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  • Design Thinking,  Vendor Selection

    Design Thinking About The Vendor Selection Process

    Way back in my first years working for an IT vendor, I quickly learned to schedule my vacations according to my marketplace. Common practice was, when customers (or those who I wanted as customers) went on their vacation, they first dumped some work on my colleagues and myself.  We’d receive a thick envelope (no Email in those days) containing a “Request for Proposal” or even worse (sounded so uncommitted) a “Request for Information”. These were long, detailed documents laying out a series of specifications and functions that they wanted to see in our product. We would be expected to process and answer all questions and reply when they came back from vacation. Most RFPs would be issued, especially here in Germany, during the summer months and just before Christmas. 

    I got the impression that creating these RFP documents, and then processing the vendor replies, was the main focus for many buyers. The later stages (presentation, demo, negotiation, sales) seemed to happen very quickly afterwards.

    Of course, further work experience taught me that the famous adage that “70% of IT projects fail” is very true and continues to be so. I would suggest that one reason for this is the above process. Many companies assume that the most important component of any process automation project is the vendor selection process (VSP). Once that’s done, it is easy sailing – then .. just install it, configure it, train the users and run the system. 

    Well, I’ve just assisted a client through their VSP and sat in on their meetings with five different potential vendors to provide my input as “an outsider”. I trust that my assessment of the vendors’ offerings and potential to fit into their planned technical architecture was useful. But still I left with the feeling that the client was not really prepared for the full project – the danger of it being one of the 70% is imminent. So I went back and told them that I had noticed, when I asked them about theirneeds and challenges, that many aspects of the project were not yet thought through. There were: 

    • No sample business workflows (much of which is outside the software they’ll buy)
    • No profile of their potential users (devices, competencies, preferences)  
    • No sample reports or dashboards designed
    • No prioritization in their list of requirements – all was equally important.   

    Process automation projects fail because of a bad fit between project solution and requirements. And when I say “project” I mean much more than the software product. The solution must cover the complete business scenario to be improved, which is usually only partly through technology – process and organization always needs to be tuned as well. 

    I suggest that it is now time to reconsider the role of the VSP – it should not be “the means to an end” – better to turn it into the kick-off for a process transformation project. 

    In 2009, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford came up with the concept of “design thinking” which has been adopted by many IT organizations and software vendors as the basis for their development projects. The associated meeting/communications method, SCRUM, has now even been adopted by modern marketing departments.    

    The Stanford dSchool process proposes these steps in a project: 

    Empathize – Define – Ideate – Prototype – Test.

    So here is what I envisage in a modern marketing process automation project:

    Empathize. Collect and describe the requirements based not on technical specifications but by describing real business scenarios – improved workflows that marketers care about.Include persona profiles and the desired “usage tone” (marketing- or IT-centric, advanced or casual user, terminology known or not, device preferred, location of task, reporting requirements, millennials!). A scenario documentation should resemble the briefings given to marketing agencies – not an RFP spreadsheet. 

    Define. Based on the make-up of the user-team and other requirements such as integrations and services, you should be able to easily segment the vendors and arrive at a shortlist.  Provide the scenario documentation to those vendors and gather their responses as a first selection phase. Allow them to be creative – they may even be able to propose process improvements that you had not yet identified.

    Ideate.Invest time here to engage with three to five vendors to explore how they would help you to automate the scenarios. If you want to restrict this phase, limit how many scenarios each vendor works on – one will probably suffice for you to form an impression of the vendor’s suitability as a business partner.  

    Prototype.The people at Stanford would love you to be putting Post-It notes on the wall in this phase, but you should probably expect your vendors to be able to demonstrate how they would support your scenarios with their software. You should now be down to one or perhaps two vendors.  As well as checking whether they have realistic expectations, also use this phase to observe how the project members will work together – vendor people with your colleagues but perhaps you are also bringing together colleagues who are strange to each other. Create a conflict situation by changing a scenario and see how all players react. 

    Test.After selecting your technology provider, you now move into the project roll-out phase, which is usually focused on just one team, location or business area to generate success and then a more expansive roll-out. Continue to expect the vendor to treat you as a business partner and working to ensure your success. 

