Originally posted on Real-World Information Systems Management:

New Technology?

New Technology?

Introducing new technology within any organization faces adoption challenges from the user community for a variety of reasons but a major barrier can be just the learning process of how to use the new technology without disrupting or destroying existing work flows.

Prior to 1868 there was no usable typewriter in existence and thus communication was hand written or using a printing press. In 1853, the record handwriting speed was 30 words per minute. Then the first practical typewriter was invented by Christopher Latham Sholes in 1868 which easily doubled the possible number of words per minute.  Speeds of over 150 words per minute were possible.  Wow, a 5x speed improvement!

Imagine standing there in 1868 with fountain pen in hand and your boss gesticulating about this fantastic new device called a “typewriter” that you now had to learn immediately and that written communication was now frowned upon!…

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A CEO Technology Survival Guide

TechnologyIf you feel the Nerds have gotten you cornered and are a bit confused regarding technology in your business then this guide will help steer you out of the technology labyrinth:

  • Critical computer systems not reliable?
  • IT too slow to respond to the needs of the business?
  • Poor internal IT customer service?
  • Constant headaches from IT?
  • Trouble understanding IT staff?
  • IT acting as a barrier to expansion rather than a business partner?
  • Users seeking technology solutions outside the company?

Would you like a sure-fire plan for IT?

Then, download and read this free guide which will help steer you out of the technology labyrinth that well meaning Nerds may have steered the company into.

Free Download

Cloud RushCloud Services is just a handy way of marketing the concept of leased application platforms running in a vendor’s data center and accessible over the Internet. Thus, instead of owning and running an application on-premise, in your own data center, you are leasing the right to access and run an application over the Internet that is being maintained in a vendor’s data center.

Cloud Services provides many benefits depending on the service being offered:

  1. Hosted in the vendor’s data center removes the pain and hassle of maintaining expensive hardware in your own data center – hardware and software upgrades; Internet connectivity and security; and your own data center logistics.
  2. Reduced cost in the short-term due to the leasing arrangement but potentially higher costs in the long-term.
  3. Simplified application upgrade procedure as the vendor handles that completely within their data center.
  4. Faster to market features and upgrades as vendors typically roll-out new feature releases 2-4x per year.
  5. Depending on the vendor, superior customer service as the vendor controls the entire application environment in their data center.

Now, let’s compare those benefits with the typical on-premise solution:

  1. Hosted in your own on-premise or off-site data center with your staff buying, maintaining and upgrading all hardware and software; monitoring and handling Internet connectivity and security issues; maintaining on-site data center logistics (A/C, power, UPS’, security, etc.) or maintaining your equipment in an off-site data center.
  2. Cost is typically higher in the first year with initial purchase but then drops below the cost of Cloud Services in years 2 & 3 but then spikes as hardware is replaced and expensive software upgrades are purchased.  Calculate costs out to 7 years to determine true long-term costs of either solution.
  3. Software upgrades can be a real nightmare and require professional services from the vendor; or, at least, consume expensive staff time to perform all the upgrade steps including testing.
  4. Frequency of upgrades is usually once a year or even longer depending on the upgrade process and hassle.
  5. Customer service can be challenging as the application is running in your environment and the finger-pointing game can be used to avoid digging harder to isolate problems.

With all of these clear benefits, it’s no wonder it feels like a repeat of the Old West Land Rush but in this case it is a New Frontier Cloud Rush!

CIOs like Cloud Services as they are quick to roll-out, provide key technology solutions without the overhead of building them in-house and reduce internal overhead in maintaining an ever-growing application pool for the enterprise.

Not to paint too rosy a picture here, Cloud Services do have their drawbacks as well:

  • The enterprise data that is locked up in a Cloud Service may be difficult to extract and use in your other applications.  Yes, you may be able to download a data file but in order to use it dynamically in your other applications will require professional services from a 3rd party.
  • Cloud Services do not lend themselves to the concept of Single-Sign-On (SSO) very easily: users will need to manage all their logins separately; or, professional services may be needed to connect into your enterprise authentication system.  The Okta solution may help here.
  • Security of your data is always a concern as it is located in the vendor’s data center and you are relying on the vendor to have fantastic data security.
  • Cloud Services do fail from time to time and while they may hype 100% up-time that is just impossible: systems fail and people make mistakes. Typically the outages are of short duration (a few minutes to an hour) and rarely longer than that.  But, there have been horrible outages, like when Amazon Web Services went down for most of the Eastern U.S. in 2011 with problems persisting for four days.

