I got an email from a colleague the other day about some of the posts I've done recently on Oracle and SAP among others. He told me that they were the most dry things he'd ever read, but was pleasantly surprised at the level of detail in them. I told him that he hasn't seen anything yet. Gathering product details has always been a past time of mine. I've been involved with competitive intelligence since my first job out of graduate school and I ran it at FreeMarkets for quite some time. In the past year or so, I've tended to avoid custom CI assignments for vendors, even though we have access to extremely detailed information from channels, customers and partners that enable us to get a level of detail that most product managers inside vendors don't even know (well not a good product manager, but you get the point).
This network lets us get around any ethical questions about how we obtained information and is key because most of the information you get from vendors in briefings or even in product demonstrations is too high level to be of much use when it comes to systems selection. In fact, I think the best way to "do CI" is to speak to both actual customers, channels and SIs who are putting in the systems. That way you get the details and dirt that vendors tend to wipe away all too quickly when they're talking about it.
When it comes to our current work in the area, even though I'd never look at our assignments as that of a CI firm, I like to keep up with the latest about what Spend Management providers have on offer -- especially as the products compare and relate to one another. While I have no plans to publish a magic quadrant or 2 by 2 -- it's more fun sitting on the sidelines and critiquing those that come out -- we often use our detailed vendor and competitive analyses to help our clients (vendors, consultants, outsourcers and above all, practitioners) understand how competitive offerings stack-up in the market.
I'll probably never publish them here, but if you'd ever like to have a chat about our services in this regard, let me know. When we do what I call "landscape and competitive brand-dumps" our typical modus operandi is to get in and get out fast. Usually a day or two is all we need to provide an encyclopedic level of detail.
- Jason Busch