    The test phase should actually never end. Wise project managers will maintaina running, live doc of the business requirements, because they’ll change over time. Display it in a flexible and editable spot to allow you to constantly re-check what you need, and the costs associated with it.  Also, ask yourself periodically what can you cut? Or what hasn’t been used in months? Who is now using the software – is that different than initially assumed? 

    I have already been commissioned to deliver workshops based on these ideas, so watch his space for more experience stories later this year. 

    Always keeping you informed! Peter

  • News,  Vendor Selection,  Web Experience Management

    Web Experience Management VSM

    For my fourth Vendor Selection Matrix, I’ve researched how businesses manage the web experience of their prospects and customers. Web Experience Management (WEM) is a set of business processes to create, manage, deliver and optimize contextualized digital experiences on websites. WEM software must now cope with an ever-more complex, extensive and interconnected technology landscape. It is a mature software market but under disruption from new vendors because of this challenge, but also because of the transition from on-premise to cloud-based implementations.

    There are well-over 100 software/SaaS vendors offering WEM solutions with a multitude of open-source providers and vendors active only in their local markets. Websites are run by businesses and individuals alike and so, over the 2 billion websites worldwide, the overall WEM market-leader is the open-source, and free, solutionWordPresswith around 25% share. 

    But the list of vendors used by businesses is under 30. In 2018, the total global annual software license, maintenance and SaaS revenues for WEM totaled over $ 5 billion. WEM is now strategic to companies. Originally a product supporting the appearance of just one or a handful of websites with essentially static content, WEM buyers now seek a broader platform to broadcast across many digital channels and render dynamic content on hundreds of websites at speed. 

    In my global survey, the five vendors who were rated highest by the 1500 business practitioners for the business process of web experience management were, in alphabetical order: Acquia, Bloomreach, Episever, SDL, and Sitecore. Similarly, positions six thru ten (actually eleven because two were equal in position 10) were taken by: Adobe, Amplience, Crownpeak, Contentful, e-Spiritand Progress

    The survey notes that switching vendors is a challenge for many businesses though, most users tend to want to stay with their vendor as migration costs are perceived to be high if they have been creating web content for several years. Vendors looking to capture new market share must offer migration services and/or focus on new business initiatives where brand-new WEM platforms could be deployed. 

    Across the WEM vendors, I saw a curious range of target audiences addressed in their marketing; some used language and provided features aimed at technical web developers while others focused only on marketing professionals. I think that marketing users will prevail over IT developers. As the web experience becomes the primary business presentation of a company, business users will insist on more ability to control and configure that experience. They know and understand the needs of their customers and prospects better than the IT department or teams of web developers. Even in large companies that have built up resources of web developers, there will be a drive to provide the WEM platform directly to staff in Marketing Operations. If I am right, this will require some vendors to change their go-to-market language and approach.

    An abridged version of the report can be viewed here bit.ly/VSMWEM2019 and below are my headlines for each of the top 11 vendors.

    Always keeping you informed! Peter

  • Marketing Lead Management,  News,  Vendor Selection

    Do We All Need Marketing Automation Applications?

    I’ve just been to two fascinating events that fed a theory currently rotating in my head about marketing automation software – the question asked in the blog title. Sure, I make a living off the fact that marketing professionals need help selecting vendor partners to automate various business processes. But I have found myself asking some whether they are really ready for that step at all: for various reasons.

    Event #1 was held in Munich by Nintex, the business process automation (BPM) vendor. Last November, my research on Marketing Lead Management had exposed that many marketers automate that process not with a branded marketing automation software but through a BPM project – both bpm’online and Pegasystems appeared in the top ten rated by 1500 business professionals globally. So, I’m keeping my eyes out for other BPM vendors and appreciated Nintex’s invitation to their 2019 customer event.

