[More in a series of posts inspired by the "PM in an on-demand world" research that I've been doing. Here's the link to yesterday's thought du jour.]
During the research interviews about PM and SaaS, I was struck by how philosophical the conversations got. To the interviewees, SaaS was not merely a delivery vehicle, but a fundamental decision about their business. Bringing technology producers and consumers closer together forced many vendors to admit that they had a vague, incomplete idea of who adopts their products and services, why they do it, and how they do it. The subscription model led to many hard questions about how the company makes money. Marketers had to deal with a significantly modified value proposition, while simultaneously knocking down some new potential objections (most notably, security).
But those are just the most obvious consequences. The deeper we got into the research, the more I felt that we were talking about other ripple effects of SaaS, PaaS, and the other aaSes. At least a couple of Big Industry Trends – the kind that Very Serious People spend a great deal of time talking about – owe a great deal to SaaS. Without the success of SaaS, many organizations would not have been as open to embracing other changes. I'll mention just two of them, Agile and social media, among several that we'll discuss in the final report.
As promised, still more SaaS! Following an excellent day of discussion about PM in an on-demand world, I started over here at the fresh-out-of-the-shrinkwrap Forrester community site. Topic: On demand is a business model choice, not just a delivery mechanism. Discuss.
I'm working on a report about the role of PM in an on demand setting (SaaS, PaaS, and all the other aaSes). As often happens in discussions about PM, the role is a window into many bigger issues. Since their responsibilities span both business and technology, product managers and product marketers find themselves in the middle of many fundamental questions for technology vendors, such as, How often should we deliver something new to our customers?
That question has two sides: (1) how often do customers want to receive something new, and (2) how often can the vendor deliver it. Both questions can be difficult to answer. Customers often want tech vendors to deliver value faster, but they also complain if the changes happen too fast. Vendors know that they could deliver new technology every time they do a build, but they also know that the entire company (sales, marketing, support, etc.) won't be able to keep up at that pace. There must be some golden mean between the pace of technology production and consumption, but what is it?
By shortening the distance between producers and consumers, on demand, and SaaS in particular, has made it easier to reach a meaningful answer. The on-premise model creates a very long value stream between the development team at the beginning of the technology adoption process, and the users at the very end. In fact, adoption is, at best, a blurry image on the distant horizon of the development team's field of vision. Since the success of a development team's work products depend on its adoption, lack of information about adoption is not an information gap, but a yawning chasm.
This year SAPPHIRE officially changed its name and became SAPPHIRE NOW. Why? Different answers from different people. Those that should know said: "The new name stresses the urgency." Urgency for whom, SAP? And will the next SAPPHIRE be named SAPPHIRE THEN? Never change a successful brand.
Another premiere for SAPPHIRE was the simultaneous show in Orlando, US and Frankfurt, Germany. With 5,000 attendees in Frankfurt, 10,500 in Orlando and 35,000 online participants, this was the biggest SAPPHIRE event ever. I must admit I was concerned going to Frankfurt while everyone in Walldorf desperately tried to escape to Orlando. Who wants to attend a second-hand event? But now I’m a believer. SAP managed to balance the important parts of the show between Orlando and Frankfurt. Keynotes were held simultaneously in both locations via virtual video connection and speakers in both cities. In general I never had the feeling I would miss anything important in Frankfurt simply because it was the smaller event overall. It didn’t make a difference if I couldn’t attend another 400 presentations in Frankfurt or 800 in Orlando from the total of 1,200+ presentations – I had a packed agenda and got all that I expected and needed, including 1:1 meetings with SAP executives like Jim Snabe. The simultaneous, virtual set-up not only helped to save a lot of cost, it created a sense of a bigger virtual community and underlined SAP’s ambitions for more sustainability. To all that traveled intercontinental: Shame on you, next year stay in your home region!
Like every show SAPPHIRE 2010 had its stars as well:
Today, Google announced Google App Engine for Business, and integration with VMware’s SpringSource offerings. On Monday, we got a preview of the news from David Glazer, Engineering Director at Google, and Jerry Chen, Senior Director Cloud Services at VMware.
For tech industry strategists, this is another step in the development of cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Java Spring developers now have a full platform-as-a-service host offering in Google App Engine for Business, the previously announced VMforce offering from salesforce.com, plus the options of running their own platform and OS stacks on premise or in virtual machines at service providers supporting vCloud Express, such as Terremark.
What’s next? IBM and Oracle have yet to put up full Java PaaS offerings, so I expect that to show up sometime soon – feels late already for them to put up some kind of early developer version. And SAP is also likely to create their own PaaS offering. But it’s not clear if any of them will put the same emphasis on portability and flexible, rich Web-facing apps that Google and VMware are.
So Google aims to expand into enterprise support – but will need more than the planned SQL support, SSL, and SLAs they are adding this year. They'll also need to figure out how to fully integrate into corporate networks, the way that CloudSwitch aims to do.
I've had a couple of interesting discussions about telecom and network equipment makers in the last few days. How can they take advantage of the cloud mania? Here are some quick thoughts:
1. Offer their equipment on a pay-per-use basis. Requires them to assume capital risk and bulk up the balance sheet. Might cannibalize gear sales. The usage pricing should be attractive for occasional use, but unattractive for constant use.
2. Create a cloud service that complements and advantages their telecom gear. Since the equipment sits in telecom operators and service providers around the world, work with customers to create a service that builds on data collected, with permission, from the experience of those customers.
3. Explore whether there's a service-only offering that is attractive to operators and hosters. Can a telecom equipment vendor offer capability as a cloud service, rather than as an on-premise product? There's probably something, but I don't know the market well enough to know. But I can't imagine cloud services fully replacing on-premises equipment.
What are your thoughts on how telecom equipment makers can take advantage of cloud services opportunities?
Every spring I’m faced with the wonderful opportunity – and challenge – of choosing the best questions for Forrester's annual 20 minute Web survey of commercial buyers of IT infrastructure and hardware across North America and Europe.
As technology industry strategists, what themes or hypotheses in IT infrastructure do you think we should focus on? What are the emerging topics with the potential for large, long term consequences, such as cloud computing, that you’d like to see survey data on? Please offer your suggestions in the comments below by May 21!
This year, I’m proposing the following focus areas for the survey:
New client system deployment strategies– virtual desktops, bring-your-own-PC, Win 7, smartphones, and tablets
Hypothesis: Early adopters are embracing virtual desktops and bring-your-own-PC, but the mainstream will proceed with standard Win 7 deployments