What got me thinking about this was reviewing the list of exhibitors for the upcoming HR Technology Conference in Chicago. There are vendors on that list who’ve been around at least as long as the conference (and some for much longer), never gaining much sales momentum, never gaining much financial scale, and never gaining much attention from the media/analysts/etc.
These vendors have been kept alive by determined and hard-working staff even as they’ve been overtaken by the evolution of technology (most are really client server or possibly Web-based but definitely not built for the cloud), the advances in globalization (most are US or Canada only in terms of their products but also US or Canada only in terms of their thinking and organization), the generation of workers demanding that their technology be mobile/social/gamified and more, and so many of the other forces at work in the sea change that is going on in our industry.
Many of these zombie vendors are entirely reputable in the same way that your FAX machine is entirely reputable (but long since overtaken, at a minimum by multiple function copy/scan/FAX machines, and those are now dusty). They often have a very long-standing leadership team and staff who didn’t see the sea change coming or, even seeing it, just weren’t able to react in time. They often have very loyal customers, at least until a change in management/ownership of that customer causes someone to hunt down and get rid of the zombie products and their vendors. And they often have a warm spot in the heart of various professional societies because they can be counted on to take a booth, however modest, at each year’s conference.
These vendors aren’t usually big enough to attract the attention of the ERP graveyards or other aggregators. They’re frequently too closely held to be under any external pressure to sell. And they’re often based too far away from Silicon Valley or other technology corridors to lose their devoted employees to the siren song of hot vendors and hot technology. But these vendors are truly the walking dead. Zombie Jamboree indeed.
[Written while singing one of my absolute favorite calypso songs http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/the_kingston_trio/zombie_jamboree.html]