Archive for the ‘ Cloud ’ Category

Bruce Firestone Interview’s Openera CEO Peter Lalonde

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How Salesforce Admins Solved the Email Integration Problem.

This post is going to break a blogging rule. I’m going to cover 2 topics. Gasp. If you want to know “How did Salesforce Admins solve the email integration problem?” Here’s the short answer: They pointed out the technical underpinnings within our product and told us “that’s what we need!.” The longer answer requires some background and is my other topic which answers the question “Hey, how was Dreamforce?”

As a bootstrapped start-up, deciding to attend and exhibit at a major conference is not easy. I made the decision despite believing that big events are one of the least productive ways to fill a pipeline. Over my career, I’ve attended and exhibited at hundreds of big events, they simply are not the best lead generation tool. In order to make an event worthwhile, you must have multi-dimensional objectives.

The Banana is not with us!

Tiny Booth. Big Story. Openera exhibited at Dreamforce 2011, Salesforce.com’s annual user conference in San Francisco  a month ago. Our objectives included:

  • validate market assumptions,
  • collect market intelligence,
  • solicit influential support,
  • access and quickly navigate the partner ecosystem,
  • and yes, meet potential customers and partners.

The question we keep asking ourselves is this: “was it worth it?” Immediately after exhibiting at an event like Dreamforce it is hard to tell if it was worth the time, money and effort. With a month of activity behind us since the event we know a lot more than we did when we wrapped up Dreamforce.

Measurable Results  With over 1500 leads, hundreds of sign-ups and roughly 5 solid, multi-user opportunities poised to close, we can say it was definitely worth it. I couldn’t have said that the day after the event. If I measured solely based on our pre-event objectives however, we failed.

Unrealized Goals or The Missing Execs

One of our unrealized goals was to meet with a good percentage of the 1/3 of the attendees that were supposedly Directors and VP’s of sales to validate our GutCheck offering. (GutCheck solves the “I don’t trust my sales reps forecast” problem.) The vast majority of attendees we spent time with were Salesforce admins or integrators. VP’s and Directors of Sales were not walking the floor of the exhibit hall, they were sitting comfortably in the executive lounges sipping espresso’s.  This was a major disappointment.

Of all the people we spoke to, only about 20 people actually ran sales teams. So, I am not comfortable making assumptions based on such a small sample audience. However, here’s what they had to say: of the sales leaders that we had an opportunity to explain the GutCheck value proposition, almost all agreed with the statement that “sales rep’s forecasts aren’t very reliable or trustworthy.” Roughly 80% of the sales leaders that didn’t trust their reps forecasts, would invest in a tool like GutCheck to validate forecast accuracy. A small percentage (ok, it was one vocal person) didn’t believe that we could do what we say we can do. (I love a challenge!)

Salesforce admins rock. They changed our minds and helped us focus.

Surprisingly, the vast majority of system administrators we spoke with considered forecast accuracy only  “a minor problem.” Even though they agreed with the statement that “forecasts aren’t reliable” and what sales reps enter into their forecasts don’t reflect reality.” 

Salesforce admins we spoke to care about the integrity/interoperability of the system, data quality/completeness and user adoption. Salesforce Admins & Integrators got excited when we explained how we GutCheck a forecast. The fact that we automate the ingestion of email conversations and content into Salesforce was of high value. They didn’t necessarily care about the GutCheck value proposition, they cared a lot about the underlying technology (SmartCloud) that enabled GutCheck.

Salesforce Admins Solved The Problem of Email Integration |  Because of this real world feedback, validated by our pipeline activity and follow-up conversations, Openera is adjusting/focusing our development. Although GutCheck relied on SmartCloud, we are focussing on SmartCloud for Salesforce to solve the email conversation and content problem first. We still believe that sales leaders responsible for forecasting want a solution to poor quality forecasts. For now, our focus is on SmartCloud. (Note: GutCheck will continue as a value-added, packaged service offering through our SmartCloud implementation partners and through the AppExchange relatively soon.) 

Build – Measure – Learn

With lessons learned from the lean start-up model, championed by Steve Blank, Eric Reis, Ash Mauria and others, but modified for the enterprise, we have consumed customer data and altered our development strategy. Was it a pivot? Not really. But the insight into our customers motivations informed our decision to focus our development efforts on the immediate, high value pain point of email conversation and content integration with Salesforce. I’ve estimated the amount of development time this decision has saved, and it far outweighs our investment. Coupled with our post-event research, we are able to make this decision based on data pulled from a great sample audience, not just our gut. That alone made Dreamforce worthwhile.