    Nintex has certainly grown up since their early success as a utility/tool that made Microsoft Sharepoint so much easier to manage and use for business operations staff. They now have over 8000 clients and offer a fully-fledged BPM suite (including the Robotic functions which form the new secret sauce for BPM projects) as a cloud solution. I networked with many experienced ops developers who’ve been loyal to Nintex for years and were now excited to see how this relationship can continue.  Nintex CEO, Eric Johnson, pointed out that three quarters of enterprise business processes in organizations are still NOT automated. While the spread of packaged business applications continues to reduce this number, many mid-sized companies and enterprise organizations prefer to eshew that option and instead task their operations departments (or a services partner) to set up the required automation through a low-code, drag and drop, scalable workflow automation system that better fits their needs. Nintex showed some examples of these projects in marketing at the event. And even Workfront are now promoting their system as a solution for Marketing Ops. 

    The other event was last week in London – I was invited to present at the GetStacked conference by my old friends at B2B Marketing. They scheduled me in the “Getting Started” track and briefed me to “keep it simple”. And I did meet several Marketing Directors who were experienced in marketing but new to the concept of automation technology – and were not that sure about it, in various ways. I congratulate B2B Marketing for recognizing this need. Indeed, I did present the slide you see below with the comment “You may not even need a marketing automation application”. 

    Justin Hall, of the renomated agency Protocol (who are certified on several MA solutions), also had a slide saying:  “DO YOU NEED MA AT ALL? Is it just modern-marketing hype and bullshit?“.  Then he showed how he had set up their own marketing automation system for less than 500 GBP. 

    On that note, the GetStacked conference ended with a keynote that was emotional and dramatic in its major point that marketing automation vendors promise too much, deliver too little and show little sympathy for the true challenges that marketing executives have in their jobs. Maureen Blandford, clearly as exasperated as she is experienced, said that she is tired of their “shame-marketing” (referring to the typical tone that much of the vendors’ marketing content likes to adopt). She also stated (wrote it on slides even) that:

    • “Foundational Tech doesn’t work as it states on the tin.”
    • “Proliferation of Band-Aid Tech to make up for the gaps in the foundational but causes integration and reporting gaps.”
    • “Worse than budget, ever bit of tech requires capacity to learn it, onboard it, use it. And troubleshoot the downstream issues x every piece of tech in your stack.” 

    Her 30-minute rant was met with heavy applause by the GetStacked audience of around 400 B2B marketers – looks like the vendors need to create more empathy in their marketing (reminds me of my post on digital marketers being cobbler’s children).

    Oh, and my theory was fed once more only yesterday when a vendor of Web Experience Management software (my next research report in April) briefed me on how one of its clients had used the software to create a Partner Relationship Management portal as well as a quite capable Sales Engagement Management solution.    

    Always keeping you informed! Peter 

    One of the slides I presented at GetStacked
  • News,  Sales Enablement Management,  Vendor Selection

    VSM for Sales Engagement Management

    In 2019, I still get people asking me “Didn’t you write that Death of the B2B Salesman report?” Actually, I didn’t, I was just one of the editors. The author of that Forrester Research report was my old colleague Andy Hoar, who was covering eCommerce. I just leveraged his research in a keynote speech to provoke my audience of 500+ sales enablement professionals at the conference I was moderating. That was in 2015 and, well, it certainly succeeded!  Back then, my colleagues and I had established the need for the discipline of sales enablement within B2B organizations and the conference was used to discuss the role, responsibilities and technologies. For my latest thinking on the role of B2B sellers, feel free to listen to this webinar, which was broadcast just last Fall.  

    It’s been great fun to revisit this topic recently and catch up with all the leading software vendors as well as many business practitioners. But I’ve moved the goalposts a little in my new research report because I don’t think that sales people (definitely not their management) will want to have that many different systems running on their devices.

    Marketers want a system to distribute content to sellers at the same time as Sales-Ops is focused on on-demand coaching plus supporting the day-to-day operational processes that sellers must endure. Ultimately, these solutions will be combined into one robust set of sophisticated tools, on the seller’s device of choice, in order to engage productively with their knowledgeable prospects and buyers. I therefore see Sales Engagement Management as one of the fastest growing Martech markets and 48% of 1500 business executives we interviewed will be investing for the first time in this area of software automation near term. 

