There’s no competition for OSS cookbooks making food out of soccer balls

Seth Godin recently wrote a brilliant article that describes the craziness of seeking a market with no competition. In entirety, his article goes like this:

“There’s no competition for cookbooks on making food out of soccer balls and hockey pucks. There’s no competition for software that charges you to find out the temperature on Mars. There’s no competition for a service that counts how many pairs of shoes you own. In fact, in every market that’s worth entering, there’s competition. That’s what you’re looking for. It’s a sign that people have a problem that they’re trying to solve through commerce. The goal isn’t to find no competition. It’s to find a better way to solve the problem.”

Regular readers of the PAOSS blog will have noticed how often I bemoan the level of fragmentation in the OSS (Operations Support Systems) market. As you’ll quickly spot in our Blue Book OSS/BSS Vendor Directory, there’s a LOT of competition. There are over 500 different vendor listings. There are dozens of inventory management tools, alarm management tools, performance management tools, orchestrators, service management solutions, asset management tools, etc. 

So much of the “standard” functionality in these product categories has been around for years and there’s little differentiation between products on the functionality that matters most. That means there’s lots of duplication, which isn’t great for anyone. However, it does point to the fact that it’s a market that’s worth entering. The Total Addressable Market Size is worth many billions per year. Based on the amount of overlap, it’s also clearly a market that product owners think is worth entering because they realise that for as many problems as each category has solved, there are still better ways waiting to solve them (and additional problems waiting to be solved).

Are you working on the OSS equivalent of a cookbook that makes food out of soccer balls and hockey pucks? Are you working on an OSS version of a tool that finds the temperature on Mars? Are you working on the category-killer that has no competition? Be careful that “no competition” actually equates to “no market need.” (Maybe not Mars, but there’s definitely a market for measuring temperatures in Data Centres though)

Put simply, you’ll find it hard to carve out a market niche that nobody has envisaged before either. It’s simply too wide a thought-chasm for most prospects to jump across in this risk-averse market of ours.

Conversely, you’ll also find it hard to beat the many incumbents by doing more of the same. They already have the track record, the brand value, the proof of capability, customer relationships, etc. 

But if you can be the best at solving existing problems, in existing categories, that others aren’t solving well enough, then you might just have a shot at the title…your own piece of market share…. and drag the industry into the future whilst doing it. As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of problems waiting to be solved better, faster, brighter in the world of Operational Support Systems and Business Support Systems! You could even argue that there are plenty of problems waiting to be solved smaller, more succinctly, more elegantly, simpler.

Perhaps the opportunity is actually in consolidation. In merging or mashing products together to better solve client problems. This is one of the reasons I love acting as a connector for this market. Bringing companies, products, ideas, technologies, etc together. Leave me a note if you’d like to discuss!

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