The Ethics of Good Competition

by Mark Lukianchuk       • September 25, 2015

As the general manager of a software business I am always engaged in heated battle with my solution’s competition. We at erwin compete to have the best product, the best partners, the best people and of course, the best customers. As the #1 data modeling solution in the market it’s clear we’re doing something right and I’m proud of our successes. Competition is good and it’s healthy for the marketplace.

To me though, it’s not enough just to compete. I want to do it in such a way that I can look my two sons in the eye when they ask if I had a great day at work and say “yes I did”. I know my team is the same way. It’s a great feeling to not only win, but to win with facts and not rhetoric.

Most of you know that CA is looking at where to focus its product portfolio, as any good company should strive to do. erwin, as a business unit within CA, is also being looked at to see how it might best fit – or perhaps be divested. This is not a reflection on the quality of erwin (far from it) but about how it fits strategically within CA’s portfolio. It’s something that few companies actively do well; GE is one that comes to mind that constantly does this. They are known for continually reviewing their portfolio to see what fits their vision for the future and which might be even more successful as a separate entity. I love GE – with my new home I purchased all GE appliances, only to find out that the division might be sold to Electrolux. So I called them and my mind was put at ease; their after-sale support has been excellent, so much so that I still plan to buy GE appliances in the future.

As it turns out, the Department of Justice may end up blocking the GE deal, which has overtones back to erwin and last November 2014 when they also “expressed continuing concern about the transaction’s potential for anticompetitive effects” when CA was looking to sell erwin. With the deal terminated, CA continued to look into alternative options going forward, and in doing so as a public company, listed erwin as remaining in discontinued operations on its income statement. This is required from a regulatory and compliance standpoint. Nothing nefarious there.

As I’ve traveled the globe meeting with partners and customers I’ve been very transparent in what this really means, and that it’s essentially “business as usual” for erwin while we look towards our future path. Whatever decision is ultimately made will be for the benefit of our customers, partners, employees and the products, and everyone I’ve spoken with has appreciated my candor, transparency and approach in this manner.

This is how we at erwin operate, and as soon as I’m in a position to provide an update on this I will, but no matter the outcome I’m confident it will be good for erwin as we have accomplished a lot this year.

In March we released the erwin Web Portal Data Governance Edition, which enters a new and important segment for us. I have been adding new staff across many areas and geographies in the business to support our customers and partners. And, of course, we have been busy making significant updates to erwin Data Modeler, from the 9.6 release in March through the 64-bit release that’s in beta now. CA has been super supportive of erwin.

The feedback from our customers and partners is that we’re moving in the right direction strategically and are executing really well. Thanks for your support and loyalty, we work hard to earn and maintain it.

Due to the loyalty of our partners and customers I also regularly get forwarded e-mails from one of our competitors which tend to say something else, such as that CA is “killing” erwin, that the only releases coming out are “bug fixes”, that we are laying off staff (in some area, geography or function) and that due to this uncertainty customers should switch to their solution. Usually these e-mails make me laugh because I know better, but I do realize that some people might actually take them seriously so I personally follow up on each and every one that I hear about.

I’ve hesitated to say much about this to date because I’d rather that my team focus on improving erwin than to address these petty issues. After all, I have to believe that our customers and partners know differently, right?

I’ve hesitated to say much. Until today.

I just read a report on Reuters that this same competitor may be sold. Given this, it is extremely ironic that they have been telling customers to leave the #1 data modeling solution for their solution due to corporate uncertainty.

Food for thought.

The reality is that there is always change and consolidation in the software market. erwin itself started with one company and went through a couple of acquisitions, and remains the leader.

That’s why customers should always focus on partnering with a company who values loyalty and who works hard to earn the respect of its partners and customers.

If a customer buys a competitive solution due to technical superiority, then I will ask (and thank) them for their feedback and take it back to the team so we can work harder. If, however, they want to move off of the #1 data modeling solution because of fear, uncertainty and doubt spread by a competitor, I would ask that they look past the rhetoric.

On another note, why do I keep on saying we’re the #1 or “top” solution? It’s not because I think so. It’s not because one of our customers says so. It’s because we’ve been validated as the #1 solution by revenue in the data modeling market by a major analyst firm. It’s also because we were named as the top data modeling solution by a recent poll (see details of that award on erwin.com) – of which I have you, our customers, to thank for that.

You may see other references from our competition that they’re “top” or “#1”. All I can say is that if it’s said without any attribution or backup you should ask for the details. I saw one a while back that claimed ridiculous performance differences between their product and erwin. Naturally, that concerned me, because I want to make sure we’re as good as we can be. I also read that same company’s white paper describing reasons why customers should switch to their solution from erwin.

What did I find? First, the comparison was between their current release and a version of erwin that is 5 major releases ago (version 7.3). I’m admittedly not a technical expert these days but one would think that an “apples to apples” comparison might be best. Even a run of the mill Ford sedan from 2015 will beat a 50 year old muscle car.

Second, any mention of performance differences didn’t list the use cases. Or the specifics. Of anything. I’m the kind of guy that likes to see the data that backs up any assertions, and I’m sure you are as well. When you see such comparisons, you should ask for information such as relative model size (large models behave differently than small ones), the use cases and releases used. This then lets you make your mind up based upon facts.

To conclude, I’m all for competition. My team and I love to compete, but we like to do it by working hard and producing the best product possible instead of resorting to rhetoric. I think we’re doing a great job of this but of course, we always can do better. Feel free to e-mail me at mark.lukianchuk@ca.com if you have any ideas.


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