A VIDEO | I’ll leave you with this ‘work-in-progress’ video of what we did the first thing in the morning before Mark Benioff’s keynote. We wanted to wake the groggy, hungover masses up and get them to smile. In case you were wondering, Metallica was the headliner for the after party…reportedly paid $1.4M to play the event… so for this preview, I borrowed a track from them for this “work-in-progress” version of the video. Obviously, we’ll use royalty free music for the official version… when it’s ready for release. Enjoy.

How Aaron Levie and Box will crush SharePoint

Meet Aaron Levie. He’s 25 years old and running one of the un-coolest, cool companies in the valley. He is CEO of Box, the cloud content management company, and he is not shy about wanting to take out SharePoint. After meeting Aaron in San Francisco at Boxworks, the company’s first user conference, I encourage you to watch this company. If you know anything about Enterprise software, you know it’s in the midst of a big disruption. Companies like Salesforce.com have lead the way for Box and other disruptive enterprise software. (Full disclosure, Openera is a Box partner. SmartCloud automatically saves email attachments to many cloud services, including Box and Salesforce.com.)

Why Box? Why Now? SharePoint represents everything that Box is not. Complicated, restrictive, expensive to manage, difficult to upgrade and mostly despised by users. Calling SharePoint customers “users” is not accurate because SharePoint has an adoption problem. Customers don’t actually use SharePoint. It’s imposed upon them. It’s available to search for mostly stale content…  if the content has actually been put in SharePoint, you will find something. If not, you are out of luck amigo. (This is the problem Openera helps Box with – make sure your company’s most important, relevant content is actually IN box, not in your inbox. That’s a mouthful.) 

How pervasive is the problem that Box is addressing? It presented itself at Dreamforce, Salesforce.com’s annual user conference, which one might expect. Content Management is still a big problem within the Salesforce ecosystem.  Salesforce’s own content management is one of Salesforce.com’s least adopted offerings. Box can and will play a big part in this world. Unlike the most well-known cloud content management service, Dropbox, Box has a higher level of security, more administrative controls, a developing partner ecosystem and enterprise features that adress both IT and user needs. Dropbox implementations are often rogue and not sanctioned by IT.

Box understands enterprise customers.  I didn’t expect the issue of cloud content management to be addressed by the mobile industry while attending GigaOm’s Mobilize conference the day before Boxworks, but it was. One of the speakers asked the audience to “raise your hand if you use Dropbox at work.” Almost all hands in the auditorium went up. When asked “How many of your IT departments know about it?” I saw two or three hands go up. That was good news for Box. Why? Because Box understands the Enterprise. They aren’t trying to circumvent IT, they are making IT super heroes.

Box understands the importance of a strong partner ecosystem. There were glimmers of brilliance in the delivery of announcements at Boxworks. Aaron and his team announced several key new features that are important to make Box an attractive alternative to SharePoint. BoxSync, Security, and Social Features. But it was the litany of partner announcements that showed us where Box is going. Each partner paraded on stage brought a critical element to the box solution.

The big integration announcement was with Salesforce.com‘s Chatter, but Jive and Yammer were there to show off their collaboration platforms and how they seamlessly integrate with Box as well.  Okta rocked the audience to spontaneous applause simply talking about their solution to a huge problem for companies and users of cloud services – single sign on! But it may have been the announcements with Motorola and HP that could make the biggest impact on Box adoption in the enterprise. Box will be pre-installed on all HP Business PC’s and all Motorola tablets. Next year at Boxworks, we at Openera hope to elicit spontaneous applause from the audience when we announce how we have solved the problem of getting your companies most valuable content out of your inbox and into Box… without changing user behaviour.

Microsoft, Oracle, SAP… they aren’t going anywhere, but the clock is ticking.

Among the speakers at Boxworks, it was Geoffrey Moore and Mark Andreessen that perhaps added the most poignent arguments for Box’s bright future. Both, in their own way, articulated how the dominant players in the market, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and others aren’t going anywhere, but their time of dominance is over.

The rise of the nimble, strategic and forward thinking IT department is upon us. Companies like Box will accelerate growth because IT must be more responsive to business needs. Users demand the same user experience they have with facebook, LinkedIn, Google and other cloud tools they have become to rely on. The incumbent players simply cannot compete and move fast enough given the complexity and deep roots within organizations.  Again, this is good news for Box and maybe the reason Aaron is so vocal about taking on SharePoint.

