My take is that this is all much ado about nothing. Why?
*Google is an easy target. Google is so large, and has seen such rapid growth over the last 3 years, that we all (competitors, consumers, government officials, press, industry analysts) can't help but be a little suspicious of them. And maybe a little jealous of their wealth and presence.
During a recent trip to Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, I was treated to a tour of the company's Workplace Advantage showroom. Workplace Advantage is a Microsoft real estate and facilities management program “focused on empowering Microsoft’s employees by creating new work environments that foster innovation and productivity and that reflect the culture and position of Microsoft in the marketplace as a visionary technology leader,” according to the program’s glossy literature. Some highlights:
Forrester encourages B2B marketers to use online video, recorded Web seminars, and other rich media to educate, train, and persuade buyers. Through testimonials and case studies, video creates a lasting impression and emotional bond that is important in business marketing. It’s also less risky to experiment with this medium with the cost of recording decreasing.
But how far can B2B marketers push video from traditional interview or demonstration formats into non-traditional word-of-mouth? Clients see consumer-oriented video ads on YouTube and ask if we see viral video work in business marketing. The answer? We don’t see much.
Exceptions do arise: Scalent VP of Marketing and friend, Kevin Epstein, sent me an April Fool’s joke video his team put together, and – on a whim – decided to post on YouTube. Kevin wrote about this decision on his blog and I asked Forrester’s marketing research team to look and weigh in. Our take: video may become the digital tchotchke: logo-emblazoned pens, toys, and other useless items companies give to prospects or hand out at tradeshows.
I’d like to hear what my colleagues out there think about the convergence of structured and unstructured data business intelligence. Here are the intersects as I see them. I see two types of BI paradigms emerging in the future:
Structured OLAP will continue to be just that – structured, as far as the process and UI are concerned. However, to become more effective, we will need to bring unstructured data into the analysis, in a way that is transparent to the end user. For example, as we are creating customer segmentation analysis for a marketing campaign, in addition to structured data such as customer demographics and prior buying behavior, we’d want to bring in comments hidden in customer email and voice mail requests. In an ideal environment, the OLAP engine will automatically match these emails to a customer dimension and quantify and qualify comments into star schema facts (number of requests) and dimensions (request types).
Combination of search and light-weight query used for ad-hoc research and analysis. Here, a familiar search text box should be the main UI, however, the engine should be smart enough to a) quantify and qualify unstructured results into facts and dimensions – a so called guided search, or b) recognize that the request is actually about data stored in a structured repository and automatically return search results via OLAP, cross tab or tabular report format.
Early this morning Microsoft announced it will buy online marketing company aQuantive -- the holding parent of interactive agency Avenue A/Razorfish, display and paid search ad mangement platform Atlas and inventory management system DrivePM. The $6 billion deal cash deal represents an 85% premium to aQuantive's closing price last night and will likely close during the first half of 2008.
I think there are two obvious calls to make based on this deal:
1. The acquisition certainly builds out Microsoft's access to the entire online advertising supply chain. Prior to the acquisition Microsoft had the execution channel -- sites where advertisers could buy ads. Now, they also have the upstream pieces of this chain: planning, strategy, creative. WPP is working toward a similar goal with its recent announcement to acquire 24/7 Real Media. But WPP had the planning, strategy, and creative pieces and bought 24/7 for access to the downstream channel.
It's Thursday night of Forrester IT Forum and I've had 19 formal one-on-one meetings with attendees so far, and talked with dozens of other people during meals and breaks and before and after presentations. There's something striking about these conversations, compared to years past. Pretty much every meeting I've had with non-vendor attendees has been about their organization's enterprise collaboration strategy or Information Workplace strategy — or their need to develop one. I've been speaking with information and knowledge management professionals with titles like CIO, VP Emerging Technology, Sr. Project Leader, Dir. Global Strategy and Architecture, and VP of Information Systems. They are coming to 1:1 meetings extremely well-prepared, armed with architecture diagrams, drafts of their collaboration strategy documents, and lists of carefully thought-through questions. What a difference from five years ago when common questions were, "What are other companies doing in the area of collaboration?" or "Which is a better team collaboration tool: eRoom or Groove?"
Greetings from beautiful Stone Mountain, GA, where I am currently prepping for my presentation tomorrow at Silverpop's Digital Marketer Customer Conference. I'm looking forward to hearing more about the Silverpop/VTrenz deal tomorrow, but here are my thoughts so far:
Overall, I think this is a good move for Silverpop and an even better one for VTrenz.
VTrenz gets access to enterprise customers, and Silverpop's well-established resources: R&D, client base, professional services team. And they break into the mainstream email marketing space. A coup I think for a niche player from Fargo,ND which to date has been company to a solid, but very small collective of B2B electronic lead management tools.
And Silverpop enters a new market: B2B and now has a ready-made solution for marketers trying to use email to sell high-consideration products (think cars or health insurance rather than books or pet supplies).
Earlier today, Silverpopannounced their acquisition of marketing demand management start-up Vtrenz. My colleague Shar VanBoskirk and I had the opportunity preview this event with Bill Nussey and Will Schnabel. From a B2B marketing perspective, this combination holds promise because email and lead nurturing make good bedfellows. In B2B, email is a low cost way to continue prospect conversations and it gives marketing a direct channel for incubating buyers during longer B2B purchase cycles.
Because there's not a lot of overlap in technology or customer bases here, the prospects for a richer, more rounded offering are good. However, this combination is not unique: Eloqua also offers email, lead warming, and prospect analytic solutions. So -- other than giving Eloqua some stiffer competition -- will this merger matter in the greater email market? Probably not, but I'll let Shar weigh in on that question.
SAP has addressed a major gap in its business planning performance management offerings with the acquisition of Outlooksoft today. The internally-developed SAP offerings known as SEM had seen limited traction among its customer base do to usability and complexity issues. SAP has been vulnerable to competitors (e.g., Hyperion, Cognos), particularly in the planning and budgeting domain.
Outlooksoft’s offering, by contrast, features a native Excel UI that appeals to finance and business users, and has integrated capabilities for planning, financial consolidations, and business performance analytics. It has seen good traction as a best-of-breed offering, with a base of approximately 700 customers. Its newest release (5.0) incorporates SOA and Web 2.0 technologies, making it compatible with SAP’s technology directions. Also, Outlooksoft has begun to move away from its sole dependency on the Microsoft BI platform.
SAP's annual Americas user conference was held last week (April 23-25), with impressive attendance of approximately 14,000. The abrupt departure of Shai Agassi a few weeks prior to the event was well covered, as Hasso Plattner stepped in to handle the technical vision keynote slot. A key message of the event was progress in adoption of SAP's NetWeaver platform and the latest release of the ERP suite, renamed ERP 6.0 from mySAP ERP 2005. ERP 6.0 adoption was announced to be approximately 2,600 to date, but upgrades from the older 4.6C and 4.7 versions continue to be a challenge for customers. SAP is looking to have 75% of its ERP base upgraded by mid-2008. Besides relief from rising support costs under the 5-1-2 maintenance plan, customers who upgrade to 6.0 can take advantage of a series of forthcoming enhancement packs as incremental add-ons (a strategy reminiscent of Oracle's family pack releases).