Blogger: Bill Pray
Technology products have a lifecycle, which means versions and solutions eventually reach an end-of-life in market where they are no longer sold or supported by vendors. Unfortunately, just like all relationships, vendors are not really very good at telling you things have ended and it is time to move on. You see, they like the relationship and the revenue that it brings. For you, particularly for your 3C technologies (communication, content, and collaboration), you rely on the solution and often, if it is working, why change? Which puts the vendor in the awkward position of acknowledging that while it still may work just fine, they have committed to something new and are moving on.
Sometimes, the vendor has made a “strategic” decision to exit a market and stop producing a product. Sometimes the vendor just wants to “milk” the market – meaning they will continue to maintain a solution, maybe even enhance it a bit here and there, but they are not really investing it it. Products in these cases are more about managing the decline of the profit from them over time for the vendor. However, being straightforward about this situation is all too rare in the market these days – revenue for a vendor is critical for their success in the market - so here are some signs to help you know when the relationship might be coming to an end:
- The vendor doesn’t answer your calls anymore – You have submitted support tickets, some of them maybe even critical, but the response is slow or non-existent. A lot of the issues end up as bugs to be fixed in a future release, but the vendor doesn’t give you detailed information on the what and when of the next release. This is a good sign that the vendor has decreased or lost engineering support for the solution.
- The vendor points at the other vendor – You have issues with the solution involving two or more vendors, and your vendor consistently points at the other vendors as the one responsible for the fix. Trying to get you to pressure another vendor to fix the problem saves them from trying to figure how they are going to find resources to fix it.
- You pay for your own meal – The licensing discounts dry up, promotional deals disappear, the sales representative visits decline, and enhancement requests become customizations that you have to pay for or find a consultant to make happen - these are all good signs the vendor is disengaging from this solution and market. If your sales person doesn’t want to buy you lunch and talk to you about the product, you know something is up.
- The vendor introduces you to a partner (or even a competitor) – Vendors will often attempt to hand off customers to partners when they are exiting a market and have identified a partner that will try to take their place.
- The vendor acquires a new flame – Acquisitions and mergers always place vendors in situations where they have to determine what technologies “win.” If your technology is the one that doesn’t win, get ready for the sales pitch on the new flame.
- Wall Street airs your vendor’s financial infidelity – If your vendor is not financially viable, the financial community generally will get the word out quickly. Of course there have been exceptions, but someone usually ends up with jail time in those cases.
- The future is non-committal – You ask for roadmaps for the solution and you get vague charts with interesting code names and little or no detail on enhancements and new features. You ask for dates for next releases and the answer is as specific as “sometime within the next three to five years.” No ring is in plans for you.
- The vendor is becoming more “fiscally responsible” – Layoffs, closing of facilities, offshoring, and reduction of marketing budget and activities for a product line could be the vendor becoming more efficient – but it is more often the vendor making a “strategic” decision to reduce their investment in that product line.
- Key vendor personnel “move on” – The top engineer on the product, the guru that evangelizes the solution, and/or the insider with all the information disappear and reappear on a new project or at another company.
- Vendor frequently sports new management for the solution – New product managers, new marketing managers, new VPs, and new directors of engineering every 12 to 18 months are often indicative of a solution whose future is “milking” the revenue with limited investment, development, and vision.
- Rumors are spreading that your vendor is not that into the solution anymore – Blogs, tweets, articles, presentations, etc. begin spreading rumors that vendor is leaving the you and the solution. While not always very accurate, they often contain nuggets of truth because it is difficult for vendors to keep leaks from happening. Somebody always tells a family member, who tells the neighbor, who tells the soccer coach, who tells – well, you get the picture.
- Your vendor tells you its over – Occasionally, a vendor will actually tell you its over – probably through an e-mail (wink).