• June 13, 2013
  • CommissarHow many euphemisms are there for divorce?  We’re still good friends.  It was mutual.  Time to move on.  Whatever.  It happens all the time.

    In business, relationships form and dissolve faster than last week’s nuptials in Vegas.  Companies do what’s best for them and their shareholders and that’s the way it is.  But we don’t do business in only three dimensions.  Reality has a fourth dimension that we frequently forget about, time.  We live and work in time and at some point we fall out of time and that’s known as the big siesta, Dylan Thomas’s long good night.  The fourth dimension isn’t simply a small house at the end of a long road, it is the road and how you get to that house.

    I have been musing about time recently as I noticed that Marketo is no longer mentioned on the AppExchange though they were once a poster child.  At the AppExchange you can search on Marketo and get a lot of marketing automation vendors but not that one.  It is curious and conspicuous by its absence.

    The disappearance reminds me of a coffee table book, “The Commissar Vanishes,” which is a collection of before and after photos of Soviet era officials.  When someone fell out of like with Stalin, the party would crop or airbrush the individual from the photo in an effort to remove him from history.

    Now to be fair, this is an invidious comparison.  Salesforce is not like that and removing Marketo from the AppExchange is just what you do in business when partners become competitors.  But the change of relationship is still one way if you accept what Phil Fernandez, CEO of Marketo, wrote after the Salesforce Exact Target acquisition.  Here’s an extensive quote from his email to industry influencers:

    “Importantly, for those of you that are also Salesforce.com customers, there will be no change in our strategy and support for our best in class integration with Salesforce.com’s CRM platform.  As recently as this year, Salesforce.com customers have rated Marketo as the best marketing solution, continuing a five-year streak of similar affirmation from the Salesforce.com customer base.  We see no reason that the recent news should change our leadership position among Salesforce.com customers or in the marketplace at large. Our integration is built using Salesforce.com’s public web-services API’s and open Force.com interfaces.  Salesforce.com – as all modern cloud companies must be – is committed to maintaining an open platform, for us, for their AppExchange partners, and most importantly for you their end customers.  Marketo is deeply committed to ongoing support and continued innovation of our products for Salesforce.com customers. 

    As a business decision, taking Marketo out of the AppExchange makes sense but only tactically for Salesforce’s CRM business.  For its platform business, it makes no sense at all.  If Marketo was the only example then it might not be such a big deal, but try finding Yammer on the AppExchange, as another example.  You can Google Yammer and Salesforce or Marketo and Salesforce and see plenty of hits for the two together but not on the AppExchange.

    To the extent that Salesforce wants to be the go-to platform for application development and social business process enablement it doesn’t make any sense that they would bar competitors to their marketing products on their platform’s marketing site.

    Taking down Marketo or Yammer or any of the other products that compete with its own products is a warning sign that the platform side of the house is not agnostic.  You might say that there are plenty of alternatives to Salesforce’s marketing solutions and they are still represented in the AppExchange but that only makes singling out Marketo seem more out of focus, not less.  As Salesforce is still in the process of building up the utility computing market, this seems like an unnecessary and self-inflicted wound.

    Perhaps the two companies are still friends but it doesn’t look like this divorce was mutual.

    Published: 10 years ago

    We have this idea of modern computing that is closely tied to social media and rightly so.  Social media is a kind of glue that ties us together in new and bigger configurations than our own human capabilities can.  But it is also the unspoken issue in the Yahoo brouhaha over working from home; the idea whose name shall not be spoken.  How else to explain the ultra retro edict — anachronism, really — that all Yahoos must report to the brick and mortar in person rather than “telecommute” another anachronism implying the possibility of only a simply bi-directional interface between the individual and the mother ship?  Bi-directional?  How quaint.

    Why is the whole discussion about, and pardon me here, another anachronism that jumps right out of an episode of “Mad Men”, the “water cooler” conversations that pit people face to face sharing information?  The pundits and press revel in the Yahoo situation and the “need” to have people report to the job to share their precious ideas.  Have they never understood social media?  We must presume that the denizens of one of the great pioneering companies of Silicon Valley have a passing notion of what social is all about, which makes this situation all the more perplexing.

    But have they not heard of the Dunbar Number? The maximal number of people that each of us has brain power and time to interact with on something like a serious basis?  That number is somewhere between 150 and 220 relationships and it is the basis, derived through trial and error, of human associations from army companies to medieval monasteries.  After that?  Forgetaboutit.

