Category Archives: sales

Making Prospecting more Profitable

When you get right down to brass tacks making money means selling something PROFITABLY.   I capitalize the word “profitably” because far too many become enamored of acquiring new customers or up-selling existing ones, but they don’t keep the eye on whether they really are making money or if the cost of goods sold (COGS) means a loss of money.

The only time you should ever lose money on a sale is when you do so consciously.   It may well be that to garner a “marquee” name customer who can be referenced to encourage others in a given industry to buy from you sell something at a loss.  When and if you do lose money on a sale you should do so with eyes wide open aware that it is a sales tool itself to gain more profitable sales.

We’re all here to make money, and if you do not know the cost of making a sale odds are you are losing money.

Tools to keep you informed are many:  from financial software to manage your “books” which include ERP (enterprise resource plannng) and CRM (customer relationship management).    We’ve discussed a few of these tools in this blog — tools aimed at start-ups, mid-size companies all the way to the Fortune 100 — tools which can help you make money profitably if used appropriately.

Which brings me (finally) to the topic of this blog:  software that helps you optimize your CRM sales funnel.

A sales funnel is the concept that to make one sale you must have X number of sales “leads” (potential customers) who become  “suspects” (research shows they could use your offer) lined up that you can target and then winnow them down to “prospects.”  Prospects are qualified businesses who could benefit from your offers — whether they know it or not.  They have budget, they have a need and you can help them meet their own goals.  The key in funnel management is to turn those prospects into customers — and in each step of the sales process of many “suspects” you will find only a few “prospects” and even fewer of them will turn into customers.

Even in the age of social media you still have to identify potential customers and somehow you need to make them aware that you have a service or a product they will find valuable. . .  the methods for reaching them may be changing, but the fundamentals remain the same.

There is a very old saying in the computer industry — about as old as the industry itself.  Surely you have heard the term GIGO (garbage in / garbage out).   You must fill your sales funnel, but if you fill it with lots of names that do not have the potential to be a customer your “funnel management” is poor and your sales profitability will also be low.

To acquire profitable customers (new ones) or even identify what you can up-sell or cross-sell to existing customers you must have a way of identifying qualified leads from the very beginning.     Cisco (the leading communications vendor) credits a company named eTrigue with increasing their SMB (small / medium business) sales appointments by 25% through just such pinpoint targeting of potential customers.

Linda Fassig-Knauer, (a Cisco marketing programs manager)  is the one making the claim about eTrigue and  3Marketeers (advertising, marketing, and demand generation/lead generation) for better lead generation:

“eTrigue Intelligent lead scoring helps us determine which technology or offer the prospect is most interested in discussing with our sales teams and enables us to funnel those leads in a timely manner to our call center, who ultimately sends to our channel partners,” says Fassig-Knauer, “The information in eTrigue lead scoring gives us three times the information so our call center agents are much more prepared before a call. It also greatly increases the number of prospects we can identify as being interested in a solution because the system does not require the customer/prospect to register.” CRM users can view active prospects in eTrigue’s demand generation application within Salesforce — making it easy to use for sales reps.    eTrigue won an award from DemandGen for its work with Cisco.

Given the fact that the economy is still slow you need to find a way to do more with less.  Your sales reps need to be more efficient than ever.  Tools like the cloud based SaaS (software as a service) teamed with a demand generation tool like eTrigue  can fill your funnel with  a higher number of better-qualified leads faster, less expensively and with fewer resources.

You need to identify suspects and then you need to pinpoint target valuable information to them (using CRM with integrated email campaign tools and social media tools as well as the good old fashioned telephone!).  Doing more with less in these times means working smart with inexpensive but highly valuable tools.   Take a cue from Cisco and from Codice Software, who saw a 225% increase in qualified leads, and a 50% increase in actionable sales leads when it used eTrigue.  Response rates went up by 160% versus the same period the prior year.

Another customer, Silver Peak, generated 30% more programs without additional staff.  The cost is much lower than hiring more people — although if you get enough good leads you may need to put more feet on the street!

If you are using I highly recommend that you take a look at eTrigue and see if automating your sales funnel demand generation makes sense.


