I don’t usually plug my own work, but I just wrote a piece for Datamation.com on what enterprise software vendors should say to their customers as the current recession/depression swallows up the global economy. Basically, the gist of the column is that this is the moment to inaugurate a shift in how vendors interact with their customers, and it starts with some key points — some symbolic, others more firmly practical — that I believe might actually change the market for the better, and help vendors and their customers emerge from the current economic disaster stronger and more profitable. Some of this is more utopian than practical, but I stand by the spirit of the gestures I’m asking both vendors and customers to make on behalf of each other.
My main suggestions are:
1) Vendors should offer their customers an immediate 6% give-back on their maintenance fees, provided the customers take the savings and invest them in new, innovative software from the vendor.
2) Vendors should develop an ROI case for every product they sell, and thus arm their customers to make a strong case to their decision-makers based on facts, not wishful thinking. Customers in turn need to be active participants in this ROI process, and start collecting and managing ROI data from within their enterprises.
3) Vendors should take more responsibility for implementation success, and thereby police their big SI partners more closely. Customers in turn need to be more proactively engaged with a vendor to solve SI partner problems before they get out of hand and end up on the front page of the business section.
4) Vendors should engage more honestly and forthrightly in the contracting process, and eliminate “gotchas” and other traps intended to trip up their customers. Customers in turn need to be better prepared for the contracting process, and if that means engaging third party help, so much the better.
5) Finally, vendors should provide real guarantees for the ROI of their products, and put some SLAs in front of those guarantees. In return, customers should promise to shorten the buying cycle significantly, freeing up a huge cost drain for vendors.
Could this actually happen? I think it would be more than a little interesting to see someone adopt at least suggestion #1, if not the others. But whether or not any of this ever sees the light of day, my real point is this: Now is NOT the time for business as usual, particularly of the adversarial kind. Vendors and customers need each other more than ever, and it’s long time past for a little love to replace the perception of pure opportunism that permeates too much of the vendor/customer relationship.
Before it’s too late. Way too late.