Friday, July 27, 2007

It’s Show Time! (01may97)

May 1, 1997

The A/E/C Systems conference and exhibition is this industry’s showcase event for the technologies, products, and personalities that are shaping it today and propelling it toward the future. Historically, the A/E/C Systems show has been the launch venue for a number of very prominent products over the years, and this year will probably prove this true once again.

We are looking forward to attending A/E/C Systems this month in Philadelphia scheduled for June 16-19. This year’s event is expected to draw more than 25,000 attendees and between 400 and 500 exhibitors. This show can be a grueling ordeal, just based on the sheer number of vendors and products, but it does let us see most of the major AEC and GIS players under one roof for objectively evaluating their offerings.

We strongly encourage you to also consider attending so you can evaluate the products and question the vendors as an informed potential buyer, because one product does not a comparison make. To really get a good feel for what different products can really do, you have to see them operate with the same data, constraints, or parameters (all preferably yours) side by side on a level playing field.

Beware, though, that just about any vendor worth its salt can make its product look good -- especially if it’s the only one being evaluated and "verbally compared." Even in this verbal comparison, you must be ready to spar with the tough questions. Try to be defensive and objective, because many vendors will tend toward being offensive and subjective about their products, especially when pressed how their products stack up against the competition.

As much as we would like to think otherwise, and as much as vendors would like you to think otherwise, all software products, AEC or otherwise, are not created equally. Since this is a market that is in a seemingly constant state of flux, many customers often approach vendors with a certain air of skepticism and uncertainty. Unfortunately, these feelings all too often play into the hands of unscrupulous sales people who try to assure potential customers that only they have the solution that the customer before them is seeking. In effect, this all too often opens the door to snake oil marketing ploys by vendors. Of course, it’s always the "other" vendor’s direct sales people and VARs who are at fault as the snake oil purveyors. Surprisingly, though, it is often those finding fault with other vendors that fail to support the claims they are making for their own products.

So, then why does the best product often have few takers? Sadly, in this industry, as in virtually all others, it’s often not the content of the product that sells, but the packaging. Once again, it is not a case of who has the best product, but rather who does the greatest volume and better job of splashy, memorable marketing that comes out the winner in the product sales game.

Jeffrey Rowe, Editor