Posts Tagged ‘ business development ’

The Monumental Importance of Winning Together

"The Greed Vote"

Greed at the cost of partners is short sighted.

I talk to a lot of people about business development and partnering strategies. I die a bit every time. Well, not every time, just most of the time. It’s depressing the number of conversations I have where it becomes immediately clear that the only goal is to satisfy one goal. Revenue.

Don’t get me wrong, I love revenue. I love it a lot. But, why have such a singular goal that only satisfies one immediate need and carries such a low chance for success? The real goal is to satisfy at least 3 goals: your goal, the partners goal, the joint customers goal. (I could get altruistic and add the communities goal, but that will have to wait for another post.)

I see real people who work for real companies push to partner with another company, and fail to care what is in it for the potential partner. It sounds insane, doesn’t it? It is. So how can real people, working for real companies do that? Pressure.

Pressure is available in different styles and an unlimited quantity. Pick any one: the need for revenue, The boss said to partner with XYZ company. The CEO wants a press release….any reason really. Even the pressure of selfishness. I’m not blind to selfish motivation. We all start there. It’s the ability to quickly move beyond your own selfish motivation and be able to see and articulate the benefits the potential partner will realize that separate the good business developers from the bad.

It’s pressure, selfishness and maybe ignorance that stops most people from doing the right thing for lasting value. It’s simple, yet so complex.

Red Sox World Series Champions

Winning together is better!

Fortunately, it’s those factors that motivate forward thinking companies to work with the Openera team. We understand the pressure, eliminate ignorance and, in doing the right thing, justify the selfishness.

The irony in thinking this way is that it’s easier. Once you identify how your partner wins by working with you…. you’ve won. You can now have meaningful conversations about winning together.

I don’t want to mislead you, working with partners can make reaching your goals much easier, but it’s not easy. Balancing your goals with the goals of your partners is a tricky proposition. There will always be competing priorities and pressures. Successful partnerships take effort and time. The best way I know how to speed up a solid partnership is to win together. In order to win together, you have to bring a partner in on your deal. Establish trust, help the partner win. In doing so, you both win.

Why can’t your stuff just go where it’s suposed to go?

Have you ever found it difficult to find a document someone sent you a while ago? Maybe it was important, you cant remember where you filed it. You can search your computer, your usb drives, your online storage provider, even your mobile phone. Tags make it easier and there are always some plug-ins that promise to make it easier. None of them work very well.

Why can’t your stuff just go where it should be? I use Box.net as my content management system for Openera. My wife and I use Dropbox for my personal stuff. Why can’t the files my co-workers send me go where I store my work stuff and my personal files go where my personal stuff goes?

That is the question I have asked myself lately in the hopes of answering another vexing problem facing just about all content management systems: user adoption. The number 1 reason new IT initiatives fail is lack of user adoption. This is true of just about any new application but amplified for any system that relies on user input (content in the form of data, documents, videos, photos…etc.) like content management (CMS) and customer relationship management systems. (CRM) The systems are only valuable if users contribute, if they don’t the system falls prey to diminishing returns.  The less people contribute, the less people trust the relevance of the content.

To take this question to the next level I began thinking about the reasons these systems fail when adoption fails. It comes down to the way people work. Google is a success because people trust that they can quickly and easily search and find relevant content online. Outside of the SEO world, people don’t really think about putting content “into Google.” Results end up “in Google” by the nature of what people do online, without having to do anything different. Just by writing a blog entry, updating facebook, tweeting a review of a great restaurant, posting pictures to Flickr or videos to YouTube, value is added to Google searches. The same is not true of traditional ECM (Open Text, Documentum, Vignette…) or CRM solutions. ( Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle OnDemand, Siebel) Users are asked to change their behaviour. They have to check-in a document, save files to specific locations, or bcc: catch-all email inboxes.

I’ve been a part of the structured and unstructured content management world since 1991. Back then we called it document management, some records management, email management, even knowledge management. The number one challenge was always the same.

