Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dean Kamen's Bionic Luke Arm

A colleague of mine sent me this and it really is mind-blowing. In Star Wars, Luke only had to replace his arm from the wrist down. Kamen's connected a robotic arm w/ a hand and five fingers to its user AT THE SHOULDER. Wow.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Server Huggers Anonymous

A buddy of mine is a reseller for Google Apps. He made this EXCELLENT site to help all of you Server Huggers finally let go:

Check it out. Pass it on.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Strategy, Scalability, and Sleep Deprivation

I'd love to write more about each of these three topics, but I've blogged so infrequently, that I'm going to post three links and declare victory by just getting a post up. Here they are:

Spotlight on Scalability - Great talk by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg about scaling a vision, a product, and yourself. LOVE the career advice about finding and giving solid mentoring.

Contribution Revolution - Article by Intuit co-founder Scott Cook about leveraging customer communities to deliver better products at a lower cost. Great stuff.

The Myth of the Tireless Leader - The title pretty much says it all. Timely reading for a guy who was up until 1am fighting w/ Pivot Tables of sales and defect data. Poor Larry Summers. Just this morning, I was talking to someone who sleeps quite a bit less than I do and my first reaction was the typical, "I don't know how you do it." I changed the comment, instead, to "I don't know why you do that to yourself." At the end of the day, it's a CHOICE. One that I'm going to make a little differently going forward.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What's your TESLA? I LOVE THIS!

I just read a couple of articles about user testing and I LOVE the idea of the TESLA (Time Elapsed Since Lab Attended) as a measure of how customer-centric your organization is. I still have to think about how practical it is to implement and what a realistic target could/should be for my executive team, but what a fantastically simple metric for a customer-centric software company to use.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Should all SaaS Companies Focus on Customer Intimacy?

I've been thinking lately about our corporate strategy, and I find myself pondering the relationship between business model (software-as-a-service) and corporate strategy (customer intimacy). My wife just rolled her eyes and stopped reading . . . it's probably time to separate my personal and professional blog posts.

Adopting a SaaS model requires more change than you think
Software as a Service (SaaS) has been a buzzword for several years now, as more and more companies have adopted the model as a way of generating regular income and delivering significantly new and different value to their customers. What most (if not all) of those companies learn is that switching business models necessitates fairly radical changes to almost every aspect of their business, from development to operations to sales to finance. PLATO started the transition to a SaaS business over three years ago, and we're still working through some of the needed changes to our organization's structure and processes.

When companies transition to a SaaS business model, their financial success becomes highly dependent on their subscription renewal rate. This dependence is what forces all of the organizational changes that I mention above. You have to sell, service, and support customers very differently when your financial success depends almost entirely on your customers' renewal decision, which in turn depends on their continued successful use of your product.

BUT, what effect (if any) should a SaaS business model have on other parts of your corporate strategy?
The Discipline of Market Leaders (Treacy & Wiersema) is one of the more influential business books published in the last 15 years. In it, the authors posit that successful companies must focus on one of three Value Disciplines: Product Leadership, Customer Intimacy, or Operational Excellence. They must maintain minimum levels in the other two, but pick one and focus on it passionately.

In looking at the three value disciplines, customer intimacy seems like a natural fit for a SaaS company. Focusing on customer intimacy means that you understand your customers better than your competitors. Providing a SaaS solution means that you have access to vast amounts of customer data to analyze and understand their behavior. Focusing on customer intimacy means that invest in making sure that customers get the most out of your product. Providing a SaaS solution means that your livelihood depends on renewals and renewals depend on making sure that customers get the most out of your product.

I suppose you could make a case that focusing on product leadership also fits well w/ a SaaS business model because product leadership makes your product & platform sticky, but I'm not convinced. For my money, SaaS companies should almost always be customer-intimate companies as well. I'd love to see someone do a study that looks for a correlation . . .

Friday, December 12, 2008

Another Nice Article on Online Customer Connections

Marina Gil-Santamaria posted a nice article over on Pragmatic Marketing that highlights a few interesting tools for connecting to customers online. That's two days in a row that I've stumbled across something that's gotten me jazzed on this topic. Today is also the second consecutive day that I'm conducting a customer open forum via WebEx, which is a BLAST.