I continue to hear the question from analysts and others: Are you a software company or a services company? The implicit point is you cannot be both successfully.
Personally, I believe this is a red-herring that misses one of the key elements of AI and industrial software - namely the power of Man + Machine is greater than either stand-alone.
Our company, Verve Industrial, focuses on industrial control systems (ICS) cybersecurity. This is a market with very limited amount of experienced and trained personnel, ever-changing customer needs based on new and emerging threats, and significant coordination challenges across organizational boundaries (IT and OT). To me this sounds like most businesses going through a digital transformation.
In this kind of environment, customers want & need solutions, not components. They want an "output" rather than an "input". Perhaps in more static environments or where organizational questions are clear, separating into software and services may make sense. But our in our experience, putting these two elements together creates a better result for our customers. In fact, as we have enhanced our software, leveraging the latest architecture and machine-learning functionality, the power of Man + Machine is only getting stronger.
We see three benefits to integrated software & services.
- Our software provides a more customer-focused solution because we are providing services as well.
- Because we are working side-by-side with users, our development team understands real customer needs and use cases on a real-time basis
- Functionality is tested by our own expert resources who are providing services before features are deployed
- Although machine learning is getting better, it requires expert training from people that understand the topic in detail. By leveraging our services team, our models improve more rapidly
2. Our services are more effective because they are enabled by internally developed software.
Many would argue that services companies should be technology-agnostic. Our experience is that these environments require a combination of off-the-shelf technology as well as our own core technology stack to provide the complete solution in these unique "OT" environments. By having our own technology, we enable our services team to understand the detailed working of the software to ensure our clients get the most out of it. Because our software is an open platform that integrates with third-party cybersecurity components, from vendors such as CarbonBlack and IBM, we can still maintain our independence on critical components while providing customers an integrated solution.
3. The combination provides an effective "output" for customers rather than an "input"
In the ICS cybersecurity industry one of the primary challenges is integrating multiple potential components into an integrated solution. Different OEM vendors each have their solution. Providing complete protection and detection requires multiple different cybersecurity components - from anti-malware, to configuration management, to threat detection. At the same time, it requires people to harden systems, monitor for alerts, provide incident response, and - especially in ICS - expert hands to guide any remediation activities. However, customers are resource constrained to manage this complexity. By bringing together the software platform along with expert services, we can provide a turn-key solution that produces a hardened system that can be effectively monitored and maintained, rather than individual components that then must be knitted together into the right fabric of a solution.
I am certain this model does not apply in every instance. There are very good reasons in some sectors where the services capabilities or staff capacity or nature of the networks are more common that a relentless focus on either software or service makes the most sense. But in a world of limited resources, great uncertainty, challenging organizational challenges, and sensitive systems like we find in industrial controls cybersecurity, we find that the power of Man + Machine beats either one separately.