the software supermarket

July 22, 2008 at 2:33 pm | Posted in Business, Technology Trends | 1 Comment

I was discussing with a colleague the other day some of the trials and tribulations of modern-day software sales folks. Basically, it ain’t like it was 15 years ago. As my grandmother said — and she has been quoted by so many — the Internet has changed everything!

Years ago selling groceries was much like selling anything else. It was about relationships. You walked into a store and were met by the grocer who then took you around the place and helped fill your basket. He was a consultant as much as a grocer. “Mable, this syrup here is made from some mighty fine ingredients…” and the fact that it might be 15 cents higher disappears. And, there was probably only one or two other syrups to choose from. Then came the revolution. Folks started shopping BY THEMSELVES. Shelves had the selections lined up right against each other. Decision making was largely relegated to outside the store via branding and advertising. The “grocer” now just checked you out at the cash register.

Sound familiar? About 10 years ago, you could see the barrier to entry starting to fall rapidly in the software market. Infrastructures and frameworks took dev times from years to months.  eStores made buying simple and brought every product known to man into one tidy search results screen. Then the “try before you buy” model kicked in, and just like that, the “traditional” role of the sales rep disappeared.

Software is getting much, much harder to “sell.” It has to be “pulled” by the customer in many respects, not “pushed” from the vendor. And, nowadays, even large, complicated software systems once thought too large to be touched are falling prey to the same problems due to SaaS and (soon to be very popular) Cloud computing. Software sales reps are still vital to the equation, but in my opinion, their job is now harder than ever. The best ones will become consultants as much as sales reps, or they will gravitate to selling “services,” which for now at least, still maintains the characteristics of relationship selling.

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Guy Harrison’s cloud databases article part 2

July 16, 2008 at 10:40 pm | Posted in Technology Trends | 1 Comment
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As promised in my first note on this topic, here is part 2 of Guy’s article on cloud databases, which include simple introductions into C-Store and H-Store technology. It’s a quick read and a great primer if you’re looking for a place to start.

another saas challenge – traditional sales models

July 15, 2008 at 6:57 pm | Posted in Business, Technology Trends | Leave a comment
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It may seem like it, but I’m really not picking on saas. Rather, I’m just trying to wrap my head around it from all angles, and in particular, in how one would “transition” to it from more traditional business models. Here I talked about the challenge of how customers think about their budgets. Another challenge comes up in terms of traditional sales model, as talked about here by Rod Drury, the New Zealand dynamo. It’s short, and worth a quick read if you are curious about what a company faces moving to saas offerings.

give me internet or give me death (or at least no job)

July 14, 2008 at 7:38 am | Posted in Technology Trends | 1 Comment
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About a year ago, my cousin who is a junior in college, wasn’t returning my emails. I got frustrated and sent her a text message. Within a minute, I had a response. After further dialog (we did actually “talk”) I found that email was “so 90’s” and that to keep up with her, I would need to social network. This led to a discussion at work where I predicted that this generation will not tolerate what we currently call “collaboration” in today’s workforce.

Fast forward to today. Had a conversation with a customer who had a really sharp intern they wanted to hire. Kid politely says, “no thanks.” They ask him why and he said, “Everything’s great, but I can’t facebook.” This led the guy to poll his audience at a major college where he talks to Freshman classes about choosing a major. (he’s trying to spawn interest in IT). It was a class of about 450.

Question: How many of you have email accounts? Everyone.

Question: How many use their email accounts for social communication. Nobody.

Question: How many of you would turn down a job offer if you didn’t have free access to the Internet? Half.

The times, they are a changin’.

excellent cloud database article

July 9, 2008 at 5:07 pm | Posted in Technology Trends | 2 Comments
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Several have asked me for more information on the general concept of cloud databases and their impact on the database market. I would highly recommend this article written by a colleague of mine, Guy Harrison, who is one of the brightest minds in the database and development industry from a practical perspective. Meaning, Guy has the rare ability to distinguish theoretical hopefuls from probable actuals. As such, this article gives a nice, grounded view of all this talk about cloud databases. It’s part 1 of 2, so when the 2nd part comes out, I’ll let you know.

saas obstacles to adoption

July 6, 2008 at 1:24 am | Posted in Business, Technology Trends | 1 Comment
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Tony Bain has written a nice succinct post from someplace we don’t hear from often: the real world. 😉 It is a quick and interesting read on a few obstacles to saas adoption. This one is VERY true, yet often overlooked. (note: CAPEX = Capital Expense; OPEX = Operational Expense)

CAPEX vs OPEX. The primary issue we encounter when positioning SAAS is an organisations budgeting process hadn’t planned for a SAAS offering. Many customers get a CAPEX budget approved in advance, then evaluate tools and on making their selection they need to spend the budgeted CAPEX. An OPEX based SAAS offering may be a good fit for them, but the requirement to go back and redo budgeting is so undesirable that almost always in this situation the customer will elect the CAPEX option.

It’s not like it’s tough to overcome technically, but it will require a shift in budgeting philosophy.

should oracle have bought mysql?

July 4, 2008 at 9:30 am | Posted in Business, Technology Trends | 7 Comments
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I’ve talked a bit about MySQL and a commenter on that thread agreed that they are really well positioned to be a cloud player. Before Sun acquired them, it was public knowledge that Oracle had made a bid for MySQL. Marten Mickos, MySQL’s CEO, got pretty aggressive in the media against the bid saying they didn’t want to be acquired, but rather wanted to grow to be a strong, independent company. Then they were bought by Sun. I think Marten would make the argument that they ARE still a strong, independent *database* company, even though they are inside of Sun. And that does have some merit.

