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Do you need professional help?

Mar 01, 20044 mins
Data Center

* Management buying decisions shouldn’t be taken on alone

Not too long ago, I knew a fair number of people who claimed that everyone should go through some form of psychoanalysis – along, of course, with an even larger number of people who took the other extreme position and claimed that all psychologists are frauds. After looking over some recent – as well as not-so-recent – research, I now find myself wondering if all serious buyers of management tools could similarly profit from “professional counsel.”

This isn’t to say that they should have their heads examined for even looking. It’s probably true that if you could turn the management marketplace into a single individual, this individual would be bordering on multiple personalities, passive-aggressive guilt and delusions of grandeur – but that actually is not irrelevant to why buyers may be advantaged from professional counsel.

The data I am referencing reflects the following overall concerns:

* Buyers are overwhelmed by the complexity of brand choice and generally have great difficulty matching relevant brand names to relevant concerns.

* Buyers are similarly confused by market categories – such as, for instance, “network management” – that no longer describe a meaningful percentage of the market.

* Enterprises still show stubborn support for in-house technology that seems to address “unique” requirements that, in reality, are increasingly better addressed by third-party products.

* Buyers stumble onto purchases in an ad hoc manner with resulting redundancies, holes and fragmented awareness of what management software they already have and what it can do.

* Buyers are still strongly reactive in making purchases, driven by failures rather than reactive investments.

All this – combined with a market of shifting dimensions that easily includes more than 800 vendors across networks, systems and applications – is enough to suggest that no one in their right mind should approach management purchase decisions without some form of professional guidance.

Perhaps a better analogy than psychologists, though, is lawyers. Roman law was designed to be finite, simple and memorable. Every citizen was expected to learn it to the degree that he could represent himself without hiring a lawyer except in the most extreme cases. However, Anglo-Saxon and American law has evolved on precedent – with a resulting complexity that (not necessarily to the betterment of civilization) has enriched lawyers.

In spite of this, I would argue that, overall, the management marketplace’s current complexity is a good thing for buyers. It offers choice and forces vendors, both big and small, to be competitive.

Perhaps even more significantly, it often forces better integration across brands. Buyers are beginning to stand their ground against vendors that imply that their single brand can be a complete panacea. At the same time, buyers are recognizing the need to invest in larger, integrated suites that in the end will bring greater value and flexibility than a fragmented array of point products. These two trends are not contradictory so much as enlightened. Buyers should seek a strategic, central integration point for enterprise management. But they should also demand that this “integration point” be supportive of multi-brand selection.

So, if this market choice is a good thing, it may more than compensate for the apparent need for professional counsel in shopping and planning. There are plenty of options for counsel – Enterprise Management Associates of course being one – but in the interest of “power to the people,” I’m going to provide a few guidelines for tackling this mess in a follow-on column (or columns) free of charge. This isn’t to say that after you start to cruise around the many URLs relevant to a specific buy, you may not still feel like you should have your head examined. But it will at least let you feel better about yourself for taking on the pain.