Free Markets, Bad Products, Slow Change Rates

Point A: John Blyberg’s ILS Customer Bill-of-Rights.

Point B: Dan Chudnov’s The problem with the “ILS Bill of Rights”

Response: John Blyberg’s OPACs in the frying pan, Vendors in the fire

While there’s some disagreement between John and Dan, I can’t help but see a strong concordance between their posts: Both are an attempt to educate potential customers. Blyberg wants customers to know what to ask/look for in evaluating products, Dchud wants those customers to know how free markets work.

The rub comes from the fact that many people don’t feel libraries and ILS vendors exist in a free market, and Dchud is hopping mad that those people don’t realize that vendors won’t compete like it’s a free market until their customers start exercising some free-market sensibility (as suggested in his “you can choose NOT TO BUY THE FREAKIN’ PRODUCT” point).

I made some noise on this topic a while ago by asking people to take the pledge, but I’m also aware how difficult/unaproachable/distant/broken our purchasing processes are. Still, here’s an easy round up of what we should all take away from Dchud and Blyberg:

  • Smart customers make better choices. Even if you don’t have tech staff now, make product purchases that open the door for them in the future.
  • If you begin a purchase negotiation with the resigned notion that you must buy the product, then there really isn’t much to talk about, is there?

As Michael Stephens reminds us (in this post-Cluetrain world): markets are conversations. The authors are thinking of rather more vibrant markets than our ILS vendors enjoy, but there is a point there.

Purchase decisions on multi-hundred-thousand-dollar products are big, blunt instruments, but the risk that a current or potential customer might choose some other vendor’s system because it offers better value is an important one. That doesn’t mean that smart vendors won’t join the conversation before things go that far. It’s important to make sure your vendor knows what you want. And it’s important that you tell them.