A simplified view of the enterprise tech market

I hate the way enterprise IT industry analysts see the world.

That’s hard for me to say as I am one of those analysts. But it’s something that I not only feel myself, but that I hear (in various forms) from tech vendors and enterprise IT execs alike — all the time.

The reason the analyst’s view of the market is so unsatisfying isn’t hard to decipher. Their objective is to break this massive market down into evermore narrow categories so that they can compare vendors and create the nice little graphs that every tech vendor clamors to be included within.

And I get it. There’s something enticing about the process of collecting a bunch of vendors in a report and comparing them. As an enterprise executive, it gives you a starting point for exploration and something to backup a purchase decision (that you’ve probably already made).

The problem is that this process completely ignores the enterprise IT leader’s reality. We don’t look at our operational state and think in terms of tech categories. We think in terms of process and problems. Sadly, however, I’m talking to an increasing number of enterprise IT execs that are adopting the analyst mindset and viewpoint — speaking in terms of these artificial categories.

I believe that’s a significant risk because those categories serve the interests of the analysts and (sometimes) the tech vendors, but do little to help enterprise IT leaders address the real challenges they’re facing.

So, let’s break the paradigm.

I’d like to offer up an alternate approach that simplifies things and uses the enterprise IT leader’s perspective as true north.

The narrow category problem

The challenge with the narrow analyst view becomes apparent in what will be the first of what I’m calling my Sector Briefs. Falling into the analyst trap, I set out to identify the leading AIOps vendors to prepare some analysis on the category. The problem is that I couldn’t tell where to draw the line between AIOps and Observability or APM or Infrastructure Performance Management.

And why did one vendor that I considered an AIOps player call themselves an Observability player? And why was the Infrastructure Management player leaning so hard into the AIOps positioning? And what about the traditional APM vendor that now called themselves an Application Observability and AIOps player?

It literally made my head hurt. And I’m an industry analyst who makes his living trying to make sense of this market. Ugh.

The challenge is that enterprise IT leaders are facing a deep and complex set of challenges when it comes to monitoring (or observing, if you prefer) their infrastructure and application estate — and then trying to make sense of what they’re seeing to keep it all running and make solid strategic go-forward decisions about it.

So, there’s a whole slew of technologies that help them solve those challenges across various stages of the process and for specific categories of their tech estate. But fundamentally, the enterprise IT executive is trying to accomplish just two things:

Understand what is happening within their infrastructure and application estate both in real-time and historically over time

Leverage that data to take action in the form of reactive remediation of operational issues, the proactive resolution of operational issues before they occur, and strategic planning for transformation, migration, and management actions as they continually evolve their operational state

And these two actions are inextricably linked. Which is why so many of the vendors are helping their clients solve, at least in part, for both of these needs.

All the countless analyst delineations that take this process and break into countless little categories are academic and do little to help an enterprise IT leader address their fundamental challenges. So, why create all these categories? Not for the good of the enterprise IT leader, that’s for certain.

My answer: treat it as the single category it is.

More on what that looks like in a moment.

Enterprise IT vs. the LOB and functional estate

Before I give you my simplified view of the enterprise IT tech space, I need to make a delineation. When I talk about enterprise IT, I’m talking about those technologies that IT uses to facilitate and manage its operational state — essentially, these are the control room technologies that make up the core of what I’m calling the Digital Transformation Platform that bridges the gap between functional and LOB efficiency-focused apps, and an organization’s innovation capability.

Of course, every IT organization allocates a significant portion of its resources to deploying, supporting, and managing the Line of Business and Functional Apps that are often core to delivering business value for the enterprise. This often includes things like CRMs, ERPs, and any number of industry-specific functional apps (such as an Electronic Health Record app in a healthcare organization).

By definition, these technologies and their respective support and management requirements are unique to each organization. But the technologies that I’m covering as part of my definition of Enterprise IT Tech and Digital Transformation Platforms are universal — every enterprise IT organization should have some version of them in their environment, regardless of size or industry.

This is still imperfect, but I think it’s a useful demarcation point to help enterprise IT leaders address their complex concerns and challenges.

A simple 5-category lens through which to view enterprise

With the clarification made, how should you view the enterprise IT market space in a way that is useful and helpful to addressing your real challenges, positioning yourself strategically, and delivering a transformational capability?

It comes down to understanding the fundamental process by which you should evaluate, deploy, manage, and optimize, any business process and the technologies to support it. When I look at these challenges through that lens, it becomes both clear and simple. I believe virtually every technology that exists within the enterprise is deployed through a five-stage process:

Every technology is initially and continually assessed against both the overall enterprise strategic mandate and the existing technology portfolio. This rationalization process is essential to ensure that any given technology delivers business value and is continually optimized against the balance of the tech estate to do so.

Every technology must then be stitched into the existing operational estate via data integration, whether via traditional mechanisms, so-called iPaaS services, or API-centric approaches.

Once operational, we must be able to continually monitor its operational state both in the moment and over time to understand current, future, and potential issues and the ramifications of changes to the estate.

Each technology should then be continually optimized from a business process perspective, sometimes identifying technology and automation gaps that will deliver an innovation return.

The adoption and user experience of the technology should be continually monitored and enhanced to capture and maintain the business value of the deployed technology.

That’s the lens. Those are the five big, meaningful buckets of core enterprise technologies that enterprise IT leaders should focus on — and those are the five sectors that I think matter from an enterprise IT perspective. Here’s what I call them:

Business Architecture & Portfolio Management Platforms

Data Integration & Intelligence Platforms

IT Observability & Intelligence Platforms

Process Discovery, Orchestration & Automation Platforms

User Experience Management & Adoption Platforms

These five simple categories encompass an almost countless collection of analyst categories, but I believe that viewing the enterprise IT world through this simplified five-category lens aligns it with the real challenges you’re facing and will make it easier to make strategic deployment, rationalization, migration, and purchase decisions with clarity and purpose.

These will also be the five Sector Briefs that I’m going to strive to produce each year, providing you with a simple and direct way of understanding each of these process stages and how the various technology vendors within a sector can help you address your challenges in a meaningful way.

For now, try looking at your tech stack through this lens and see what happens. I’d love to hear what you think and how things change when you look at things this way.