This one from the “trying to bring something from the consumer world into the enterprise but failing” category. IT Central Station is launching and billing itself as the first tech product review site for the Fortune 1000. The idea is simple – much like Yelp, people can list and review products – but in this case rather than a restaurant you might spend $100 on, the idea of IT central station is to review multi-million dollar pieces of mission critical technology. Yes indeedy, founder Russell Rothstein believes a site like IT Central Station will make a difference to enterprise buying habits. It’s an idea directly out of the “It’s Like This For That” category (click the link, it’s hilarious).
IT Central Station is modeled on the consumer model and hence the site functionality is similar to that you’d expect from, for example, a consumer electronics review site. Site features include;
- Private social network for the end user community: Prevents vendors from posting reviews of their products or competitor products
- User validation: Validates the authenticity of users based on their company email address and cross-references with LinkedIn and other data sources
- User privacy: Promotes candid discussions and recommendations within the community by enabling users to post anonymously
- Professional social graph: Uncovers a user’s professional connections with expertise in products and services of interest
- Over 4,000 enterprise-class products and services from over 1,400 vendors: Includes the largest and most up-to-date catalog of technology products and services—including cloud, SaaS, mobile and Big Data solutions—that are used by enterprises
The kicker is that the site is free to end users but generates revenue by charging vendors a listing fee – the company is pitching this as an opportunity for vendors to “gather candid feedback from real users, invite their happy customers to share success stories with the community, and participate in relevant discussions taking place within a high quality community of real users”.
I’m all for disrupting the traditional analyst marketplace – companies like Gartner charge massive fees on both the buy and the sell side and, while they undeniably provide a deep analysis of the marketplace, it’s my assessment that the analysis produced by a new breed of agile analysis firms – companies like Rishidot Research, Constellation Research Group and Altimeter – is disrupting the traditional analysis model. But reducing advice down to an uber lightweight, consumer style site is misguided in my view.
Beyond the base validity of the idea, and whether enterprise buyers would ever even consider using a service like this, I’d be worried about vendors gaming the system, while the company talks about its rigid checks and balances – the fact that anonymous reviews are allowed, along with the idea that vendors can pay and hence potentially gain some unfair advantage on the site, is worrying.
The bottom line is that enterprise requirements are very complex – there’s a reason that in my consulting life I do a lot of deep (and, yes, oftentimes expensive) work with both buyers and sellers of technology. It’s not simply a case of saying “is Chatter better than Yammer” for example – it’s about understanding a particular company’s situation and needs.
I’m not sold on the IT Central Station idea I’m afraid.