User adoption. We always asked users to change the way they worked. We had a killer solution for document management at Interleaf, Open Text, Documentum, Hummingbird and others. But, we asked users to do something different. Don’t email files back and forth. Don’t save documents to shared drives. Check your documents into a document management system and send someone a link to the document. That way we can track who accesses the documents and can provide an audit trail. (Don’t we all love being audited?) It sounded like a great idea, from a technology standpoint it made perfect sense. Less content travelling across the networks led to the better use of bandwidth and resources. Sending links to files instead of the files themselves meant that we could collaborate on the same version of a file. There were so many benefits, why didn’t people just change the way they worked so they could realize all these benefits? I wish I was kidding when I recall my co-workers talking about how stupid people are that email files back and forth and not using our brilliant solution. Well, people aren’t stupid, the technology was great, but it didn’t address user behaviour in the design of the solution.

In short, the preceding challenge is what what I want to focus on as we embark on the development of our solution to this problem. A problem that shouldn’t exist. A problem that should have been solved a decade ago. If computers are so darn smart, why don’t they put my stuff where it’s supposed to go?

Content Management & The Cloud – A Personal History

Content Management & The Cloud. A Personal History.

Interleaf

I have a personal perspective on cloud content management that may be a little different than most. This brief, personal story illustrates why I think the business model of cloud is as important as the architecture. In the 90’s I worked for a company called Interleaf out of Boston. (Now Broadvision.) I held many positions with the company. I started as a trainer and technical consultant before jumping over to the dark side. I ran national marketing for Canada, then moved to Boston to run North American advertising.

This is where I learned one of the fundamentals of business. Not from what we did right, but from what we did wrong. I was hired right at the tail end of development of the campaign so I missed out on the fun part. When I looked at the plan from my inexperienced perspective, it was nuts. This was a multi-million dollar campaign and before it even launched, I was convinced it was going to fail. Unfortunately, the ball was rolling and gaining momentum and had sign-off from the CEO. No going back now.
The problem I saw, and didn’t fight hard enough to solve, was that the campaign was one dimensional. This campaign was a 3 month print ad campaign. It was a 2 page print ad to be placed across dozens of very expensive magazines. That’s it. Fortune, Forbes, Business Week…etc. and because we were spread so thin across a lot of expensive properties the ad only appeared once in each magazine and at most three times in a few of them. This was the “be-everywhere” model that got us nowhere. The bigger problem was that we didn’t have the fundamentals covered. We didn’t know who our customer was or where they hung out, but we went right to their bosses with an ad. We missed the mark and forgot the fundamentals.
After that experience I left the marketing department and headed over to the other, darker dark side. Sales. I felt like I was working for a completely separate company. The sales team was even in a different building from marketing. The sales team didn’t speak the same language and definitely didn’t echo the marketing messages. The campaigns that were running didn’t produce leads that the sales people could take action on. (again, the fundamentals were missing.) Few of the people in marketing knew the sales people and vice-versa, except by reputation. The marketing department missed the mark and forgot that the fundamental nature of marketing was to sell solutions to our customers problems.
I led the North American inside sales team before running the US Central & Canadian territory. Over the next couple of years, I earned several sales awards including the coveted ‘gold leaf’ presidents club award. (For a hungry guy trying to prove himself, this was a big deal.) How did I do it? Fundamentals. I knew the strategic direction the company wanted to take from my time in Marketing and had first hand experience with the customers pain from training them and onsite consulting. I was my own cross functional solution team. I saw first hand how important the solution was to their business and what happened if things failed. I figured a way to hack together my message with the corporate message and convey it to customers in their language. Not ours. The leads didn’t come in from marketing, so I had to hunt for them myself. Our customer base was the richest source of opportunities, however, what put me over the top was the new business I brought in. I followed a pretty straight forward, common sense approach to sales, cut and paste from the plethora of sales training programs I was subjected to. Here’s my sales methodology*;
  1. know who will and can buy and why (follow the pain)
  2. who needs to be involved in making the decision (follow the money)
  3. know what the criteria for them to make a decision
  4. know how to find them
  5. be a real person, reach out and talk to them (help them buy)
  6. know when you can win, walk away if you can’t
In other words, know your market and the pain that drives people to spend money for a solution. I also learned to lose fast.
The Birth of Document Management | Interleaf was known for their technical publishing software (Interleaf 5 and 6 at the time) that ran on Unix and later PC. Because the documents our clients were creating were quite complex, we needed to provide them with ways to manage the documents and the Document Management industry was born. (It was a relational document management system sitting on an Oracle database, they called it RDM…very creative!) This was a fundamental that Interleaf got right. They listened to their customers and filled a need they were willing to pay for.
There was a real excitement over the future of document management and one of the most exciting times came when a developer web enabled RDM and our viewer technology called WorldView. (Way better than Adobe Acrobat at the time but Adobe decided to give away their viewer for free… well played Adobe. Well played.) This was in the heyday of Netscape and we called this web enabled viewer of business documents “Business Web”.
We went after our base and began selling. It was early, bleeding edge, but still garnered purchase orders. I began packaging services with the license and branded it the Business Web Starter Kit to get early adopters. It worked and at $50K a deal, we started doing quite well. Not mainstream success, but validated a need. I got more creative because I had to hit my quota. Working with GE Capital, I started offering customers a way to lease the licenses and roll in the services over 3 years. This approach brought PO’s from a few key accounts that had stalled. Then as objections arose around implementation, we began hosting business webs for clients who paid an annual license fee plus ‘maintenance’. We were able to secure a few clients before the wheels began to fall off at Interleaf and RDM was re-branded Quicksilver and the company sold to Broadvision.
Looking back on that time in the late nineties, I realize that it we had created a business model that made sense, but the technology was too bleeding edge at the time, and not mature enough to succeed. Most companies in the document/content management space eventually went to a hosted or ASP model by the mid 2000’s and Salesforce.com and Amazon matured the business model while addressing the security, performance and support aspects that made software-as-a-service (SaaS) mainstream and branded as “the cloud.” The technology was great, but it was the business model that made the biggest difference. We focused on the fundamentals and listened to our clients. They wanted to try bleeding edge technology to prove concepts and move the business further faster (one of our tag lines) but had limited capital budgets. By changing the business model, we tapped into operating expense budgets and reduced the friction of the sale.
So, now Dropbox, Box.net, Mozy, iDrive, SkyDrive and the thousands of other cloud content management solutions should take a moment and tip their hats to Interleaf, the grand daddy of cloud content management.

