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Will the enterprise market spend significant IT budget on Windows Vista in 2007?



Killing The Platform Legend

By Michael Tanner, Managing Director, The Chasm Group, LLC

The world seems to think there is a well-known process for creating rapid adoption of technology products. This process has been written about in scores of books and articles. Itís been described by numerous successful entrepreneurs across a plethora of industries at a host of conference keynotes. My guess is that if you would read 1000 business plans, this process is somehow at the core of three-quarters of them. It goes like this:

  1. Develop an architectural vision for your hardware and/or software.
  2. Sell this vision to technology buyers as a "next generation" solution based on your world-beating new architecture.
  3. Along the way, discover and then develop your next-generation "killer-app." Identify and create a solution for an urgent business problem.
  4. With this killer-application now on hand, now go sell it to line-of-business buyers.
  5. Add salt and pepper, a dash of nutmeg, and then repeat with other line-of-business buyers in the same company to create demand for new and interesting IT application development. Stir violently, and heat until boiling over.
  6. Soon, the IT department sees they have a real mess on their hands. They decide to standardize. Of course, your products are now in the majority of departmental useÖ so you are the most likely candidate to standardize on.
  7. You now declare your product set a platform, redirect your sales team onto the CIO, and satisfy their insatiable appetite for your new next-generation platform.
  8. The IT department, having nothing better to do except seek out this new infrastructure, now sees the huge ROI gained by adopting your platform quickly as the standard.
  9. Along the way, a host of other integrators and channel partners beat a path to your door as they figure out they can make oodles of money by being your partner, making eight or ten times the service dollars for every product dollar you sell.
  10. Your market capitalization now creates huge currency, which in-turn allows you to acquire other killer-app products and infrastructure that keep this cycle moving ahead faster and faster.

This story would read like science-fiction had it not been loosely repeated over the years by such leaders as Cisco, SAP, Microsoft, Autodesk, Oracle, Peoplesoft, Siebel, Intel, and a host of other popular technology companies. In fact, by hiring successful people from successful companies such as these it can be easy to get the impression that the cookbook above is more-or-less a sure-fire way to cook-up a success. These stories are so firmly rooted in our own Horatio Alger mythology that our brains seem almost pathologically programmed to try and repeat them.

Here is an important truth to think about: history is written by the winners. Think about this for a moment: for each successful fast-growth platform business, there are thousands of unknown companies that went out of business. Some closed-up for all the right reasons. They were grossly miss-managed, severely undercapitalized, had weak teams or hired the wrong people. But others had all the opportunity, money and talent. They did everything they were supposed to do according to the cookbook, but sadly, the market just never took-off. As one investor I once met put it, "we had a fantastic product, but the market was just not ready. We were just too soon for the market."

When ever I hear this statement I immediately think of a one of those high-power consulting words that I was taught years ago.Hoo-y.


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