Earlier this week, I wrote about the five companies making up the top half of of my list of the industry's 10 most-influential IT vendors—IBM, Apple, Facebook, Oracle, and Google—and today we're rolling out the second half of that list.
As noted in that earlier column covering the five most-influential IT companies, the criteria here center on influence above all else: market cap, size, best TV ads, vacation policies, etc. Per my description accompanying that first list:
"Cloud computing, mobile, analytics, people-oriented apps, virtualization, revising the stack, flipping 80/20, coping with information explosion, the social enterprise, and more: CIOs have had to turn numerous conceptual challenges into business solutions this year, and I suspect the global business climate in 2011 will only accelerate that pace of change.
"In that context, my list of the 10 most-influential IT vendors from 2010 and into 2011 isn't based in sheer mass or market cap or history but rather on the influence those companies have had not just on IT organizations but on how businesses and other large organizations think about technology, how they deploy it, and how they are using it to transform their organizations."
For CIOs, the potential value of such a list will likely be as a conversation-starter: in a business world that's changing rapidly and forcing you to deal with new customers and new market dynamics and new ways of engaging with all of those forces in new ways, which IT vendors are best-suited to help you meet and overcome those challenges?
Is it the same group that you relied on 10 years ago, or five years ago, or even one year ago? Is your ideal mix tilting more toward big companies or small, software companies or hardware companies (and is there still a difference?), SaaS or on-premise, new or old, leading-edge or traditional, new-wave or old-school?
The first five on our list included some stalwarts (IBM and Oracle) as well as three companies outside the traditional IT industry: Facebook, Apple, and Google. That's because this list is all about influence: influence on products, on marketing, on technology, on customer engagements, and so on. And those newcomers have without question exerted profound influence on how businesses and their IT organizations think about technology, buy technology, use technology, and weave it ever more deeply into their long-term strategy and execution.
For these next five, the ratio of traditional versus new is slightly different: three longtime IT powerhouses and two relative newcomers to the highest levels of enterprise technology.
Before meeting five more of the most influential IT vendors for 2010 and 2011, and to offer some context as we get started, here's a recap of the first five:
Now on to #6 (and for extended analyses of each company, please be sure to check out our "Recommended Reading" list at the end of this column):
#6) SAP. A year ago, I think I would have put SAP somewhere around #37 on this list of the 10 most-influential IT vendors. But co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe have led an astonishing turnaround at SAP since taking the reins 8-1/2 months ago and have put SAP back squarely among the most important and strategic IT vendors by making their products easier to evaluate, purchase, use, and deploy.
The co-CEOs have led the company's efforts in developing software that's focused on helping individuals drive more business value, not just on managing corporate transactions; they're leading the industrywide transition to mobile enterprise-strength applications; they're promising to deliver real real-time capabilities to customers; they're unlocking the enormous potential in the collective intelligence gleaned from the experiences of more than 100,000 SAP customers; they're driving more aggressively into analytics to help customers anticipate and lead instead of merely listening and reacting; and they're putting their customers' concerns instead of their code's complexities at the center of everything they do.
My toughest choice in making up this entire Top 10 list was whether SAP should be #5 instead of Google, and I ultimately decided to place SAP at #6 because, while the accomplishments of the new CEOs have been eye-popping, they need to demonstrate their ability to sustain and extend that momentum beyond the 8-1/2-month period since they took control of the company. If they can sustain their impressive arc, SAP will no doubt be a Top 5 company next year.
#7) VMware. The virtualization powerhouse wracked up impressive financial results and continued burrowing more deeply into enterprise infrastructure and data centers even as CEO Paul Maritz began the complex repositioning of the company away from its long-time and near-total focus on virtualization (exemplified by its very name) to the longer-term role of helping companies manage their data centers and overall IT infrastructure in ways that reduce complexity, increase agility, and lower IT costs.
Describing VMware's new promise to its customers as "a journey," Maritz says the staggering complexity of today's enterprise IT factories has reached the point where the only solution is a radically different approach. And as I wrote a couple of months ago after a 50-minute conversation with Maritz at VMware headquarters, "In fact, Maritz says that VMware's betting the company on its belief that its new three-tiered approach to virtualization—at the infrastructure level, applications level, and device level—will not only trim some CapEx dollars but also begin hacking away at the much more significant OpEx costs whose sheer volume has prevented CIOs from being able to buy or build the new customer-focused enterprise applications that are the key to competitiveness and success." (See Global CIO: VMware CEO On Future Of Virtualization and Global CIO: Bank Of VMware: Its Bold Plan To Fund Your Applications.)
It's a bit ironic that VMware's corporate parent, EMC, did not make this Top 10 list but is on the Next 10 roster. But, like VMware, EMC is making some moves that could get it out of its traditional categories and into the new markets that matter so next year we'll see if this corporate parent/child competition plays out any differently.