In some cases on-premise solutions are still the only way to go. Thus, use those Cloud Solutions where they make sense for the business and be sure to retain a core group of internal technologists that fully understand your business and can keep everything running in a coordinated fashion.

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Mulesoft MuleSoft is an emerging startup with a fantastic Cloud platform for connecting Cloud Services with other Cloud Services and On-premise APIs. I had the pleasure of being introduced to MuleSoft via a day at Lightspeed Ventures of Menlo Park, Ca with eight other CIOs (or senior staffers) from around the San Francisco Bay Area interacting with and providing feedback on 10 emerging tech start-ups backed by Lightspeed (see my post The Day at Lightspeed Ventures).

Market Positioning: speed connecting enterprise apps with cloud apps using cloud or premise middleware that provides a turn-key connection solution to 1,000s of published APIs.

Solution: CloudHub™ integration platform as a service (iPaaS) allows you to build and offer repeatable integration applications without creating custom code. Connect applications on premise or in the cloud in a matter of days, not weeks -

Mulesoft

Amazingly Mulesoft has over 13,000 published APIs and actively supports 140 of the most used APIs. Nice! What a joy to have such a resource for connecting your legacy enterprise apps to the ever-growing cloud services without heavy custom coding.

MuleSoft provides the most widely used integration platform for connecting SaaS and enterprise applications in the cloud and on-premise

With the rise of cloud and mobile, enterprises face a choice: become overwhelmed by the resulting explosion of end points or seize the opportunity to gain competitive advantage. Founded on the idea that connecting applications should not be hard, MuleSoft lets organizations harness the power of their applications through integration.

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Salesforce Support OptionsWhen getting ready to ink the normal 3-year deal with your Salesforce rep, you need to safely navigate your Salesforce support options: once you sign then you are locked in for the full 3-year term! That’s right, if you decide you need less support then you are out of luck.

This is an important point on Salesforce contracts: you can always add licences and support options but you can never reduce them.

You have four main support options to choose from:

  1. Standard Success – basic email only support with a 2-business day SLA.
  2. Premier Success – email or phone support with a 2-hour SLA on phone calls.
  3. Premier Success+ – same as Premier Success but you get an assigned Salesforce Administrator to help out on routine functions.
  4. Mission Critical Success – dedicated support teams for large enterprises.

Standard Success is acceptable for low-priority support requests when you are not in a rush. You may need to go back and forth a few times to resolve your issue which may give you a real-world 3-4 business day resolution SLA. Standard Success comes at no charge – free!

Premier Success used to be premier up until April of 2012 when it was downgraded from immediately getting a Level 2 support rep on the phone to having a triage specialist (aka level zero tech) create a ticket for you and arrange to have the appropriate specialist call you back within 2 hours. Now you may get into phone tag which can stretch over many days unless you are tied to your phone.

With Premier Success you pay a high premium for having an on-demand team of triage specialists! The original lure of Premier Success was being able to call anytime and get a competent tech on the phone almost immediately. Alas, those days are gone.

An alternative option is to work with a Salesforce partner to provide on-demand support which should be quite cost-effective in comparison to paying the hefty per user charges for Premier Success.  The folks over at WestCoast Consulting Group provide great support – very knowledgeable.

Premier Success+ gives you a Salesforce Administrator to help out which may be useful if you have routine requests (e.g. building dashboards) but you may be better served contracting with a Salesforce partner.

For more info about the premier downgrade in 2012, see my post Salesforce New Support Model Falls Short.

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NutanixNutanix is a new startup launching a converged data and compute SANless server for advanced data centers. I had the pleasure of being introduced to Nutanix via a day at Lightspeed Ventures of Menlo Park, Ca with eight other CIOs (or senior staffers) from around the San Francisco Bay Area interacting with and providing feedback on 10 emerging tech start-ups backed by Lightspeed (see my post The Day at Lightspeed Ventures).

