Seeing IT Differently: Why IT Vendors Must Evolve
Many years ago, at Louisiana State University (LSU), I taught the basics of evolution as part of a class on learning and behavior. The concepts behind evolution started, of course, with biologists, but have been adopted by behavioral scientists and now, by technologists. Evolution is best characterized by the notion that species better-adapted to their environment will survive, reproduce, and continue to thrive. Although long removed from the classroom, I still think about this way too much – particularly how it applies to technology and the market. In this context, companies and products that survive and thrive do so because they are a better fit for their existing environments.
Companies don’t live forever, and when we see one go, we wonder what they did wrong, and more importantly, wonder how we avoid the same fate. The truth of the matter is, as with species and evolution, different companies have characteristics—products, business model—that are a better or worse fit for existing environments. One reason companies go extinct is that they were born and thrived in one technology ecosystem, but as the environment changes, they find they don’t adapt as well to the new technology ecosystem.
Take, for instance, the network monitoring market. For many years, it’s had several providers born with a single goal in mind: to provide the best coverage and support for IT professionals. However, not all network monitoring companies can thrive in one technology ecosystem. Although most network management software products share certain elements with one another, companies differentiate on how these products are packaged, developed, and made available to the customer. And as with evolution, some network companies with certain traits will thrive, while others may render them susceptible to extinction.
A recent example of this contrast can be seen with CA Technologies (CA), which was recently acquired by Broadcom. Back when it was founded more than 40 years ago, CA fit its market. Network monitoring was relatively new, and companies were willing to pay a premium for it. CA grew by targeting and growing the enterprise software market. They sold complex, feature-rich products that required a lot of professional services to make it work. They offered more of a platform to be configured than a product—a box of blocks to be assembled, not a turn-key solution to a problem. However, in the early days of network management, having a ton of features—even features with marginal value—was considered worth the high cost.
But as the network management market grew up, CA’s value to the IT professional became difficult to decipher. In a mature market, everyone – vendors and customers – decides which features really matter. So, a product stuffed with every possible feature now seems like an undesirable, bloated mess, and the army of consultants needed to make it work feel like a waste of money. In today’s market conditions, what becomes attractive are affordable, turn-key products with everything you need and nothing more.
SolarWinds was founded in 1998 by an engineer who wanted better options for network monitoring, while providing simplicity and affordability. SolarWinds perfects its craft by doing IT differently – adopting a different approach to product development and prioritizing the day-to-day needs of the IT professional. CA may have dominated the Jurassic period of network management, but like the proverbial dinosaurs, in this new environment—the smaller, nimbler newcomers are eating their lunch and watching them stall.
So, we don’t come to bury Caesar, we come to honor him.
CA was great, but times have changed. UX expectations have increased. Price expectations have decreased. IT management just doesn’t have to be that hard. With affordable, easy-to-install and easy-to-use solutions, SolarWinds is poised to thrive in today’s software market.
After all, the reality is that vendors must evolve or be replaced.
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.