Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. -- Winston Churchill, 1942
When Forrester Research, not exactly given to wild hyperbole, calls a market crowded and chaotic in the same sentence, we take notice.
Those words appear often in their recently-released Document Collaboration Vendor Landscape report, which profiles and compares 26 vendors in this space. Yet while Forrester says the vendor landscape is still in turmoil and maturing, they point to a possible end-of-the-beginning inflexion point that will signify a new stage in the market:
As with any crowded market, winners and losers will emerge. Some smaller vendors will likely disappear or get acquired by larger players. Larger vendors that have jumped in looking for new opportunities to grow and not finding success will withdraw their offerings from the market."
Forrester also predicts that to safely navigate this coming shakeout, many vendors will seek to move away from generic document collaboration and some will migrate to more targeted solutions or provide increased integration with existing line-of-business systems.
Don’t Shoot the Messengers
This report no doubt gives a new scroll to the Prophets of Focus within vendor organizations. You know these folks -- they’re Gandalf in khakis, muttering something vaguely from Seth Godin’s latest blog post. Yet when it comes to the focus-or-die message, they’re usually right. Commoditization in this area can be toxic to customer loyalty as users experiment with the latest free cloud content app of the month.
But making significant shifts to higher-value offerings is easier said than done, especially when it comes to developing industry-oriented offerings -- what Forrester refers to as driving specific horizontal or vertical business value. This might explain why these voices in the wilderness are usually about as well received as speed bumps on the autobahn. It’s just painful to embrace the purposeful, self-inflicted constraints required to focus only on certain content challenges when you’ve shouted from the rooftops that your technology can solve any challenge.
Yet at least among the market leaders, it appears that today’s analyst predictions are yesterday’s strategy meetings, and examples of a newfound focus on focus are already surfacing:
- Box recently announced HIPPA and HITECH compliance in a move to advance its offerings for the healthcare industry
- Huddle continues to add capabilities targeting government agencies after touting a “record year for government contracts”
- Accellion, with its focus on security and compliance, recently touted that 1 in 3 of the top 100 law firms are customers and that legal firms are one of their fastest growing market segments
Hard Work Ahead
Regardless of focus area, there’s just no getting around the time and effort required to put the “years” in the phrase years of industry expertise. Even if vendors acquire the expertise or rely on partners for it, someone had to pay the piper.
And why does this matter? Because process matters. The content that’s most important to an organization usually fuels some type of business process -- it might be claims management, clinical chart completion, student admissions, contract management, invoice processing and so forth. Organizations see real value when content is managed in the context of a process because the ROI of getting things done more quickly with fewer resources is easily measured and, thus, the investment required can be justified.
Forrester says “the heat is on” in this market. We’ll soon know who (or what) emerges from the fire.
Title image courtesy of Denis Nata (Shutterstock)