Market Positioning: gain ultra high-performance in your data center using the same proprietary technology used by Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Solution: Nutanix next-generation converged infrastructure solution that consolidates the compute (server) tier and the storage tier into a single, integrated server platform -

Nutanix

Each Nutanix node provides a self-contained CPU and storage solution and as each additional node is added, the storage becomes available across all nodes thus removing the complexity of managing complicated storage systems (SANs) and allowing an extremely flexible solution for growing your data center at the speed of light!

The Nutanix NX-2000 solution delivers some knock-out specs:

Nutanix NX-2000

If that’s not enough then there is the NX-3000 powering up to 400 virtual desktops!

Nutanix is a paradigm shift for building out data centers as it completely simplifies the storage design process and removes that ever persistent SANs headache we all feel!

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Cloud ContractsWith the ever-growing number of solid Cloud (SaaS, IaaS) services, one is confronted with more and more SLA contracts which one must be adept at wading through and spotting the pitfalls for the enterprise.

Recently I had the misfortune of having to wade through 50 pages of legalese for a straight forward co-location agreement. Yes, FIFTY pages of complicated clauses, whereins and wherefores. In all my years of reading fine print and performing contract negotiations, I have never seen such a masterwork of legalese which would make your head spin! Needless to say, that contract was chucked in the shredder and I went elsewhere.

When reviewing Cloud service contracts, here are some points to keep in mind:

  1. Beware too much legalese: you should be able to easily reach through the contract with all points making sense before you send it on to legal. At the end of the day, you need to understand the contract because if things go sideways down the line then management will be coming back to you!
  2. Beware multi-year terms: most cloud providers want to lock you in for 3 years with the carrot of giving you the deepest discount. Three years is an eternity on today’s technology express train. Are you 100% positive you will be on that platform for 3 years? If not then do some hard negotiating for a 1 year term.
  3. Beware unclear disaster recovery procedures: moving to the cloud is easy but you need to look behind the those pretty puffy white clouds and understand the service provider’s disaster recovery procedures. Anything in the cloud is just supposed to be up 100%, right? Look, those platforms are run by humans and to “err” is human and those platforms will go down. Even the king of SaaS – Salesforce.com – has outages from time to time. A primary question to ask is where is their data center? Is it located in the heart of earthquake country – San Francisco? Bad choice, then. The next question to ask is where is their backup or secondary data center? If the primary data center goes down then how will your service come back up? How long will you be down in that scenario? Don’t assume that the cloud provider has everything already sorted out. Ask those hard questions as if the their data center were yours!
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Pernixdata

PernixData just came out of stealth mode and I had the pleasure of being introduced to them via a day at Lightspeed Ventures of Menlo Park, Ca with eight other CIOs (or senior staffers) from around the San Francisco Bay Area interacting with and providing feedback on 10 emerging tech start-ups backed by Lightspeed (see my post The Day at Lightspeed Ventures).

Market Positioning: dramatically improve server performance at the data layer without expensive new hardware.

Solution: PernixData software layer leverages pool of Flash memory across multiple servers providing an enterprise-class, high-speed, software-only data tier for application acceleration -

PernixData

PernixData Flash Virtualization Platform (FVP) is created by virtualizing server-side flash via a scale out architecture. Virtualized applications transparently leverage FVP for unprecedented performance while requiring no changes to either the application or the underlying storage infrastructure. Clustered hypervisor features such as live migrations and distributed resource management continue to operate seamlessly with FVP. By virtualizing flash in servers, PernixData is picking up where hypervisors left off after virtualizing CPU and memory.

Personally this was the most intriguing product of the day as it provides a hardware agnostic solution for speeding up data layer performance without having to buy expensive SAN replacements. Wow, what a pleasure to be pitched a solution that did not require a rip and replace!

Their product is still in Beta – click here for more info!

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The CIO

The CIO

Pitching your product or service to a CIO is akin to meeting with that mythical unicorn – plenty of sightings and stories but you never actually get to meet with one! But, if you are lucky enough to get your sales moment, you may find the experience rather disheartening in how fast he or she says, “sorry, the IT project road map is set for the next 12 months.”

Let’s climb into the shoes of a CIO and learn how to effectively pitch your product or service to a CIO.

Climbing into a CIO’s Shoes

Firstly, realize that CIOs are extremely busy folks receiving many emails and phone calls each and every day from hopeful vendors and sales people working to attract the CIO’s gaze and consideration. Most if not all of these emails and phone calls are immediately trashed, deleted or otherwise removed from view because the current workload of projects and issues is so pressing.

