I’ve been accused of being somewhat passionate about what we do, which is something I’d probably admit to with the qualifier that I consider it to be a feature not a bug – why do something you don’t care about.
Competition is good, because it means the industry is growing and being successful, and that means more scientists will be released from the tyranny that is the Paper Lab Notebook, and as a nice bonus we’ll all make money (because we added value to the world). Very nice, good karma all round.
As long as the competition is genuinely competent. Unfortunately we’ve now got people arriving in the industry who are totally clueless and are punting some truly scary stuff from the perspective of someone who’s been implementing electronic records systems for patent purposes for over 10 years now. Real, fundamental, “if you implement this you are screwed” stuff – not even something that’s debatable. Basic mistakes. Fortunately they aren’t getting much traction in the market, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing a lot of damage.
In at least a couple of cases the people pushing the bull**** have a nice product which has lots of good uses but is completely misapplied to this problem (as they have admitted to me privately – lots of beer was involved and we had a very frank, friendly conversation). They’re just giving this a punt.
I know I am naive and idealistic and the real world isn’t that simple, but wouldn’t it be nice to think that we could all do what we’re good at and be honest with the world? Why do we have to as a matter of deliberate policy spin our message, manipulate our prospects etc.? Do we really think that helps anyone? – sure you get the money today but the customer is screwed in 10 years and it only takes a few people to wake up to the fact the whole industry is going to get hit hard. I guess this is the “Trough of disillusionment in the Gartner lifecyle.
To give you a specific example, I know of a case where an ELN vendor claimed that one customer was using their product in fully electronic mode (which they weren’t). The prospect’s lawyer happened to know the apparent reference well, and asked them – and found they were still very firmly paper for records purposes. So the entire project got canned and all the work and hopes of that project team were wasted, just because the vendor got greedy. Of course the sales guy moved on a few months later, so what did he care? The poor prospect managed to implement an ELN system a few years later by not calling it an ELN and sticking to paper.
I do wonder if our difference in approach is that we’re privately held with a time horizon of years to get our investment back in this industry, rather than being focused on this quarter. As I write this, I can think of a lot of public companies who arrived on the ELN scene with a great marketing-driven splash and rapidly folded, and the successful companies are the smaller, private ones who have focused on doing the right thing. I don’t think we’ve suffered from avoiding the traditional marketing approaches.
I’m sure that traditional sales and marketing has a place, but I can’t help but feel that a lot of it is actively damaging the industry. If there’s a solution, I’d love to hear it because it is driving me crazy hearing some of this nonsense and not being able to respond (because we just get “You would say that, you are a competitor”). There has to be some level of idiocy which is beyond just a difference of opinion between competitors and needs to be labeled toxic.
Hey ho. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest, you can go back to banging your head against a brick wall now….