Spotlight On: Software and Programming
The software industry is ever changing and subject to new mergers, acquisitions, partnerships and strategic alliances between vendors. The industry can be fairly described as consisting of tiers.
Tier I vendors serve the upper end of the market. Their products are for the Fortune 500, multi-location, and multi-national companies. These companies have complex needs and rely upon ERP systems. The major Tier I players are SAP and Oracle. Tier II vendors focus on companies that are fairly complex and large and require significant work but are not as large as the the Fortune 500. This may be the sweet spot of the software industry. The market is fairly large and the customers require fairly sophisticated product and support. Leaders in this market are Lawson, Infor, and IFS.
The mid-market is represented by Tier III companies such as Epicor, Consona, and Tyler. This is a huge market serving customers with revenues in the $25-$250 million range. The lower tiers, IV and V, serve small companies and the shrink wrap market. Vendors in this market, such as Sage, serve the small company. The SOHO market is includes vendors such as Sage and Intuit.
The Tier I vendors are moving down market by offering scaled-down pre-configured versions of their products and using new distribution channels. They are also acquiring Tier II and Tier III vendors. On the other hand, Tier III and Tier IV vendors are trying to move upstream into the Tier II market. The vendors have significantly improved the functionality and scalability of their products.
The newest trend in software distribution is Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud computing. This model is gaining market acceptance and is particularly appealing to the smaller customer that have limited in-house technical support. SaaS applications for certain types of applications such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), HR/Payroll, Project Management, and low end accounting software have been growing. ERP systems for large and mid sized companies have not seen widespread acceptance yet due to cost and security concerns.
The software industry is not immune to the economic downturn. Technology spending has been cut and the market may not see any significant increase in spending for some years to come. Forrester Research is projecting that overall business IT sales will grow 6 percent in 2009.
While most software companies are implementing a series of internal cost-cutting measures - reducing staff, cutting travel budgets, etc., these measures have an uneven effect on the software company. For some companies, reducing the cost of doing business enables the company to stay in the game.