I was recently asked about the importance of selling skills for CIOs - does a CIO need to be a good salesperson? It seems to me the answer to this should be a resounding yes. After all, IT executives need to be able to sell themselves effectively in order to attain the heights of the C-Suite. Great CIOs must be great communicators, capable of delivering a compelling presentation or a memorable speech, and inspiring others to follow them.
But what of sales skills beyond being a good presenter? Since many sales skills are focused on understanding people and connecting with them, I've found sales training to be highly effective on two levels:
Developing better listening skills. One of the first things you learn as a salesperson is not how to make a pitch, but how to listen to a customer - only by listening can a good salesperson effectively satisfy the needs of a prospect/customer.
Understanding how products/services meet the customer needs. Salespeople spend a lot of time learning about a firm's products and services; they learn how they meet the various customer needs and they learn how to present them in the best light.
Last week, Forrester held its annual IT Forum in Las Vegas with the interesting theme, “The Business Technology Transformation: Making It Real.” Gathering together a group of IT professionals and vendors interested in how business leaders will insert themselves into technology decisions, it provided a perfect opportunity for me to discuss Technology Libertarianism – my shorthand for IT departments that take a hands off approach to technologies workers want to use to do their jobs. On the floor of the conference I talked to an IT professional at a large, national non-profit organization and two information workers from at a public corporation providing a popular software-as-a-service application.
The conversation with the IT professional centered on his organization’s need for standardization: they were making efforts to have a homogeneous computing environment for the purposes of having greater control. During our talk, we discussed the influence an end user could possibly have over applications and hardware. His thoughts? While the end users in his organization needed a standard set of applications, and they needed to control the desktop environment to ensure delivery of said applications, he could see the potential of not having to standardize smartphones. When I introduced the idea of virtual desktops to push applications or software-as-a-service, which would allow him not to have to standardize the desktop, he did concede those are interesting ideas. However, he needed to see more evidence that these could be effective solutions for his organization.
Forrester has a new book coming out soon entitled Empowered written by two Forrester analysts. Its focus is on the power of social technologies in the hands of the general public and what this means for businesses. Although the book concentrates on sales and marketing, the implications for learning are huge. Empowered challenges businesses to give their employees the power of social technologies to respond quickly to customer needs. No one knows the customers better than the employees who work with them daily so “unleash” these employees from the established process and boundaries and encourage them to come up with solutions to customer problems, to issues in the work environment, and even to learning topics. The book’s vivid examples show the dangers of remaining in a status quo mode. It also profiles innovative company employees (called HEROes) who have generated approaches using technologies that have made a major difference in their companies’ ability to communicate quickly and successfully with customers. The message of the book: To succeed with empowered customers, you must empower your employees to solve customer problems.
In the past few months, I've regularly posted Data Digests on people's online shopping behavior. However, not every Internet user actually buys products online. Our Technographics® data shows that about 57% of European Internet users and about two-thirds of US online adults have purchased something online in the past three months. Concerns about privacy, delivery, and returns keep the others from making a purchase; women feel more strongly about delivery costs and the need to see (and feel) the product before they buy than men do.
When asked what would motivate them to start purchasing products or services online, lower shipping costs (43%), lower online prices (42%), and the ability to return products easily (27%) top the list. Retailers have to make the cross-channel shopping experience as easy as possible to cater to the needs of those online consumers who do research products but don't purchase them online — yet.
Many industry watchers, including me and my Forrester Research colleagues, often highlight an elite group of management software megavendors commonly known as the “Big Four” that consists of BMC Software, CA Technologies (as it is now called), HP Software, and IBM Tivoli. These four have dominated the management software business for well over a decade. They are big by just about any measure, each with a broad array of product families and annual revenues exceeding one billion US dollars. Because of their stature, they are generally positioned as anchors in most enterprises' management software portfolios. An anchor vendor becomes a strategic partner to the enterprise and is usually the default first choice for a particular need.
TECH DEVELOPMENTS: I have been re-reading Clayton M. Christensen’s The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail in preparation for a session that Chris Mines and I are running on adapting to the Next Big Thing at Forrester’s IT Forum 2010.* Last week, I attended SAP’s SAPPHIRE NOW conference in Orlando, listened to co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe, and met with McDermott along with other Forrester colleagues. The juxtaposition of the book and the event caused me to wonder: is SAP like one of the highly successful companies in Christensen’s book that failed to adapt to disruptive technologies? As Christensen noted, “the managers of the companies studied here had a great track record in understanding customers’ future needs, identifying which technologies could best address those needs, and in investing to develop and implement them.”
