Archive for the ‘ Dashboard ’ Category

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.

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Design Matters. Seriously.

Design matters. You may have the best product, technology or service but if the packaging sucks, it’s a reflection on the product, technology or service. and you. By packaging I don’t mean the physical packaging, although if you sell a product that is going to be on a shelf or shipped, consider the packaging very carefully.
twlevesouth packaging

Twelve South Bass Jump Packaging

Packaging is not just an expense line item that can be marginalized and reduced to the lowest cost alternative…like plastic clamshell packages* – if you ship a product in plastic clamshell packaging, you are evil. Maybe you aren’t evil, but you are causing endless frustration to your customers at a time when they should be excited to have your product in hand and relish the “un-boxing”**

When you are selling something to someone, the design matters. Regardless of who you are selling to.
“….uh, Pete, you must be mad! Engineers and accountants don’t care about design of the packaging or pretty logos.”
You might be right person reading this blog, but ask a CTO if they care about the design of your architecture, ask a CFO if well designed revenue models are important. The importance of design is not limited to the marketing department and must be considered throughout your organization. That is true of services business as well. If you run a consulting firm, methodology is designed. It’s even branded (six sigma). Certifications are a part of the design of your business as well.
How well is your funnel designed?

Have your designed your sales funnel? or has it defined the way you do business?

This brings me to designing for revenue. Everything from your brand, messaging, sales team, methodologies and everything else related to how customers become customers, needs to be designed. As in a good architecture, design starts with purpose. What is the purpose of what you are trying to design? In the case of a revenue model or sales and marketing machine, that purpose better be revenue, customers or market share. Before you venture and migrate current processes to the cloud…consider the opportunity presented for a re-design.

Just as good graphic designers know how to mix various design elements to be effective, you should consider how you design your revenue model and sales engine. Some things just don’t make for good design. Investing heavily in search engine optimization before your website is effective. Hiring sales reps before you know your go-to-market strategy and can provide valid leads. Training reps before you know your sales cycle, process or methodology. Hopefully you won’t make these surprisingly common mistakes. It’s a mark of bad design.
I’m always interested in talking to people about how they view the importance of design in their business. More often than not all the pieces of the sales, marketing and business development plans don’t come together under a well executed design. -Peter
Larry David - Curb your Enthusiasm

Larry attempts to open a vacuum sealed 'clamshell' package.

* evil, lazy and environmentally irresponsible packaging that 90% of the time frustrates the customer and in some cases harms them. I have literally cut myself opening a plastic clamshell package. Larry David had a whole bit dedicated to plastic clamshell packaging on Curb Your Enthusiasm

**very strange social phenomenon that says a lot about our society. thousands of people actually post videos of themselves ‘un-boxing’ recent purchases as if it is a religious experience. I haven’t figured out why, to be honest, I haven’t tried. If you are sell a product that is heavily featured in ‘unboxing’ videos, then congratulations. You have created a product that people feel passionately about. Here’s an Apple iPad unboxing video if you have no idea what I am talking about.

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?

5 ways the cloud can be better for SMB companies

Gartner, Forrester and just about every other reputable analyst, technologist or CIO tend to agree. The Cloud is good for SMB companies.

The openera philosophy is simple. Believe in the open exchange of ideas and work with good people who are willing to work hard. Focus on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses with good partners. Succeed together.

Here are 5 ways The Cloud can help SMB Companies immediately:

  1. Manage Content (Documents, records, forms, media…)
  2. customer, partners contact management (CRM)
  3. Office essentials (Email, Calendar, Tasks…)
  4. Project Management (development, marketing, human resources…)
  5. Communication (VoiP, web presentations, im, chat & social.) 

We run our company on a combination of Google Apps (email, calendar, tasks & collaborative documents) Salesforce.com (CRM & Marketing Automation) Dropbox & Box.net for content management & back-up and Skype + DimDim for VoiP, Screen Sharing, and web presentations. For a few thousand dollars a year, we can run our entire organization better than well funded multi-national companies could 10 years ago. As a small business owner, that makes me smile.