Three Ways to Make Money with Web 2.0

I do my best to post every few days, and it has been more than a week since my last blog.   I have a good reason.  I’ve been busily creating a new website for SME, Inc. — Social Media Excellence in Orlando, Florida.    I’ve also moved my blog to the site, and the new address is .   If you’ve been reading this blog, or my blog in IT Toolbox or Blogger, hopefully this will be the new “permanent” home for the blog.

I’ve been digging deeper and deeper into social media (Facebook, Twitter, and other methods of online conversation) and have found mostly anecdotal assurances that companies can reap much higher new sales revenue with much lower investment by using Web 2.0 tools such as these.

Believe it or not I actually am from Missouri, the “show me state” and it is hard to believe these claims without some sort of proof.   We’re pretty graphic “down home” and an old saying comes to mind:  “With all this manure, there must be a horse in here somewhere.”

McKinsey and Company is considered a top notch consulting company and they recently did some research on the topic of ROI with Web 2.0 efforts.  The results are pretty surprising.

69% percent of companies that have made some sort of Web 2.0 investment reported real and substantiated business benefits, including more effective marketing, better collaboration and a reduction in the cost of doing business.

“How companies are benefiting from Web 2.0: McKinsey Global Survey Results.” is the source.  This survey examined 1,700 executives from all over the world.

The top three ways to make (or save) money using social media were:

  1. Faster job completion by improving the speed to access information (68 percent of respondents averaged a  30 percent improvement, which is substantial);
  2. Lower communication costs (54 percent of respondents with an average improvement of 20 percent);
  3. Faster access to internal experts (43 percent of respondents with an average improvement of 35 percent)

20-35% improvement is pretty impressive.

When just asked to look externally, the 1,700 executives reported:

  1. More effective marketing (53 percent; average mprovements ranged from 17 percent for conversions up to 25 percent for awareness activities);
  2. Increasing customer satisfaction (43 percent with an average  improvement of 20 percent);
  3. Reduced cost of marketing (38 percent with an average improvement of 15 percent).

Again, not bad.  #2 is particularly interesting since social media is all about communication and conversations — your customers talk to you and to others, as compared to traditional marketing where they passively view a commercial or read an ad.

All in all an interesting report and the beginnings of something to show your management when arguing for the use of social media.

CRM and Email Marketing

Since CRM (customer relationship management) is supposed to mean any one or any system that interacts with customers one would logically think that email marketing would be an integral part of any CRM solution.

But it isn’t.

Email marketing has been around as long as email itself has.  Yet most companies who do email marketing for customer retention (up selling and cross selling) or acquisition (acquiring new customers) do so blindly using third party lists or hobbled together lists.   Some may use Templates found on Microsoft’s template section of their website.  Others use a variety of software or internet based solutions — and there same to be a plethora of them out there.

Most companies seem to use the axiom:  throw enough mud on the wall and some of it is bound to stick when sending out corporate marketing emails.

No tracking of the ROI (return on investment).  No knowing if you are “ticking off” your best customers.  No knowing how many hit the SPAM filter.  No knowing how many people get multiple emails from you (annoying them).  Bad email marketing hurts every other aspect of CRM, and does more damage than good.

This is mass emailing.  My friend, Sundeep Kapur (other wise known as the Email Yogi) has been an email marketing guru since around 1999 and he has outlined “Seven Stages of eMarketing” in a  Whitepaper – available, with just a simple request.  The first is exactly what I outlined above:  mass marketing with the hope someone, somewhere will read it.

I don’t want to “give away” everything in Sundeep’s excellent paper, but suffice it to say that email CRM isn’t any different than CRM in general — know thy customer.  You must target your existing customers and potential customers by market segment (customer segmentation), by demographics, by buying history, etc.  None of this is rocket science, but it is all hard work — that results in qualified leads that generate new customers.

The more you can customize the email to the prospect the better.  And if you can make it FUN even better still!

Customer segmentation allows you to target your email messaging.

Once you’ve created an email offer, newsletter, etc. it is a good idea to set up two separate tests with similar, but not identical, offers.  The test audiences must be the same segmentation for this to work.  Try to make an offer that requires a response (buy in) before the scroll down point (above 400 pixels in height) and if this is the first email one of those should be an opt in to get more emails from you.

