To Stand Out, be a "Specialist" Not a "Generalist"
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
by Enrico Franchi
We see it every day in the offers that come across our desks — more and more providers are trying to offer a "global" solution. Many years ago, this seemed to be the sure-fire way to increase business. Throw a dozen lines in the water and wait for some fish—any fish—to take the bait. Even today, there are vendors trying to grow by acquiring a loose collection of separate products and attempting to “integrate” them primarily through their marketing literature.
In reality, this approach almost always leads to a deterioration in the overall solution. It’s true that these offerings include many products to solve many problems, but each additional product does not increase the overall quality. Indeed, the quality tends to decrease.
The other approach is when companies carve out a niche and stick to it. You’ll find in today’s IT market many companies that are really focused on a single solution. However, from the customer perspective, this scenario inevitably leads to a problem: a greater number of suppliers which leads to greater integration challenges. This is especially problematic when you are replacing applications written in the mists of time and that, today, no longer meet your demands. This may be because there is no one left who knows how to maintain them or no one who is able to modify them to meet ever-changing business requirements.
This familiar scenario is exactly what we are dealing with in a large Italian corporate site. They have had an application in operation for many years that was developed from scratch based on stakeholder input. Until now, the IT team has maintained the solution and was able to chase the new requirements. Yes, "chase" is the correct term. This application written years ago is now managed in a "craft" mode to try to meet changing demands.
Just as a painter paints a picture to capture a moment, taking care and carefully listening to the client’s requirements, it takes a long, long time to finish the work. So, what happens if along the way, the customer changes some requests? Or if, after the painting is complete, the artist is no longer able to paint but the customer asks for a change?
These questions led this Italian customer to survey the software market to move from the current “artisanal” solution to a vendor-supported solution. They wanted to avoid a future situation in which the painter was no longer able to change the painting. In this case, the company’s application consists in fact of two fundamental components:
- Document Composition
- Document Printing across different world-wide locations and printers
During our first meeting with the client, it seemed clear how much more important the first aspect, document composition, was to the customer’s business. Which meant that the LRS offering, focused on the distribution and printing of the same document, was secondary. But, over the course of the meeting, it became clear that the company's business was based primarily on the availability of these critical documents exactly where and when they were needed. In fact, the management and control of the print distribution process had become the cornerstone of the proposed solution. Other vendor solutions that had been evaluated in previous months somehow tried to respond in full to both business requirements, but the reliability of the document delivery was found lacking when compared to the LRS solution.
"Specialists" not "Generalists"
So, here we return to the original theme of the post. The LRS offering is focused on the world of Output Management, but does not fully encompass document composition.
LRS knows the importance of document composition and has developed relationships over the years with leading companies in this field offering "specialist" level solutions. Moreover, we have worked to integrate our own software with these best-of-breed document composition packages.
This Italian customer recognized the value of the LRS solutions, and asked us as a trusted advisor to recommend two or three document composition solutions to integrate with our VPSX product. They wanted us to help them develop a distribution platform for printing documents (management, monitoring, printing, reprint, etc). So we did.
We chose three European top-level companies to provide online demos of their products and arranged in-depth sessions with their technicians. The focus was to integrate our products in the customer’s environment in a way that would both meet their immediate business needs and leave a path for future growth.
At the end of this process, it became clear how two focused industry experts, each specialized in its own field but integrated with the other solution, can respond to modern business requirements. Not by trying to be all things to all people, and not by being an artist working in isolation. By working with other specialists and maintaining a focus on both the current and future needs of the customer, we provided them a more flexible and manageable solution. Less like oil painters, more like photographers. But the result was every bit as beautiful in the eyes of the customer.