Introducing Power Hexagon

Evaluating products and services for enterprises is inherently subjective. The merit of a product hinges on the outcomes it can deliver to a customer, and on being sophisticated enough to fit the specific needs of prospective buyers.

From the perspective of a supplier, bringing a product to market requires a careful balance of priorities: what features matter, will it scale for growth, what environments or situations will it work in, how will it be sold, how will support be provided and how long is our commitment to support the product?

Naturally, these priorities are at odds with each other. Products with an extended service life or support length typically need ongoing support, which carries costs. Established products typically have larger feature sets, but growth in features and scope can cause problems. Compatibility with external ecosystems provides a route into a market, but this can limit locking-in a customer in the long term.

From an analyst’s perspective, identifying and contextualizing these priorities is essential to determining the fit of a product or service in the overall market. Highlighting points of differentiation in this balance of priorities is more helpful for allowing prospective buyers to understand how a product compares with alternatives, as well as how it fits in their broader enterprise technology stack. Put another way, focussing analysis on these priorities and outcomes is more important than reducing a product or service to perceived strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

In the pursuit of providing objective, unique, informed analysis, CCS Insight is introducing the Power Hexagon report. We’ve developed a taxonomy of six fundamental aspects relevant to any product or service and the companies behind them.

Functionality. It’s important for any product to live up to its claims. This is partially a view of maturity — an early, basic form of a product offered by a start-up or a new offering from an established company will present fewer features than a long-standing product with years or decades of development.

Performance. Newer products are typically more flexible and easier to use, but they may be vulnerable to user experience papercuts. Older products accumulate features and functionality over releases, potentially suffering from resource bloat if run on premises, slow day-to-day use or difficult feature discovery for users.

Price flexibility. To grow a product or service, there must be an on-ramp for start-ups to become customers. That alone isn’t enough: a thoughtful billing strategy that’s responsive to customer growth must be available, particularly for as-a-service offerings. Regressive pricing practices, such as charging a premium for standard security features like single sign-on, should be avoided.

Interoperability. Working well with industry standards, commercial software and open-source software and frameworks eases integration into existing technology stacks. It’s better to avoid reinventing the wheel when feature-complete open frameworks exist — adding value to these standards should be the goal.

Sustainability. Does the supplier have any publicly announced environmental, societal and governance strategies? What’s the environmental impact of building and using the product or service, compared with its alternatives? Can it help enterprises reduce carbon emissions, and are statistics emissions for the product or service made available to customers?

Support style. What documentation is available for the product? Is that documentation kept behind a paywall? What’s the expected lifespan of the product or service? Are premium or extended support options available? How are open-source communities or industry foundations engaged in the product?

By basing the report on these six qualities, the analysis is more closely aligned to the priorities and concerns of start-ups and enterprises alike. It can help companies address the market, demonstrating to customers the value of a product or service and providing context for the broader technology, business or economic trends that influence enterprise decision-making.

Insight and analysis must also be balanced with brevity. The realities of the attention economy were a primary focus when we created the Power Hexagon format — good analysis should succinctly highlight points of differentiation that indicate why a company and its services are interesting and worthwhile for audiences to read about.

The first Power Hexagon reports on Akamai Connected Cloud and SoftIron HyperCloud are already available to subscribers. If you’re not yet a subscriber, or if you’d like to schedule a briefing with an analyst at CCS Insight, please get in touch.