Design the email using HTML and a plain text file.  If you start getting fancy with CSS or flash — even Java — many email programs won’t read it properly.

When CRM and email marketing work together it is a beautiful thing.    Email marketing can also extend into social networking (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter) via RSS and SMS.

Sundeep works for my old boss, NCR — a leader in retail and hospitality solutions.   Software solutions vary based on your own corporate needs (and budget).  RWD uses Constant Contact.  The design of emails is pretty easy, but it isn’t your standard Windows “look and feel” so there is a learning curve and difficulty if you want to copy or paste from it into another program.   They do offer a free 60 day trial, so if you are new to email marketing take a look at them and try them out.

More mid-range companies might look at Gold Lasso.   The UI is also not the easiest to use, but they do have some analytics thrown into the mix.  Also good in the mid-range and even enterprise (big) company range is ResponsysJupiterResearch awarded Responsys the highest combined score in “market suitability” and “overall business value” among all enterprise-oriented email service providers.  It also ranked high with Forrester and Gartner (in a niche category).  The Enterprise level also includes the market leader, Cheetahmail (now part of Experian).

Cheetahmail is the most entrenched, and it is very feature rich.  The UI (user interface) suffers from some of the same issues as Constant Contact and Gold Lasso.

In a future blog I’d like to delve into how well email marketing soltuions tie into legacy systems (the back end CRM, ERP and industry specific apps which hold the wealth of customer data) — both from a push and pull perspective.


Last week I had the chance to travel to beautiful Cambridge, MA.  Years ago AT&T sent me to MIT for various business courses, but I hadn’t been there in years.  Coming from Orlando with its 100 plus degree days it was a pleasure to walk by the Charles River along with many others.  The weather was perfect and I wasn’t the only one enjoying the gorgeous day.

I was in Cambridge to visit with Pegasystems, the leading BPM (business process management) software leader.  Pega (as they are known) boasts major customers including Bank of America, three or four of the “Blues” (Blue Crosses) and many others.

BPM automates common work practices — and since many companies are like silos — marketing is independent of sales is independent of engineering is independent of shipping, most processes that cross departments (and don’t they all?) get there via email, voice mail, forms, excel spreadsheets. . .  Even when the systems are the same the receiving department has to proactively pull the work into their world.

BPM not only automates processes across organizations, but using quality improvement methods and workflow automation work gets done faster and more efficiently — thus saving time and money.  In the world of government regulation (such as Sarbanes-Oxley aka SOX) where companies had to keep a tighter track of financial information for auditing purpose) being able to not only automate processes, but to track them becomes a necessity.

Pega is #1 in the BPM software world with their  SmartBPM® product.  Their president, Alan Trefler was named “Computer Software Executive  of the Year” at the 2009 American Business Awards.  So in the world of BPM they are not only the market leader, but the thought leader.  Pega is the leader in the Gartner Group “Magic Quadrant” for BPM.

Recently Pega has dipped its toe into the CRM (customer relationship management) world with their solution CPM (Customer Process Manager).  They have build a contact center customer service support module on top of this BPM engine.   While certainly not a “threat” to the more complete CRM vendors who go beyond the customer service space, the Pega solution is the next logical step for CRM.

Today’s CRM solutions are, for the most part, records based.  Whether we’re talking of Siebel (Oracle), or Microsoft Dynamics CRM they all start by creating a record.

Remember those corporate silos I mentioned a few paragraphs ago?  All that great customer information winds up “usable” beyond the CRM application only if it is in a field in said record.  Otherwise that valuable customer “gold” becomes embedded in notes that a CSR or sales rep makes of the contact, and are only available to those who sit and read those notes.

What Pega’s CRM does well is to integrate end-to-end customer-facing processes across not only departments but existing applications.  If you already have Siebel and an (enterprise resource planning) ERP solution and a (supply chain management) SCM solution you can bring in Pega underneath them to streamline the hand off of a sale or problem resolution across organizations.  Over time you can begin to implement some of their desktop apps that can be very easily modified on the fly.  The power of Pega’s ability to pull this off is shown in their 50% plus growth in the last year.