Sales, marketing and cloud…audit your processes first!

I don't want an audit.

Hear no evil!

Every business owner loves being audited. (no they don’t) Financial audits are necessary for compliance reasons and help protect your business from undue risk. Some would say they are a necessary evil, but my wife spent her early career as an auditor for Earnst & Young and I don’t associate her with evil. (Happy wife, happy life is my motto!)
So, when was the last time you audited your business practices? Not your books, your business.
  • Why do you do things the way you do them?
  • Are you selling to the right audience?
  • Are your sales and marketing efforts working?
  • Are you spending too much for too little return?
  • Do you have the right mix of talent to meet your goals?
  • Why do your customers buy from you? Why won’t they buy more?
  • Are the things you are doing working?

Are you are satisfied with your results and see a history and a future of steadily increasing profits? Then you are golden. Don’t change a thing. If not, you need an audit. Here are a few more audit questions to ask yourself:

  • who are your partners? why are they your partners? What value do they add?
  • who specifically is your target market? why?
  • how much do you spend trying to get new business?
  • where do you spend the most of your money? why? what’s the ROI?
  • what activities, expenses or programs are helping to sell more? how are they doing it?
  • what activities, expenses or programs are pure overhead? can they be eliminated?
If you can’t answer these basic questions, you are running your business at less than potential profitability. There is a reason companies get audited by impartial third parties. Objectivity & purpose. Ask the tough questions and look for things you didn’t think about that can help your business. You can turn to your management consulting or accounting firm for some questions.
When it comes to asking tough sales, marketing and business development questions to help you sell more, who can you turn to?
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