“How many of your companies are running SharePoint 2007?….. pause… now, how many of you are running an outdated version of Box? Trick question. You get my point.” -Aaron Levie, CEO Box at Boxworks 2011, San Francisco

Do you think Box can win in a head-to-head battle against Microsoft? Even though Openera and SmartCloud are agnostic and work with all cloud services, we are rooting for Aaron and his team to deliver a great user experience to the enterprise. It’s about time.

Cross Cloud Confusion

Too many choices. Stuff being stored everywhere but no where, rogue silos, mobile added another layer of choice, complexity and confusion. Too many channels and too much is on. Always on. Every vendor I work with has their own cloud project management, billing, e-sign, file storage, sharing and team collaboration space. Some have mobile access, some don’t. Some have highly secure logins (for no reason) that require me to remember yet another username and password. (side note: I used to use one of those password keeper services, but I forgot my password for that service.) I was constantly bowing to the will of technology. I had to change the way I worked. No more.

No Change Necessary

SmartCloud Openera adds value to the most popular cloud services on the planet. The best part about SmartCloud? You don’t have to change the way you work. We make Dropbox better by saving all your email attachments to Dropbox, which means you don’t have to change, at all. We make Box an even better solution for businesses by magically pulling important contracts and files out of users inboxes and into their Box accounts where collaboration can happen. We inject critical business intelligence into Salesforce.com by siphoning all proposals, contracts and agreements out of reps email and into Salesforce, where it can kick-off workflows or be acted on by the team. Or maybe you just want to use SmartCloud to automatically save any photos people send you to your Flickr or Google Photo account.

If it’s in your inbox, it can be in the cloud – without any confusion.

Social Media Saved Email

Email was the killer app that made the Internet a business imperative. The browser made the web indispensable for businesses. Does social media spell the demise of email? Some people think so. I don’t.

Is email dead? It became the defining technology for a generation that saw the genesis of the web and they are holding on to email. Even though email became the breakout technology and companies like RIM enabled email to really go mobile, today, it’s taking a perceived backseat to social media messaging. (facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…etc.)  Trends are pretty clear that there are more messages being sent via social media and not email. I’ve noticed a significant drop in email traffic over the last 3 years thanks to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. My take on it is a little different. I believe social media is saving email.

My inbox is a lot lighter these days. I used to get hundreds of emails every day. Today, I get a couple of dozen emails that I need to read every day. Did I suddenly become less popular? Maybe, but my social media messages have increased ten-fold in the same period. I no longer rely on one channel to communicate. There are unintended consequences of using multiple channels to communicate, but that is another post. My in-box has transformed from a dumping ground for all messages to a priority in-box for important, actionable messages. So, by diverting the bulk of casual conversation, comments, updates, observations and other less urgent or important messages to social media, I’ve saved my inbox. I’ve saved my sanity somewhat as well. I check my email 4 or 5 times a day now. I used to suffer from crackberry check syndrome and constantly be pulling out my blackberry every time it vibrated.

Social media has saved email and made it more important in my world. It may not be at the top of the messaging food chain as it once was, but for now, it continues to hold a solid place in the messaging mix. Those that say email is dead are missing the point. Social media saved email.

Searching the web is easy, finding your own stuff is hard.

Google makes it easy to find stuff online. Where do you go to find your own stuff? Likely you have to search your laptop, any usb drives you may, or may not have connected at the exact time you are looking for the stuff, you also might need to search your on-line storage (cloud storage like Dropbox, box.net, mozy, idrive or google docs…among many, many others.) But wait! Did you forget to check your smart phone? What about your tablet?

With an ever increasing number of devices and services to store and access content, how can you keep track of all your own stuff? This is one of the primary problems we want to solve with SmartCloud. All your stuff, where you want and need it. Quickly search across all your cloud services for relevant content. Automatically manage your content by stripping all your messages and saving the files to where they need to go. Automatically tag all your content based on the information contained in the exchange. Make sure you have access to all your content on your mobile device. Make the mobile experience simple and useful.

Our goal is to give you control over your own content, when and where you want it.

If it’s not mobile… It’s crap.

Seriously. Any new application must be designed with mobile in mind. We are living in a post boardroom world. If an application or system does’t provide an equally stellar experience on a mobile device, I immediately wonder if the product is ready to spend time to adopt.

I’m not trying to be difficult, it’s just the reality of a growing number of ‘outwardly mobile’ professionals. we don’t work in offices every day. We need quick, easy and useful access to our stuff. Providing access to content without the ability to do anything useful with it is almost useless. So make it quick, make it easy and for Pete’s sake (that’s me!) make it useful!