The most amazing thing about Pega is that they are aimed at the big companies —  1,000 plus users.  Many CRM applications simply can’t scale to large implementations, but Pega can — and it does so based on an open architecture (java).

Pega does have competitors in this new CRM hybrid space.  Chordiant and Sword Ciboodle (a really excellent offer from a Scottish company who is making inroads into the States) to consider along with Pega if the process oriented CRM approach makes sense in your company.

The traditional CRM vendors have noted the interested a hybrid BPM / CRM approach and all have some iteration of it on their product roadmaps.    If you’re interested in the CRM world, take a look at Pega, Chordiant ans Sword Ciboodle to get a feel for your future.

The Lazy Hazy CRM Days of Summer and the Holy Grail of Unified Communications

This is the first entry in awhile.  After my last blog the folks at IT Toolbox asked me to begin a blog for them on the topic of CRM.  “Making Cents and Sense of CRM” is focused on how CRM has gone from being the next great invention to improve corporate ROI since the invention of ERP (enterprise resource planning) into a mess of all kinds of applications that have nothing to do with one another (from sales force automation (SFA), to customer service, to business intelligence, to contact center. . .).  You name a solution and no doubt someone has called it “CRM.”

This mis-use of the term has caused the market to falter.   Why would people buy something when they either don’t know what it is supposed to do, or when it over promises and under delivers?

I think this is where the expression “duh” aptly fits.

So as I sit in Central Florida in 100 plus degree heat (farenheit) pondering how soon I can get back to the beach or at least the pool I’ve been focusing on the question of whether we need to “re-label” real CRM or whether we can save it with a hail Mary pass?

That “hail Mary” may be tying CRM with Unified Communications.  We’ve discussed this a little bit before — how the ability to provide accessibility to people where ever they are from a  “virtual” office phone or email address makes the ability to improve customer service. . .but let’s take a look at some “real world” examples.

Toshiba just announced their  Unified Communications Suite, Strata® CIX™.   ShorTel (a VoiP vendor) recently linked their UC to their call center quality assurance processes.   Why are vendors big and small suddenly jumping on the “CRM / UC” bandwagon?

Well, a survey by Computerworld Hong Kong showed that users are worn out from accessing multiple communications points (email, voicemail, cell phone, office phone, etc.) only to be bombarded by people that keep them from getting their work done, while getting to important things and people “too late.”   The survey found that 55% were using IM (instant messaging), 42% were using video conferencing, and 29% were using person to person tools that were created original for home use (like Yahoo! and Microsoft Messenger).

While hte survey shows that people need UC (and may even WANT UC) they still don’t understand what it is!

Forrester Research also conducted a survey and their’s showed that most small and large companies still are uncertain about the benefits of UC!  Forrester surveyed 2,187 North American companies and 55% (55%!) were confused about what it was, let alone its value to them!

Wow, here we are contemplating how to get CRM out of the mess of “what is it and why do I care?” when it has enormous potential to improve the bottom line, when unified communications perhaps has a faster ROI (probably less overall over time, but a huge, quick payback for UC) but no one knows exactly why!


Granted the economy is confused right now and some companies are in panic mode — but this makes both UC and CRM even more compelling given the ROI — especially with a shrinking workforce.  Yet 55% are confused about the VALUE of Unified Communications?

Wow, we are sure lousy communicators!

Ellen Daley, (the Forrester Research analyst who authored the report) said: “There’s been a 21% increase in UC pilots since 2007 but no increase in firms buying UC. A lot of people are talking about UC, a lot more are tipping their toe in; but at the same time they’re all saying they’re not sure about the value.”

Folks, we can’t throw technology at a problem and hope that fixes things!  UC and CRM both hold enormous potential for companies but ONLY if correctly applied to a specific business NEED.  Pilots alone are worthless if the pilot isn’t part of a business problem and specific success criteria applied to the pilot.

Far too many IT vendors sell to the TCM (telecommunications manager), or the CIO (Chief Information Officer) or some other technical manager.  Definitely we need to be talking to these folks, but the REAL buyers of UC and CRM are in Marketing and Sales.  These areas are outside of the comfort zone of man typical IT sales person.

