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How analytics is helping IT vendors sell actual solutions

Rob Enderle | July 4, 2013
For decades, IT vendors have offered small 's' solutions that were really bundles of hardware, software and services that they wanted to sell regardless of what customers actually needed. Now firms such as Dell, IBM and EMC are using analytics to help customers decide which products are best for their needs. Oracle, HP and others struggling with big 'S' solutions may get left behind.

Something interesting has been happening this year: Most of the big technology companies using analytics internally are moving to big "S" solutions. We've had decades of small "s" solutions, but enterprise companies in particular, including EMC, Dell and IBM are undergoing fundamental changes.

So what makes the "s" big or small? Up until now, a "solution" was a bundle of products looking for a problem. Suddenly companies are asking you what the problem is and then designing a solution to fix it.

This is huge-and, because the companies most aggressively driving this are also the most aggressively using their own analytics tools, we wouldn't be here if not for analytics.

Dell, IBM Focusing on Processes, Not Products

This difference between big "S" and small "s" solutions started seeping into my brain at the Dell analyst event a few weeks ago. The idea was covertly evident at EMC World 2013, but it took Dell slapping me in the face to actually realize that the world "solution" had changed meaning.

For decades, when a vendor said "solution," this basically meant it had the breadth in hardware, software and service to provide a bundle of products that could address a complex problem. It was solution on paper only and was designed around what the vendor wanted to sell. It had little to do with what you actually needed to buy.

This is because vendors weren't really analyzing the problem first. They were just throwing hardware, software and services at you. In turn, you could only hope that someone would figure out how to take this mess and use it to fix something. This gets to the heart of why so many large projects run over budget and fail to meet design goals. (Granted, one way to address this is to actually have design goals in the first place, but that's a problem for another day.)

At its analyst event, Dell pitch processes, not products, and in one transformational speech said it now asks each customer, "What's the problem you want solved?" The example Dell then presented was a company with aging underutilized servers that had hit a performance wall.

Typically, a vendor would throw new servers and storage at the problem, walking away with the revenue and leaving the customer with new hardware that was still underutilized and would likely prompt yet another premature replacement cycle. Dell instead aims to provide a more capable management solution, leaving the hardware in place and actually solving the problem at a fraction of the cost.

What really drove this home was the contrast between the recent IBM Edge and Hewlett-Packard Discover events in Las Vegas. HP pitched traditional small "s" solutions. IBM announced 650 products but spent no time on any of them, instead showcasing customers for whom IBM had built unique solutions so successful that these customers wanted to praise IBM publicly. IBM Edge felt like a revival meeting where the converted were preaching to the congregation.


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