Thus, your typical CIO’s first reaction to a sales letter, email or phone call is: “How do I get rid of this and off my plate and get back to what really matters?”

Secondly, the IT strategic plan has already been set for the next 12 months, or so, and thus the CIO’s frame of mind is: “Let’s get these projects done and fast!” He is normally in the tactical mode of rolling out new projects, patching up existing projects, getting funding and interfacing with the business folks.

Thus, he is not normally in a receptive mindset to consider new technology from an external, unknown source – you!

Ok, what to do?

Instantly Communicate the Problem Being Solved

You must instantly communicate the problem your product or service solves and hope the CIO is experiencing that specific problem to such an extent that he will actually listen to you!

Some bad examples:

  • “Hi, this is John Jones from Acme Software consulting. We are a local consulting firm and I would like to speak with you…” Click, send to trash.
  • “Hello Mr. White, I was referred to you by so-and-so and would like to talk to you about your eCommerce initiatives…” Click, send to trash.
  • “This is John. Please return my call at 1-800…” Click, send to trash.
  • “Hello Mr. White, I represent a local IT support firm and would like to find out more about your enterprise. Do you have a few minutes?”  (are you kidding?) “Ahhh, I am just stepping into a meeting now; how about you send me an email?”

Some good examples of how to instantly communicate the problem being solved:

  • ” Hello Mr. White, are you experiencing data storage issues in your data center? How would you like to increase SANs performance by 200% without buying expensive new hardware? Call me at …”
  • “Hi Tim, do you need more support staff but have no budget for a full-time person? How would you like to leverage a crack off-site support team for 1/2 the cost of a full-time person?”
  • “Hi Tim, is the CEO pressuring to reduce inter-office telecom costs? How would you like to save 30% on your inter-office calls without a long-term contract? Call me at …”

Do you see the difference? If the CIO is experiencing that problem then there is a good chance you will get a call back. Also, notice there is no preamble of who you are, your company’s name, yak, yak; but just getting right to the point. This is vital because once the CIO figures out the call is a “sales call” then that’s it, you’ve lost him or her!

These tips apply very well to cold calling but what about sales letters or emails?

Writing Killer Sales Letters or Emails

The previous points equally apply to writing sales letters or emails although with these you are actually giving an entire sales presentation via the letter or email. The key is to convince the CIO within the first paragraph that the product or service will address and solve a particular problem they are having.

Again, instantly communicate the problem your product or service solves. If they truly have that problem then they will work out spending the time to read your entire sales letter or email.

Writing great sales letters or emails is a real art and I highly recommend this great book by Dan Kennedy: The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers. Boost your Sales.

Now, what about a web or in-person presentation?

Delivering Great Sales Presentations

At a recent Lightspeed Ventures event where I and a group of CIOs had the privilege of having 10 emerging tech start-ups pitch their product to us for some real-world feedback; the general consensus was that each presenter made the same crucial mistake: spending far, far too much time on the company itself, its history, founder(s), management structure, list of customers, etc., etc. One for one, we all agreed that such information is worthless. Yep, worthless.

Look, I want to know within the first 5 minutes what the product or service will solve for me. If you can’t articulate that within 5 minutes then you have already lost your audience. You should know your market so well and have a solid 100% grasp of what problems your product or service solves that this should be easily done.

Here’s an example of how it can be done:

“Hello! Thank you for attending today! ACME Co. was established to solve the headaches in provisioning storage systems in rapidly expanding data centers. Do you experience costly storage upgrades as demand increases?

(get audience feedback – don’t just say it and move on)

Do you run into scaling issues with existing SANs?

(get feedback)

Are you frustrated with the complexity of server and storage systems?

(get feedback – very, very important to engage with your audience)

Our VX-2010 product line solves that problem by …”

Now, you are off to the races! Why? Because you have engaged with your audience, shown a clear use case for them and you have received feedback that it really will solve some of their real-world problems. If not then you might as well just end the sales presentation right then and there: why waste everyone’s time?

At the end of the presentation you can talk for a few minutes about the company and the customer list.

Don’t Be a Typical Sales Person

A typical sales person pitch runs on a script and just rolls along with little audience interaction with the sales person hoping that something will stick along the way! CIOs really, really dislike the typical sales person pitch. They spend too much time going over the company, their management, years in business, the customer list, etc., etc. and they talk endlessly.

