What I love when I buy a gallon of milk -- OK, I admit, I usually opt for the organic stuff -- is I know when it's going to go off. That little thing called an expiration date is something we all take for granted. But the problem when looking at software vendors is that it's harder to know just how much life many have left in 'em. There is nothing as simple as a "use by" labeling on their virtual facades. Over on his blog Software Safari, Brian Sommer offers up the question to his readers: "Does anyone remember: Pansophic, SSA, Walker Interactive, Software 2000, Baan, McCormack & Dodge, Management Science America, Data Design Associates, Consco, Cullinet, Adaytum, etc.? These software companies were all vibrant, competitive software firms and all have been absorbed into other entities."
Brian continues: "Packages are a lot like milk at the local grocery store. It doesn’t last long and you really ought to read that expiration date. You even need to watch that date after you get the product home. Otherwise, you might get a mouthful of some really bad-tasting stuff ... Vendors who only have one main product have the shortest expiration dates (on themselves and their products). These companies may be the first to market with a new idea but their products often get hijacked by bigger firms in related product segments." If you're using a smaller -- or even a larger -- best of breed product in the Spend Management world, I'd strongly urge you to read Brian's piece. Even as someone who typically favors innovative smaller players over the ERP borg, I found his observations fascinating. Because after all, we should all try best to forecast our own provider's expiration dates -- because when they're acquired, innovation, more often than not, dies with the deal.