The movement in networking towards virtualization, cloud platforms, and SDN is shaking up the enterprise software market and will continue to do so for some time. Change can be good. But how can buyers get ahead in our brave new software-defined world?
Last month, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released a new report, Experience Radar 2013: Lessons from the U.S. Software Industry, which details findings about the enterprise software market from the customers' point of view. Patrick Pugh, PwC U.S. Software and Internet Leader, and Shaivali Shah, PwC Customer Experience Specialist and Experience Radar Solution Leader, spoke to me about how enterprise software buyers can maximize the value of their purchases and avoid common pitfalls.
How to find the best software values for your company
Size isn't everything. Neither the size of the price tag nor the size of the features list a vendor proffers should be your primary reason to buy, according to Pugh and Shah. Instead, they recommend taking a solutions-oriented approach. What problems do you need your new software to solve? What are the specific business goals you expect this software to help you achieve? Look for "vendors who think beyond features and can solve larger business problems," Pugh told me.
Vendors, he said, often attempt to sell to buyers based on "features that are their strengths but are not necessarily relevant to buyers' critical needs." Are the benefits a vendor offers, no matter how extensive, benefits that your enterprise requires? Should they take precedence over other unaddressed needs? "Finding a software vendor who gets your end goal, pinpoints which features to focus on, and can customize future solutions will bring you more value," Pugh said. Ideally, a vendor can "serve as a strategic partner to solve larger business issues."
Need another reason the length of a feature set shouldn't dictate your software buy? The amount of features offered may not correlate to actual software performance, and reliable performance is critical to enterprise operations. Unplanned outages and technical difficulties mean lost time, lost productivity, and, ultimately, lost earnings. "It's important," Shah said, "to find vendors who can consistently deliver reliable performance, even if that means trading off some other features."
Buying for your company's needs
The size and growth stage of your company should also guide your purchasing decisions. Is your company in growth mode? Every change your company goes through will change the demands placed on your software, too. For organizations in transition, Pugh recommends finding "software vendors who can work closely with them during software transitions. Find a vendor who can meet your need for scale and support you through other process, people, and IT changes."
Large, established multinational enterprises, on the other hand, have fewer transitional concerns but more operational needs and should, according to Shah, look for "software that's fully customizable to work within their complex, mature environments." These environments need to be up and running at all times. One of the key value drivers in the large enterprise environment, therefore, is the need for 24/7 reliability. "One third of large multinational enterprises value upgraded issue resolution services that would identify potential causes of issues and resolve them even before a problem occurs," Shah said, since "every minute of lost uptime translates into thousands of dollars."
Implementation is key
So you've chosen a vendor ready to provide the most crucial features for your organization's needs, established a strong working partnership with that vendor, and done everything possible to ensure maximum scalability or reliability. Now what? No matter what software you've chosen, make sure both your company and the vendor are prepared to deliver an optimal implementation. "Implementation," Shah told me, is what the enterprise software buyers PwC studied remember the most. Not surprising, since "implementation sets the stage for future performance." Get a good implementation in place, and success will be more likely to follow.
Jude Chao is Executive Editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Follow her on Twitter @judechao.