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.

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