Wednesday Apr 23, 2014

A Two-Way Street for Software Vendors?


by Jim Lein, Oracle Midsize Programs

As I examined software review sites, my search results varied greatly from site to site. Many Oracle products weren’t represented or had very few or no reviews.

“How can that be?” I wondered out loud.

A Two Way Street for Vendors

Oracle offers applications spanning all business functions and over a thousand published customer references. Why aren’t all these products listed on every software review site?

When an IT buyer encounters a similar and counter intuitive situation it can typically be explained by one of the following reasons.

  • Lack of Collaboration—the vendor hasn’t proactively worked on the review provider’s terms to make sure the profile for every product is complete

  • Focus—Very few software review sites can or want to boil the ocean by attempting to cover all products within all categories

  • Vendor Cheerleading—Some vendors are more proactive in encouraging their users to review their products as a form of grass roots awareness marketing

  • Revenue Sources—If a vendor won’t pay for leads, it could adversely impact the likelihood of their products being recommended

A Comprehensive and Balanced Approach

Oracle is successful not because we work closely with software reviewsites but instead because we have helped hundreds of thousands of customers become more successful.

Like it or not, software review sites aren't likely to replace RFPs. But without a doubt, they are replacing some stages of the traditional buying process, especially for lower cost, less complicated products. With so much at stake, caveat emptor still applies – selection managers & IT buyers must be diligent in assessing the veracity, objectivity, and completeness of any online advice they choose to follow.


In this series:

  1. The (R)Evolution of IT Buying Behavior--including steps in the traditional software buying process
  2. The Death of the RFP?- the basics on software review sites
  3. How Software Review Sites Are Like Apples-including how such sites are not all the same
  4. A Two-Way Street for Software Vendors?-including why you won't find every product on every software review site

Jim Lein

I evangelize Oracle's enterprise solutions for growing midsize companies. I recently celebrated 15 years with Oracle, having joined JD Edwards in 1999. I'm based in Evergreen, Colorado and love relating stories about creativity and innovation whether they be about software, live music, or the mountains. The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

The Death of the RFP?

by Jim Lein, Oracle Midsize Programs

IT buying processes have evolved over the last decade to leverage the power of the internet. For many, it has not evolved fast enough or far enough. The traditional software buying process (as I describe in "The (R)Evolution in IT Buying Behavior) is ponderous, expensive, and produces variable results. Buyers and vendors alike are frustrated.

The Role of Enterprise Software Review Sites 

Enterprise software review sites—such as Software Advice, G2 Crowd, and TrustRadius—are to IT buyers as sites like Amazon, Yelp, and Expedia are to consumers. Online advice & reviews—with some caveats—works exceptionally well for consumers. The question many IT buyers are asking now is, “What role should software review sites play in my buying process?”

To find answers to that question, I interviewed experts in the Oracle community as well as the founders of several software review  sites. I learned they can serve as a valuable source of information and influence as part of a comprehensive and balanced selection process. Buyers seeking fundamental knowledge during early stages can save time and money when trying to get to a short list of vendors. Likewise, user reviews can swing the pendulum one way or another when everything else looks equal. And the weight placed on any advice will vary based on each IT buyer’s circumstances.

The Basics

Not that long ago, vendors, industry analysts, and consulting firms were seen as the exclusive gatekeepers to knowledge.Now, software review sites are intended to bring the power of knowledge to all IT buyers by providing access to vast resources of online product information and reviews.

But buying enterprise software is not the same as renting a hotel room for a night. With the power of knowledge comes responsibility. IT buyers seeking online advice need to understand how these sites work.

Buyers want three types of information:

  • Functional—what does the solution do and not do?
  • Comparative—how does one solution differ from another?
  • Experiential—did the solution deliver value to users as expected?

