Two Guys and A Computer

Oddly I can’t go a month without someone asking me about an ECM competitor that I’ve never ever heard of before. I know I won’t ever know them all but it just surprises me how many vendors are out there. It’s like when you put two guys together with a truck and they think they’re a moving company. Give two guys a computer and they think they can build an ECM platform. Heck, sometimes it’s just one guy.

Now don’t get me wrong, every space needs disruptions and new vendors that challenge the status quo are a good thing. My problem is that some of these “two guys and a computer” vendors don’t offer anything more than what’s offered by the smallest ECM vendors. It’s a free market and all so why not. As they say, Caveat Emptor, buyer beware. 

Let the Buyer Beware
Several years back I was asked to look into the market validity for a law enforcement case management system. I spent a few weeks researching the market to develop an ecosystem overview. A lot of the solutions I found had been developed by retired law enforcement.

I found one that seemed to lead the market. When I went to pitch our opportunity in the market, I showed the company’s home page. It had changed. Now there was a letter that said (roughly),

“I want to thank all of my customers who purchased my software. But I have now decided to formally retire. For the next 30-days I will still be responding to emails and phone calls for support. After that time I will be disconnecting both. Thank you again.”

That was several years ago but I still keep running into similar situations today. Especially in government.  The unfortunate part is that government customers often need to choose the lowest bidder, and “two guys and a computer” will usually under-bid a company that’s in it for the long haul. Yes there are surety bonds, but does that matter when your vendor just closes its doors?

Vendors, Why Build the Platform?
It just confuses me that “two guys and a computer” will build their platforms from scratch. I mean, any bit of research by them would introduce them to the ECM space. There are existing platforms of various prices and scales that would allow any “two guys and a computer” the opportunity to build a solution on their platform. They would not write the database from scratch. They might use Oracle, Access or even dBase.  Why wouldn’t they use an existing solution?

But the customer is also making the decision. Someone bought into “two guys and a computer”. Why would any organization consider putting valuable content under the control of a company that has one or two or even ten employees? I get it if they are doing the next greatest thing or offer superior levels of support. But when they’re not, why? I hate to debate the value of an established vendor to “two guys and a computer”.

So can anyone give me a reason why an organization should put their content in a status quo ECM platform built by “two guys and computer” when there are so many platforms already there to build upon?  Anyone have any other “two guys and a computer” stories?

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