• March 1, 2013
  • It’s award season and everyone is getting into the act.  And why not?  There is a heck of a lot of business software goodness out there and not enough recognition if you ask me.  So even if a company like Salesforce has a customer voted award that ultimately reflects back on itself, no worries.

    Salesforce  recently  announced the 2012 Customer Choice Awards, the results of customer opinion and voting that ranked some of the more interesting applications in the AppExchange.  To be sure, many of the names on the list have been there before and many are the SaaS products of larger entities — some were acquired which is how the situation presents itself.  But each had to show something special or they wouldn’t have been voted for.  After all with more than 1700 apps in the AppExchange, there’s a lot to choose from.

    Briefly the winners are:

    • Adobe EchoSign by Adobe
    • Hoopla Scoreboard by Hoopla Software
    • Opportunity Management Optimizer by Sales Optimizer
    • Geopointe by Arrowpointe
    • Configurator by Big Machines
    • Xactly Incent by Xactly
    • Informatica Cloud Integration for Salesforce
    • Marketo Marketing Automation by Marketo
    • Jobscience for Professional Recruiting by Jobscience
    • Ascent by Precisio Business Solutions
    • Sales Pipeline Visualization by SalesClic

    What’s interesting to me is that most of the winners have nothing to do with social or very little, at least.  It says to me that maybe we’ve been spending too much time and mental energy on social recently and that real work still gets done away from social.  Moreover the value of getting the forecast right, or speeding up the contract execution process or enabling a better way to market or to support the HR department is at least as important as social, according to this customer sourced list.

    It is also fascinating to see how many non-CRM and non-traditional applications are on the list.  Many are true long tail apps that have thin (though not small) markets and might not even exist if it weren’t for the subscription business model.

    Finally, some of these apps are owned by large public companies and others have hefty chunks of OPM (other people’s money a.k.a. venture capital) giving them lift.  What’s important about this is the idea that these companies are serious money makers and are taken seriously by the capital markets.  No longer is it necessary to amass a big pile of money to spend on servers, desks and buildings.  A subscription company can get started for a song and be taken seriously by the users and by investors.

    So, next time someone tries to tell you that all vendor ecosystems are the same take a hard look and ask if they all do what this one does.  The Customer Choice Awards nicely highlight a new way to do business for vendors and customers.

    Published: 11 years ago

    Here’s a quick shout out to Jobscience, one of my clients, for winning a AppExchange Best of ’11 Award for Human Resources and Recruiting.  What’s especially sweet about this award is that it is crowd sourced form Salesforce customers.  That’s right.  The people who buy and use the stuff said this is the best on the AppExchange.

    As you know there’s been a goodly amount of M&A activity in HR lately with Oracle buying Taleo and SAP buying Success Factors.  That’s because HR is an important new frontier for companies who are often competing on the talent they attract as much as they are competing with other forms of capital like VC money and IP.

    At least out in the Valley, there are more job openings than there are people to fill them.  The talent drought has made recruiting and holding on to people a more serious thing.  And with this comes the realization that old style HR systems that are attached to the ERP side of the house have a distinct disadvantage.

    In his biography, Steve Jobs talked about the importance of hiring the right people and it has made a strong impression on me.  He said,

    “…I realized that A players like to work with A players, they just didn’t like working with C players.  At Pixar, it was a whole company of A players.  When I got back to Apple, that’s what I decided to try to do.  You need to have a collaborative hiring process [my emphasis added].  When we hire someone, even if they’re going to be in marketing, I will have them talk to the design folks and the engineers.

    In this environment, with a plethora of unqualified applicants trying for advanced jobs and a regulatory environment that sees to it that everyone gets a fair shot, the pressure on companies to conduct those collaborative hiring processes quickly so that they can put out offers ahead of the competition is intense.  Jobscience takes a front office approach to the HR challenge and the people who know best, have said that it’s got the right stuff.

    Equally important, Salesforce didn’t have to spend a billion bucks to get Jobscience.  This is just another example of the power of real cloud computing.

    Published: 12 years ago

    I spent the best part of last week cruising up and down Silicon Valley checking in with customers and would be clients.  The consensus from this non-scientific survey is that business is better than OK and most people are expecting this year to be the best in a while.  Of course there is a cloud—literal and figuratively—to go with that silver lining.  After all, we’re bouncing off a long fall to what’s still a soft bottom.

    Business is good enough out there that many companies can’t find enough qualified people.  Ted Elliott, CEO of Jobscience, sometimes refers to it as a skills gap with many older workers not having all of the skills that newer companies seek.  People with all the requisite skills are rare and valuable and Elliott refers to them as “unicorns” because they’re so hard to find and, yes, he’s got and app for that.

    While you might say that such gaps are generational and common it’s still noteworthy that a generation ago the gap was between laid off steel workers and service sector job requirements.  Today it’s between laid off tech workers and new tech job openings.

    Interestingly, if you have a Ph.D. especially in a science or math, there’s no job shortage especially if you like to work at IBM.  A recent story in the New York Times said that IBM hires more math Ph.D.s than anyone else in the world.  You could have figured that out from all of the patent applications they file.

    What’s been interesting to me in the last couple of weeks has been the intersection of big data, IBM’s quest for brains and a recent report from Forrester Research.  The report in question is a project led by Phil Murphy titled: “BT 2020: To Thrive In The Empowered Era, You’ll Need Software, Software Everywhere.”  I can’t critique it because I don’t have the $499 necessary to read it but I also happen to think that’s right, but what kind of software?

