When I was at PwC in the early 90s, I remember we used to throw out statements like “we have 40 to 50% market share in the SAP (or PeopleSoft) implementation market” When I got to Gartner I saw their competitors were saying similar stuff. So, I started telling them – “no, actually you have less than 10%” . The tune of at least some of them turned to “we have 50% market share of deals we choose to chase”. Choice – certainly their prerogative which segments or verticals they chose to focus on. But it’s not a reflection of Total Addressable Market.
One of my favorite advisory projects is helping vendors challenge their previous definitions of TAM.
I have seen plenty of dysfunctional behavior from technology vendors of every shape when their TAM definition is narrow – salespeople chasing deals convenient to them, not what the leadership would have approved, marketing claims to deliver functionality in areas which their R&D had no intention of developing in any meaningful manner, CFOs and investment committees which don’t approve enough R&D and Capex needed to keep their entities competitive.
In my recent book, I outlined several trillion dollar markets that many technology vendors have missed since the late 90s. Those included smart products, digital marketing, IoT, cloud infrastructure, various verticals – – Google, Facebook, Amazon, Foxconn, GE, Siemens and a whole bunch of vertical players have thrived in those markets even as many technology vendors ignored them. Download the chapter from my recent book in link here if you want to read about all the missed markets.
Many of those markets were brand new ones or what in MBA school we called adjacent markets so you can understand why so many vendors ignored them – even as they now wish they had entered those markets. But even in their core focus markets, I have seen many a myopic definition of TAM. Here are a few examples
a) Automation and Outsourcing
When I wrote Silicon Collar three years ago, I chose the title because it felt like traditional definitions of white, blue, pink collars were dated as technology was reshaping every job, everywhere. We all wear a Silicon collar these days. I had examples of robotics, drones, machine learning, CGI, exoskeletons, robotic process automation (RPA) and other automation in the oil patch, in accounting, in films, in winemaking, garbage collection and many other sectors. I wasn’t dreaming this up – executives at sophisticated companies were in the book describing their experiences.
So, it has been a bit disconcerting to see so many outsourcers have glommed onto RPA as their major (in many cases only) focus when it comes to automation. Even more cynically, most outsourcers do not take seriously repeated customer expectations to automate their own labor intensive services.
b) Data Centers and networks
I cannot believe how envious many vendors are of AWS’s and Azure’s recent success. On the other hand, I cringe when I hear software vendors and many outsourcers say “glad we didn’t have to invest billions in Capex”. The reality is less than a decade ago HP(with EDS), Oracle (with Sun), IBM, Accenture, Verizon, Deutsche Telecom and other telcos populated and ran data centers and networks for the world. The emerging cloud infrastructure market was theirs to lose and they have done so – spectacularly, so far.
Many SaaS vendors view the cloud infrastructure market as a bonanza – let someone invest the Capex, we will just rent it for cheap. It’s not really that cheap and increasingly they are being expected to support multiple clouds. Zoho has continued to invest in its own data centers and passing along those savings to customers. The time will come for other software vendors to similarly hedge their bets. They will have to expand, or at least, morph their market definition of infrastructure.
c) “Glo-ver” in SaaS
I have increasingly been pointing out a huge under-achievement in the enterprise applications market. After two decades of cloud and in-memory applications, only about 20% of a grid across countries and industry processes has a decent choice in contemporary architecture. Myths persist such as “verticals are a sink hole”. Sure if you dont do it right, but go see how much lock-in revenue and margins SAP has enjoyed with its vertical investments in the early 2000s.
I have accelerated my coverage of applications and executives who are focused on the white spaces – see some of that coverage summarized here in a trend I call Glo-ver expansion in focus.
Back to helping vendors challenge their previous definitions of TAM. Those are fun projects when the vendor is willing to open up. I must be honest though – many vendors look to influence analysts, not use them much for intelligence. So, they would rather posture they have “50% market share in deals they choose to chase”.
Seriously, I hope that changes. Too many vendors are defining markets too narrowly and finding their competitors have done the same and a result too many are chasing after the same, narrow markets. That is a sure path to commoditization. Trust me – I have seen it repeated many a times over the last three decades. There is little safety in those numbers.
(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)