Are We Living in a One Horse Town?

A Vision from Down Under
By Michael Poole

Now, living as I do in Australia and being of a certain age, I can recall spending my holidays on a sheep and wheat farm in, what we Australians call, “the bush.” For those not acquainted with that expression, “the bush” is anywhere outside of a major city and typified by a lack of lights on the road and the possibility of a surprise meeting with a kangaroo on the same unlit road around dusk – which has a similar effect as our northern cousins meeting an elk.

So, in those days, there was a always a “country town” within one to six hours of most farms. The town near my uncle’s farm was pretty close, a one and a half hour drive along dirt roads, and consisted of one “pub,” Police Station (we are descended from convicts), Church and combination Petrol (Gas) Station/General Store/Post Office.

The next town was four hours away and about the same size except that it had an additional pub.

Now, going to town was an event. Usually undertaken on Saturday morning, we all dressed up in our nearly best clothes – not Sunday best, as it was a Saturday. The kids piled into the back of the “ute” (pick-up) and ate dust for an hour and a half. Brushing ourselves off after arriving in the town, the family split up to carry out each one’s appointed task.

Uncle, of course, had to fulfill his civic duties and always attended a meeting of the local farmer’s committee. Strangely these meeting were always held in the pub. They were thirsty work!

Aunt and the rest of us went to the General Store. There was an amazing range confectionery displayed on the counter-top, but surprisingly, other categories of items like food, hardware, etc. had little variety or choice. If you wanted flour, the choice was easy – there was just one brand and two types: plain and self-raising.

As there was only one General Store, of course whatever we needed had to chosen from what it supplied. There was little chance of getting a better deal by comparison shopping, and even if we knew that there was an alternative product that was better, if the store didn’t sell it, it was just too bad.

We sometimes suggested to Aunt that we could go to the other town and buy the better product, but she never did – she didn’t want to upset the store-keeper – and anyway, if he wasn’t supplying it, there must be something wrong with it.

I think back to those days when I go to the supermarket and have such an array of products to choose from. I even have a vast array of supermarkets and on-line stores to choose from.

So, what has this got to do with our real focus in this blog?

Well, I also remember those days when I talk to CIOs and IT Managers who are grimly holding to a Single Vendor “strategy.”

There has been a continued debate, not just in the IT community, on the topic of Single vs Multiple vendor implementations.

So what are the things that should be considered when deciding between these strategies?

Flexible to Innovation: When solutions are built upon open standards, enterprises have the ability to adopt new solutions, as their businesses grow and need change, or as new and improved solutions become available. Since a multi-vendor strategy is inherently an open-standards strategy, vendors must continue to innovate in order to create competitive advantage, driving new advances that result in higher performance solutions.

A single vendor with a broad portfolio of products will by its very nature always have products that lag behind others due to resource allocation, disparate product lifecycles, and shifting areas of focus. Furthermore, a single vendor strategy results in a lockout strategy for any competing vendors, even when they offer a superior solution. A multi-vendor network strategy based on open standards doesn’t demand you to sacrifice innovation or flexibility. In fact, innovation and flexibility are its byproducts inherently.

Who has the Advantage: Many organizations justify a single-vendor strategy because they feel they have the advantage when dealing just with one vendor. However, this is not the case as the figure below shows. In fact, by giving preference to a single-vendor, the advantage is shifted to that vendor. Strangely, this is one of the objectives of any vendor – to lock the client into a solution set and making it difficult if not impossible to to change vendors or introduce new technology that is not supported or supplied by the vendor.

The vendor Influencer Curve
Gartner’s Vendor Influencer Curve advocates a multivendor approach to based on clear business/IT objects,vs the single vendor trusted adviser approach favored

 

Single Vendor Myths
Limits Complexity: Many vendors, who claim to provide everything an enterprise needs to meet its technology requirements, have actually built solutions through acquisition with products that weren’t necessarily designed to work together. Superior Support: With diverse and varied products, support is provided by generalists with broad experience vs specialists with deep knowledge. Lower Operational Cost: In addition to often requiring increased support costs for aging technology, selecting a single vendor to provide products for all areas may actually increase costs due to the limited ability to negotiate pricing as well as support aging technology. Acceleration of Innovation Adoption: With a single vendor, enterprises are actually limited to innovations. Increased Operational Efficiencies: A vendor wouldn’t source all its materials from a single vendor due to the increased risk of relying upon a single source. Why should an enterprise customer be any different?

Reducing Risks and Costs: While relying upon a single vendor poses a significant risk for enterprises, a multi-vendor strategy actually mitigates this risk by reducing exposure to a single vendor’s decisions, from arbitrary product rationalization and service discontinuation to pricing increases. But the risk reduction benefits of a multi-vendor network strategy don’t end there. A single vendor strategy puts the enterprise at the mercy of a sole source that can increase costs through mandatory upgrades, compulsory support programs, and equipment packages that include products that don’t necessarily meet your needs. But, a multi-vendor strategy actually promotes cost reduction.

Leveraging Expertise: No vendor understands your business and network requirements as well as your technical staff. To move forward with a single-vendor strategy is to abdicate control over the decisions your technical staff is trained to make, and place the control of your network destiny directly into the hands of a third party. By giving you the ability to select solutions based on your business drivers, not your vendor’s, a multi-vendor strategy ensures that you are at the helm of your network.

Specialized Support: Today’s complexity requires that technical support be delivered by experts with deep knowledge in specific areas. Since single vendor strategies are designed around broad product portfolios and supported by generalists who sacrifice depth for breadth of knowledge, finding the right person with the right answer can take time. Multi-vendor strategies ensure that you have access to specialists with a focused expertise necessary to effectively resolve issues, minimizing the impact of interruption to your organization. When you develop your network requirements to support your business strategy, and not to support a single vendor’s point of view, the enterprise is positioned not only for the future – it is positioned also to win.

Author: Michael Poole

Michael has been involved in the ITSM and CRM space for over 30 years. He has worked with clients and consultants in the Remedy space since Version 1.0 of ARS.

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