SmoothSpan Blog

For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

Archive for September 21st, 2007

New Tool for You, New Workflow for Me

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 21, 2007

I’m no Robert Scoble reading over 600 blogs every day, but I read a lot of blogs.  I try to process the information there, take notes in WordPress about anything I want to blog about, and then mark the item as read.  The trouble has been getting my Google Reader’s “Inbox” to empty.  So, I borrowed a tactic from the esteemed Scobleizer, and started using the Reader’s sharing feature.  Any article that looks interesting after a quick perusal gets marked for Sharing.  This leaves me with a searchable repository of articles that I’ve distilled around my interests–the feedstock for my blogging.  It leaves you with a resource, should you decide to use it, that let’s you access other blogs that I’ve personally selected as having interesting content.  Just click the link over on the left marked, “Bob’s Shared Google Reader.”

Welcome to my nightmare. 



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This Guy is Funny! (To Engineers at Least)

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 21, 2007

EV only has 2 rants so far on his blog, but I wanted to pass along a few quotations that I found amusing.

From “On Programmers and Business“:

“The knowledge of at least one simple programming language soon will be as essential as basic writing skills. Because as the complexity of average software increases, professional programmers become less affordable and less accessible for basic programming tasks.”

There’s been a scarcity for a long time.  IT used to write all their own software, now a tiny fraction can still do it.  Engineers moved into ISV’s.  ISV’s used to be entirely onshore and centralized, now they use lots of overseas talent.  Great software engineers are born, not made, and the US has no monopoly on them.

“I have grown to suspect that a lot of companies are failing simply because they hired dumb engineers. “

Building a bad product is certainly one way to fail.  Building a great product for a non-existant market is another way.  People seem to worry more about the second than the first.  I’m not sure why.  The second problem has always seemed Tragically Knowable to me.  Go talk to customers.  Show them a prototype.  It need not take a huge investment to answer whether there is a market.

“It is damn near impossible to tell good programmer apart from a bad one unless you happened to be an engineer yourself. And most companies are not started by engineers.”

Unless you are an engineer, or you choose your head engineer based on a careful examination of their personal track record and references from people who would know.  It is an interesting conundrum for a Sales or Marketing background CEO who is non-technical.  Having a great CTO partner is a key ingredient to success.  It is extremely easy to baffle a non-Engineer with technical gobble-di-gook.

“A sufficiently dumb engineer may hurt you more than most competitors will. When organized in loose formations, even in modest numbers, they can even kill an otherwise healthy business.”

From “On Ecosystems of Smart Hackers“:

“As shocking as it may appear, money is not everything. Smart people like to hang out with other smart people. “

This is true, and absolutely a corrollary to “It is damn near impossible to tell good programmer apart from a bad one unless you happened to be an engineer yourself.”  It is damned near impossible to hire great engineers unless you have great engineering leaders and architects, and unless your culture values great engineers.  I’ve seen companies where the engineers are locked away and handed stone tablets by Product Managers.  If they get to make a decision at all, it’s about the deep dark internal guts of things.  Not helpful!

“Just don’t put “Java” in the job description and you’ll be fine.”

Now that’s funny.  Increasingly, Java is viewed as “not hip” by the intelligentsia out there in the Java community.  You’d be surprised by who doesn’t love Java.

“And no meetings, of course. Those who are terrified by total absence of meetings are worried for a very good reason. If you do not have much to do in such meetingless environment, maybe your position should… (it is always hard to call someone else’s baby ugly) … not exist to begin with?”

On this one, I will part company.  The alpha geeks I’ve worked with love to strut their stuff.  They like architecture reviews and discussions.  They like to see demos as features near completion.  They want to hear the gameplan from other groups.  They do, however, have little patience for rote meetings that involve going around the room and asking everyone what they did since the last meeting.  I would amend this to, “Don’t waste Engineer’s time by holding any Dilbert-style meetings.”

“The coolest software projects, most of their code base, were written between 10pm and 4am. And those, folks, are not your normal business hours. Surely some code gets written and checked in before lunch. Remember the last time your browser crashed? That was probably it.”

I had to laugh out loud on that one, but there is a grain of truth to it.  I haven’t seen a modern software outfit lately that insisted folks get in before 10am, but you never know. 

It’s good to hear a geek speak out.  There aren’t so many of us who are vocal.  Sales and Marketing Guys, take note.  Understand this guy’s scrawlings.  He represents the sort of mindset you will have to learn to reason with and influence if you want your product vision converted into great code.

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Oracle Could Buy NetSuite, But Salesforce is More to the Point (aka SaaS strategy for BIG ISV’s)

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 21, 2007

Larry Dignan has an interesting post about Larry Ellison’s recent remarks on SaaS.  Ellison was responding to SAP’s ByDesign announcement, of course, and he was able to do so from a position of strength since Oracle’s most recent quarterly numbers were good.  He has essentially said that SaaS didn’t fit Oracle’s strategy (they’re adding value for big customers and SaaS is for smaller businesses) and that moreover it didn’t seem a very profitable business.  Dignan observes quite rightly that Larry owns a big piece of NetSuite, the SaaS vendor that’s working towards a near term IPO.  If Larry doesn’t think SaaS is a good business, why does he own a piece of it?

Dignan goes on to suggest that Larry is crazy like a fox and knows full well that SaaS can be a good business.  His long-term plan is simply to buy NetSuite if he needs a SaaS offering, and to stay with his core business and not face the pain of SaaS cannibalization otherwise.  Meanwhile, he has covered his bet, and if SAP stumbles, he can rub their noses in it.

It’s actually a pretty good plan, but Dignan isn’t thinking big enough.  When you’re Larry Ellison striving for world domination, NetSuite is a pretty minor statement.  If SaaS is working out and needs to imminently join Oracle’s arsenal, Larry should just buy  That’s the SaaS put-away shot, it makes a heck of a statement, and it further cements Oracle’s hegemony over CRM (they already bought Siebel).  NetSuite can come along for the ride too, but the Oracle shark has to find acquisition prey relentlessly, and it muts be of a certain scale to satisfy their appetites. 

What’s that you say?  Marc Benioff won’t go for it?  That’s what Duffield said at PeopleSoft.  When Don Larry comes calling, you better kiss the ring and take the silver, lest you get the lead instead.

I like the idea of major acquisition as a way for a really big ISV to get into SaaS.  If nothing else, it gives them significant recurring revenue before the cannibalization gets underway.  It also provides a bit of a protected game preserve because you’ve got a different product.  If you prefer Salesforce, go SaaS.  If you prefer Siebel, go On-premises.  It’s also classic Oracle vs SAP:  SAP must build it themselves, Oracle just buys it and gets a free move in the bargain.

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