Wired in and hacking markets!

Coders get ‘plugged-in!’ when they are in the zone immersed deep in code and building their cool tech. I’m not a tech entrepreneur, I don’t code and build products. However, like tech entrepreneurs, I can get ‘plugged-in’ too. My hacking doesn’t include JSON or rails, network protocols, bandwidth, restful API’s or UI’s…I’m hacking dollars and markets, needs and wants, tweaking value props and pitches. I QA our message with customers and partners, and potential investors. I’ve heard really good golfers talk about ‘seeing the line’ to sink a long put. They don’t just see it, they feel it and everything else blurs out of their vision. That happens when I see niches in markets, problems that, with the right solution and right sales & marketing mix, can address huge markets. That’s when I am plugged-in, in the zone – I’m grocking the market. (another blog post: grocking the market)

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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.

My own cloud history (Part 1)

This is a partial re-post of a rather verbose post from last year. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own personal cloud history lately and this story is worth sharing again.

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.

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!

People are the problem!

Why do fresh & shiny new systems fail? People. People suck! They don’t do what you want them to. They don’t follow instructions or read manuals. They can’t follow simple processes because they say they are “too busy ” well, get over it. Seriously. Please get over it. It’s time to admit you have a problem and that problem is people.

So, what are you going to do about it? For starters, why not try to accept that people aren’t going to change. Maybe the problem is you! How would you change the system to accommodate the way people actually work?