Blog Bling v2

A couple of days ago I added a widget to my sidebar that published out my feed. I just took that to a whole new level, I took the OPML from the Enterprise Irregulars and created a widget around that. That widget is currently residing in the far right sidebar over there —–>

Using the NewsGator Editor’s Desk I am able to remove posts that aren’t topical, and the widget is configured to display 1 post from each author and then cycle every 10 posts. This ensures that the widget doesn’t penalize authors who post with less frequency… everybody gets an equal turn.

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Distribution is the New “Ecosystem Play”

How many times have you heard the traditional enterprise software vendors talk about their ecosystems? "We have 450 partners building apps on our platform" as if the fact that a lot of vendors had signed up for a partner program is not only proxy for success but absolute proof.

The other aspect of this is that it’s a viewpoint stuck in time, back when the barrier to entry a software developer faced was the cost of the components required to build their application. In other words, when an app server and a message bus were expensive it made sense to piggyback on someone else’s investment, but can the same be said today when the most significant cost a company faces is sales and marketing?

No, and without access to a customer base and a low cost route to prospects then most large vendor programs simply don’t resonate with high growth startups today. The traditional platform vendors still think about platforms as a set of technologies.

Even Salesforce’s much talked about Appexchange and Apex lacks a mechanism for virally spreading to new users. If the best they can offer is that someone who already knows what they want can go to Appexchange and find something that is a match, then how can it be anything but a more slippery software retail storefront? At what point in my SFdC customer experience do I find out what other people like me are using, without me asking for it?

Where I am going with this was revealed last week when I wrote a short post about Facebook’s viral loops and the success that RockYou was experiencing. Later I posted Comscore’s widget stats and it occurred to me that the companies distributing through the major social networks were absolutely dwarfing the others, by an order of magnitude.

These two posts coincided with a presentation I gave at Emanuele Quintarelli’s conference in Milan where I attempted to abstract the whole mashup/web/enterprise 2.0 phenomena into terms other than technology, and the most important trend that I pinpointed was distribution reach as the great equalizer.

While Facebook is getting a high degree of attention since launching their developer platform, there are other networks that offer increasingly similar distribution capabilities, including Bebo, Myspace, Friendster and Tagged. To some degree, eBay is also a distribution mechanism, as is Netvibes, iGoogle, Webwag, Protopage and Pageflakes. However let me be really clear about something, Myspace and Facebook are the only two that seem to have cracked the code on viral looping and that is really key to this discussion.

Marc Andreessen posted a detailed analysis of the Facebook platform, which I very much recomend you read, that nicely summed up why Facebook’s viral capabilities are so effective:

And then, on top of that, Facebook is providing a highly viral distribution engine for applications that plug into its platform. As a user, you get notified when your friends start using an application; you can then start using that same application with one click. At which point, all of your friends become aware that you have started using that application, and the cycle continues. The result is that a successful application on Facebook can grow to a million users or more within a couple of weeks of creation.

So rather than simply repeat what has already been written about Facebook, let’s talk about how traditional enterprise vendors should be playing this trend, and then look at one big question mark that is the elephant in the room insofar as enterprise social networks are concened.

Without question the large vendors look at Myspace and Facebook as mere toys and that reflects as much a misunderstanding of what these things are as it does the cultural disconnect that many enterprise software executives have with the broader market. They will say things like "our customers don’t use those services" without considering that while the CIO isn’t using them it’s an odds on favorite that a good number of people in the organization are.

It’s also worth pointing out that enterprise vendors consistently put themselves at the center of the universe like an aging movie star that doesn’t realize s/he is told old to play the role (think Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct 2). SAP/Oracle/Microsoft/IBM may be the gorillas in the global enterprise market but selling to 50,000 global customers out of a market of 100 million businesses (that’s a guess, I don’t know what the actual stat is) is hardly going to drive the growth each is predicting. This dovetails with something else I talk about frequently, selling to users instead of organizations.

The initiatives that each of the MISO vendors have spawned around widgets is a good start, but it’s not enough. Prosumer users really require the ability to create rich applications outside of the usual development platform, and to that degree SAP and Oracle in particular should be expanding their API support to include Facebook and Myspace integration.

Lastly, I mentioned the question mark concerning this topic and that’s Linkedin. While I can certainly appreciate that their focus on generating revenue and profit has been singular, what cannot be called anything other than a strategic blunder is their refusal to support broad-based third party application development, and to include a distribution platform on top of their social network.

I can’t imagine a vendor better positioned for enterprise domination in this regard than Linkedin, while at the same time I can’t imagine a vendor more likely to implode due to the lack of this capability. While not being privy to the goings on at Linkedin, I will say that this seems to be a tragic missed opportunity on their part.

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Debating Salesforce.com

Fellow Irregulars Josh Greenbaum and Jason Wood have drawn swords over Josh’s Salesforce.com predictions.

