One of the issues we face when we compare one infrastructure software / hardware vendor’s marketing approach to another is in understanding when their product marketing strategies are actually different from each other. It sounds relatively easy but how, for example could we tell if vendor A places more of a priority on promoting the performance of their product than vendor B? This is where the PIPESCOM classification comes in. It provides a series of product feature categories that allow us to compare vendors marketing efforts with each other.

Obviously, in isolation one claimed feature such as…

“…supports XML”

…can be seen as very similar to…

“…supports content-agnostic encoding”

But when comparing 3 or more vendors’ claimed features it becomes more complicated. The answer, for us at least, is to create categories into which each of the claimed features can be placed. Comparing vendors’ product strategies then becomes a case of comparing the categories their respective claimed features fall into. In the example above we might say that both vendors are making a claim for how their products interface with the outside world.

PIPESCOM is the first draft of our categorisation of features. To be honest, it’s pretty tough to arrive at a categorisation that encompasses all of the capabilities we’re likely to come across in infrastructure software/hardware. We don’t want too broad categories or too narrow so this is my first cut. As I take the technique to other areas of the infrastructure software/hardware market, and perhaps beyond, I’m sure PIPESCOM will be changed and adapted.

I guess I should at least include a definition of what I mean by “Feature” here. So for me a feature is a dispassionate and discrete fact about a product or service that does not seek to persuade. This definition is close to that used in Spin Selling and will be familiar to anyone who has looked at that methodology. Importantly a feature is not an Advantage or a Benefit.

The letters in PIPESCOM represent the following elements.

Packaging, Interfaces, Process, Ease of use, Speed, Commercial, Operational, Management.

Element Description Example
Packaging How the product is packaged and configured for the sale. One product, modular, service, etc.
Interfaces How the product is integrated into existing or new environments. Works with SAP, supports WS* interfaces, etc.
Process The product changes or improves a process within the end-user’s organisation. Creating, deploying, managing, etc.
Ease of use Describing the usage characteristics of a product Ease of use, flexible usage, simple to use…, etc.
Speed Features relating to the performance of the product Execution performance, capacity, scale, etc.
Commercial The commercial elements of the product Price, rental, service, etc.
Operational Relating to the operation of the product Stable, high-availability, robust, etc.
Management Features relating to the management of the product Deployment tools, configuration management, monitoring, etc.