CPM/BPM vendors struggle to position effectively

Whether you call it Corporate Performance Management (CPM) or Business Performance Management (BPM), some of the vendors in this enterprise software market are struggling to position their products effectively. This is my annual review of how CPM/BPM vendors are positioned in the market for budgeting, planning, forecasting and financial reporting. In the last year, two of the market leaders – IBM and SAP – have finally positioned their product offering. A year ago, both had such muddled product messages that they had no position at all.

In this assessment, only Adaptive Insights gets the dreaded “no position” designation. Instead of stating a benefit, Adaptive tells you what its product is – the only unified BI and CPM suite built for the cloud. That is not positioning because there’s no benefit claim.

At Messages that Matter, we define positioning as a mental space in your target audience’s mind that you can own with an idea that has compelling meaning to the recipient. It’s in this mental space where your product’s most important benefit and the customer’s most important need meet, and hopefully form a meaningful relationship.

Shotgun approach to positioning doesn’t work

Compared to last year, SAP made the most progress of all the CPM vendors. It went from having no position to making a legitimate claim – better business execution. Last year, SAP took the approach to positioning that a little is good, and a lot is better. The giant German software company made five claims that are either features, advantages or benefits:

“Drive higher revenue by aligning strategy and execution. Boost performance with real-time analysis. Understand the true cost of your products, services, and channels. Comply with regulations faster, with fewer errors, and at lower cost. And leverage innovations in mobile, in-memory, and cloud technologies – everything you need for performance management from one vendor.”

Now SAP states its position in this headline: “Execute better on your strategic objectives – using our EPM solutions;” which is backed up with this copy:

“Translate goals into results – with SAP software for enterprise performance management (EPM), also referred to as corporate performance management. Our solutions cover everything from planning, budgeting and forecasting to financial consolidation and disclosure management – and can help you take revenue and profitability to the next level. Capture objectives, determine initiatives, cascade scorecards and metrics throughout your organization and measure performance to drive accountability and keep goals on track.”

SAP must have realized that the shotgun approach to positioning fails. That’s because our brains aren’t programmed to grasp that many concepts. It’s much better to make one claim, and then repeat it over and over until after a while your target buyer will listen to your message.

The transform claim is alive and well in the CPM market

While SAP has made great strides in the way it is positioning its offering, IBM has not done nearly as well. Here’s how IBM is now positioning its product offering:

“IBM performance management solutions help companies of all sizes – from large-scale enterprises to small and midsize businesses – transform slow, expensive, disconnected processes into more dynamic, efficient and connected experiences. IBM performance management solutions serve finance, line-of-business and IT professionals alike, helping to create “analytics-driven” organizations.”

“Transform” is one of the most overused positions in enterprise B2B technology marketing. It is also misused because most companies making the claim aren’t really transforming but rather automating and improving. What’s bad about IBM’s new position is that it is similar to Host Analytics’, which has been claiming for several years that it “transforms your enterprise into a high-performing organization.”

Just about every B2B software market I follow has at least one vendor making the transformation claim. It is so common that if you want to be different, you should avoid the claim. Read my blog about why you should avoid using transform at all costs.

Four vendor claim a “me too” position

“Me too” positioning is also prevalent in the CPM/BPM market. Three vendors who should know better – SAS, Info and Oracle – are making identical claims. They are all positioned around the notion of “improved performance” and “better performance.” Clearly, they have not read the marketing classic, “Positioning: The Battle for your Mind.” Ries and Trout lament that “… too many companies embark on marketing and advertising as if the competitor’s position did not exist. They advertise their products in a vacuum and are disappointed when their messages fail to get through.”

The Oracle position is even worse because it is new. Last year, Oracle was positioned as “providing insight so you can act with confidence.” At least that was unique; no other competitor was making the claim. Now Oracle is one of four competitors making a similar claim.

It should be noted that although Host Analytics has embraced “transform” in its positioning statement, the payoff is better performance – transform to a high-performance organization. Therefore, there are really four vendors making the same claim about better performance – SAS, Infor, Oracle and Host Analytics.

Just two CPM/BPM vendors are positioning effectively

This leaves just two vendors besides SAP who are doing a good job of positioning – Tagetik Software and Prophix Software. Tagetik gives you “more time to focus on analyzing, optimizing and expanding your business.” Shorten, it might be executed as “more time for analysis.” Nice!

Prophix has established a strong position around “value.” The complete positioning statement is: “Designed to deliver value, with minimal IT support, Prophix automates time consuming processes, improving accuracy, and the ability to react to changes.”

The reaction you want to a position statement is “that’s interesting, tell me more.” Prophix does a nice job of explaining what value means to the customer; i.e, why the recipient should care about the value claim. However, Prophix could do a better job of carrying the value theme throughout its web site. A positioning statement should become the central theme for how you talk about your product. That theme or big idea should be executed consistently throughout your marketing communication, and repeated over and over until you are sick of it, and then keep repeating it!

Here is a perceptual map that shows you how the CPM/BPM vendors position their products:


While the perceptual map makes it look like most vendors are making unique claims, six of the 11 evaluated are not. Adaptive has no position because it is describing what it does. IBM and Host Analytics are both making the transform claim though each takes a different approach. And Host Analytics is really making a better performance claim – the same position claimed by SAS, Infor and Oracle.

With so many vendors making similar claims, there’s a good chance buyers will be confused, which leads to longer sales cycles and some no buy decisions. How do you avoid “me too” positioning and differentiate? Read my eBook, Positioning – How to talk so the market will listen.