The dot-coms seem to be failing at a rate that is slightly greater than I would have predicted a few months ago, but is still in line with expectations. Niche software companies have never survived for long. I define a “niche” company as one that focuses on a specific small corner of a market and provides a product that solves a single problem. Examples in the past include Wordstar and all the other word processing programs of 10 years ago. Several niches had to merge to survive and the survivors had to offer a suite of tools that are harmonious with each other and work more or less together. The office market has now been reduced to essentially two players: Microsoft and Lotus (IBM). What do they offer? The two greatest benefits is that they have a wide enough distribution to make them useful and efficient and they remove most of the issues around data compatibility and sharing. Once you learn one of them, you can work on almost anyone?s computer. And, you can transfer files and edit data painlessly. The same is beginning to happen in the recruiting software world. There is no way that the hundreds of ASP applications can survive without integrating additional features. That is why Brass Ring is buying up so many diverse companies and that is why companies like Pure Carbon and Icarian are promising entire suites of applications for recruiters. Every company takes a slightly different approach, and the market?you and I?will decide who gets it right. In 2-3 years there will only be a few players left. Many of the others will be absorbed into these surviving products and live on as elements of larger solutions. If history is any predictor, the biggest and most successful firms today will not be the winners. Wordstar (don?t worry if you never heard of it) was the dominant word processor in 1982 and Lotus wasn?t even formed yet. Somewhere out there is a small firm with a vision that is starting to build the solution you and I really want. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> So as a recruiting pro what does this mean to you? It means that if you are deciding on products today, look for a few things that may characterize the winner of tomorrow: First of all, look for a company with a vision of offering an increasingly comprehensive solution. I am not going to name any of these in this article, but there are a few out there. These are the companies that can help you see what the trends are and are not just focused on today?s application (although they also have to have a good product now). And that?s the second of the things to look for: a team that is focused on quality and execution. Whichever firm you decide on, make their reputation and customer satisfaction a big part of the decision. Firms that do not execute will most likely always have problems is this area. I don?t mean the usual problems in getting a product installed or in working out a few bugs. I mean the firms that promise delivery and keep pushing it out, who install a product ? before its time and end up having to spend too much time fixing and customizing it, and firms who have serious quality problems with the functionality of the application. The third thing is to avoid arrogant firms that tell YOU what you want for features. I think the very best firms are those that encourage you to critique the current product and provide ideas on how to expand their product offering or how to give you more functionality. Firms that develop user groups and chat rooms, that invite customers in to view products under development and firms that offer to work your customizations into the standard product as the ones to follow. And finally, pick a firm because of its leadership and management team as much as for the product. I would rather have an early product with a limited set of functions from a company that has exciting and visionary leaders that a more mature product from a company with an arrogant or unimaginative leadership team. The ability to be opportunistic or to take a chance on a feature or concept that isn?t proven is the sign of great leadership. I know nothing here is new. We all probably realize that it is not millions in funding or gee-whiz ideas that makes companies?dot-coms or traditional?successful. It is now and has always been quality, integrity, and good products backed up with good leadership that make companies successful. If you are buying a product or applying for a job, these are the qualities to look for.
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