What do CA schools and Dot.coms have in common?

UPDATE: The title should really be “What Do CA Schools and 1990’s Dot.coms Have in Common”.

Both benefited from wads of cash thrown in their respective directions with little in the way of expectations attached.

A soon-to-be-released study of California’s public education system says the state will have to stop pouring money blindly into schools — and spend far more money specifically on kids with the highest needs — if it wants every student to succeed.

Yet Another Public School Study (YAPSS) saying the same thing… give local administrators more control over personnel issues and stop throwing money at a problem without going first to the structural issues underpinning it.

California schools run an operating budget of around $52 billion a year, yet rank near the bottom in the U.S. in terms of academic achievement.

But I’m quite sure the voters will approve the next $20 billion school bond measure without thinking twice about the fact that the debt measures cost about 2x the face value to repay. Perhaps we should consider the inconvenient truth that the state spends more on some salaries (not teachers, mind you) than they do on textbooks when considering putting more taxpayer money into school budgets.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, instructional spending in California is only 54 percent of per-pupil spending. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District spends only $84 per pupil on textbooks (or 90 percent of the state average) but spends $107 dollars per student on Supervisors’ salaries (which is 191 percent of the state average and does not include principals or other school level administrators).

I just don’t think California’s education system can be managed as a single entity anymore, as a state we should consider splitting education into 4 separate management districts. Each district should be managed separately and receive funding from regional tax revenues with separate revenue line items for Federal and State dollars on a per-pupil basis.

While there is merit to a needs-based funding, as a parent and a taxpayer I just can’t reconcile the notion that my local tax dollars would be shipped to another part of the state, so in the end I think it better to keep that aspect of the system as it is and create incentive for the regions to increase their tax base through economic development activities.

There is also a massive voter education effort that needs undertaking to inform voters of the consequences of bond measures and destructive economic policies that deprive schools of much needed funds. Then there is the elephant in the room – the teacher’s union – and unless there is bi-partisan support for taking a stand here, or citizens rise up through the initiative process, I just don’t see any progress being made on this front.

Project Green Makes Way for a Titan and Duet is Really a Threesome

Microsoft’s move into enterprise software was viewed as an unavoidable eventuality by SAP, but while it was convenient to use Microsoft as a cause to stimulate a sense of urgency, the fact is that the Microsoft threat was always viewed as a manageable one.

As this piece in eWeek reveals, given the maturity of these products it is less about the process of creating the applications and more about dealing with the complications that customers on many versions of the products, and partners who have built literally thousands of add-on products.

Munkhold Elsberg said that the decision to scale back on the single code base plans outlined in Project Green (later renamed Dynamics) was an evolutionary one. By one estimate there are 1,500 NAV products alone built by partners—99 percent of them are localized geographically, and verticalized—and some 5,000 partner applications all tolled. By moving to one product, Microsoft’s Dynamics partners who have built their offerings around a single product line lose out.

The fact remains that Microsoft spent $7 billion acquiring and then attempting to rewrite these products which have a collective customer base more or less unmotivated to go throught the expense and hassle of upgrading. This should be the lesson for anyone considering making a major move on the M part of SMB. The two strategies most likely to succeed for these markets:

  1. Start from scratch and give yourself a decade. This is what Salesforce.com did and now they have about 35,000 buying entities and about 620,000 users in one app category. (This is just back of the envelope math, please correct me if these numbers are wrong.)
  2. Acquire large slow movers and slash-and-burn your cost structure. The customers won’t be going anywhere regardless of how poorly you support them and the expectation of major upgrades, i.e. investment, is very low. Sage took 5 years to upgrade Peachtree and they still have a huge customer base.

However, as Dennis Howlett points out, there is a lot of coherence in this product line:

“What’s the upside? Putting Office at the centre of its client side access strategy and confirming continued development of the main product lines is good business”

At any rate, SAP’s strategy was to play the Office group against Microsoft Business Solutions using Duet. If Microsoft was generating a good return from Duet there would be intense pressure within Microsoft to steer clear of SAP with Dynamic Snaps. Microsoft is also fighting a two front war in the CRM space and having significant difficulties getting a product out that is marketplace competitive.

The problem is that MBS seems to have learned a lot from their counterpart’s strategy and is now copying it. How better to create a competitive activity than with a parallel action designed to be disruptive as opposed to displacing.

And then there is Oracle… feeling a little neglected this week would be my assessment. I wonder if Wookey stuck out his tongue and made a silly face during this interview.

“Duet? We did all that five years ago,”

I am also interested to see how Microsoft Titan plays out, even if the release did get pushed back, as it does look like the table stakes for the online CRM game just went up.

Titan, which will probably be officially known as Dynamics CRM 4.0 will be the first Microsoft CRM release based on a multitenant architecture and using a single code base to support three types of usage — on-premise, hosted by partners or Microsoft. The Microsoft-hosted offering will be called Dynamics Live CRM, the third member of the vendor’s growing Live “

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