Saturday, December 31, 2011

Geoffrey West: The surprising math of cities and corporations

I ask you where would we be without the knowledge and thought sharing like this?!  I also wonder where we are headed with knowledge and thought sharing like this?  A perfect but boring society where everyone knows everything? :)  Happy 2012!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thinking in Barriers

The single most important KEY to ensuring success of a product or a successful switch to implement a new technology that will benefit your business is USER-LEVEL ADOPTION.

Whether you're a vendor to the industry or a customer (someone who's looking to deploy the product for their organization) it often helps to think in terms of BARRIERS.  For example:

  • Systems Pull (how many other internal systems rely on files being in that format or integrate with the old system)
  • Re-training Required (this might be drastically infuenced by the demographic make up of the organizations that you're targeting or deploying for - younger people are much more interested in embracing new technology)
  • Satisfaction (or Lack of) with the existing systems.  How much are current systems broken.. Obviously the more dissatisfaction, the easier it will be to instigate a switch.
  • Grass Roots possibility.  Does the new system require IT or an executive committee to sign of on it or can it be started grass roots and they catch on fire?
  • Level of Noise.  How much noise is there in the marketplace that pertains to this set of functionality?  Are there tons of competitors pitching this and incumbents assuring the customer that this will be delivered in the "next release"
  • New Solution Fatique.  Have a bunch of other solutions been tried recently to address this set of functionality?   If true, there will be a lot of resistance and distrust from the user base.
If you map out these barriers, it will help you figure out how to address them or serve as a filter for taking a solution to market or deploying it in your organization.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

AgileWords shows how to do one thing well

In the world of SaaS, PaaS and software in general there are 3 main types of solutions:
  1. Platform (covers lots of functionality and is very extensible)
  2. Industry-specific (provides a comprehensive solution for particular industry)
  3. Point (solves one problem, integrates well with existing systems)
(more on this later..)

While GoogleDocs and Zoho have done a good job with platform-type SaaS offerings, there are far from becoming ubiquidous.  There are many reasons for that - some have to do with letting the data outside of the company walls, some with lack of support for "diconnected" use model, some with not wanting or not being able to undertake the re-training effort.

Be it as it may, what is one to do if they want to use the collaborative, single source nature of the SaaS applications for document review and approval for example, but not ready to convert everyone to GoogleDocs?

AgileWords take a stab at solving the document reviews problem the "point solution" way.  

Today document reviews involve a lot of back-and-forth via email with redline and side notes or comments.  All these edits are hard to reconcile and the intent or context is quickly lost, not to mention the version hell. 

AgileWords came up with a clean solution for merging the benefit of the SaaS ability to collaborate on something real-time and keep track of the changes in one place with the format that most documents that need to be reviewed (contracts, product documentation, marketing literature) exist today - MS Word.  

They import the MS Word document keeping the formatting (very important as the document needs to stay 100% consistent with the original).  To keep the formatting, they actually do a clever combination of converting what they can to text and what they can't - to images.  

They then allow comment insertion and discussions around a particular session.  Once a revision has been made, the new document is uploaded replacing the original one optionally showing the changes made.

A very nicely designed and thought-through point-solution product that doesn't disturb existing systems, but adds the much-needed element.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Plaxo and Staying Relevant (or not)..

Remember when Plaxo was relevant?.. Keeping the contacts up to date was a real problem..  Still is to some degree, but much less so now with LinkedIn and Facebook where the contact info is attached to real people and doesn't need to be maintained separately anymore.

The problem of relevancy faces any successful project or business as the problems shift, but the organizations and the thinking has already been built to solve a specific issue and the more successful the product was at solving that problem, the harder it is to detach from it going forward.  However, detaching from the yesterday's problem is exactly what needs to be done in the modern world as the ground shifts all the time..

So what's my solution?  If I was Plaxo, I would look at what other problems/opportunities exist around the address book.. It doesn't take long to notice that contact info (business card) exchange is one of the hot issues.. If I was Plaxo, I would look at acquiring Bump App or building equivalent functionality..

In Today's world it's Stay Relevant or Die..

Sunday, December 04, 2011

SuccessFactors acquired by SAP for $3.4B

Congratulations to Success Factors!  Again, hate to see a successful SaaS company get gobbled up by a large incumbent, but happy to see them making room for new nimble and innovative entrants in this space!

The company had 3,500 customers and 15 million users in 168 countries and was publicly traded. Clients include Comcast and Siemens.