Each software review site provides some blend of these via a combination of three formats:

  • Directory—a repository of vendors and product information gathered from publicly-available data, vendors, and reviewers
  • User reviews—a crowdsourced forum reflecting the experiences of product users
  • Analysis—validation and assessment applied by the resources of software review sites, both people and technology
Ultimately, software buyers will determine the fate of each site. One way or the other, their actions will or will not drive revenue to each site and determine its financial viability.

In this series:

  1. The (R)Evolution of IT Buying Behavior--including steps in the traditional software buying process
  2. The Death of the RFP?- the basics on software review sites
  3. How Software Review Sites Are Like Apples-including how such sites are not all the same
  4. A Two-Way Street for Software Vendors?-including why you won't find every product on every software review site

Jim Lein

I evangelize Oracle's enterprise solutions for growing midsize companies. I recently celebrated 15 years with Oracle, having joined JD Edwards in 1999. I'm based in Evergreen, Colorado and love relating stories about creativity and innovation whether they be about software, live music, or the mountains. The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

How Software Review Sites Are Like Apples


by Jim Lein, Oracle Midsize Programs

Walk into the market and you can buy a dozen different kinds of apples. We each pick a fruit based on its color and flavor. And we don't always choose the same apple because our tastes can change from day to day based on what we're looking for and what mood we happen to be in. 

No Two Sites Are the Same

Software buyers are likely to review more than one software review site and choose based on their own personal preferences and buying habits. G2 Crowd, Software Advice, and TrustRadius all provide reviews and advice but they differ in "color" and "flavor". Each  provide software buyers with free access to user reviews. All three gather information from vendors and publicly available sources.

G2 Crowd and TrustRadius primarily interact with vendors via self service mechanisms. They also advise vendors that the best way to get their products accurately represented is to encourage user reviews. With Software Advice, vendors who are willing to pay for leads can actively interact with Client Success Coordinators.

With Software Advice, founded in 2005, buyers never pay. Buyers are encouraged to work with an software advisor over the phone to match their needs to a product. G2 Crowd, launched in February of 2013, and TrustRadius, launched in March of 2013, rank and compare products almost entirely based on end user reviews. Currently, G2 Crowd generates revenue from buyers who pay for reports that rank products within a category based on all user reviews. TrustRadius is pre-revenue but expects to generate sales through some combination of premium user products and vendor services.

Information is Only As Good As the Source

Credible software review sites take great care in validating both vendor information and user reviews. IT buyers should understand how any given site validates its vendor information and user reviews or be prepared to take that advice with some grain of salt

Validating vendor information is to some degree self governing. If a vendor provides bad information, the outcome is not going to be favorable, in the long run, to anyone involved. Some sites (including G2 and TrustRadius) validate user reviewers via their LinkedIn credentials. Ideally, there is also some degree of scrutiny applied by a human being for both validity and quality.

For example, TrustRadius rejects about 5% of submitted reviews as junk or false. Buyers can also assess the quality of reviews based on the richness and structure of the content. For context, the average TrustRadius reviewer spends eighteen minutes on their first review and is encouraged to return in order to keep their reviews fresh and update.Likewise, G2 Crowd rejects 3-4% of reviews in addition to algorithmic checks based on reviewer LinkedIn data. Some reviews are flagged as "business partner" if submitted by, for example, a solution integrator, in order to identify any potential conflicts of interest. 

Sticking with the analogy...it's certainly possible that there are "bad apples" amongst the myriad software sites available. But the diligence shown by the good ones ensure that one bad apple won't spoil the whole bunch.


In this series:

  1. The (R)Evolution of IT Buying Behavior--including steps in the traditional software buying process
  2. The Death of the RFP?- the basics on software review sites
  3. How Software Review Sites Are Like Apples-including how such sites are not all the same
  4. A Two-Way Street for Software Vendors?-including why you won't find every product on every software review site

Jim Lein

I evangelize Oracle's enterprise solutions for growing midsize companies. I recently celebrated 15 years with Oracle, having joined JD Edwards in 1999. I'm based in Evergreen, Colorado and love relating stories about creativity and innovation whether they be about software, live music, or the mountains. The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.


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