SmoothSpan Blog

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

Archive for December, 2010

Check out IBM’s InfoBoom

Posted by Bob Warfield on December 7, 2010

By way of introduction, I just made my first post as a Sponsored SubjectExpert on IBM”s InfoBoom community, and it was a doozy.  Think of it as an appropriate next chapter to follow my Enterprise 2.0 is Dead post, because it talks about a new (actually getting to be pretty widespread) concept in Social Business Software that some have taken to calling “Procial.”  It’s the idea of layering in some highly integrated but conventional business process software with social.  Salesforce has layered their entire ecosystem as a productivity layer under Chatter, for example (some would say I have it backwards which is layering which, LOL).

The post can be found on InfoBoom as “Talking Pro-cial With Teambox.”

On InfoBoom itself, it’s a community sponsored by IBM for IT professionals that’s focused on the major megatrends facing IT today:

–  BI

–  Data Security

–  Green IT

–  Governance

–  Social Media for Business

–  Cloud Computing

Given the last two, you can see why they picked Smoothspan to do a little blogging there.  If you’ve never visited a first-class community for business (I hestitate to call it a Facebook for grown ups because that isn’t fair to Facebook), it’s worth checking it out.  Lots of interesting ideas for how to go about it.

Related Articles

Catch Tony Nemelka’s guest post on Esteban Kolsky’s blog.  When I read Tony saying that E2.0 vendors have been skating to where the puck is, but that the goal is now behind them, and he goes on to say customers want E2.0 to “Integrate with how we operate. Don’t interrupt. Become part of the fabric. Follow our lead. We’re in control of things now,” it resonates with what I’m saying here.  Social without full integration to an existing and important business process is missing some very important beef.

Posted in business, enterprise software, Web 2.0 | Leave a Comment »

Send Vineet “Cloud is bullsh*t” Nayar to Dreamforce

Posted by Bob Warfield on December 6, 2010

Sorry for the quasi-profane title, but it fit and it started where I read Nayar’s comments on the Cloud in fellow EI Phil Fersht’s column.  And a painful read it was, too.  That’s one of those quotes you could already tell just from reading the article the speaker regretted as soon as the interviewers seized on it.  I like Nayar’s “Employee’s First” culture idea a lot (it relates well to Esteban Kolsky’s musings about SCRM and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, for example), but this stuff on the Cloud he’s saying makes no sense.

Fortunately, Vinnie Merchandani really said all that needs to be said in his column.  After commenting on Nayar’s Cloud comments with, “like many technology  executives who try their hand at becoming industry analysts, the results are often not pretty,” Vinnie goes on to make a brilliant suggestion:

Nayar needs to go to Dreamforce and talk to a few of the thousands of Cloud Customers who will be in attendance about why the Cloud isn’t bullsh*t.

Wonderful idea, Vinnie!  And a good one for the rest of you Cloud Curmudgeons out there too.

‘Nuff said…

Posted in saas | Leave a Comment »

Great Products Need Something Borrowed and Something New

Posted by Bob Warfield on December 3, 2010

Seth Godin, one of my favorite bloggers, has a great post on the value of clichés.  His observation makes a lot of sense: we need the familiar to be able to lock in on a product or idea.  Without it, whole new cognitive mindshare has to be built before we have a place to pigeonhole the thing when we think about it, and that’s expensive.  Most startups (heck, most any company) shouldn’t undertake that kind of expense unless it has to.  As Godin goes on to say:

Here’s the thing: you can’t stand out if you fit in all the way, and thus the act of deciding which part isn’t going to match is the important innovation.

That’s the key: the part you decide to do different is what’s important and you can’t decide to do everything differently.  While we’re at it, the difference can’t be subtle:

Matching an element almost looks like failure. Matching not-at-all, on the other hand, is the refreshing whack on the side of the head that causes attention to be paid.

Think about it.  The world’s great products consist of a familiar bundle of clichés together with a really important difference:

An iPhone is a telephone (familiar bundle of clichés and expectations) with insanely great industrial design and user experience (the really important difference).

Let’s do some more:

–  Rolex:  A watch that’s built with massive Swiss precision.

–  Ferrari:  A sports car that adds hot Italian passion about performance and style

–  Porsche:  A sports car that adds cold Teutonic precision about ultimate performance and form following function

–  Mercedes:  A luxury car that adds German quality

–  Cirque du Soleil:  A circus with a whimsical theatrical fantastic twist unlike anything you’ve ever seen before

Are you getting the idea?  Note that it’s okay to focus on sub-markets so long as you don’t have to create them.  “Sports Car” is a sub-market of “Car”.  “Hybrid” is too, though it wasn’t a short while ago which is why makers went out of their way to make the initial versions look so different.  They had to carve out mindshare by piggybacking on what was different about their offering versus the broader “Car”, and they needed to maximize those differences to deliver Godin’s refreshing whack on the side of the head.  Hence they looked funny on purpose.  Now they look like non-hybrids in many cases except for the badge on the back.

Here’s a crazy scary thought:  In Subliminal Negativity Theory, 37Signals’ Jamie wonders whether the predominantly negative sentiment the press capitalizes on rubs off on the advertising that goes on right next to the stories.  I think it’s just the opposite.  The contrast makes the ads look better than the real world.  They’re what’s different, so they sell even better against the dark backdrop.  It’s hard to go wrong in questions of marketing or design if you start by focusing on what’s different, and then add enough familiar elements to tie what you’re presenting back in to the framework of the viewer.  The need for contrast is why sales people who never say “no” are not as successful as those who know exactly when to say “no”.

Being different is the essence of competitive differentiation.  The trick is to be different enough to be remembered and loved without being so different you’re hard to accept.

How are your products different?

Posted in saas | Leave a Comment »

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