Winners and Losers
When you take both factors into account, many vendors' drops in ranking turn out to be just maintenance of prior years' standards in a more competitive market.
Dell, for example, which fell out of the top 10 this year, would have still been there if it weren't for six newly arriving vendors now above it. VeriSign would have still edged into the top 10, and Adobe and EMC would have been higher up on our list as well. However, even though all four vendors' scores changed by no more than one point from 2008 to 2009, that still would have been enough for them to drop in rankiing even without the new arrivals--if not as sharply.
McAfee's and Trend Micro's fortunes declined more significantly. For these two vendors, the 2009 results accelerated earlier declines that were hitting other security companies as well; both scored much worse this year on their ability to reduce costs and to deliver on time or on budget. Only Symantec managed to keep pace with the more competitive market.
Symantec, in fact, is the fourth-most-improved vendor in this year's survey, having scored much better than in 2008, particularly in its ability to reduce organizations' costs, be on time and on budget, and provide good ROI.
But the real winner this year is Sun Microsystems, which has rocketed into the top 10. If there's a theme for the most-improved vendors, it's cost and budget control, and Sun exemplifies this. But satisfaction with the company improved in many ways, including its ability to help organizations increase revenues and address business problems, as well as its overall quality levels.
Security's Fall From Grace
For many years running, security vendors as a whole fared best in the Vendor Value survey. But we noted storm clouds on the horizon last year, and despite Symantec's performance, the tempest hit with the troubled economy. Meanwhile, both the hardware and networking vendors have amplified their service offerings in recent years, and the resulting greater focus on providing for IT's service needs improved their value levels.
So although security vendors' average overall score of 71 percent is not much lower than it was in 2008, in tune with the general theme this year, this wasn't good enough to maintain the category's former pride of place in the technology spectrum. With strong showings from HP, Sun, Fujitsu and IBM, hardware vendors now provide the greatest overall value to customers, scoring 76 percent on average. Networking, led by Siemens, takes second place at 73 percent.
Telecommunications scores also improved, in one case--Verizon Communications--quite dramatically. But while no longer abysmal, customers' opinions of the telecom sector remain low.
What to Expect of Vendors Now
The downturn has predictably altered organizations' approaches to the vendor relationship, beyond just cost-cutting and value-seeking. Most major vendors reacted to the new economic environment by working to reduce their customers' stress levels--by being predictable and flexible, as well as addressing cost and ROI issues.
This comes down, in a word, to service. And as we start to look beyond the recession to the future of vendor relationships, we can see that this may very well be a permanent paradigm shift.
The demand for excellence in service and support is higher than ever because as IT adapts to new business demands and the transformation of the IT infrastructure, its needs are greater and more complex than ever. Vendors that will benefit in the years to come will be those that provide the kinds of solutions that simplify IT's approach to business problems, costs and management.
IT executives, then, can and should require vendors to step up their offerings to address more than just particular technology or business needs. Companywide goals today of efficiency, compliance, environmental friendliness and revenue growth can all be addressed directly and effectively by smart technology sellers, and can further the important continuing alignment of IT with business strategies.
IT vendors are pushing themselves to become more of a critical resource to business. They're beginning to raise their game. It's a good time to take advantage.