September 8, 2010 - Recently I had the opportunity to listen in on some conversations between a major policy administration system vendor and an analyst regarding the vendor’s current and future offerings.
While confidentiality prohibits me from sharing details, I was struck by the fact that the vendor in this case wasn’t just interested in who would buy their current offerings or their planned future products. Instead, both parties were talking about extracting every bit of value from the vendor’s new and existing products — even those that already promise to meet stated business needs.
So what I am talking about? Simply this: Since 2008, we have heard nothing more clearly than that insurers operating in this tight market and sickly economy need to do more to sustain competitive advantage and position themselves for growth — and they need to do it with fewer resources — both monetary and human. Technology vendors, however, are subject to the same market forces and general economic decline that have put insurers, agents and others between a rock and a hard place. Vendors, too, must figure out ways to do better using the reduced resources available.
But, how does a technology provider go about doing more with less? Vendors make their money in two primary ways — providing new products and maintaining existing ones. Getting new products out there seems pretty straightforward: Find an area of need and fill it. But today’s economic climate demands a further step and an expanded way of thinking about the market.
Instead of just developing a product that satisfies a need in one market, why not put together something that meets a need in two or more markets? Alternately, a vendor could develop a product that meets more than one need in a market. This kind of thinking could be carried further, perhaps to find a new need for an existing product in the same market and/or in several markets.
Perhaps you’re a vendor who is developing a new product line for a well-defined market like insurance. But could that product be adapted to serve equally well in another industry? Or could a module or part of your new product be offered in conjunction with a competitor’s product in order to yield a “best of breed” solution that benefits you and your competitor? Maybe you could develop your new product line in such a way that the individual parts can be sold alone, marketed to other vendors, or packaged with some other product in a cooperative venture.
This same kind of creativity could be applied to the other major function vendors provide — product maintenance. Let’s say your company is really good at maintaining your products; could you expand into maintaining similar products elsewhere? Could you provide integration services for the many enterprises that mix multiple platforms and/or product lines?
I’ve asked a lot of questions here, and your answer to many of them may be in the negative. Then again, perhaps there is an idea or two that seems within the realm of possibility. Making the most out of a bad situation is a matter of creativity, and it’s the creative vendors who will come out smelling like a bouquet of roses when this economic mess finally resolves itself.
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