Technology plays a significant role in today’s business operations. Because of this, B2B tech purchasing decision-making has become quite a complex process. The process is now collaborative and often involves the participation of various stakeholders, including the requesting department, the IT team, and even representatives from finance and legal to give their takes on an application’s usefulness, security, affordability, and compliance.
It’s become quite rare for the buying decision to be made unilaterally by the CTO or even by the individuals who will actually be using the software.
The situation is also further complicated by the number of tech solutions and providers in today’s market. Companies must take care to avoid poorly performing ones. Each potential candidate must be subjected to a great deal of scrutiny, so buying teams have to research and know more about a product judiciously. This is why teams are known to only reach out to a vendor once 60 percent of the buying process passes.
Expert opinion does come into play, informing buyer committee research. Industry reports built out by big consultancy firms have become popular resources for buying teams. A company looking to adopt a business intelligence or data analytics platform, for example, may check Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for BI and Analytics to see which providers and solutions are really leading the vertical. They can also investigate Forrester Wave reports and KuppingerCole’s Leadership Compass to see which other enterprise solutions it should consider.
But should companies really trust what these consultancies have to say about tech vendors and their solutions?
Narrowing the Field
Committees must take a systematic approach to researching vendors and their solutions. It’s not as simple as opening Google and searching for “top business app.” The internet is rife with so many lists that identify the popular apps that cater to the various business areas that it can be quite the chore to make sense of all the information.
One would have to be quite savvy at distinguishing the advertisements and sponsored content from real reviews to find unbiased information. Many of these resources only provide quick rundowns of features and pricing details. Rarely do they write about a solution’s actual performance in the workplace or provide insights about real deployment scenarios. These pieces of information are quite valuable in the decision-making process.
Rather than pore over each search result or check out each solution listed for a particular category, companies can narrow down their field by focusing on the solutions studied and tracked by these reports. These contain detailed analyses of what each product has to offer, comparing each product to the others in the niche. The studies also go beyond feature lists and take into consideration how these solutions are used in actual business and enterprise settings.
Trusting the Work
Big consultancies are no slouches when it comes to research. Their reports follow methodologies that they have refined for years. They actively track which vendors and providers are active in each product category and how well their solutions perform in the market.
Gartner’s methodology, for example, evaluates vendors based on two criteria: completeness of vision and ability to execute. Vision refers to how a vendor is driving the market direction, while the ability to execute refers to how well the vendor performs in terms of sales, development, and viability. The quadrant classifies each vendor as a leader, visionary, challenger, or niche player.
Forrester Wave reports look to guide buyers in their purchasing options. Their reports draw from insights provided by analysts, researchers, vendors and customer references. Each vendor is reviewed and scored based on transparent criteria. Vendors are then plotted on a graph based on the strength of strategy, current offerings, and market presence. Vendors are classified as leaders, strong performers, contenders, and challengers.
The information provided by these reports allow buying teams to identify which solutions can provide them with functionalities that they need and which ones abide by industry best practices. The reports can also shed light on how well these vendors engage enterprise customers. Buying teams would do well prioritizing reviewing and considering those ranked highly by these reports.
Giving Importance to Context
As with most information, companies still have to be critical in processing the data that these reports provide. Among the valid criticisms of these reports is how they’re often oriented for larger organizations and not for small businesses. The inclusion criteria may also cut out new players that may be offering capable solutions.
This said, big consultancy reports do have their merits. Besides providing a list of potential vendors, they also provide insights on market directions for the different verticals that should come into play when assessing the business needs. Buying teams would do well making them part of their research.
Ultimately, savvy buying teams should know that expert opinion should just be one of the different criteria they should use when choosing a solution or vendor. What is important is for buying teams to reconcile their own context or situation to find the best solution that addresses the specific needs of their company.