Most influential 100 list raises questions

There are some surprises, says Don Tennant

Pop quiz: What do RedPrairie, FrontRange Solutions, Concur Technologies, Servigistics and Logility have in common?

A. I made them all up.

B. They really exist, but nobody seems to care.

C. They existed at some point in time but have all died an inglorious death.

D. They are among the 100 most influential IT vendors on the planet.

According to a newly released study, the correct answer, entertainingly enough, is D. The study is Aberdeen Group's Annual State of the Market Report, which for the first time includes a list of the 100 most influential technology vendors — software, hardware and service providers — worldwide.

The list was compiled on the basis of a global survey of 4,645 respondents who, Aberdeen says, "were given an 'open-text' opportunity to identify the top three technology companies that had the most influence on their business performance over the course of the past year".

Fifty-nine percent of the respondents were from North America, with the rest coming from Europe (21%), the Asia-Pacific region (14%), the Middle East and Africa (4%), and South America and the Caribbean (2%).

To be sure, much of what's in Aberdeen's report parallels Computerworld US' own research and reporting. A prime example is Aberdeen's finding that business intelligence and analytics is the technology area that will have the greatest impact over the next three to five years.

Moreover, the top 10 list is hardly a shocker: Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, IBM, Cisco, HP, Dell, Salesforce.com, EMC and Sun. If you question the fact that Google and BlackBerry-maker RIM aren't in the top 10, you'll probably be pleased to learn that they came in at number 11 and 12, respectively.

Beyond that, though, it's difficult to figure out what to make of this list. Aberdeen made a surprising discovery: Even though the respondents cited "shortage of talent" as the second-greatest challenge they're confronting this year, Kronos (number 98) was the only human capital management software vendor to make the list.

But there appear to be more perplexing head-scratchers than that one. Why, for example, is RedPrairie (number 49) — a US$74.5 million (NZ$96.2 million) supply chain management software vendor from Wisconsin -- more globally influential than BMC (52), Symantec (58) and Hitachi (66)? Why is FrontRange (70), a US$38.6 million CRM provider based in California, having a greater effect on companies' business performance than heavyweights such as Unisys (74), Teradata (91) and Toshiba (93)?

Why is a huge enterprise software player like CA (39) eclipsed by Infor Global Solutions (18), a company half its size? And why are industry stalwarts, from AMD and APC to SGI and Sybase, not even on the list?

Obviously, it's only one survey, and the findings aren't gospel. So rather than trying to offer any meaningful answers, I'll settle for making a couple of general observations.

First, any successful vendor that's into supply chain management or CRM, even if it's a niche player, stood a fairly good chance of making the cut. That says a lot about what the respondents see as having an especially high impact on their companies' business performance.

Second, vendor consolidation is so pervasive that any field of 100 technology suppliers is necessarily going to include some relative no-names. Next year's list is bound to be even more clearly reflective of that trend. It's noteworthy that EDS (number 36), for one, won't be on it.

Finally, a prediction: The 2009 list will be much more heavily populated by vendors that are identified with cloud computing in general and software as a service in particular. To prepare for next year's quiz, keep a very close eye on Google. It'll be way closer to number one than it will be to number 11.

Don Tennant is editorial director of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Contact him at don_tennant@computerworld.com, and visit his blog at http://blogs.computerworld.com/tennant.

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Tags state of the marketmanagementAberdeen Group

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