As the tech economy has adjusted to the current economic environment, there has been a great deal of debate in both the vendor and investor communities about vendor consolidation. While there is little doubt that companies have been cutting back on expenses generally in response to economic uncertainty, startups in particular have been feeling the pain of contracting budgets and reluctant investors.\n\nThanks to the team at Foundry, I was able to gain input from those whose opinions matter most - the senior IT executives at mid-sized to large companies who are placing the purchase orders and determining which vendors to leverage - and which to cut back. We recently ran a poll on the CIO Tech Talk community to ask questions and gauge input on the topic of vendor consolidation from the buyer\u2019s perspective: how real it is, how widespread, and whether this is a permanent shift or just a short-term blip.\n\nOur poll received excellent feedback - in addition to receiving a significant base of survey respondents, a number of community members provided additional commentary. While I expected this exercise to confirm that consolidation is real, I was pleasantly surprised with the degree to which the CIO Tech Talk Community confirmed it - and how they are taking steps to realign their procurement and vendor management strategies.\n\nVendor consolidation is very real\n\nWe got right to the point with the first question - \u201cIs your organization planning to consolidate vendors in the next 12 months\u201d - and the answer we got back from the community was stunningly clear and unambiguous - 95% of respondents confirmed that, yes, they are planning to consolidate.\n\nWhen we asked what\u2019s driving that consolidation, finance-driven reasons were close to - but not at - the top. An even greater reason given was the desire to consolidate systems architecture and reduce the number of \u201cpoint solutions\u201d - which 80% of respondents cited as a consolidation driver - while 69% of respondents cited finance driven cost-cutting.\n\nAs buyers consolidate, pressure on vendors increases\n\nClearly there is pressure to consolidate - both internally and externally driven. When we asked about the intensity of that pressure, 83% cited a moderate to high degree of pressure.\n\nThe implications are clear - IT organizations and environments have both reasons and motivations for reducing the number of vendors they are working with - and while the survey respondents were more evenly split on whether they prefer to work with smaller, more innovative vendors, vs larger, more established ones, I\u2019d suggest that it\u2019s highly likely that the smaller vendors will be the most impacted. By definition, of course, the larger vendors offer a greater degree of capability - if organizations are reducing the number of vendors they choose to work with, it only makes sense to focus on eliminating those with the smaller functional footprints, even if there is some degree of preference for innovation.\n\n10X in 10 Years - can this continue?\n\nVendors continue to proliferate - for instance, venture capitalist Matt Turck of Firstmark Capital has been building an annual \u201clandscape\u201d of Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Data (\u201cMAD\u201d) offerings since 2012, and the number of vendors has increased from 139 in 2012 to 1,416 in 2023. At this point in time, it needs to be asked whether such a rapid increase in the number of vendors is sustainable. Based on the feedback from the CIO Tech Talk base, at least for the near-term the answer appears to be \u201cno\u201d.\n\nWhen we asked the survey respondents how long they expect consolidation pressure to last, the result was a more normal distribution centered around early\/mid 2024 - but with a significant number of them expecting that this pressure will be ongoing.\n\nConsolidation has benefits - for buyers at least\n\nThe commentary on the poll was extensive - Tech Talk Community members had a great deal to say about this topic, and their commentary is illuminating. It\u2019s quite clear that many buyers see consolidation as a good thing - even if vendors and venture capitalists are obviously less sanguine.\n\nAmong the stated benefits from a buyer\u2019s perspective:\n\nPrice\/cost reduction\n\nEfficiency\n\nImproved supply chain management\n\nEconomic outlook\n\nSustainability\n\nImproved vendor communication\/collaboration\n\nQuality of service\n\nOther\n\nThere were also a few customers with concerns about consolidation\n\nWhat\u2019s next?\n\nI believe there are a few potential implications.\n\nThe most obvious one is a significant number of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the vendor community. Of course, M&A in the tech space is nothing particularly new, but barring a radical change in economic conditions, one can expect it to accelerate dramatically over the next 12-24 months as many venture-backed companies run perilously low on funds, and venture capital providers triage their portfolios to preserve funds for the most likely survivors. Private equity has played and will continue to play an important role in this consolidation, as a Synergy Research poll earlier this year strongly indicated, with private equity accounting for 91% of closed M&A deals in the past year.\n\nOf course, some startups will also shutdown. According to recent data from Carta, Q3 2023 saw the highest number of startup shutdowns yet due to bankruptcy or dissolution.\n\nAnother longer-term implication is the degree to which organizations are gravitating toward vertically-oriented, business-specific applications vs. more general-purpose horizontal platforms. By definition, any vertical solution will have fewer alternatives, a broader functional footprint and are less likely candidates for consolidation - for instance in a manufacturing company, manufacturing-specific applications are going to be less likely to be consolidated than horizontal IT platforms. I\u2019ll be discussing vertical vs horizontal solutions and their respective defensibility in a future post.\n\nOf course, what most industry participants are hoping for is ongoing economic recovery. I do expect the economy to continue improving - despite the turmoil currently in the world driven by the conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East - and the possibility of new conflict in Asia and elsewhere, election years tend to be good for the economy overall. Also the recent moderation of inflation, and IPOs of companies such as Klaviyo, Instacart & Arm, are hopeful signs that financial markets are starting to at least somewhat normalize. \n\nHowever economic recovery does not imply that financial markets will return to creating as many startups as we have seen in recent years. I expect - and CIO Tech Talk readers clearly seem to agree - that the \u201cnew normal\u201d will consist of fewer, financially stronger vendors.