“How Do You Compare to GRC Vendor X?”

Why We Proudly Stick Out Like a Sore Thumb

By Jason Rohlf

This week, I have the pleasure of attending the GRC Conference co-sponsored by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA). I love doing events with both of these organizations, and this event in particular represents a fantastic cross-section of the professionals we love to work with at Onspring. Yesterday I chatted about auditing, compliance, risk management (both ERM and third party), policies and incident tracking, and that was all before lunch. I’ve also been fortunate to share time with some of our clients and partners, the type of people who make this job a joy each and every day.

If only it were all moonlight and roses. One thing I have discovered about working in the software space (or in any business for that matter) is the inevitable desire people have to compare you to your competition. The conversations that I truly enjoy involve learning about people’s goals and aspirations, deconstructing the problems that hold them back and coming up with ways to make their lives easier. Where I often get thrown a bit is when someone says,

“How do you compare yourselves to Product X?”

Frankly speaking, this is quite a loaded question. As humans, we naturally try to draw comparisons between things in order to build our own mental constructs. I understand why people ask this question. And if I’m getting this question on a regular basis, I would reasonably conclude that every other software company with which we compete for business is hearing it, too.

When I get the “how do you compare” question, I have to make a choice:

  • I could rattle off some canned response about this feature doing this better than that feature does that.
  • I could take the bait and ask deeper questions about exactly how they want to compare us – features, experience, philosophy, quality of staff, price?
  • I could even go down the more sinister path of telling horror stories about the other product, how it’s hard to use, difficult to implement or costly to maintain.

I imagine these to be “normal” responses to such a question, and much like the question itself, I can see why these responses would be offered. So, I can choose one of these responses, each of which could potentially lead to a slippery slope that becomes much more difficult to navigate as time goes on. Or, I can adopt the Sore Thumb approach.

When something “sticks out like a sore thumb” it means that people notice it because it’s inherently different from everything else around it. I realize drawing comparison to an injured appendage may not be the smartest way to describe your approach, but I do think it applies here. When I’m asked the “How do you compare?” question or one of its many derivatives, I simply respond as follows: “To be honest, I don’t really have any experience with Product X, and anything I’d tell you would just be hearsay, so I can’t honestly make that comparison. Instead I’d like to hear about your goals and objectives so we can figure out a way to leverage Onspring to help you accomplish them in the best way possible.” Period.

This is not a disingenuous or dismissive response. It’s simply a fact. At Onspring we don’t spend time worrying about what our competitors are doing or what they’re saying because we know it’s a waste of time to worry about things that we cannot control. We choose to remain focused on what we can control: the quality of our product, the success of our customers and the personal and professional well-being of our team. If we focus on these things alone, all the rest becomes background noise and not much more.

So if you’d like to ask me how we size up to the competition, don’t be surprised if I steer the conversation in the direction of what we can do to help you.

I’ll be easy to find; just look for the sore thumb.

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Image Sources:

  • procurious.com/procurement-news/best-blog-top-ways-stand-out-procurement
  • esl.culips.com/2012/01/to-stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb-culips-english-podcast