    Now, because the market is in its early-adopter phase and many of the users tended to buy from the first vendor that called, the survey may not accurately reflect the current offerings of all vendors. Some of the early leaders, with somewhat-satisfied customers, are no longer the innovators; while newer vendors, but with smaller reputations, are encroaching rapidly.  

    Indeed, the one thing I noticed in my briefings, and this is confirmed in the scores allocated by the 1500 practitioners we surveyed, is that it’s difficult to separate vendors from each other at first glance. I had to dig very deeply at each briefing to find out exactly which customer types were being targeted, and with which value proposition. This is typical of a market in rapid growth, where the RFP process is only just starting to be applied, and where a high close-rate means that marketing concepts like thought leadership or value-based story telling have not yet taken hold. 

    Anyway, the report is now published and below is a table which lists the highlight statements for each of the vendor scorecards I wrote for the vendors with the 10 best aggregate scores. 



    Always keeping you informed! Peter 

  • BCM Research,  News,  Vendor Selection

    VSM #2 Published

    Here is my next Vendor Selection Matrix – the top twenty vendors named by business users who have automated their Brand Content Management process.

    Managing brand and content is now a major business pain point in marketing organizations that seek a consistent process from content creation, thru delivery, to attribution. The recent explosions in content marketing and digital channels have increased both the complexity and volume of content assets. Plus, the transition of the classical sales cycle to what is now recognized as a buyer-led research process means that marketers must obsess about the brand message carried in all the channels. Many of them also serve an ecosystem of subsidiaries, distributors, resellers or even franchisees.

    Most companies use several software tools within this process as there are few vendors who cover the complete lifecycle for content and brand. But companies want to consolidate their software platforms – a recent study showed that business users typically switch applications over 1,100 times per day. We found that 76% of the 1,500 buyers we surveyed will invest in brand content management software in the next 1-3 years, over half of the 1,500 for the first time.

    So, it is no surprise that the market for this software is active and growing. I found nearly 50 active software and SaaS vendors globally generating an estimated total revenue of around $2 billion but it is still quite fragmented across many vendors – the top 20 vendors selected by buyers in this survey generate less than 40% of that total. This list includes established software giants like Adobe and OpenText but there are several innovative solution providers, who talk more about marketing than technology, enjoying annual growth rates of 100% plus.  Vendors like Brandmaker (the global leader in our survey), Brandmuscle, Brandsystems and Bynder plus MarcomCentral.

    As I did with the marketing lead management report, here are the highlights I noted for each of the top ten vendors on their scorecards. Remember, the ranking is based on their total scores: an aggregate of the scores assigned by their users plus my assessment.

    Always keeping you informed! Peter

  • Marketing Lead Management,  Vendor Selection

    VSM for MLM now published

    What an exciting time to be discussing Marketing Lead Management (MLM) automation – a topic galvanized recently by the headline news that Adobe is acquiring Marketo for $4.75 Billion. Marketo – the vendor that led the first charge a decade ago to automate the MLM process in B2B companies, along with peers like Act-On, Hubspot, Eloqua, and Neolane. MLM automation continues to be a priority investment area for many CMOs – in our recent survey of 1500 users worldwide, 72% of respondents said they were now investing in it – half of those to replace their existing system.  In fact, we estimate total annual software license, maintenance and SaaS revenues for MLM to be around $3.5 Billion this year, shared around roughly 60 vendors.

    But planning to buy software, investigate the vendors and select the right solution is not a trivial task for any business professional. While the influence of IT professionals is increasing in this application area (historically, marketing has often been able to make autonomous decisions about its services and technology procurement), most marketing automation decisions are still finalized in the marketing department. But, as a CMO told me a few months ago: The thing is, the vendors always know so much more than me, they talk about their solution every day – I only get into this topic occasionally and need to select a vendor partner perhaps once in a decade”. 

    The buyers inform themselves about potential vendors through general internet research, talking to their peers and reading industry analyst research. More and more, they use peer reviews websites such as G2 Crown or Capterra. The challenge for buyers is: analysts are mostly focused on the needs of large enterprises, their target clientele; while the peer review websites tend to get quite busy and difficult to align to specific needs.