    The report talks about the coming reality that software is and will be even more ubiquitous in the future and interestingly it posits the emergence (according to Forrester) of “cloud cartels”—large corporations dedicated to serving the processing and storage needs of the future.  We’re talking more about big data than about running ERP in the cloud.  With some 22 billion attached devices by 2020 (also according to the report) spitting out second by second data, a lot of processing and storage will go to machines understanding machines.

    I can buy all that but what I find harder to internalize is that the short list of winners quoted in the Times story about the report includes “Amazon, Cisco Systems, Google, I.B.M., Microsoft, Oracle and a few competitors.”

    While those are all good names the list fails to mention any of the companies that started it all such as  The report reveals an assumption that though the data center might be moving to the cloud the fundamental software paradigm isn’t changing.  But I disagree.  In my little corner of reality I think about things that haven’t been invented yet that are going to need all of that processing horsepower.  Many of the companies not making the short list have a foot on the ground in the Valley and they are exciting for the novelty of the solutions they envision.

    The Times article, and to a degree the report, support the kind of linear thinking that I have always criticized because the forecast looks more like a scientific experiment that keeps all variables constant save one.  But in the real world systems are dynamic (yes, IT is a system) and change cascades through systems leaving no stone unturned—exactly the opposite of straight line forecasting.

    If Forrester is right, and I think they are but perhaps for different reasons, then much of the processing power in the cloud will not be taken up by mundane ERP and CRM applications but by applications demanding computational answers to figure out what people want and need and what the connected devices need as well.

    I am certain that the actual processing will be as different from that conducted by today’s applications as a fish swimming is different from a bird flying.  I’ve lately been reading Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” with great interest in the emphasis that Jobs put on the customer experience.  Interestingly, while the book spends a great deal of time on the customer experience it is almost mute about loyalty and promoting it.  Not that it matters—Jobs fixated on the customer and got loyalty and then some.  Yes, we need more software in our civilization but it’s time not just to think different but to think bigger, if you ask me.

    Published: 12 years ago

    If you’ve been in this business any length of time, you’ve become accustomed to disruptive innovation.  More than anywhere else you can name, the front office has been a hotbed for introducing game changing new technologies since the mid-1990s when CRM applications began coming on line.  But what’s next?

    We’ve had our share of net new ideas over the last couple of years including cloud computing — an expansion on the SaaS model — mobility, which was reignited by the iPad’s disruptive introduction, and, obviously the social revolution, which imported social ideas from popular tools like Twitter and Facebook.  However, each of these is not what I think of when I think disruptive.  They are more adaptations of some other technology or phenomenon already in market.

    It’s not that I am complaining but these are horizontal ideas but I’m thinking about vertical.  A good rule of thumb for me is to look at what people are using paper or spreadsheets for and to ask if those crude tools are helping or hurting given the pace of business today.  Fifteen years ago if you asked that question you might have zeroed in on the sales process and that would have been a lot of fun.

    Helping or hurting given the pace of business is the key.  Many of the manual processes we’ve disrupted in the last two decades have been with us for a very long time.  But with the acceleration imparted by the high tech revolution, those processes were suddenly lacking.  That’s the sweet spot when I look for disruption.

    Today, the area that has all of these things — manual processes trying to cope with the speed of change — is human resources and that’s especially true in the hiring process.  You might find that hard to believe given the high unemployment rate, but you might also recall a piece I wrote a few weeks ago saying that in Silicon Valley at least, there is a shortage of qualified people to hire and jobs are going begging.  That also means there’s a hiring war going on too and in such a situation having systems that can quickly enable you to sift through all the resumes and applications to find the few that meet your needs, can be a competitive advantage.

    Companies like PeopleSoft and now Workday of course have wonderful HR products and there is a host of smaller companies with HR products as well.  But keep in mind that CRM is composed of a few essential stovepipes with many best of breed solutions clustered around them and HR has the same kind of needs.

    What CRM has done well and HR is still getting started doing, is to consolidate the pieces into a coherent solution.  So there are hiring solutions, e-learning or training systems and employee management/ benefits systems and even messaging systems.  Companies often have to cobble together these solutions into a working system that is necessarily costly and brittle.

    Also, HR, like most other areas of enterprise computing, is dealing with the on-premise vs. on-demand or SaaS a.k.a. cloud discussion.  Throw in a little social and mobile for good measure and I think HR is ripe for disruption.  But all these things need to be or become part of the standard HR suite.  The suite doesn’t exist yet but it ought to.

    Then there’s the issue of cost.  HR systems address a relatively small part of the market because many of them are still on-premise solutions requiring major investments.  That means they are not appropriate for smaller companies with tight budgets and that is the opportunity that a cloud based HR suite could address.

    To date the number of such suites is small but I noticed that yesterday Jobscience announced its Recruiting Winter ’12 release of TalentCloud, part of a whole HR suite.  Just to prove the disruptive point, the company calls what it does Talent Relationship Management or TRM which accords a certain amount of respect to people and acknowledges the importance of skills in a knowledge economy.

    The product is built on the platform, which gives it immediate access to the Salesforce customer base and gives it scalability that few can match, especially at the price point of a cloud solution.  There’s a lot of compliance record keeping that needs to happen in HR and having an automated system to help with all that is a great productivity boost.

    In the not too distant future everyone will need something like this to help them compete in the talent wars and save time and cost in compliance.  Right now, this looks like an important next disruption and, as usual, early adopters will gain the most.

    Published: 12 years ago