Can Vendors Help Your Technical Strategy?

Talking with end user organizations, it is becoming apparent that the world I grew up in — the world of companies having 5-year plans — is changing.  No-one really saw the financial collapse coming, and the impact of speculators on world markets can change situations on what seems to be a day-to-day basis.  This has made corporate strategizing difficult, and it is apparent that organizations are struggling to figure out much true planning beyond a few months — and in many cases just to the 12-week cyclical horizon forced upon them by their shareholders.

At the IT level, this is compounded by the pace of change in today’s technology.  Few saw cloud computing, fabric networks, converged computing, or big data coming along at an early enough stage to make them part of their strategy, and many are only now beginning to move some of these technologies into their mainstream use.

If the end-user organization is struggling to make longer-term strategic decisions, then can it make shorter-term ones that will still contribute toward a valid vision of a future state?

My belief is that it can, but at the technology level it will need help, and this help should come from those who are responsible for technology changes: the vendors.  The vendors should be able to present not only what they are doing now, but also provide the longer-term vision to their customers and prospects for them to evaluate and buy into if they believe in the proposition.

Quocirca's Hi-Lo Road Map
Figure 1

OK —  it is equally difficult for a vendor to see the future in any clarity as it is for an end-user organization, but they can at least provide a view on what they believe could happen.  Figure 1 shows Quocirca’s approach to creating a vision, which we call a “Hi-Lo Road Map”.

This works in the following way:  If an end-user asks a vendor what functionality they have right now, the vendor can only offer what they have on their books at the moment.  This gives a base point to work from of functionality against time — or point 0,0 on the graph.  However, in six months’ time, the vendor has the capability to change the functionality of their products.  Depending on the financial climate, the vendor may have little money to invest in R&D; should there be more money available and more pull from customers, then they could invest more.  This leads to a possible spread in functionality, shown by the dark blue segment of the graph.  As time goes further out, the possible spread of functionality becomes larger.

However, the vendor is at least providing limits to their vision and giving the customer (or prospective customer) a vision to buy into.  The model allows the vendor to say to an organization that they will ensure that the functionality the vendor provides will never drop below a certain point, as this would show that the vendor was being too cautious in their approach.  Neither will they push too hard into being overly ambitious and cause the customer to back out of a technology approach to something more mainstream.

Recently, I attended a couple of events by essentially similar vendors.  One was completely open about where it was going and its vision of the future.  It fell easily into this model and the end user organizations present, along with the partners, were firmly bought in to its approach.  The other peppered its presentations with non-disclosure warnings.  Therefore, I cannot state to its prospects or customers exactly what the vendor sees as the future, even though it has a good portfolio of products.

Which would you choose as a partner?  The one with the open, long-term vision, or the one who says “we can help you — but we can’t tell you where we’re going”?