But that said, MySQL was accountable to their investors and if Oracle had bid high enough, the deal would have happened. I was asked on a call the other day if Oracle screwed up by not making that deal happen. In the short-term, I don’t think so. But in the long term… I think they have a real threat on their hands.

Cloud computing represents the biggest disruptive technology the industry has seen in a long time. Today, the cloud databases are not anywhere nearly as capable as their traditional counterparts. How much do they need to be? You can pretty much do everything you need in the app layer. It’s harder, but does have it’s benefits. But of all the “traditional” databases, MySQL is best positioned (I think) to move to the cloud effectively.

We shall see, but I think it would have been wise for Oracle to pony up now and have them under their umbrella. Then again, Larry [Ellison, Oracle CEO) seems to have done OK thus far without any advice from me. 😉

Mac update — top good and bad things I’ve seen

June 30, 2008 at 7:48 am | Posted in Technology Trends | Leave a comment
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First, I must say I’m glad I got a Mac for at least one reason: It has come up in 3 business conversations in the past few weeks.  Mac seems to be making more inroads into organizations via executives.  Interesting.  So, that allows me to post it here under technology trends.

For those that care, here’s an update on my experience after a few weekends of playing with my new iMac.

my last post on my Mac generated a lot of conversation and I’ve even made a few new cyber friends, whom I promised updates from time to time.  Right now, there’s more good than bad about my Mac experience.  Here are the top 5 things that really impress me:

1) Resource management.  I can multi-task some seriously intensive activity with pretty amazing results.  Even thought my i/o and/or CPU seems pegged, the ability to still navigate with reasonable responsiveness seems far superior to Vista.  (I have a 6-mo old vista machine on roughly the same level of hardware levels)

2) Spaces.  Should be a requirement for any graphical interface.

3) Installs.  Drop a file into a directory.  I was hearkened back to my first experiences with Oracle when I realized how easy it was to install multiple database instances on a Unix box.

4) Uninstalls.  Delete the file.  Ahhhhhh.  Gotta love that unix.

5) Webcam/photo booth.  The quality of the built-in webcam on the iMac is really top notch.  does great in low light, which every other webcam I’ve had does not.  And Photo Booth is an amazing hit with my kids and their friends.  They crack up in tears when I let them take shots of themselves with all those distortion effects.

Top negative things

1) I hit the Mac version of the famed “blue screen of death”.  Mac’s was prettier, and multi-lingual, and gracefully washed my screen dark grey before the error, but a fatal error nonetheless.

2) Mighty Mouse.  Probably pure preference, but killed my index finger (how wimpy is that?)  Switched to my logitech and all is well.

3) Keyboard shortcuts.  I use the mouse very little when typing.  I do all highlighting using keyboard shortcuts, but the ones on the Mac don’t always work on non-Mac native software apps (like in a web browser).  Things like “quick highlight to the end of a line” can be frustrating.

4) Time Machine drive setup. This post says it all.  The company who once ran a great ad busting on MSFT for the whole “c colon backslash” thing is talking about GUIDS and Partitions?  Ouch.  Need to find a way to make it more intuitive given who they are.

5) Quicktime, AIFF, mac formats.  Not their fault, but proprietarily frustrating nonetheless.  Can’t we all just get along? 😉

On balance, I’m much happier now than I was a couple of weeks ago and am glad I made the purchase.   When I get my copy of Final Cut Express and have time to mess with it, I’ll post back on that experience as that is the real reason (video editing) I bought it in the first place.

wanted: wade-through-mountains-of-data-o-matic-thing

June 28, 2008 at 10:22 pm | Posted in Technology Trends | 4 Comments
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In commenting on my post about choice (thanks to EGM for that video, btw), kbarrette said:

There’s a skill to eliminating choices from consideration to reduce that sense of overload.

Ain’t it the truth. I think we’re all pretty good at it within our areas of expertise. For example, when we would go to coaching clinics, we’d be faced with dozens and dozens of presentations by experts on various systems to run and coaching methodologies. But the longer you coach, the easier it is to get there, scan the list, and know what will be applicable to you. Voila. Instant choice narrowing occurs.

But take something I’m not experienced at like my Mac. Which thanks to a free iPod Touch, also led to the chaotic, satanic, underworld of darkness known as backing up your DVDs. No, I’m not talking about stealing. I’m talking about my own videos. The ones my kids lose, and scratch, and leave behind on trips. Those. Mine. The ones I *bought* and *own* and just want to backup to a medium I can play in other places than the DVD player. But that’s a whole other post. Check that. That’s a whole book.

To the point here, the THOUSANDS of hits I get back in Google when searching for anything related to my backup challenges is overwhelming. And I don’t have the expertise to quickly wade through them to the ones I need. And, joy of joys, nothing like seeing a post that you think is perfectly on the mark, only to realize it was published in 1994 with version -0.2 of your software package that is now at version 12.5.

Internet search is awesome, but man is there room for improvement.

get your saas in gear

June 25, 2008 at 11:45 am | Posted in Technology Trends | Leave a comment
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A while back I posted some thoughts on the technical challenges of organic growth that generated some good discussion. At that time, I was looking at organic technical growth vs growth through acquisition. But there’s another angle to this, which is SaaS (Software as a Service).

Bob Warfield has a really interesting post that details some of the same challenges I listed (which just about anyone who’s been in software for more than 5 years can list), but for him acquisitions aren’t the answer as they only delay the problem. For him, the answer is SaaS.

SaaS does provide quite an appealing model, but I have to believe that the “Law of Unintended Consequences” is going to provide us some real fun with SaaS at some point in the future. Is it the next best thing? Sure seems like it. But I wonder how long before multi-tenant applications get too limiting in ways we maybe cannot see today?

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