#8) Salesforce.com. CEO Marc Benioff has been among the most vocal champions of cloud computing and while his company's only about 1/25th the size of Oracle, Benioff used last month's Oracle Open World to fire a few daggers at Oracle CEO Larry Ellison over big new Exadata boxes versus the cloud, over heavyweight traditional apps versus mobile-optimized and highly graphical SaaS apps, and over just what cloud computing really means. On that last point, Benioff went so far as to skewer Ellison over the latter's desire to define the cloud in ways beneficial to Oracle and its new Exalogic Elastic Cloud machine, as Benioff assumed the role of the revival-tent evangelist with admonitions to his faithful to "Beware the false cloud!"
But far more than being just a glib showman willing to pick fights with vastly larger competitors, Benioff and Salesforce.com have down a masterful job of proving that cloud computing (and its child, software as a service) is real and secure and robust and capable of scaling across the globe and throughout massive global organizations. And as Benioff likes to point out, he and his company claim they can do all that at much lower costs than traditional applications vendors can. And with Salesforce's recent addition of Chatter social apps, Benioff has yet again pushed his company into vibrant new areas that provide customers with new and valuable capabilities and provide Benioff with new material with which to make fun of Oracle and SAP and Microsoft.
That pioneering and fearless spirit is wonderful, but the real achievement that secures Salesforce's spot on this list is its ongoing growth rate, its $1.5 billion in annual revenue, and its roster of significant global customers. To hold or improve on its spot for next year, Salesforce will need to show it's more than a SaaS CRM company, because this list is for leaders and not for place-holders. So it'll be fun to see what the next trick is for the revival-tent evangelist who helped bring the cloud vision to life for the enterprise. (See Global CIO: Salesforce.com CEO Benioff On Beating Microsoft And SAP In The Cloud and Global CIO: Salesforce.com CEO Benioff On IT Scams And Cloud Power.)
Only two spots left, but we haven't mentioned Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, or Microsoft—which two made it? Let's take a look:
9) Cisco. This was a tough one: on the one hand, Cisco's all over the map to the point that it's hard to know where its center is located, while on the other hand you could argue that Cisco's pervasive impact makes it impossible to ignore on a list such as this. So I have to say that Cisco gains this spot largely through inertia: doing a lot of things that CIOs depend upon, plus a few things CIOs are evaluating (notably telepresence and other forms of video). But why's the company been so quiet about its Unified Computing System—you know, it's big-bang introduction that was going to forever change the nature of data centers and indeed all of enterprise IT by tying networking, storage, and servers all together? To reclaim a spot within the Top 10 for next year, Cisco will need to demonstrate more forcefully its commitment to where CIOs need to be headed in the future, rather than just describing grand visions. (See Global CIO: IBM Turns Guns On Cisco With Acquisition Of Blade Network and Global CIO: Will Cisco's Revolutionary Router Torpedo Tinseltown?.)
#10) Hewlett-Packard. Another tough call because for a variety of reasons, HP's great people have been forced to play rope-a-dope for the past 2-1/2 months. But even before that, HP seemed to want to be known as the world's biggest PC supplier, or the world's broadest supplier of IT equipment, or perhaps both—and in the emerging world of extreme-performance systems and software-driven enterprises, the HP big-and-broad position just wasn't enough. Not by a long shot.
In my final analysis, HP would not have made this list were it not for its recent spate of acquisitions. I figured that even if HP's current product lineup does not indicate the type of high-performance leadership (outside of networking) that CIOs desperately need right now, the company seems to realize that and has reasserted some industry oomph and influence by the sheer dint of its willingness to deal.
New CEO Leo Apotheker has some awfully big questions to answer as he embarks on what will no doubt be a memorable adventure atop the world's largest IT company: at the high end, can his company compete with IBM and Oracle? In mobile, does he really think the Palm OS will allow him to compete with Apple and Google? In software, HP's got some very strong management and optimization products, and an impressive new leader in Bill Veghte, but can HP become a real force in the emerging analytics-driven IT industry without enterprise applications?
If Apotheker and his team can come up with some assertive and creative solutions to those questions (think M&A), then HP will remain in the Top 10 Most Influential camp and probably move up a few spots. But if Apotheker and team are only able to make HP a bit bigger without making it a lot more relevant, valuable, and essential, then their big-time influence will dissipate in a big-time way. (See Global CIO: HP's $130-Billion Gamble and Global CIO: An Open Letter To HP CEO Leo Apotheker.)
#11) The Next 10. Some IT industry stalwarts have clearly not made the Top 10 (Microsoft? Dell? EMC?), and we'll take a look at the next 10 next week. But to wrap things up, here's a look at the Top 10 Most Influential IT Vendors for 2010, the ones who more than any other companies are shaping the future of how businesses think about, purchase, and deploy technology, and how they use it to excite and delight customers and to make themselves more successful:
See you next week with the Next 10 to conclude this series—please let me know what you think.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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