How to Buy an Enterprise Software Thingy

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Laws a’mercy, now that’s what you call a flame war.

The White Paper Pundit has taken direct aim at our Top 10 Most Ambiguous White Paper Buzzwords, decrying our use of the word “tool” to refer to so-called software “solutions.”

I won’t address his characterization of TEC bloggers as “fashionably unique.” (Software selection? Fashionable? Whatever. Can’t wait for the catwalk.) I’ll just point out that TEC’s mandate is to be an advocate for the end user when it comes to buying enterprise software.

That’s why we aim to clarify and simplify the software selection process—including the research and information-gathering stage, which is where white papers come in.

There’s no shortage of confusion in the enterprise software industry—take, for instance, the famous “BPM vs. BPM vs. BPM” debacle: Business process management? Business performance management? Business process modeling? Blood Pain Money?

When it came to BPM, enterprise software marketers painted themselves into one doozy of a corner in their headlong rush toward the latest, greatest acronym. And you know what? It’s a waste of your time.

TEC’s software selection methodology aims to bring clarity to the process—and an essential component of that is ensuring that vendors and buyers are on the same page when it comes to software terminology.

After all, if you and the vendor understand different things when you’re talking about a critical functionality, then you may be headed for a software selection disaster of monstrous proportions.

Which brings me to “tools.”

Mr. W.P. Pundit’s main concern—fashion aside—seems to be the potential confusion arising from different interpretations of “tool.” A “network security tool” is not necessarily the same thing as a “network security solution,” he says.

Fair enough, in its restricted little context, but if a white paper doesn’t make it clear which meaning it’s referring to, the fault probably lies with the white paper. Context is everything, after all.

Google Trends shows that the term “software tools” has consistently outperformed “software solutions” by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 over the last 3 years. Why? Because that’s what people are looking for.

Isn’t it time white paper writers listened to the end user for a change? (And yes, end users include IT managers.)

Think about it. When was the last time you woke up in the morning and thought to yourself, “By golly, I'll bet our accounting solutions are just a little outdated”?

Show me an end user who does, Mr. W.P. Pundit, and I’ll buy you a very, very fashionable tie.
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