in the software industry, Rob has a proven track record of driving explosive growth at innovative companies, and has demonstrated a deep expertise in bringing cloud computing to the world of business applications.
Paul Ressler is a consultant specializing in service delivery for SaaS, cloud computing and managed services. As the principal of The Cirrostratus Group, Paul helps his clients improve customer satisfaction, raise service margins, introduce profitable new services, and transition to the SaaS business model.