Follow the points above, engage with your audience, have a killer product or service that solves a real-world pain point for the CIO and you are set!

Be a Great Communicator

Even if you do everything above perfectly there is still a way you could fail: you communicate poorly. You fidget, get tongue-tied, fail to engage, show anxiety, talk too much, dress poorly, sit slumped at the table, interrupt, etc., etc. A poor ability to communicate will skew the presentation right from the beginning.

There are many ways to become a great communicator. The folks over at Effective Training Solutions have an amazing two-day Improving Presentation Skills workshop that can work miracles on improving the effectiveness of your presentations. They also have a general Communications Skills workshop which is also fabulous. Effective Training Solutions has trained employees from Fortune 500 companies down to small businesses in 28 countries.

I hope this article has been helpful and good luck with your next presentation!

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Lightspeed VenturesI had the pleasure of spending the day at Lightspeed Ventures of Menlo Park, Ca with eight other CIOs (or senior staffers) from around the San Francisco Bay Area interacting with and providing feedback on 10 emerging tech start-ups backed by Lightspeed – one of the top venture capital firms on the planet, being in business for 20 years and having funded over 200 companies. The event was organized and setup by CIO Magazine.

Each tech start-up had 30-40 minutes to tell their story and present their products and services while gaining valuable feedback from real-world CIOs.

While all the start-ups had compelling products, here are my top picks:

PernixData

Market Positioning: dramatically improve server performance at the data layer without expensive new hardware.

Solution: PernixData software layer leverages pool of Flash memory across multiple servers providing an enterprise-class, high-speed, software-only data tier for application acceleration -

PernixData

PernixData Flash Virtualization Platform (FVP) is created by virtualizing server-side flash via a scale out architecture. Virtualized applications transparently leverage FVP for unprecedented performance while requiring no changes to either the application or the underlying storage infrastructure. Clustered hypervisor features such as live migrations and distributed resource management continue to operate seamlessly with FVP. By virtualizing flash in servers, PernixData is picking up where hypervisors left off after virtualizing CPU and memory.

Personally this was the most intriguing product of the day as it provides a hardware agnostic solution for speeding up data layer performance without having to buy expensive SAN replacements. Wow, what a pleasure to be pitched a solution that did not require a rip and replace!

PernixData just came out of stealth mode and their product is still in Beta – click here for more info!

 

Mulesoft

Market Positioning: speed connecting enterprise apps with cloud apps using cloud or premise middleware that provides a turn-key connection solution to 1,000s of published APIs.

Solution: CloudHub™ integration platform as a service (iPaaS) allows you to build and offer repeatable integration applications without creating custom code. Connect applications on premise or in the cloud in a matter of days, not weeks -

Mulesoft

Amazingly Mulesoft has over 13,000 published APIs and actively supports 140 of the most used APIs. Nice! What a joy to have such a resource for connecting your legacy enterprise apps to the ever-growing cloud services without heavy custom coding.

MuleSoft provides the most widely used integration platform for connecting SaaS and enterprise applications in the cloud and on-premise

With the rise of cloud and mobile, enterprises face a choice: become overwhelmed by the resulting explosion of end points or seize the opportunity to gain competitive advantage. Founded on the idea that connecting applications should not be hard, MuleSoft lets organizations harness the power of their applications through integration.

 

Nutanix

Market Positioning: gain ultra high-performance in your data center using the same proprietary technology used by Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Solution: Nutanix next-generation converged infrastructure solution that consolidates the compute (server) tier and the storage tier into a single, integrated server platform -

Nutanix

Each Nutanix node provides a self-contained CPU and storage solution and as each additional node is added, the storage becomes available across all nodes thus removing the complexity of managing complicated storage systems (SANs) and allowing an extremely flexible solution for growing your data center at the speed of light!

The Nutanix NX-2000 solution delivers some knock-out specs:

Nutanix NX-2000

If that’s not enough then there is the NX-3000 powering up to 400 virtual desktops!

Nutanix is a paradigm shift for building out data centers as it completely simplifies the storage design process and removes that ever persistent SANs headache we all feel!

Grateful Acknowledgement

Grateful acknowledgement to Adam Dennison at CIO Magazine and Krish Parikh at Lightspeed Ventures for arranging and coordinating this wonderful event!

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