Josh Greenbaum:

"So how can I be sure that Salesforce.com is the next Siebel? To be sure, I’m more ahead of the curve today than I was in 2002. By the time my second column had come out on Siebel’s survey hooey, the wheels were already falling off. Whereas SF.com probably has a couple of good quarters left in it."

Jason Wood:

"Taking credit for calling Siebel’s demise in "mid-2002" is akin to declaring Joe Montana was a talented QB on the day of his Hall of Fame induction. For those with neither the energy nor preclusion to look back at the state of Siebel five years ago, allow me:"

Josh Greenbaum (response to Jason):

So bear in mind I didn’t say SFDC’s business looked bad today – I may be a curmudgeon but I’m not delusional – but I still maintain that all the measures with which Jason concludes his blog will start to turn around soon. When? I’m not a short-seller, but I would say that 12 months from now would be a good time to revisit this exchange and see who was right.

We, as a group, have struggled with how to deliver a public community experience that would bring more people in while at the same time creating a more persistent archive of the online debate. We have been struggling to get momentum on this front but are committed to seeing this through.

Part of the challenge we face is technology platform, the other one we face is how to, if at all, synchronize a group of loosely coupled independent thinkers who are not working from an editorial agenda or in a moderated forum. The debate between Josh and Jason illustrates that there is a powerful dynamic in these debates that comes from looking at problems, challenges, and hypothesizes from the many disciplines and experiences represented in the group – hypothesis, antithesis, and then synthesis.

The debate also serves as evidence of a vibrant and passionate debate that is happening on a day-to-day basis in this group, often out of view and with a lot of "not bloggable" commentary by participants but commentary nonetheless that makes the group richer as a result.

The fact that there is "not bloggable" comments is a good thing because it delivers on one of the original motivations for continuing this social experiment, that in a confined group with members who respect each other’s intellect and integrity that you could drop the company name from your title and talk about things without regard for competitive dynamics or fear for sensitive comments being made public. Quite frankly there are few places on the Internet where this open and honest debate occurs among competitors.

Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that what started as a group with a lot of SAP people has evolved into broader industry participation, including Salesforce.com and Oracle members.

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Vista, Office and Outlook 2007 are a Nightmare

I don’t have Vista or the new version of Office, so it’s impossible for me to offer anything more than Jason is a credible guy and if he says this is happening then I have no reason to discount it. Also, he’s on a new Dell machine with 2gb of memory.

Outlook is one of those applications that vendors must adhere to the 1st commandment of software engineering, thou shall not make anything worse when upgrading. For Office users this is the single most important application in the suite, which means it’s that one that absolutely has to be done right, else the entire suite is put at risk.

The amount of time that people spend in Outlook is incredible so adding a second here and there adds up quickly. It’s like with your telephone, even the slightest echo or latency becomes unbearable.

UPDATE: Chris Pirillo has this to say: “I’ll give Vista a second chance when the first service pack is released later this year, but until then…” Seriously, how many people are saying the same thing based on their XP experience? Years from now fathers will sit down with their children and add onto the birds and the bees speech “and never install the first release of any new Microsoft software”.

SpendMatters: Vista, Office and Outlook 2007 are a Nightmare:
The problem — which is absolutely inexcusable — is that Office 2007 (Outlook, specifically) crawls, even on this superfast machine. The hard-drive is also constantly in motion, slowing things down even more. I’m not alone in these observations. You can read other Office 2007 horror stories
here and here. Despite a small .PST file — I reduced mine from close to a gig to less than 150 MB — my Intel Centrino Duo-driven notebook chugs along like a 386 trying to run an application originally written for a mainframe system. Even such tasks as composing a simple email are delayed by a few seconds before my typed words ultimately appear on the screen (and send / receives and related activities take an eternity).

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SAP, Oracle under the SOA, on-demand gun

I didn’t catch the SAP 4th quarter earnings announcement this week because I really didn’t pay attention to it. Larry Dignan makes a very good point about the trends behind the miss, a point that I have made repeatedly on this blog, most recently here and here, and in fact, the very reason I left SAP.

Big enterprise executives keep missing the point, their business model is not about a technical platform anymore but a goto market platform.

SAP and Oracle both still think it’s about market domination when in fact they should be driving consumption of their software services through any channel that gives them that opportunity. This doesn’t mean you give up on the license business, in fact there is still a lucrative business built around that insofar as it is an annuity, but the overwhelming evidence supports my case: this is GDP plus a couple of points growth and because it’s a mature market the share slices are hardened, which equals the unavoidable conclusion that any reliance on the “global 50,000″ is going to result in a long term slide in share valuation.

This also implies they have to rethink their channel strategies and they do because SMB, for all their hornblowing, is still not a major growth engine for SAP or Oracle. If your channel strategy relies on a VAR or SI taking your product off the shelf, adding some integration, and then delivering the product to a SMB customer, well you are dooming yourself to failure in light of how big the opportunity is and how constrained you have made your delivery vehicle. SAP says they have 10,000 BusinessOne customers globally yet there are 90 million small businesses in the U.S. alone when you go down to 10 employees and less. Okay, so maybe that small isn’t a target for any services automation outside of marketing and sales, but the addressable market is still 37 million businesses when you go up to 100 employees as a floor. These businesses don’t want and will never invest in significant on premise IT because they just shouldn’t.

