In part one, I talked about knowing what vendors mean by the words they use — an ambiguity that makes it difficult to accurately compare vendor offerings and may leave you surprised that you didn’t get exactly what you thought you were getting. This week I want to look at the second “fine print” issue: who owns your software makes a difference. If you remember one of the gripes about Kashi was that they were not “a small, pure company,” but actually owned by the industrial cereal giant Kellogg.
There’s one thing this industry is infamous for — having your company bought or sold or be a small part of a large company is the norm, not the exception.
Often, the tendency is to look at the product in terms of features and functionality. One thing I think we can all agree on is that, in our industry, it has become fairly plain vanilla. We all do incident, problem, and change. There may be a feature here or some functionality there that’s different from the other vendors, but they’re mostly the same.
The part that differs greatly between the various vendors is corporate culture. Unfortunately, culture, as well as its elusive variables, is hard to quantify and define. However, the fact remains that who you partner with will make a big difference over the long run.
One of the reasons I believe that people were upset to find out that Kashi was not a privately owned company was the belief that large corporations only care about one thing — money. What goes into a product, how the product is handled, etc., are details not viewed as being critical to the bottom line of large corporations. I was intrigued to read a number of responses to the Kashi article that said “follow the money trail.”
The same is true in our industry. On the one hand, you don’t want to go with a company that is a small startup that has not proven itself, cannot provide you with references, is still in the beginning phases of launching its product. On the other hand, you don’t want to go to company that is so large that its IT Service Management offering is merely one of hundreds of options available. To add to the confusion, many ITSM vendors are carrying two, three, or more products; trying to figure out which product is best suited for you and which one will scale with you becomes a cumbersome task at best.
One of the unfortunate side effects of being bought by another company is that the customer care and customer service at smaller companies often get lost in the acquisition. Since we first entered into the space many years ago, many of our competitors have been bought and sold by larger vendors and are now just a shell of the product they once were.
Our CEO, Vance Brown, likes to say that Cherwell is the right size company. We are large enough to have:
- Profitability for the past 5 years;
- No company debt and no outside funding;
- Large R&D budget;
- And several Fortune 500 customers …
…but we are small enough that we still build close personal relationships with our customers.
So in the midst of evaluating features and functionality of the various ITSM software solutions, you should ask yourself, “Is this a company that I will partner with in the years to come?” It’s true, culture does matter. Who owns your cereal?