Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Citrix Online Executive Meet-Up here in Boston; as an East Coast-based technology analyst, I rarely see the vendors I cover in person without hopping on a plane. For those unfamiliar, Citrix Online is the maker of popular remote access and Web conferencing technologies GoToMyPC, GoToAssist, GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar. The centerpiece of this event was a customer panel exclusively made up of marketing professionals who use the conferencing technologies for customer and channel interactions. It was a fact I made sure to jot down in my notebook – why such a marketing-heavy panel? This prompted a broader question: are sales and marketing the real killer applications for Web conferencing?
A myriad of companies occupy the Web conferencing market, offering solutions that address four basic use cases:
Ad hoc meetings: collaborative sessions that need to happen on short notice. These could be quick screen sharing/document sharing sessions, technical support or demonstrations.
Formal meetings: planned sessions with formal agendas that are centered on a group considering one or more pieces of content.
Large & small group presentations: more formal events where a presenter addresses a group of some size with varying degrees of interactivity.
Training sessions: educational sessions where participants get information, have interactive learning sessions and can be tested on content.
I recently recorded a podcast with Stephanie Balaouras, discussing the potential for increased collaboration between crisis communication, business continuity, and risk management functions. The strategies that businesses implement to manage disasters can mean the difference between bankruptcy and resilience... and we unfortunately see reminders of this on an almost weekly basis.
As each disaster hits the news (BP’s oil spill in the Gulf Coast, the recent volcanic eruption over Iceland, the financial crisis, the H1N1 virus, the extreme weather that crippled Washington, DC this past winter, etc.), the overwhelmingly negative impacts that occur start to hit home. Fortunately, we are starting to see our clients turning more to their crisis communication, business continuity, and risk management teams to ensure that they are prepared for the worst.
There are many potential points of collaboration between these teams. . . from modeling critical business processes and assessing the business impact of incidents to executing effective remediation plans and conducting post-incident loss analysis. Recently, I’ve also seen companies that talk about starting from scratch with a risk management function, although they have already done a substantial amount of relevant work for their business continuity function.
Of course, while there are some good trends that point to increased cooperation, there are still many areas for further improvement for every company. In fact, our data shows it to be the rare case in which both internal and external crisis communication functions are handled well in the same plan, with one usually being much stronger and more of a focal point.
Defining a successful BI strategy is a lot more than gathering requirements and selecting a vendor. While it’s been a subject of many books, I know few of you have time to read them, so here’s a short version.
First defining what BI is and what it is not. Is it just reporting, analytics and dashboards? Or does it involve ETL, DW, portal, MDM, etc., as well?
If the former, you then need to define linkages, dependencies, overlaps and integration with all of the latter (including - very importantly - integration and coordination with the higher level enterprise architecture efforts). If latter, it’s a whole different subject. You then really do need to read a few thick books.
Ensure senior business executive commitment and top down mandate. If you cannot get that, do not proceed until you do. Two ways to “sell BI” to them (even though that’s not a good position to be in):
Educate them on BI ROI. Here's where you'd build a high level BI business case.
Deltek’s announcement today of its intent to acquire Maconomy has the potential to vault the vendor’s position as a potential leader in the project-based solutions (PBS) space. For midmarket organizations that deliver projects as a crucial part of their revenue generation, this is a good move.
While the focuses of the products share slight overlaps, the products themselves target different functionality and different markets. Deltek has long been a major vendor in the AEC and government contractor markets, while Maconomy, a Denmark-based PBS vendor, focuses on the public relations/advertising, legal, publishing and accounting markets.
Few overlaps – in customers and in industries.
Opening doors to new regions – Deltek has limited exposure in EMEA, and Maconomy has had a very difficult time penetrating North America.
Mature product sets – Deltek isn’t acquiring an idea but a full blown product. This will allow them to quickly pursue new customers in expanding regions.
What’s going to be a challenge:
Create visibility in existing markets in new regions – The struggles to gain penetration in the new regions won’t get any easier for either vendor; however, the solutions’ strengths may gain them easier entry.
Integration – Deltek is still working through integration challenges with some of its earlier acquisitions (namely, Welcom) and now adds another platform into the mix. The positive here is that Maconomy is fully functional on its own, and we don’t expect there to be huge overlap, if any.
Sales integration – Opening new regions and new industries can be a tough sales training challenge. Expect a few bumps.
Bob Calderoni and Tim Minahan, Ariba’s CEO and CMO respectively, explained their vision for the future of supplier networks at the company’s Ariba Live customer event this week. The basic concepts, of a B2B community with value-adding services for sellers, such as prospect discovery and multi-customer e-invoicing, is one I’ve advocated to network providers for a long time, including in my report of internetwork interoperability (Enterprises Should Push Supplier Networks To Deliver Interoperability). The community concept is certainly fashionable at the moment, with lots of business-to-business (B2B) technology vendors trying to match the success of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and the like. The big question is whether Ariba can achieve the universal reach that the commerce cloud will need if it is to deliver value to its members.
Social media consumers don’t seem to be worried by monopolies. As my daughters tell me, people of their age have to be on Facebook to know what’s going on. There’s no point using other services like MySpace or Bebo (or, for older readers, Yahoo Groups, Geocities, Friends Reunited, and their equally overhyped predecessors), because everyone uses Facebook, and the community only works if everyone’s in it. It’s the same with B2B eCommerce — supplier-side members want to know about all the relevant parties (i.e., RFX’s), and party organizers (i.e., buyers) want to publish the invitation in one place yet still reach all their potential friends. In practice, this means the community must either be:
a) a broad stratus formation covering everything,
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.
So go ahead and sign up for the next sales training class being run in your organization - you may be pleasantly surprised!
Are CIOs the only people in IT needing sales skills?
I'd like to make the case for putting everyone in IT through sales training - here's why:
Enterprise telecoms market consolidation can disrupt your service delivery if your service provider is acquired by a competitor. Other disruptions that might have a negative impact on the quality of service delivery and/or account management by your provider of choice include your provider’s decision to spin off or sell assets and business operations that support services you depend on, or if they opt to exit a local market entirely – offering you just 60 days (and sometimes less) for you to make alternative arrangements.
If you don’t have a succession clause in your telecoms contracts today, consider adding one the next time you renew or sign a new contract for network and telecoms services, even if the service provider in question is not providing essential connectivity or other services. If you depend heavily on a single provider for supporting most of your network and telecoms service needs – such as local access, long-distance and international voice, and your data WAN – take the time at the earliest opportunity to discuss your options with your provider’s account team, with the aim of amending an in-progress contract. This should be done if you have more than 12 months remaining on a contract term, or if you have a revenue commitment that is less than 75% met. A clearly spelled out succession clause contributes to a successful commercial relationship between customer and service provider.
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.
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.