UC and CRM vendors need to move up the totem pole and start cross selling into sales and marketing (and perhaps even the CFO and CEO).  If you don’t know how to get there and have a compelling story when you do — prepare to fail.  Sit by the beach or pool in these lazy, hazy days of summer and prepare to sit there during the blizzards of February (or in my case, Disney’s Blizzard Beach).

If you lack the ability to get outside of IT you’d better partner with someone who can.

Or we’ll attend the funeral of your awesome CRM or UC product — along (perhaps) with the whole field. See you at the beach!

CRM and Unified Communications

My last blog focused on how Unified Communications (UC) can empower the contact center by directing nontraditional call center calls to the center.  Most people think of UC as a way of combining multiple contact points for one person to a single point of contact (thus John Smith’s office phone, cell phone, email, IM, etc. can all be directed to “ring” on his cell phone).  This is the common way UC is explained, and it can be very valuable — but it can also result in TMI (too much information).

Everyone may be created equal, but we can’t give all of our customers, peers, bosses, and the world at large equal access to us or we’d never get any work done.  We need to prioritize who can contact us and how.  Thus with UC we can identify specific people (our boss, our spouse, our key customer) to reach us at our #1 end point (maybe that cell phone) while other important people get directed to voice mail — or as I pointed out in my last blog — this is a perfect opportunity to now direct those folks to a contact center where an inside sales rep or pool admin can hopefully handle their needs in one call (OCR = one call resolution).

So there is a natural marriage between UC and CC (contact center).

Where does CRM come into play?

CRM (customer relationship management) has become such a muddied term.  It has become far too generic.  To some it does mean contact center software (and it can be that), to some it means the software or software as a service (SaaS) that outside sales reps use to keep track of their accounts, where they are in the sales cycle, etc. — and that is a good definition. . .but CRM is much bigger than that.

CRM is really broken into two broad categories:  “front office CRM” and “Back office CRM.”

Front office CRM are the applications that actually touch the customer directly — the voice on the phone in the contact center, an internet interface where they can place an order, customer service (again online or over the phone) or the live customer service rep (CSR).  Any part where the customer is directly interfacing with your company is a form of “front office CRM.”

And a logical touchpoint for UC and CRM to link.

The holy grail of the contact center for years has been OCR – one call resolution.    Any problem that isn’t resolved in one call, or any sale that can’t be closed in one call (“we have an internet special where for the same price you are paying today you can add XYZ. . .”) costs lots of money.  Any customer service call that takes too long or requires “follow up” also begins to alienate your customers making them more inclined to leave you for another firm.

UC can dramatically improve the goal of OCR — whether that “one call” is a phone call, an internet access or even your face to face outside sales rep.

It all has to do with the “hand off.”  Inside a contact center this can be done with intelligent routing (which is really what UC is in a larger scheme of things).  We route the call to the most logical, not the first available, agent.   With UC we are now moving beyond the barrier of the contact center and able to route the call to best person no matter what department they work in, or even WHERE THEY ARE physically.

Setting up skills routing takes time, but the rewards are immense both in customer satisfaction and in cost reduction.

All of this so far focuses on the connectivity between front office CRM and UC, but back office CRM can increase this cost reduction by quantum factors.  Using a data warehouse (or perhaps data mart) to identify your most profitable customers you may choose to always route them to a specific department or person — not blindly treating all customers the same but giving platinum treatment to platinum customers.

By contrast your lower value customers (in margins) can always be routed through an IVR (interactive voice response) unit and routed to newer agents. . .  The dirty little reality in sales is that there are some customers that are not worth having because the amount of work they require (and work = expense to your company) may mean you actually lose money by having them as a customer.  Back end CRM identifies who is profitable and thus worth retaining.

One to one marketing is a myth.  We do not market to all of our prospects and customers in the same way and we shouldn’t.   Back end CRM’s information on customer profitability can help determine who we route to whom in our dynamic, unified communications world.

This blog is speaking in generalities — as if we had all the money and time in the world to link all of these disparate systems together.    The good news is that many of these systems are already begining to be linked — Cisco with, Aspect with MicrosoftAvaya and SAP, Nortel offers integration to Microsoft Dynamics CRM and implemented Dynamics internally.   The idea is to take advantage of the technologies you may already have in place such as a legacy  Siebel implementation maybe using AT&T’s Siebel Solutions offer) to improve relations with your customers and business partners through a streamlined “one call resolution” that goes far beyond the silos of “outside sales,” “engineering,” “customer service” across your business.