    Actually, after that, is what social media was made for.

    It is eye opening and somewhat disheartening that the press and punditry have saluted Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer’s, old school idea and edict and one cannot help but wonder how far it sets back the social enterprise.  On one hand it says, yes we are a leading edge Internet company, but no, no, no, even we won’t eat that dog food.

    James Surowiecki of New Yorker fame and author of “The Wisdom of Crowds” makes the point in this week’s edition, that the Yahoo campus is a ghost town on Fridays and that the company has a need to bring its fraying threads back together.  Fair enough.  That there is need for greater collaboration at Yahoo is no surprise.  Quick, name the most recent Yahoo innovation!  Time’s up.  I can’t either.  But saying that all or even most errors will be corrected, no check that, saying that anything will be made better, from the olly, olly oxen free of touching home base is to confuse cause for effect.  It is also to turn one’s back on the progress that’s been made in social collaboration software in the last decade.

    The best we can hope for from this Dracon-ization (not to be confused with polyester-ization) is that there was a transparently obvious method to the madness lurking all along.  That after a period of pain and shakeout — and downsizing — some workers might again be allowed to work free of the campus tethered by nothing more than a wireless Internet umbilicus through which they can collaborate and share ideas via modern collaboration technology.  Or not.  It is doubtful in the short run that the collaboration gains accrued from face time will outnumber the resentment, RVs and resumes building up in the San Jose corridor.

    And what about the future?  There will surely come a day when daily commuting, already burdensome because you simply can’t afford to build roads wide enough to accommodate rush hour, will become prohibitively expensive from fuel prices.  Then the social commuting productivity techniques and business models that could have been learned from an intensive effort at righting the S.S Yahoo will be revealed by their absence as another missed Yahoo opportunity.

    In lieu of that it would make great theater for a company like Salesforce.com or Microsoft’s Yammer or any of a dozen other collaboration vendors to take Yahoo under its wing and do a makeover a la “Restaurant Impossible”.  Yahoo is, at this point, “deliciously low” as Professor Higgins might say.   A corporate Eliza Doolittle waiting to be discovered and taught only the rudiments of modern corporate communication before re-emerging from its doldrums changed for the better and ready to engage the world.

    A great opportunity is being wasted here and opportunity, more than anything else, is a terrible thing to waste.

    Published: 11 years ago

    Yahoo_0There is an interesting article in the  New York Times this morning that I hope lots of people read — that means you Mr. Benioff.  It’s a tale of a shoemaker’s kids going barefoot.

    It seems that Yahoo, trying to breathe life back into a sclerotic organization, has cancelled its work from home policy and is now mandating all workers report to the office every day.  Good luck with traffic at the bottom of Silicon Valley.  The commute has just gotten worse.

    The discussion covered in the article sounds like a low calorie beer commercial from the 1990’s.  One side says we need people in the office every day to promote collaboration, creativity and innovation.  The other says at home workers are more productive so leave us alone.  Tastes great!  Less filling!

    Sometimes I wonder if our inability to compromise as a society stems from this simplistic Boolean logic in which there can only be two sides and by definition the side you oppose is wrong.  It harkens back to the religious wars of the Middle Ages, but I digress.

    But hold on; let’s tease this apart.  Yahoo wants to ape Google’s culture and that’s understandable given that the 37-year-old CEO, Marissa Mayer, hails from there.  That culture devotes less than 100 square feet to each employee and channels foot traffic to encourage human-to-human interaction, the better to cause serendipitous face-to-face meetings and things like collaboration and innovation.

    That’s nice, even laudable, but in the twenty-first century, this new dictate seems a bit draconian.  Hasn’t Yahoo ever heard of collaboration software?  Social media?  Chatter?  Yammer?  I realize Yahoo is in San Jose and Salesforce and Yammer and others are way up the coast in the big city but they could track these solutions down on…the Internet perhaps?

    It is astounding that a company like Yahoo could be in such a situation and that it could be so ostensibly unaware of how this looks to share it with the world.  While the issues of collaboration and innovation are the right ones for any company to chase, this solution only works for people reporting to the same building and there are only so many interactions you can prompt in a day.

    Most importantly, there’s Dunbar’s number, which is the cognitive limit to the number of people with whom you can maintain a stable social relationship.  Depending on the individual that number is between 150 and 220.  Social media like collaboration software helps to extend Dunbar’s number for many people and it breaks down the barriers set by geography, something that companies with more than one building have to cope with.  Collaboration tools make no distinction between collaboration with someone down the hall, across the country or half way around the world.

