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The Future of Enterprise Software is Abundance

By February 2, 2016Article

We’ve seen a massive change in the enterprise software market in the last dozen years and it can be described by four numbers (20, 10, 12 and 4). 

Here is the summary of how the landscape has changed in the last 10 years:

  • 20x increase in software vendors
  • 10x the number of software products companies buy
  • 12x the number of internal “buyers” inside companies
  • 4x increase in budgets for software solutions 

(Note: These numbers are from hundreds of surveys Siftery did of many of the largest software buyers. Disclosure: I am an investor and board chairman at Siftery). 

The high-level macro is that the world of software is getting way more crowded and way more complex. 

Buying software is daunting … but it is also really impactful. The right software gives you a competitive edge. Software isn’t just eating the world … it can help you eat your competitors for brunch. Choosing the right vendors is really important for businesses to succeed, so we would expect companies to spend much more time selecting vendors … and they have. 

The four numbers: 20, 10, 12 and 4 

In the last dozen years, we have seen a software explosion. This is mainly due to software being easier to buy, integrate, deploy and use because it no longer needs to be hosted on premises. This software is usually lumped together as SaaS (or DaaS or even some other name). The main takeaway is that one does not need a really expensive on-premises integration; therefore, it can be tried and used quickly and with less risk.   

When we talk about “software,” we’re not just talking about code you run inside your corporate firewall. And we’re not just talking about traditional SaaS products (like Salesforce, Workday, etc.), either. We’re also talking about data services your company consumes (like Bloomberg and Acxiom). And services that help market your business (like ad networks and Google search spend). And subscriptions you use to help your business (like LinkedIn and Glassdoor).   

20: The number of software vendors increased 20x in just 10 years 

That’s right. There are 20 times the number of software vendors that there were just 10 years ago. There are a lot of causes of this rapid increase:

  1. As stated earlier, it is much easier to buy software, so there is more software to buy.
  2. The really large software companies have embarked on a strategy of growing their product and feature set by acquiring companies (or sometimes partnering) rather than developing these features and products in-house.
  3. Seeing this opportunity, venture capital firms have poured tens of billions of dollars into funding software companies.  
  4. It is now much cheaper to start a software company because of things like distributed computing and the rise of software companies that help other software companies. 

10: The number of software products (unique vendors) a company buys increased 10x in the last 10 years 

This is an even crazier statistic than the first macro trend. Take the average large retailer: 10 years ago they had maybe 40 software vendors across their organization … today they have 400. One large retailer polled by Siftery has over 2,000 software vendors!

The right software stack gives your company a competitive advantage. And because it is so much easier to buy today (and there are more people making buying decisions), companies are becoming increasingly open to buying from a large number of vendors.

The major beneficiary of this trend has been startups. They can get a beachhead in large companies much faster than they could in the past.   

Of course, this trend is happening in some industries faster than others. Retailers are super-fast adopters, probably because their business is so competitive and the market leaders there (Amazon, Walmart, etc.) are filled with incredibly smart technologists.   

Companies that have many regulatory requirements to keep their data on premises (like financial institutions and healthcare) have fewer software vendors; but even there, we have seen a massive increase in the diversity of vendors. 

12: The number of internal buyers increased 12x in the last 10 years 

The number of people buying software (or influencing the buying of software) in a company has grown dramatically. Almost every professional in a company is now a buyer. Software engineer? Buyer. Salesperson? Buyer. HR Manager? Buyer. Finance person? Buyer. Lawyer? Buyer. Marketing? Definitely a buyer. In 2012, Corporate Executive Board did a study that found buyers did “60 percent of a typical purchasing decision — researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing and so on — before even having a conversation with a supplier.” 

In fact, only 12 percent of the users of Siftery are in traditional IT. The other 88 percent care just as deeply about the software for their organization. 

And it is easier than ever to buy. Companies like New Relic and Sendbloom have built their company selling one seat at a time to an organization and then using their internal advocates to get larger deals. Freemium software like Slack, Glassdoor and CloudFlare make it easy to try. Freemium or low-cost products mean less red tape and less need for budget approvals in the initial stages of adoption. 

Engineers, lawyers, salespeople, finance, HR, marketers, etc. that can pick and implement software are the ones rewarded with promotions and bonuses. Professionals that do not develop the core skill of picking the right software vendors will find much more limited career paths. 

4: The spend on software increased 4x in 10 years 

A 4x spend is an astonishingly large increase, and it is because software is easier to buy and it is becoming more and more powerful. Of course, since the number of vendors a company uses increased 10x, the dollars per vendor have decreased dramatically in the last 10 years. This trend might be worrisome for the giant enterprise software companies, but it is really good news for software companies that are innovating and are on offense.   

One thing to note is that during the last 10 years, these same companies that are spending so much more on software have not significantly increased the number of people they employ. In fact, many companies have fewer employers today than they did 10 years ago (even though revenue has increased). The takeaway is that companies are choosing to spend on software instead of people. This may or may not be a good thing for the world, but it is happening and will likely continue to happen.   

The fragmented world of software will continue 

Most every macro data point on Siftery shows the trend of the last 10 years will continue in the next 10. It’s easy to dismiss this abundance and fragmentation as just part of a cycle that’ll eventually move towards consolidation. But if one digs a level deeper to look at the forces that created such a vast, fragmented and active product ecosystem, it becomes apparent that this isn’t a trend but a transformation. More business processes are automated now than ever before – run by software or reliant on it. In many cases, we see software talking to software, APIs talking to other APIs. As long as this data can be integrated well, there will be more software.   

This means there will be even more software companies in the future than there are today. And buyers will be even more overwhelmed and will need help deciding what to buy, how to buy, how to integrate and how to best use the software. 

Auren Hoffman is a board member of Siftery. He previously was CEO and cofounder of LiveRamp, a middleware provider of marketing technologies. LiveRamp was sold to Acxiom in 2014 for $310 million. Auren is an active angel investor in over 60 companies and is one of the most viewed writers on Quora.










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