OSS vendor websites – are they helping their customers?

Amongst other consultancy activities, I help clients find the best OSS solution for their needs. This means I’m constantly analysing vendor offerings to cross-reference against client needs.

Based on this perspective, there’s a question I would like to pose to vendors – Why are potential customers coming to your site? [Note: for the purpose of this blog we’ll disregard existing customer visits]

Can we assume that it’s because customers either:
A) Have an existing OSS and are looking to replace it
B) Don’t have the functionality yet (or maybe they’re just winging it with spreadsheets or similar)
And they’ll want to do a review (ie an informal shortlisting) before contacting any vendors directly.

For both A and B above:
1) They’ll need to prepare a business case to justify that the new investment will deliver a positive return
2) They’ll need to justify that the new capability will improve their current situation
3) They’ll want to have the sense that they can trust the professionalism of the vendor

They’ll also need to do a comparison:
4A) If A) above, they’ll need to be able to compare your solution (financial, technical, risk, etc) with theirs.
4B) If B) above, they’ll need to be able to compare your solution (financial, technical, risk, etc) against others on the market

Vendor websites usually help with 2) and 3), but obviously some are much easier than others to find the information customers are after. As a customer, the dilemma is that most vendors have highly flexible pricing scales / models so they’re hesitant to publish this info online and vendors find it difficult to gather the quantifiable benefits they provide. THhis means they struggle to help customers to resolve 1). And regarding 4), customers will usually have to kick off their own analysis (or engage PAOSS) because vendors rarely make it easy to generate competitor comparisons.

An important note in relation to 1), the customer potentially has little concept of what their new OSS will cost, and hence prefer to do some groundwork before negotiating with their financial boffins what their budget will be… and only then will they speak with vendors. There’s also the old concept that if an investment looks like delivering big then budgets can (almost) always be increased commensurately. For example, would you spend your $1M OSS budget on Option 1 if you could only identify $500k benefits, or would you spend $2M (ie a 100% increase on budget) on Option 2 if you could identify $5M in recurring benefits? Your organisation would invariably opt to increase the budget wouldn’t they?

The other challenge in relation to 1) is that the benefits of OSS are often quite intangible. That’s part of the reason why I wrote the OSS Business Case builder e-book.

If you’re a vendor and think any of that relatively generic info is worth diving further into, please contact me and we can create a more directly actionable plan for your site.

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