So the big push I am seeing in the last 5 years is that everything needs to be productized. In English, this means that all of the hard work has been done for you, all you need to so is sit back and run these 50 reports that we are going to give you, and you will take these product configurations as the gospel and nobody will need anything else. Basically, everyone is trying to tell you that not only do they know your business better than you do, and, we already know all of the questions you are going to ask of the “product” to make your business successful. Who needs custom reports, or the ability to drive customizations, or what if I want to ask a question of the data/system/consultants that the “product” does not answer out of the gate? Well then you pay through the nose for some software development to ask the “one question” you had at this given time.
As technology is becoming easier and easier to grab data and do something with it (MicroStrategy, Tableau, Qlikview, R) it is becoming harder and harder for companies that have outsourced a tool to a third party vendor to ask the questions of today, much less tomorrow. As tools become “productized” it becomes harder and harder to ask questions of your data that might lead to an increase in sales, or help minimize out of stocks, or help identify your ever changing customer. How about identify if a product post goes viral? How do you capture that and run with it? What is a company to do? First, make sure you have easy access to your data. It might not be your tool, but it is your data. How will the vendor provide data to run a scenario to help identify product attributes or sales trends that you can then mix with other data channels like twitter or YouTube that you can do something with. Will the vendor help you with this for a reasonable cost?
Here is a question I posed to my seniors at my last staff meeting – Do you want to ask the same question (that everyone else is asking) 600 times this year, or do you want to ask 12 really hard questions nobody else is asking with a failure rate of 85%? Are those two really good questions going to be worth it to help differentiate yourself from all of your peers in your space? My guess is yes. The problem is that the “products” I am seeing aren’t going to let you ask those 12 really hard questions – but that’s where the money is hiding these days.