Sometimes a prospect asks us if we can give them a competitive analysis: you know, how we stack up against some other DCIM competitor. I totally […]

Why We Won’t Waste Your Time with a DCIM Competitive Analysis (Part One)

Sometimes a prospect asks us if we can give them a competitive analysis: you know, how we stack up against some other DCIM competitor. I totally […]

modern data centerSometimes a prospect asks us if we can give them a competitive analysis: you know, how we stack up against some other DCIM competitor. I totally get why we’re asked for these; it is part of the usual song and dance and many organizations want them.

We’re not immune: in fact, we have something like this for our entry-level, more consumer-based SaaS netTerrain product. It is a feature comparison between netTerrain SaaS and other types of packages (in a different kind of field). In our experience, for these types of products, this makes sense: features do make a difference and we understand customers need some guidance as to what we offer compared to other options out there.

But — if you ask us to produce an actual vendor comparison between our Enterprise DCIM software and another specific vendor in the DCIM field, we don’t do that. Why not? It has no real value and could end up confusing you.

Allow me to illustrate. Some time ago, a DCIM competitor of ours published one such analysis on their website. Personally, I believe that if competitors start writing about us we must be doing something right! Maybe we got under their skin…I don’t know much about them, maybe we were showing up too often in their sales discussions and some of their prospective customers started asking if they did ‘XYZ’, because, you know, ‘the peeps over at Graphical Networks do it’. In any case, their analysis was so bizarrely distorted and inaccurate that, in the words of the famous physicist Max Planck it was “not even wrong”. Here’s the link to our follow-up blog, for what it’s worth, describing how that analysis is wrong (while also showing how trivially easy it is to come up with some random list of attributes that highlight a software’s strengths).

Agree or disagree, the following analysis is for our DCIM prospects, who deserve an explanation of why we don’t do this, and for other companies who may be tempted to fall into this ritual (and — why not for our competitors,too).

A vendor’s competitive analysis of their DCIM vs. others misses the point

It’s hard to get away from the feature parade. As I said, we’ve done it for our more entry-level SaaS product — but for Enterprise-grade solutions, ultimately, it’s all about the customer, not us, not our competitor. Enterprise-grade DCIM clearly needs to be for and about the customer, competitive analyses focus far too much on features, which are vendor-centric, instead of customer-focused.

What do I mean by vendor-centric vs. customer-focused? If you venture into Home Depot to find a dishwasher, for example, you don’t want or need a spreadsheet that tells you how, exactly, the power jets differ from one brand and model to another. What you want to know is if you don’t have to pre-rinse and how much money you can save on your electric bill. DCIM isn’t all that different: ultimately, you need to know how it will help your work — you don’t need a printout of the minutiae differentiating one software vendor from another.

Customers just need solutions to pain points, not a table with trait comparisons.

A competitive analysis makes the vendor look desperate

If you’ve ever witnessed two people engaged in a frivolous pissing contest (maybe trying to garner the attention of a member of the opposite sex), you know how pathetic that looks.
When I look at one of those us vs. them comparisons, that’s exactly what I think of. I think ‘that vendor looks desperate.’

We subscribe to the ‘show, not tell’ philosophy. Tell us your pain points and we’ll show you how we can solve them. If we can’t, we’ll be upfront because we’re not here to waste your time. We don’t want to confuse you by telling you how are features compare to a disparate list of features from a product we simply don’t know.

Now, if you want to compare your product against other types of solutions and not a specific vendor, that’s fine. But subscribing to the idea that only because the vendor says that they are better than the other vendor, it must be that way, is as delusional as thinking you will get that job by frantically pointing out how much more formidable you are than candidate B.

A competitive analysis is impractical and not very honest

It’s possible there is some vendor out there who truly wants to provide a neutral and fact-based comparison. How would they accomplish that? To be able to create an accurate comparison, they’d need to know the two comparison items well.

For example: our company is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland. If someone asked me to compare Gaithersburg to Stowe, Vermont (where I’ve never been), it wouldn’t end up being a worthwhile comparison for me to write or for you to read. I would need to use superficial information that may or may not be accurate. I can tell you one thing: Gaithersburg would end up looking like the superior place to live (even if what you really want is the rural life with ski trails nearby).

To bring it back to software: comparing our SaaS-based netTerrain logical IT visualization product, to, say, Visio, is easy. Why? We know Visio inside and out, and the features that people look for are well-known. The same is true when comparing it to another online SaaS product of that caliber. You sign up and test it thoroughly.

This isn’t comparing Visio: a DCIM or OSP product is a whole different beast.

For starters, there must be like 50 other vendors in the Data Center Infrastructure Management market alone. If I wanted to write a competitive analysis, I suppose I could pick the vendors that I think are a bigger threat, but even then, if I truly wanted a neutral and thorough analysis I would have to buy, say, five products, study them in detail, configure them in a real (large) IT network, monitoring and simulating different cases, using all their features to the max.

Now, maybe if you are IBM you could do it (and maybe that’s what Gartner SHOULD do), but mark my words here: nobody within the DCIM field could, even in good faith, pull off this feat. This is a monumental, time consuming, expensive, and error-prone task. So…when a DCIM vendor tries to provide a competitive analysis of that sort, they don’t perform an unbiased, deep test of the actual products; they simply get the information from the web, brochures, and so on.

What ends up happening is that they parse this information to their convenience. And, because the scope of DCIM itself is fuzzy, they pick specific features and attributes (usually vaguely defined on purpose) based on what better suits them. They highlight their strengths, leave out their weaknesses, deconstruct alternative interpretations, and it all ends up being a muddled, random buffet of disjointed side-by-side attributes — disconnected from the customer pain-points. I’d argue that this is dishonest.

Bottom line? When it comes to DCIM, there is already far too much discussion around the different features and not enough discussion on how it actually helps you manage networks and data centers. We understand why vendors of DCIM, IT visualization and other markets such as network inventory or fiber plant documentation get sucked into this frenzy of competitive analysis, but we decided, some time ago, to not be part of that spiel anymore. It’s an exercise in futility and, ultimately, it’s a disservice to our prospects.

Jan Durnhofer
Jan Durnhofer
As CEO / Product and Engineering Manager, Jan joined Graphical Networks with the purpose of creating the most advanced DCIM and IT visualization company in the market.

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