Having been deeply involved with ETRM, CTRM, and CM software since its inception, I have seen countless vendors and products come and go. Patrick and I must have seen every product out there at some point or another. One thing I have noticed in the last 25-years of observing this software category is that there are certain periods in which new vendors pop up all over the place. Now is one of those periods. This will not be an exhaustive list by any means but recently, vendors like CTRMCubed, Topaz Technology, Skarvi Systems, Previse Systems, CoreTRM, EnHelix, Satoshi Systems, and others have all emerged over the last couple of years or so. Others, like Datamine, have moved into CTRM from peripheral software categories. The CTRM Directory is getting longer with each passing month and buyers have more choice.
Now, this goes totally against the prevailing theories around how software categories develop through time in which it is expected that consolidation will take place resulting in a small group of dominant vendors. I suppose that you could argue that this has taken place to a degree as there has been consolidation via M&A activity all through CTRM history. The latest of these is, of course, Ion. But in the past, it was Sungard (Now FIS), Caminus (rolled up into FIS), and so on. However, the explosion of new solutions often built and promoted by industry veterans or entrepreneurs who have already been through a cycle or two of developing CTRM software suggests an underlying level of dissatisfaction with the existing landscape. Just reading back a couple of recent articles here shows that ex-traders are getting into the software business to develop a better CTRM solution.
In fact, ComTech has a model to explain all of this developed over the last 25-years. We call it the dislocation model and you can find an explanation of it in this article. CTRM isn’t really a packaged software market. It is more of a custom software market and hence many solutions are usually only a semi-fit to requirements and sub-optimal at best. The use of deep configurability by vendors helps make their software more broadly applicable yes, but it also makes it significantly more complex as well. In an industry where the requirements are changing rapidly and often abruptly, this complexity can even become a hindrance and it is quite common to see users working with solutions that are multiple releases behind the current version offered by the vendor as one result of this. It also helps to explain the pervasive use of spreadsheets across the industry.
But things are evolving and changing. With each new wave of new technology, there appears a host of new solutions trying to take advantage of it. There are also many solutions that are targeted at specific use cases whether that be what we term ‘stranded vendors’ or as a result of strategy on the part of the vendor. The concept of an ecosystem of solutions has emerged in the last few years with the vision of allowing a mixture of products – custom and commercial – that all talk to one another via open APIs. Although usually very resistant to standards, the emergence of blockchain has at least resulted in more attempts at industry collaboration and some argue that only by increasing standardization in the industry, can the problems it faces really be solved with packaged software. The problem here is that this is an industry that guards its perceived competitive and strategic advantages very closely indeed and that makes standardization harder. Unless, of course, it is focused on certain areas where most agree no commercial advantage is to be gained – and this is a trend that we see.
In the end though, while much has changed over a quarter of a century, really nothing has changed at all. CTRM software remains a category in which there are over a hundred products vying for users and new ones emerge monthly. There is still no all-singing, all-dancing solution out there that suits all industry segments for multiple commodities, and that particular vision actually seems as far away today as it did in the beginning, despite new architectures and technologies. Spreadsheets still abound. Old legacy solutions too. Many would still prefer to build their own internal solutions.
Attempting to understand all of this is difficult. The complexities are often hidden in commonly used terminologies and those from outside of the industry don’t initially see where the complexity hides. Sometimes, what is needed are insights into not just the landscape but its evolution. That’s what ComTech is there for. Contact us if you want to understand this complex software category or if you want to select the right product and are worried you missed a couple of vendors (we don’t do selection but we do do market sweeps). Use the tools on this site like the directory, sourcebook and other reports. Keep current with vendor activity and industry news. It’s all here – on CTRMCenter.