Purchasing an information governance solution is a significant long-term investment. As such, we understandably see many prospective customers weighing vendor size and stability as critical factors; after all, no one wants to spend time, money, and resources implementing a solution only to have to move off of it a few years later because of, say, EOL (end-of-life) or even insolvency.
In ZL’s early years, as we built up the business, we faced a degree of skepticism from our large customers regarding our size. We’re pleased that this hurdle is now behind us; we’ve now established a proven track record and made it clear that we’re in it for the long haul. Indeed, some basic reflection on how to properly weigh the risks when choosing a vendor is certainly in order, given recent shakeups in the industry. A recent article in Barron’s details some rather difficult business decisions facing Symantec. Having recently dismissed CEO Steve Bennett, Symantec may divest some of the key elements of its current business. Needless to say, stability concerns are not unique to small vendors.
When assessing the corporate stability of an Information Governance solution vendor, and whether its strengths are a good fit with those of your organization, there are certain criteria that are important to keep at the forefront:
- Is the vendor’s information governance offering a core part of its business?
Many organizations today offer IG solutions because they’re “hot;” there is a profitable, growing market for helping businesses manage the massive amounts of data we’re seeing. However, the quality of the offering, the product roadmap, and the commitment to customer support are just a few of the factors that will suffer when a company treats the relevant part of their business as a mere “add-on” rather than a priority. Even if the parent organization is a multinational corporation, what really matters in the end is whether the vendor is committed to providing the products and services that you need.
- Does the vendor prioritize flexibility with respect to customer needs?
As new data types rapidly emerge, and new modes of communication come to the forefront, it is vital to select an information governance vendor that is willing and able to adapt. Social media and instant messaging, for example, are data types that were once considered completely irrelevant to the business context, but that can now give rise to liability in the contexts of civil litigation and regulatory compliance.
Information governance solutions are intended to solve just these types of problems, but if a vendor isn’t able to keep up with nascent data types, the solution will fail to meet its intended purpose. Tying back to the previous point, maintaining this sort of flexibility requires a serious investment in and commitment to the health and viability of the product and its customers.
- Is the vendor’s leadership stable or in flux?
A vendor’s stance with respect to the previous issues we’ve discussed will be driven, in large part, by the vendor’s leadership. An organization that is constantly shuffling its c-suite can be similarly expected to shift its priorities and its vision with respect to its offerings. Given that, for many vendors, information governance offerings are but a small part of the overall business strategy, these offerings can often find themselves first in line for the chopping block when the organization looks to cut costs or otherwise streamline operations.
- Is the vendor committed to serving its customers well?
One issue that often comes up in discussion with prospective clients is customer service. Information governance solutions are mission-critical, making it vital to choose a vendor that prioritizes a smooth experience for its customers. Be wary of vendors that have a string of end-of-life announcements, rebrands, and other forms of reshuffling. An unstable product can be just as deleterious to a customer as an unstable provider.
- Is the information governance solution built in-house or via acquisition?
The code underlying information governance solutions is complex. Most vendors in this space have built their IG solutions by cobbling together smaller, disparate solutions through acquisition. Though such products may be linguistically tied together as a “suite” of products, it is important to ascertain whether they are, in fact, as congruous as advertised. Furthermore, the code base that underlies such haphazard solutions are often virtually mysterious to the team currently responsible for building future releases and, as importantly, diagnosing issues that may arise. Ensuring that your vendor has complete control of its code base is crucial to preventing the process of troubleshooting errors from transforming into a veritable wild goose chase.
The business world has more information at its disposal than ever before. Properly managing all of this data is vital to gaining and maintaining competitive advantage. With these considerations in mind, you’ll avoid having your information governance efforts thwarted by the instability or lack of focus of a potential vendor. Happy hunting!