The Contact Center, CRM and Unified Communications

In my last blog we discussed the impact of social networking on unified communications and concluded that while UC and social networking are all forms of communications one is “push” (in social networking you post and someone reads it at their own pace and discretion) whereas most of UC (unified communications) is “pull.”

In UC it is the recipient, the “end user” who determines who can reach them at what end point through a single point of access.  Boy that sounds verbose.  To put it more simply, in today’s world most people have an office phone, a cell phone, maybe a home land line phone, at least one email (usually two or more:  business and personal), some still carry pagers, and then we have Twitter and the social media platforms.  The promise of UC is that the end user defines where s/he “is” (maybe the cell phone) and all forms of communication are routed to that one source — even if they are sent to another (the office phone, email, etc.).

Perhaps the greatest thing about UC in this overloaded world is that the end user can actually decide WHO accesses their primary end point (in our example the cell phone) and who is “tier II” and goes directly to voice mail to be retrieved when time is available, or even “tier III” (unknown people, for example) who go to an admin or even get funneled to another department — for example, the call center.

You knew I’d eventually wrap back to the contact (call) center — after all the title of this blog is “The Contact Center, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and Unified Communications.

Most people don’t “see” the connection between the contact center and Unified Communications (UC), but is actually pretty obvious.  UC is best suited to people with lots of contacts and who may be away from their physical office a lot (think of lawyers, physicians, business executives who attend meetings off-site, sales types, Realtors, etc.).   Do we really want the “unknown” callers to go to some over loaded voice mail box where it may never receive attention due to work levels?

How about shipping that call to a $9 an hour CSR (customer service representative) who can identify the purpose and see if there is a potential sale there?  If not a sale, how about resolving a problem or at least determing the correct person to handle the purpose of the original call?  The result is a happier initial caller, better customer service, maybe a new sale AND OCR (one call resolution).

The contact center vendors are beginning to understand this obvious advantage.  Genesys (an Alcatael / Lucent company) — one of the two largest contact center vendors (the other being Avaya) — has announced UC Connect.  UC Connect promises integration and interoperability between the Genesys Customer Interaction Management (CIM) software platform and UC solutions from many of the major providers in the industry.  From what I can tell the only integration available currently is to IBM SameTime.

I haven’t seen it so can’t tell you how simple or complex (integration) this solution is — but Genesys claims it will provide connectivity to the Alcatel-Lucent’s MyInstant Communicator, IBM Sametime, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, and Siemens Openscape.   When?  How?  That remains to be seen.

Formerly with Siemens I’m very familiar with Openscape and love it.   If you are looking into UC be sure you take a look at Openscape — realizing that Siemens market share is far below Cisco and Avaya but knowing that feature / functionality is tops.  IBM integrated some of the Siemens’ Openscape code into Sametime — and initially Microsoft partnered with Siemens in their previous UC generation.  Great product, but again the caveat is Siemens market penetration, service coverage — so be sure you feel comfortable with your support and service  if you consider Openscape.

Avaya?  Cisco?  Genesys has taken the bull by the horn.  Granted you have to be a user of their contact center software, but they are one of the two market leaders in that field. . .

Genesys has raised the bar.  Cisco offers Cisco Unified Communications contact center system, proclaimed as “the Cisco IP solution for distributed contact center applications,” but it is a total Cisco (one vendor) solution not the open true UC offer now available from Genesys.   Stay tuned.

The Irony of it All

My last blog posed the question:  “Is Microsoft the next Dinosaur?”  My point was that most companies have a lifecycle, just like products do and people do.

Microsoft may or may not be at the precipice of a decline — it is really up to Microsoft.  The thing I always admired about Bill Gates in the “early days” (and I was a UNIX fan since I worked for AT&T Computer Systems) was that he was always paranoid.  He knew the internet could eclipse the OS as far as the center of the IT universe and so out came Internet Explorer.  Microsoft tried to win the search engine war — and after repeated lack of success has what looks like a nice product in Bing.

