Pros & Cons Of Technology Leadership

Being the first vendor to support a new platform or the top vendor based on revenue can be a good thing, but also carries risks.

Doug Hazelman

June 19, 2015

3 Min Read
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As we continue our journey into the information age, it seems that more and more people want to be first. I don’t mean first place, that’s a given; I mean we want to be the first to have something or first to do something. You can see examples in a lot of different areas: The first to comment on something, the first to have the newest technology gadget, and even being the first vendor to support a new platform.

Some of these examples are silly or vain, but what does it mean for a technology vendor to be first? Let’s take a look at some of the “firsts” and determine their importance in technology leadership.

New platform support

Claiming to be the first vendor to support a new technology platform can be a great public-relations opportunity. As customers look to upgrade a platform, they’re always looking for vendors that can support the latest and greatest. Vendors also can use this to taunt competitors by contending that they're slow or unprepared.

While the PR opportunity might be good, there can be some pitfalls to this claim. New platforms typically introduce a lot of changes. Some vendors will claim support, but not for all of the new features. Also, new platform features introduce new possibilities for bugs. Testing may go just fine on the beta version of a platform, but new bugs may be introduced in the final, generally available code. If the “first” vendor runs into issues, the vendors that follow can work around these issues before they declare support.

Revenue

Being the biggest vendor in a particular space based on revenue can be a great thing. People consider you the “800-pound gorilla” and one to beat. Revenue can also be a tricky measurement, especially as quarterly earnings come around. Some vendors perform great on services or maintenance revenue, but their new license revenue is flat. Only vendors that are truly growing in a particular market show impressive new-license revenue, usually at the expense of the “first in revenue” vendor.

Number of customers

Claiming the most customers  can be similar to claiming the most revenue, but it  also can be a bit lopsided if a particular vendor only focuses on high-dollar enterprise accounts and not general market share. All vendors segment their markets, typically as SMB, midmarket and enterprise. Vendors who can claim a large number of customers in all three areas are rare. Like revenue, being first in number of customers also means that you’re the biggest target for your competitors -- they want your customers.

Innovation

In my mind, being the first with new, innovative technology is the “first” that truly matters. You can be first in the all the previous categories, but if you’re not driving innovation to the market you won’t be first for long. I measure innovation by looking at features that have never been seen before --ones that are truly new.

Often times, customers aren’t asking for these innovative features because they either don’t think it’s possible or they just haven’t thought of doing things a certain way. Maintaining a “first in innovation” reputation can be difficult; it requires constant research and development into new technologies and new ways of doing things. Vendors who say “that’s how it’s always been done” are definitely not innovators.

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