Everything that McDermott and Snabe said was consistent with these characteristics. They talked about how companies were facing a world of mobile, empowered customers; their need to be connected with each other to optimize the value chain through to the end consumer; the desire for new process flows; and the importance to them of fast decision-making. They identified a combination of on-premise, on-demand, and on-device solutions that SAP will be offering to meet these needs. They discussed SAP’s investments and new offerings in these areas, including its acquisition of Sybase for its mobile solutions and real-time analytics capabilities.
In addition to my software pricing and licensing research, I also study use of technology to improve procure-to-pay (P2P) processes; so, I'm always interested in customer presentations at software company events, in case I can spot some new best practices or interesting trends. This week I’m at Ariba LIVE in Orlando, but last week I was at SAPPHIRE NOW in Frankfurt, where I attended a presentation by a project manager from a large German car manufacturer talking about his rollout of SAP’s SRM product. Given that it wasn’t in his first language, the presentation was very good, and quite humbling to an anglophone, even a relatively multi-lingual one. (I can say “two beers, please” in eight other languages, but wouldn’t dream of presenting in any of them).
However, the overall case study was disappointing. I won't name the company, but I’ll just say that the SRM implementation didn’t look to me like as good a “leap forward through technology” as I expect to see in a showcase presentation. In particular, I was disappointed to see that this company is:
Sarah Rotman Epps and I have just published a new report: “The Windows 7 Tablet Imperative.” Dell gained some publicity this week with its release of the 5-inch, Android-based Dell Streak device – but that device has more in common with mobile Smartphones (or even the iPod Touch) than it does with the iPad.
What we’re watching closely is the next generation of tablet PCs – larger form factor devices that make up a fourth PC form factor. Regardless of OS – the iPad itself runs iPhone OS, but we see it as a PC – these tablets will be used by consumers for media, gaming, light communications, and casual computing in new rooms in the home.
To compete with the iPad, these devices must embrace Curated Computing as their design approach – tablets that work exactly like laptops don’t make sense. Without Curated Computing, a tablet would take away features (keyboard, mouse) while not fundamentally tailoring the user experience to the tablet form factor.
I’m excited to be returning to the ideas of the Personal Cloud report that I published last July. In that report, I described how computing by individuals will shift from being device-centric, as it is today, to be being information-centric across devices and online services. Think of Personal Cloud as the following idea:
Federated sets of Internet-based digital services for individuals that act as a permanent and flexible resource to:
1) organize and preserve personal information, documents, media, and communications;
2) deliver that information on demand to any device or service; and
3) orchestrate integration of personal information across all digital devices and services.
Personal cloud service providers will build a combination of a data center cloud software platform, browser-based code to enable rich Web experiences, and device-level player or presentation code for richer experiences than the browser can provide, including offline access. And they will create an ecosystem of complementary software and service providers on top of their own offerings.
Tomorrow, Thursday, May 27th, I’ll be hosting a panel on Personal Cloud at the Forrester IT Forum with three executives at companies that are building elements of the personal cloud ecosystem:
Today Google announced that it had generated $54 billion worth of economic activity in the US in 2009. The report, which shows state by state economic contribution, bases Google's total value on three factors: 1) Sales driven through AdSense and AdWords; 2) Ad revenue generated for publishers through AdSense; and 3) Google grants. As a research analyst, I'll admit that you can make numbers tell any story you want to, and my gut here is that this report is principally a PR effort to: 1) Communicate some altruism about the Google brand that has been getting some bad press of late; 2) Simplify the complex transformation Google has brought to advertising into a simple, single number; 3) Shift the focus away from questionable strategic decisions that Google has recently made. I wholeheartedly believe that Google has transformed advertising and is almost singularly responsible for the phenomenon of biddable media buying which I think will ultimately replace relationship-facilitated media buys across channels. But I don't believe that Google stimulated $54 billion worth of business. I think what Google did do is provide a new revenue stream to small businesses and site owners, catalyze some new sales, and take a share of commerce and media expenditures that would have happened anyway.