For the past couple years, I've opined at length about the importance of considering new sources of technology advice besides the better known industry analysts. My recent interactions with Gartner research processes in the procurement and sourcing sector combined with my view of certain analyst's lack of attention to detail have further confirmed everything that I've come to believe about the value of individuals over big firms in seeking good advice. Indeed, it's not the firm that counts -- it's actually the individual expert behind the brand (or a lack of a brand in certain cases). In this Friday Rant, I'm not going to rehash the sources I consult and trust when it comes to seeking out technology insights (you can read one of these musings here.) Rather, I'd like to talk about how the medium and influence paradigm is changing overall. I've divided this into four lessons below:
Lesson 1: The Fast, Free Information Trade
Since early April, I've probably met about 40 or so practitioners at various events with whom I've engaged with in more than small talk. Out of these discussions have come half a dozen or so phone conversations, where these individuals wanted my opinion on shortlists or vendors they might consider. Rather than attempt to get consulting revenue from these discussions, I've become much more keen to trade information on vendor pricing, product demonstration success / failures, proof of concept and related areas in return for sharing my insights throughout a 15-20 minute call. I think this type of "fast information trade," where insight is the currency, is going to grow more and more going forward. Consider this true P2P (as in peer-to-peer 🙂
Lesson 2: Look to Learn From Those Who Have Battle Scars
One of the biggest business lessons of my life was putting trust and investment into a SaaS vendor that ultimately ended up going bust. Because of this experience, I feel extremely wedded to the importance of taking advice from those who have actually bought or implemented technology and have the battle scars to prove it, versus those who just analyze or talk about it (when I was doing my initial diligence on the software, no analysts or observers I talked to thought to consider the viability of the company and solution).
Lesson 3: Put Trust In Those Who Implement
The best sources of intelligence (and insight) about vendor products and solutions come from real world practitioners. I have learned so much more over the years talking to SIs, BPO providers (selecting, hosting and running technology) and channels/resellers than from those that sit in ivory tower seats. If you are looking to choose between one package or another -- or if you're looking to make a broader decision (such as to go down a suite route or individually select different modules from a diverse set of best of breed providers) -- get the analysts off speed dial and talk to someone who has implemented or configured half a dozen solutions or more in the past couple of years. I often find that implementers also have a better understanding of what technology features matter versus those that don't in the field.
Lesson 4: Trust the Crowd
While I doubt many people have made P2P or sourcing platform decisions based on feedback solicited by a tweet or a LinkedIn question, I have no doubt the importance of crowd sourcing is growing when it comes to understanding more about what technology is best. Your direct and indirect social network within the four walls of your organization as well as outside of it can offer quick insights into vendors to consider and actual experiences working with different providers. Don't discount the power of the crowd over the expertise of the individual in contributing to your research efforts.
Have you learned a lesson from selecting technology recently that I've not covered here (or do you disagree with the lessons I've suggested)? If so, I'd be very curious to get your input either as a comment or privately.
- Jason Busch