Land and expand!

A smart manager will establish a culture of gratitude. Expand the appreciative attitude to suppliers, vendors, delivery people, and of course, customers.”
Harvey Mackay

Over the years, I’ve noticed an approach that is used by some OSS solution integrators / vendors but interestingly, not by others. It’s what’s known as “land and expand.”

It’s when the supplier manages to develop a small OSS foothold and then leverages that into a progressively larger slice of the customer’s OSS pie. It’s particularly prevalent with the suppliers that have a larger ratio of services to product. These suppliers are adept at expanding their services workforce to assist the customer.

One large vendor is known for providing an “out-of-the-box” solution – that is, the box arrives at the start of a project and 100 Engineers jump out of it and start building a customised solution.

Some may see this as sinister (and in some cases it is), but if the expansion is at the customer’s behest because the services staff are delivering much more value than cost, then this is a great outcome for all involved.

The contrast is the vendors that do a product drop, with a few services staff for product implementation, but little ongoing support other than maintenance. This may sound more pure, but in my opinion this is a lost opportunity for both vendor and customer. The vendor loses the potential to help refine and improve the product and the customer misses the ongoing value-add that the vendor can deliver using their OSS.

The value of an OSS is increasingly derived from new insights and efficiencies that are refined over time so the land and expand approach isn’t always as sinister as it first might seem.

A more recent land-and-expand model that I’ve noticed is when open-source or cloud-marketplace products are picked up quietly by Engineers within a telco. The Engineers don’t go through the lengthy, cumbersome vendor selection / procurement approach (in many cases, they don’t have control of finances to initiate such a project). Instead they get the product for free / peanuts and dabble with it on the side whilst also doing their day job. With a little bit of effort, they’re able to show colleagues how their side-project has the potential to usurp incumbent (often monolithic) products that are entrenched in their telco’s OSS/BSS stack.

The Engineer and colleagues become champions of the side-product and lobby for standing up the business case and project to take it from side-product to production.

This approach has been successfully employed by small, innovative OSS/BSS companies that simply don’t have the sales reach. They don’t have the account managers swarming all over the carrier accounts. The Engineers, the product champions, become a powerful sales arm that isn’t even on the OSS/BSS vendor’s payroll. I’ve even seen examples of this technique working to win very large deals in countries where the vendor has no presence at all.

As products become more modular, and open-source / cloud-marketplace go-to-market strategies becoming increasingly deployed, I can see this technique becoming more powerful and commonplace in time.

It also plays into the increasing trend of pull rather than push marketing, where buyers want to do their own research before electing to buy rather than being sold to.

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