The easiest incumbent to disrupt

“The easiest software incumbent to disrupt is the one prioritizing the needs of its strategy over the needs of its customer”
Aaron Levie
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OSS is a risky business because:

  1. There are relatively few customers (although this is expanding through deregulation and an increasing pool of enterprise customers)
  2. Each of those customers have unique requirements because their networks, processes, services, customers and business models are all different, so each solution must be configured specifically for each customer
  3. The solutions tend to be highly complex, especially if there are integrations with other systems
  4. There are relatively few people with the multitude of skills required to implement an OSS (see “Valuable Tripods“). The supply/demand equation tends to imply that these rare resources are also quite expensive so there is a reliance on an expensive workforce
  5. They are delivered into environments that are ever-changing so the OSS needs to constantly change to keep up
  6. I’m sure you can think of many more, but most importantly
  7. They are constantly under the threat of disruptive innovation

To an extent there are methods to mitigate some of these risks but there is one sure-fire way that vendors inadvertently increase their risks. They develop products and strategies in isolation of customers and their needs. For example, if you’re a developer, the easy path is to work from home or head office and imagine what the customer might need. It’s often much harder to sit alongside your customers in their environments (especially if they’re international customers) and learn from them.

In an earlier blog I issued a very simple OSS survey that identified customer’s most pertinent OSS needs. I’d greatly appreciate it if you could spread this survey far and wide to get a broad set of insights worth publishing here.

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