Back on the technical point for just a minute, I wrote earlier that this future we are finding ourselves in is not about technology but about a business model. To be more direct, it’s my opinion that SAP and Oracle should be in a race to commoditize NetWeaver and Fusion Middleware respectively by giving it away to everyone – and I mean everyone – that wants it. This implies open sourcing it as a means of kicking distribution up, but whatever the vehicle it’s second order to the primary goal of making it broadly available for free. Ismael Ghalimi wrote a post last year that went into exquisite detail on why SAP should do this, you could substitute “Oracle” for “SAP” and it would still hold up.

I’ll be the first to admit that there is a tremendous amount of complexity in enterprise IT but you simply can’t avoid the point that making a smaller version of a complex product is not the way to deliver a more simple version for a market that rejects complexity and cost. I also dismiss the notion that a business is held hostage by the business model they have when in fact it is really the failure of leadership to embrace the business model that a market(s) wants.

» SAP, Oracle under the SOA, on-demand gun | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com:

Zooming the picture out a bit Barnicle notes that new technologies are working against both SAP and Oracle. “On-demand solutions, open-source applications and service-oriented architecture (SOA) are all working against SAP and Oracle. With SOA, enterprises can more easily build custom applications and are less dependent on packaged applications from SAP,”

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What It Is vs. What It Does

We have been going through a pretty intense process over the last month putting together the series B pitch for Teqlo. It’s been challenging on a couple of fronts, but primarily because of self imposed complexity. In other words, given 10 seconds how do I articulate what the company does in a manner that people can attach themselves to. I should have reread any of the numerous posts I have written on keeping things simple :)

It was only recently that the moment of clarity was achieved, rather than simply describing what it is I have been consumed with describing how it works and why it matters and the result was just more confusion.

Teqlo is a web-based personal workspace for people who use the internet to get things done.

Yeah, it’s that simple. The fact that we enable breakthrough capabilities for user generated application compositing from third party services, can achieve a continuum of usability unparalleled, and are at the forefront of a new wave of business application software assembled and distributed by the very users who depend on it is all well and good but it’s how we do it as opposed to what we are.

This very much reminded me of recent advertising campaigns by Ebay and AOL that focus on personalization and ubiquity.

Ebay say “you can get IT on Ebay” without defining what IT is because ultimately IT is everything. Whatever IT is really is up to whoever is using Ebay to buy or sell the things they need or want. AOL’s latest campaign focuses on “building a better internet experience” and for the vast majority of the mass market this is probably spot on. Whatever services are available from AOL or it’s competitors is secondary to the experience they provide, which admittedly is a function of what they offer but absent of an intense level of personalization their users don’t necessarily benefit.

UPDATE: Please see my last comment in response to a couple of others for more context on this matter.

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My Goodness is Right…

Danny Ayers flames MÃ¥rten Mickos for giving a speech at the Web 2.0 Summit on his vision for the “great database in the sky”. Ayers criticism is that MÃ¥rten is not educated enough on the semantic web and the progress that has been made in realizing that vision while promoting a relational database ideology. My interpretation: Ayers believes one thing and MÃ¥rten is running a business delivering another thing that is in conflict with what he believes in. Okay, fair enough but to flame MÃ¥rten for this is uncalled for and the tone of the post is lacking in professional courtesy or even the smallest hint of respect for what MySQL has done in the market and how the open source community and the web is a better place because of them.

I think it’s fair to say that Ayers is also lacking in appreciation of the reality that in the enterprise market MySQL is selling into when you mention things like SPARQL (using CRUD operators against RDF) or even the semantic web you are greeted by a long uncomfortable silence. This is not because the enterprise is ignorant (which I assume is what Ayers is suggesting by calling MÃ¥rten regressive) but rather the promise of these technologies has not been met in the actual implementations of things that enterprise users care about. In fact when you talk about “database in the cloud” you are more likely to get nods of approval because the implementations that have gained notoriety are based on Oracle (Salesforce.com) and others like Rightnow (MySQL) and Netsuite (Oracle). All of these initiatives are built around applications and process, not the notion of the data just being there and the relationships figured out later.

Having said all that, I’m no database expert and I genuinely admire Ayers for his expertise in this area. No doubt this semantic web notion of distributed data will gain in prominence in the years to come, but that’s no reason to attack MÃ¥rten today for doing what he believes in necessary for MySQL to grow. I think the blogosphere would be a much better place if MÃ¥rten’s request was granted:

“My humble wish would be for the experts of the semantic web not to flame me for having discussed a related topic in public, but to welcome this as something that will stimulate debate and perhaps help advance related technologies.”

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