So you have a Self Service Machine Learning product offering…..
Unfortunately so do a plethora of other companies
The fact is- the marketplace in this space is already getting crowded. Many organizations are joining the rush to transform themselves to align with Digital Transformation explosion.
Every major IT company, including many that were largely perceived as offshoring companies, now have their own versions of ML platforms. Business Process Management , Semiconductor Technology, Management Consulting , Statistical analysis and research product , University Research labs, Online search space – players in all these industries are competing with each other to introduce self service, quick deployment ML platforms.
How can you differentiate your offering?
So now that you know that the marketplace is crowded with competitors, how can you differentiate your product and/or combination of product and services?
There are three aspects to build a self service Machine learning product organization that can differentiate itself from competitors:
1. Identify key target industries and develop deep Industry expertise in these Industries
No matter how many functionalities you add in an off the shelf, self service machine learning platform, you can never create one version that will be a good fit for all Industries.
Based on what type of analytics will be handled by your product, you need to target your top Industries. Next step then is to build a team of resources who have in depth expertise in these industries. Example areas can be:
- Product Management resources who have worked extensively in the target industries, managing analytics related tech products development
- Functional consultants- Hands on experience consultants hired from the Industry and trained on the product
- Sales Executives- deep experience in selling in the industries and an excellent grasp of pain points in those industries (Your functional consultants can train them
In the subsequent section (“Offer a solution…..”), we will explore why having resources in these profiles with deep Industry specific knowledge comes handy.
2. Offer a solution- not just a product
Remember, companies don’t buy software platforms. They are buying a solution to their business problems. Business leaders on the client side need to get that feeling. If they sense that they are being sold a cookie cutter solution that is being force fit, you may lose your credibility.
This is where industry experience mentioned above is critical, during developing a product, during the sales cycle as well during implementation/configuration.
(1) When exploring the product, client analytics leaders need to feel that the product interface is user friendly, from the perspective of the typical business processes/aspects they are trying to model. This can be incorporated in product only if product managers have the expertise to foresee what type of processes will be modeled using these platforms.
(2) When interacting with sales executives, client business leaders need to feel that your company has deep expertise in their Industry. That should make them feel comfortable and confident in your offering- if you are understanding their pain points, you probably have a product that will help mitigate those pain points.
Keep in mind that often operations leaders in Supply Chain domain look for hands on Industry experience to feel comfortable about the process expertise of product consultants. Offering industry specific products and platforms need hands on, practical process expertise.
Having resources with right industry expertise will also ensure that you don’t end up selling your product to a client that actually will not be able to use majority of its functionalities due to some unique business nuances.
3. Big opportunities in Implementation and Aftersales
The biggest opportunities are in implementation and after sales services like training and product consulting.
The hard fact is – no matter how hard you try to develop a differentiated product, your end product will not be starkly different from dozen of others in the market. That is why implementation and after sales service are the only way to differentiate yourself as a market leader.
This is where functional consultants, who will help client’s end users setup the tool and demonstrate how to use the tool become extremely critical. These end users are your actual end customers who will provide feedback about your product- the real feedback, through various channels. Implementation consultants who understand the day to day work of these end users are a must.
If your functional consultants are able to establish themselves as true expert partners during implementation, they will open the doors to the most lucrative options- consulting and training client end users.
Summary – Differentiate or Die
To keep the key message really short- No matter how many resources you invest in your product, majority of the aspects that will make your product successful are not embedded in your product features. Understand and plan then in detail in your journey to be a Market leader in self service Machine learning products space.
Important: – Views are my own