    I have spent the last months following a new research methodology which addresses those issues. I first surveyed the business users, asked them which vendors they have worked with, and asked for a rating of the vendors based on specific criteria (criteria aligned to the typical selection criteria used when selecting a software vendor). I then shared this “feedback” with the vendors and got briefed by them on their go-to-market strategy and product roadmap. The combined scoring schema of the 20 vendors most named by the survey respondents inform a Vendor Selection Matrix for Marketing Lead Management Software that I have now published. The survey is global and covers SMBs as well as enterprises.  I’ve profiled the top 10 vendors with these headlines.

    Act-On Software Mid-market success now spreading to the enterprise segment #1 Global Winner,                            Joint-#1 in Customer Satisfaction
    Hubspot Inventor of “inbound marketing” continues to innovate and execute Joint-#1 in Customer Satisfaction
    Marketo Marketing automation leader now under the Adobe brand promise
     Bpm’online Drive for process management in marketing helps bpm’online success Joint-#1 in Price/Value Ratio
    Salesforce Probably the preferred choice for Salesforce customers
    Adobe Investing BIG in marketing lead management
    Pegasystems The business process manager for marketers
    Salesfusion Capable marketing platform for SMBs with service if desired Joint-#1 in Price/Value Ratio
    SAP A brew in progress: a little SAP, Hybris plus Callidus – final recipe to come
    Oracle MLM leader gone cold due to lack of focus and corporate inertia

    The biggest surprise is certainly the progress of Eloqua since it was acquired by Oracle. What is also clear is that many companies do not want a marketing application, but prefer a rapid development tool that enables them to automate their marketing processes specific to their needs, and quickly. This also reflects the increasing influence of IT professionals in the buying process.  The survey report is available at the researchinaction.de website – the vendor scorecards are available to clients.

    Always keeping you informed! Peter

  • Vendor Selection

    Currently researching Vendor Selection Matrices on various Marchnata

    Research firms like GG and Forr tend to want to bucket tech vendors into categories they’ve designed, usually derived from some sort of technology architecture or blueprint they think defines their world.

    In my new role, I have decided NOT to do this for my Vendor Selection Matrix reports. I’ll document the USER point of view; not vendor nor technological. So I consider a business process (or perhaps a group thereof) within the marketing function. For me, there are several maturity phases in each process – which defines and informs the type of technology and organizations required.

    One example is Marketing Lead Management. This process matures from: the initial phase where marketers just want to generate leads for sales through outbound marketing activities; through when they discover that they now also can collect and nurture inbound marketing leads; and culminating in the mature phase where they realize that marketing now should own leads throughout the customer lifetime and sales plays its role within that story.

    Another is Brand Content Management. This matures from a basic desire to manage all digital branded assets in a central repository to ensure consistency; through actively leveraging content into marketing programs and channels; to the management of the brand messaging across the company, from corporate brand to the individual messaging statements around products.  Companies working in a more distributed (sometimes called local) marketing environment deploy Brand Content Management systems to manage content across all their internal organizations, subsidiaries, and/or all business partners.

    However, when we qualify users for their inputs into our Vendor Selection Matrix, we list out a group of technologies or labels within the process so that they recognize the subject dependent on their maturity level.

    We then ask them to identify up to 3 vendors that they have had a business experience with on the topic. We also validate that the experience was not totally unfavorable and filter those out of the survey – the average number of vendors they speak about is just under two. We have developed a list of selection criteria based on our experience of helping and moderating vendor selection processes. We ask each user to score their vendors for each criterion. So that way, 60% of the matrix is scored by the users.

    My job now is to complete the matrix by assessing the remaining 2 criteria: 1) Company Viability and Execution Capabilities and 2) Market Share and Growth, based on my own knowledge, desk research, what I hear from others, AND what I hear from the vendors in a briefing.

    We also refine the survey over time. If we notice an item or priority appearing often in the “other” line, we add it to the list of items being offered. This happened in the BCM survey where many respondents had cited “headless CMS” as a priority and it is now in 5thposition.