What was the thinking behind the creation of the ASPnews Global Top 20, published this week? Here are answers to some of the questions people have been asking about the lists.
Why has ASPnews waited till now to publish a top 20?
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The ASP industry is just beginning to enter its most exciting phase. We have ended the “phoney war” period where there was more talk about what providers were going to do than real action. The first generation has now been testing their offerings in the market for over a year, and it becomes possible to rank them on execution and delivery as well as on concept and promise alone. While some are attracting publicity for failing to deliver on their vision, others are quietly building up solid, sustainable businesses without ever hitting the headlines. The Global Top 20 will help focus attention on those who are succeeding.
Why do you have two top 20 lists?
Many very important players in the ASP industry are not actually ASPs; their main business is in being a software vendor, an infrastructure provider, a systems manufacturer, and so on. Mixing those companies together with pureplay ASPs would have distorted the results, because important parameters such as revenues and customer numbers are not comparable between the two groups. By creating a separate list we can recognise their support and influence on the industry without diluting the impact of publishing a single, easily understood listing of the top 20 ASPs.
Why don’t you rank the lists from 1 to 20?
We know how much interest there would be in knowing who we judge to be the world’s number one ASP, or the top 1 to 5. Once we have finished refining the parameters we use for defining the top 20, it’s likely that we will begin to rank providers individually. But simply publishing our two top 20 lists has been controversial enough. Moving to individual rankings will have an even greater impact on the companies involved. We want to be absolutely confident that we have a robust and fair system in place before we take that next step.
Can you be more specific about the metrics you have used?
For the moment that’s our “secret sauce.” We’re going to run the Global Top 20 for several more months while we develop its stature as a recognized independent benchmark that defines the industry’s leaders. Once we’ve accomplished that and finished fine-tuning the formulae we use, we will be in a position to reveal more details of how we evaluate the various factors that determine who gets included. All we can say at the moment is that we take into account both the size of the active customer base and the value of established or recurring revenue streams, but also give significant weight to “soft” factors such as innovation, industry reputation and enthusiasm for the ASP or web services model.
Why is there only one company from outside the US?
There are many highly innovative and successful ASP ventures in regions such as Europe, Asia-Pacific and South America. While they have not yet reached the size and influence of their US counterparts, several European companies in particular are well on the way to catching up with and potentially displacing some of the US companies currently listed in the Global Top 20 ASPs. This is something we’ll be monitoring very carefully over the next few months, so watch this space.
Why do you have dot-com startups mixed in with enterprise ASPs?
Enterprise ASPs who deliver branded packaged software have caught most of the limelight in the early years of the ASP industry. But it has become clear that the most successful ASP business models work with software that has been designed for delivery as a web service. While there are a small number of enterprise application platforms that fall into that category, the majority of web-native applications today are those that have been developed from scratch by startups to deliver as their own service offering. Over time, it seems likely that we will see more of these web service vendors entering the list, and fewer enterprise ASPs and ISVs.
How often do you expect the names in the Global Top 20 lists to change?
As soon as the list went to press this week, one of the companies on it — Interliant — announced a scaling back of its ASP offerings. That example vividly illustrates how much change we are seeing in the industry at the moment. We will be reviewing and republishing the list each month, and although the selection parameters are designed to keep the list relatively stable, it seems likely that one or two names will change each time we publish the list. There are certainly some deserving companies that narrowly missed inclusion this time and whose positions we will be regularly reviewing. The changes that are likely to emerge over the next few months are sure to make fascinating reading.