Copy Notify: Data Leak Protection.

Data Leakage Protection

Does a 'Competitor Analysis' kill your creativity ?

By Mr. Zarir. M. Karbhari - Founder & CEO of CopyNotify!

A couple of months ago a close friend of mine decided to be an Angel Investor for my data leakage protection software product CopyNotify!. He comes to me one day , tells me he is ready to invest some funds in exchange for equity in the company, no reports, no projections, no competitor analysis .. nothing and just like that our anti data theft software (I like to call it our 'DLP Lite' software) got the much needed funding for its marketing efforts. We really needed to spread the word that a software like ours 'exists' for the small business community and marketing that can be expensive.

However with the funds being pumped in there was a further need to do things a little more formally specially in the department for 'forecasting the growth of our data security software for the next couple of months / years '. This process brought me to the doorstep of the ever so often touted 'competitor analysis'. So started the task where I was supposed to look at similar software products and do a comparison of features, pricing , branding and market positioning.

Let me point at this stage my angel investor had not asked me to do this, it was me in a some flash of enthusiasm, who had imposed this task on myself with a view it would be a good exercise to do .... WRONG WRONG WRONG !!! how wrong I was ..

The software so far had been created purely based on needs I had experienced within my office as well as discussions I had with numerous network administrators of networks usually found in a small business. These professionals were concerned about information security, always had feedback to give and wish lists of having a simple software to protect data in a simple yet very effective manner. So far while designing CopyNotify! I never spent too much time on the internet researching other data security software, instead I just read about problems people were having with the security of data in a small business environment and I kept adding features to solve those problems ... the software design life was so crystal clear and simple.

Obviously I was also doing something right as the software had sold over 7000 licenses and we have over 100 clients. Then I decided to do a formal competitor analysis ....and all HELL broke loose.

Suddenly I was deciding to add features to our data theft prevention software based on what a competitor had advertised and not because of a actual need I felt I should be solving for my small business users. I am not saying the features in my competitors software were useless, it was the process of adding feature to my software just because my competitor had it that was a faulty process. I realized the draft of my next version release was based on buzz words of my competitor's websites rather than being based on solving the information security needs of my targeted small business segment (as I understood it)...YES! this exercise of competitor analysis at least the way I was doing it was all wrong... it was killing my originality and creativity.

When you design a software product it MUST reflect your understanding of a 'need' that you are trying to solve and not addressing a 'need' as seen through your competitors point of view.

Not only did this 'competitor analysis' exercise hamper my individual creativity. it also started demoralizing me. I started to compare how much more my 'so called competitors' had done versus what I had managed to do. The well known fact that perhaps other users were using only 20% of the features of my competitor's software while my users were utilizing 95% of the features of CopyNotify! was totally lost by me.

So this whole 'competitor analysis' issue needs to be redefined, sure it is good to be exposed to some of the great software in your field but if you are going to want to really do something productive in terms of planning the future of your software, go back to the market , understand once again the 'needs' of the prospective customers are, see if these needs are being satisfied by existing software, decide whether it would a good need to satisfy through your software too.

Making a fancy spreadsheet comparing your product versus your competitors is a futile exercise not only for you but also for your investors who might be planning their future investor on it a market analysis, a need analysis and then let your originality take over as the market is big enough for everyone.

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