You need to understand the way software firms, consultants and advisory services interact with one another.

In the process of thoroughly confusing yourself trying to scan the software market for something resembling a solution to your problem, you will at some point realize that there aren’t many places to go for an objective appraisal of applications or vendors.

That’s because, in my view, all the players in the software market — the firms themselves, consulting companies, advisory services, user groups, associations and conference organizations, and hardware and network providers — act in a way that is (shocking!) mostly designed to perpetuate and increase spending on software and related products and services.

Yes, firms strive to be competitive and earn your business, and will tell you why their solutions are better than others. But few players in the software market — even subscription advisory services — will solidly endorse or, alternately, steer you clear of, a particular software or consulting organization or its products and services.

[pullquote]There’s just very little clear-cut information to be had. Advisory firms don’t want to dismiss anyone because they rely on all players to provide them information, buy their services, and attend their conferences.[/pullquote] IBM Consulting Services is not going to advise you that SAP or Oracle would be a terrible choice — their consulting revenues depend on a stream of projects implementing those same applications.

There are several well-respected organizations providing in-depth research and advisory services related to the entire IT industry. Their services and publications are indeed excellent, thorough and detailed, but only directionally conclusive and even then in a rather general and not exactly plain-spoken way, and accompanied by caveats.

Consider this summary statement from one such respected research firm, in a publication reviewing software for analyzing product assortment: “Use DemandTec if optimizing your assortment in a collaborative retailer and manufacturer environment, the ability to leverage localized incrementality and demand transfer analytics or leveraging your shopper insights is a key priority for your company.” Got it?

Adding to the noise are industry associations and a slew of online newsletters that seem to multiply over time…there’s CIO Magazine, CIO Research, IT Whitepapers, IT Whitepapers Business Intelligence, Enterprise Business Alert, Business Management Alert, Mobile Alert, Networking Alert, InfoWorld, Supply Chain Technology Bulletin, BI Technology Bulletin, and on and on…a flood of information, discussion, interviews, blogs, announcements, conference invitations and webinars.

All of it contributes to a general feeling of being in the woods, having no idea what the forest looks like. But one thing is sure: every topic is urgently important and deserving of weighty consideration equal to that given the most pressing and critical questions of our time.

Now hitting your inbox: “New survey – High performance analytics: Are you ready?” and “7 Best Practices for Developing in the Hybrid Cloud.” These digital marketing efforts are fueled by advertising for IT products and services — again, the self-perpetuating nature of the market.

It’s marketing, OK?  Just view it as that.  As I’ve said before, change the conversation.  Ask questions that come from deep within your understanding of your own situation and business, and insist that your vendor speak to those needs.

Software vendors have lots of value to offer.  Most are selling valuable solutions.  There is an intersection between your needs and the software; that is what you need to find, and understand completely.