Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Interesting to note a new ILS is arriving in North America…

(c) iStockPhoto
Most people would think the North American market is well saturated when it comes to integrated library systems.  I would tend to agree.  So when someone announces they are going through the expense and work of bringing a new ILS to this market, and that customers are already signing up for it, that's cause for curiosity.

Today’s press release announces that Soutron Global led by CEO, Tony Sadat, and Soutron Limited, led by Founder and Managing Director, Graham Beastall, have formed an alliance to bring the suite of Soutron products to special libraries, information centers and law libraries in North America.  

When the press release arrived, I’ll admit I looked at the headline and felt some strong skepticism because it promises things like “transformation” and “game changing.”   After reading the press release one time through, I was still trying to find what it was that deserved such accolades.  After re-reading it a second time, it occurred to me that perhaps they have some basis for their claim after all.   

What this press release might be showing an understanding of, is that most existing ILS products today are truly at commodity status.  They all work well and with reasonable due diligence on the part of the buyer, there are enough viable alternatives that a solution that will meet the buyer’s specific needs can be found, installed and will work.   Yet, despite that, Marshall Breeding’s recent Perceptions 2011 report shows the market is not beyond considering alternatives and out of the 2,432 surveyed for that report, some 566 libraries  (23% of the respondents) indicated they were considering migrating to a different system.

So maybe today’s library marketplace is beginning to show greater understanding and appreciation for the fact that it matters who the people are behind the company and product.   Indeed, here is where Soutron seems to be hanging their hats because they talk about "inspirational leadership that listens to their customers" and that "puts customer service at the heart of what they do."   That can be a huge differentiator in a market where solutions are seen as commodities and while  many library solution providers are steadily reducing headcount. Often, seemingly without fully understanding the importance to the customers of the deep relationships and service that were supported by those very same people.  

Despite the flowery headlines, if Soutron’s team can live up to the reputation they have earned in previous positions, then perhaps there is room for another ILS in this market, one that might even grow rapidly.  Simply through differentiating themselves by primarily focusing on customer needs and their team.  I personally believe this has strong potential to be a long-term, winning strategy.