Time to build a shorter menu?

If IT Services departments were restaurants, they would be the most expensive, a la carte kind with long waiting lists. “Yes madam, just tell us your requirements and our food consultant will propose several different meal solutions. You can order anything you like and we will be serving it up next year!”
Jake Holloway, in this interesting article.

Today’s story is about a very long menu.

I’m sometimes called upon to help organisations choose the OSS that best suits their specific needs. In the early 2000’s I was helping one such customer and in doing so, evaluated many different vendors to prepare a short-list for more thorough review by the customer.

One of the larger vendors at that time (but far less dominant now interestingly) had an OSS offering that consisted of hundreds and hundreds of products. Unfortunately, it was impossible to determine from the available literature which of their products would service the high-level requirements of my customer. Multiple requests for help from their “food consultants” yielded no replies, so the vendor never made the short-list for this customer.

So if this vendor’s menu was indecipherable to me, chances are it would be equally so for many other potential customers. The old adage of, “the confused mind says no,” was true in this case and is possibly still true (to a much lesser extent hopefully) with other OSS vendors. There’s no doubt that OSS solutions are complex and infinitely adaptable, so vendor experts will always be required to help fine-tune their offer to meet each customer’s requirements. However, a customer conducting first-level product research should always be able to identify which major product sets and capabilities are likely to suit their needs.

Ruthless simplification doesn’t just extend to OSS project delivery, but to sales/marketing as well. If your product set consists of hundreds of products or products with obscure / overlapping capabilities, then you need to get creative and build a shorter menu.

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