    The beauty and importance of collaboration and social software is that they break the limitations of human contact so the only question for me is why isn’t Yahoo — a pioneering Internet company — publicizing its uptake (we hope) of this new technology instead of moaning about this policy from the last ice age?


    Published: 11 years ago

    Yammer announced an impressive $85 million financing last week.  You can get the details here http://mwne.ws/wp4GtZ .

    You might already know that Yammer provides enterprise social networks, the kind of collaborative spaces that enable employees to “swarm” on issues to achieve resolution or deal with a customer issue for instance.  Yammer claims that more than 85% of the Fortune 500 use their products.  (The swarm idea comes from business writer Stephen Denning in The Leaders’ Guide to Radical Management).

    If enterprise social networks sounds familiar it may be because Salesforce.com has put so much into it with its own product, Chatter, which has penetrated enterprises such as Dell, NBC, Comcast and Burberry’s.  Though off hand I don’t know what percent of the F500 use it the company talks about tens of thousands of customers though since Chatter is included the basic monthly service.

    Suffice it to say that Salesforce has been carrying the water to educate the market so far — Yammer’s PR said they would launch their first ad campaign March 1, for instance.  But ads or not, these companies and some others are carrying an important new message to enterprises — get on the social express or you’ll be dog meat in a little while — or words like that.

    Permit me to change course here.  So far the rollout of social media in the enterprise follows a normal hype cycle curve.  It’s the same idea that Geoffrey Moore documented in the 1990’s in the Crossing the Chasm series — everybody needs to buy the new gizmo to secure competitive advantage.  This is great because the companies that offer the new, new thing sell it like crazy for a few years.  Some of them burn out, sometimes in spectacular fashion, and a few limp across the first finish line (an IPO) and become real companies.

    But this hype cycle is a bit different.  In fact many companies are finding the cycle has changed due to the pervasive nature of the freemium idea.  That’s where the vendor offers a subset of the functionality free in the hope of snagging a big sale down the road.  This is also called the puppy dog close because once your kid takes the puppy home it’s yours regardless of what they told you at the pet store — “Just bring it back tomorrow!”

    But freemium has a different set of issues.  Some companies are just fine with the free version, some don’t use it and vendors discover that only a small portion of the initial users turn into paying customers.  That’s life.  With a freemium approach you don’t need an expensive sales team and marketing can be minimal because customers show themselves the value of the product, which might explain why most don’t turn into buyers.

    Rather than the freemium approach, I offer a different way to appeal to companies to buy social wares.  I just finished the Steve Jobs bio and one of the things that struck me was how much Jobs wanted to leave a legacy, a company that would be great for a long time after him, like HP had been in his youth.

    There may be many C-level officers who really only care about making money because cash is how they keep score.  But under the power suits I think you are more likely to also find a person who puts in many hours and for whom the enterprise is the achievement of a lifetime — dare I say a monument to the executive’s cunning and ability to lead?

    If money was the only important thing I have to believe executives would not work as hard as they do.  Flying to China or Japan might sound exotic but it gets old.  Once you’re certain that the next generation or two of your kids will have a good life, your attention turns to the legacy, what you’ll leave behind for the next guy and the shareholders.

    So here’s my proposition.  The vast majority of the new products coming onto the scene in any decade are things that make money, contain costs or, occasionally improve customer satisfaction.  But social is different.  It is no stretch of the imagination to say that social can do all three and even more important, it is giving companies the ability to change who and what they are.

    When you get down to it, social’s core offer and benefit is that it enables you to make a great business by leapfrogging over old ideas, processes and procedures to make customers more satisfied which in turn leads to everything else like money.  By making information ubiquitous social (i.e. employee collaboration) ensures decisions can get made for the right reasons and in the right time frame and helps build a great business.  Building a great business, a great company — the legacy — is where it’s at.

    So the big mystery to me is why the vendors in this fantastic market are selling their wares as technologies or services.  Sure, social technologies in all their forms are new and the market requires a certain amount of massaging to get early buyers.  But rather than selling social as an end in itself to mid-level managers, I think I’d be selling the legacy idea to the C-suite.  You don’t get to make a pitch like this every day and it would be a shame not to take advantage of the opportunity.

    Published: 12 years ago

    Data privacy expert and attorney, Cameron Shilling, explains how it all works on our home page http://beagleresearch.com/.

    Published: 12 years ago