Time for a Change?

Originally published June 18, 2008

Change is certainly in the air when it comes to politics on both sides of the aisle, but what about change when it comes to your business performance management (BPM) or business intelligence (BI) solution? For that matter, what about when it comes to your BPM or BI vendor? For today’s users of enterprise software, change is a way of life. If a software vendor releases a new version, you either upgrade posthaste or settle for reduced support and maintenance. At some point in time, that support may go away altogether. In some cases, the new version is so dramatically different that you may be required to pay something for it, retrain your staff, and potentially need to redesign and re-implement your application. On the heels of the biggest year of mergers in BPM and BI history, the pace of change has been greatly accelerated.

This year, many current users of BPM solutions will be faced with some tough choices. As recently acquired product sets are merged with preexisting ones, some products will be put out to pasture. In some cases, both the acquired and the existing product may be phased out in favor of a new “superset” version that takes the best from each. Users most likely to encounter these issues would be owners of products recently involved in a merger. This would include users of products from Applix, Business Objects, Cartesis, Hyperion, OutlookSoft, Pilot and the pre-acquisition performance offerings from Oracle and SAP. Since IBM did not have preexisting performance management offerings of note, we believe this issue is less likely to impact Cognos clients. Similarly, Longview clients will probably see minimal product impact from its acquisition by Exact Software. Users still running older acquired products such as SRC (originally acquired by Business Objects, now part of SAP) or Hyperion Pillar and Hyperion Enterprise will probably be gently (or in some cases, not so gently) prodded into moving to a new product to reduce the support burden on the vendor.

For some users, the decision point will be made very clear: on this date, we will no longer be supporting the product/version you are now running. For others, it will be less obvious as the vendor does not announce their intent to reduce support for a particular product, but they do stop actively marketing and selling it. That should be taken as a clear sign that it won’t be long before the other shoe drops – that product is no longer being supported. The vendors are going to be careful in how they manage and communicate these messages; they don’t want to drive their customers into the competition’s hands. Maybe they will offer minimal support for some time – only major bug fixes and hotline support with an extended turnaround time. Whatever the case, there are key decisions to be made.

What should users do when confronted with end of life notices for their products? There are three basic options:

  1. Do nothing. For a small number of users, this may actually be the right choice. If you have been using this product for many years and feel you know it well and have shaken out all of the bugs, the dropping of support should not be an issue. However, you should also be sure that you don’t expect your use of the product to change or expand anytime soon. In that case, you may encounter problems in areas you have never used before, or really be in need of features only available in the newer product being offered by your vendor. You also need to be certain you are legally entitled to continue using a discontinued product. Usually, if you have fully paid your license, renewal, and maintenance fees for several years and have a contract that provides for a perpetual license after a period of time, then you are probably good to go.

  2. Upgrade to the new product/version. This choice is impacted by many factors. First of all, is there any cost to this “upgrade”? The cost may take the form of an additional license fee, or in some cases, it is offered as “free,” but it may come with increased maintenance fees being calculated off of the list price of this new product. Then there are the hidden costs. Is the product so different that it will require retraining of your staff in its use? Will all of your data, reports, models, calculations, charts of accounts, entity hierarchies, etc., easily port over to the new version? If not, will the vendor provide free utilities or consulting to make this happen? Will you have to rewrite and re-implement large portions of your application using your own resources and fee-based consultants? Does this new version require additional or new hardware to equal the performance of the prior version (think Windows XP to Vista)? You really need to look at the total cost of this move to decide if it makes sense. You also need to look at the new features and benefits you will get from the new version and see if it justifies the costs. If not, and staying on the old version is not an option, then you need to look at a third choice.

  3. Evaluate product alternatives from other vendors. If you are going to have to pay significant dollars to upgrade as well as train the staff and hire consultants to implement, then you might as well spend the time, money and resources on the best fit product for your needs. That product may not be the one your current vendor is offering. Even if you are seriously considering sticking with your current vendor, it may prove useful to look around. For one thing, you may not know what you are missing. Two, it puts you in a better negotiating position with your current vendor if you do decide to stay. There are other reasons to look at other vendors that go beyond the product. Maybe you originally bought your solution from a smaller vendor because of the personalized attention and product innovation. You are not likely to find much of that in the larger vendor that now owns the one you purchased from. There are still many smaller, independent vendors out there you may want to consider (although there is no guarantee that they won’t be acquired tomorrow).

This is a very important decision, one that will impact you and your company for years to come. Frankly, it is as important as your initial BPM purchase decision, if not more important. In retrospect, maybe you feel you didn’t do enough due diligence the first time around. This is an opportunity to get it right. Consult with your peers in your vendor’s user group and see what their thinking is. Work with an industry expert who is familiar with all of the BPM vendors. Talk to peers who are using products from other vendors. Fully evaluating all of your options is the only way to be sure you are ultimately choosing the direction that is best for you.

SOURCE: Time for a Change?

  • Craig SchiffCraig Schiff

    Craig, President and CEO of BPM Partners, is a pioneer in business performance management (BPM). Craig helped create and define the field as it evolved from business intelligence and analytic applications into BPM. He has worked with BPM and related technologies for more than 20 years, first as a founding member at IMRS/Hyperion Software (now Hyperion Solutions) and later cofounded OutlookSoft where he was President and CEO.

    Craig is a frequent author on BPM topics and monthly columnist for the BeyeNETWORK. He has led several jointly produced webcasts with Business Finance Magazine including "Beyond the Hype: The Truth about BPM Vendors," the three-part vendor review entitled "BPM Xpo" and "BPM 101: Navigating the Treacherous Waters of Business Performance Management." He is a recipient of the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. BPM Partners is a vendor-independent professional services firm focused exclusively on BPM, providing expertise that helps companies successfully evaluate and deploy BPM systems. Craig can be reached at cschiff@bpmpartners.com.

    Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Craig's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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