Monday, March 31, 2008

LongJump

Business people have been waiting for this moment for a long time – the time when they wouldn’t have to rely on IT people to tell them what’s possible, what’s not, and invariably a “we’re booked up 1 year ahead of time” line.. That’s why when Salesforce.com and a few other hosted application providers appeared on the scene, they enjoyed a healthy appetite from the business crowd. While Salesforce.com started as a Sales Automation application (as the name implies), they have been gradually morphing into a “platform” (a common database for various business applications).

Now this post is not about SalesForce however. This post is about LongJump. LongJump started out by being that platform (or database) that business folks (ok, IT folks as well) can write applications on. They did many things right:

  1. they created starter/reference applications for customers to use
  2. they understood it was about little things (their ad in the CRM journal talks about “30-second call and opportunity logging”, “actionable home pages”, “automatic call-backs” – the stuff that’s not obvious when you’re just looking through the marketing check-off list, but becomes important upon the implementation
  3. they take business logic seriously. I’m talking about the stuff that makes the businesses run once the data is collected. Most CRMs (especially early on) concentrated mainly on collecting the data, but the real value comes from being able to use this data to power the business systems and processes.

Let’s talk about #3 in a little more detail. You’re a customer service manager and you want to implement a process by which if the customer’s issue is not resolved to their satisfaction within 8 hours, it gets escalated to the next tier rep, and if it’s past 36 hours, it gets escalated to you. Or you’re a sales manager and you’ve just sent out a mass mailing about new product launch and you want your staff to focus only on those accounts that just spent more then 3 minutes reading through the literature on your web site. How do you do that? That’s what LongJump’s workflows allow you to do, and with a nice graphical drag-n-drop interface to boot. This is a very powerful stuff!

To be clear, LongJump is not the only ones tackling the problem from the generic hosted database platform side, there are couple other interesting contenders that have been on my radar – CogHead is one, and QuickBase is another, however so far I like LongJump the best out of the trio.

But what about SalesForce you may wonder, are they sleeping at the wheel? Not exactly.. as I mentioned before, they are making efforts to transition into the ‘everything database platform’, however I find their model of charging for the basic service and letting 3rd parties develop their own apps for business logic too complicated and expensive. LongJump charges 19.95 per user per month vs SalesForce’s $65 + 3rd party add-ons. Bottom line, I’d like to see a serious competitor to SalesForce’s almost-monopoly (sorry NetSuite) out there, so I’m rooting for LongJump.

A bit of a side note.. While I think what LongJump and others are doing at providing a unified database platform that specific applications can be written to, providing complete unity of the data, I’m not yet sure how something like this is going to play out organizationally. Applications like this to be constructed correctly do involve quite a bit of system analysis, information system principles awareness and perhaps a central body to oversee the web of efforts that may come from different corners of organization. Having said that I’m not sure that the current separation of IT and Business Units is compatible with a new breed of applications like this. Perhaps, the solution would be to have a dedicated IT or otherwise technically inclined personnel attached to a Business Unit and a central body that oversees that approach, kind of like PMO (project mgmt office) – it would have to be lean enough and lenient enough though to where it doesn’t defeat the purpose of having this application development democratization.. more on that later perhaps..

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References

LongJump - www.LongJump.com

CogHead - www.coghead.com

QuickBase - www.quickbase.com

SalesForce - www.salesforce.com