But no sooner did I post my Blog and get lots of comments (most not so nice from Microsoft proponents) along comes PC World with an article that asks the very same question I asked: 

Is Microsoft Following GM’s Road Map?

Analysis: GM’s bankruptcy marks the end of an era. Is Microsoft repeating the automaker’s mistakes?

J. Peter Bruzzese, InfoWorld

// Jun 3, 2009 6:00 pm

“Microsoft has faced a few serious bumps over the last 10 years but came out fine. . .Knowing the work Microsoft developers put into their products, I believe they are the saving grace of the company — as long as they are allowed to hear the voice of the people. This is an area where I’ve seen a problem.”

I worked for AT&T at the hey day of Bell Labs.  We had the brightest, most awesome minds around — just like Microsoft does today.   Microsoft ca be its own best friend or its own worst enemy.  Only time will tell.

Is Microsoft the next Dinosaur?

Marketing used to be pretty easy to understand — not simple mind you, but easy.  Marketing consisted of branding, public relations, advertising, trade shows and the like.  One could choose print media, radio, TV, billboards and such.

The company was in charge of the message.  Does anyone remember “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit”?

Today the world is on its head.  My last post discussed the great new book, What Would Google Do.  That book focuses on the model of free core offers that are supported by the ancillary things the core touches.  Content is less important than how to tap into content.

And all of this stems from the explosion of information that came about with the Internet.

I started my career in the 1980s when AT&T spun off the “Baby Bells” giving up the gold mine of monopoly POTS (plain old telephone service) customers for the holy grail of “a computer is just a node on a network.”

That idea rang so true to me, who became a true believer in distributed computing and “information anywhere, any time, any place.”

Everyone else laughed.  This was the era of huge mainframe proprietary computers (the BUNCH were still around — Burroughs, Univac, NCR, CDC and Honeywell, although on the decline.  RCA had already exited computing.  DEC, Wang (no jokes please), Data General. . .these were the ‘mini” computer guys with 64 KB of RAM or LESS (yes, LESS) — names now gone as they either went out of business or were swallowed by others. . .

Microsoft is now on the edge.  It faces the same fate as the BUNCH and the minicomputer vendors if it doesn’t soon wake up and realize that they’ve been commoditized.   Software is almost a “thing of the past” just as minicomputers went the way of the buggy whip and the VCR.  Will anyone buy software on a CD or DVD much longer?  Why, when you can access SaaS (software as a service) online?

Why bog down your internet access device (computer seems so passe, doesn’t it?) with gigabytes of software when it changes daily?  Why not just tap into a secure app that is FREE or nearly free?

Years ago I interviewed for a job at Microsoft and they asked me who their competitor was.  Fresh from Teradata and in a DBMS (data base) state of mind I said “Oracle?” The reply was:  “Google.”

Google?  Google???

But it only took me a second to realize they were right — he who owns the eye balls, owns the person.  Google may have begun “life” as a search engine, but now it is so much more — it is the gateway to the information highway.

Microsoft, I love you.  You’ve done amazing things —  Microsoft Dynamics, your unified communication platform rocks — but you need to realize that the world has changed.  Aside from being global, it is viral.  If you want to stay relevant start realizing what AT&T knew back in the 1980s — but failed to deliver.

A computer is nothing but a node on a network.

Stop focusing on delivering products for the computer.  Start thinking of the network.  Start thinking of the people as if they were on a vast buffet line (network) where they can pick and choose what they want (iPhone apps ring a bell?).

Because that is today’s reality.  And it isn’t changing any time soon.

Happy 2009!

Times are tough.  Businesses large and small are shutting down or looking for government hand outs.   Will GM and the other auto manufacturers survive?   Are we facing a depression??  Job loss is rising and it seems that daily we see new layoffs reported.    It is even rumored that Microsoft may lay off up to 17% of its workforce.  Link.

I’m not picking on Microsoft, simply highlighting the situation that our economic down spiral is just that — when one thing goes bad it impacts another line of business. . . from the mom and pop restaurants who lose customers, and thus so do their suppliers to the big firms who are household names.

Yet I started this blog saying “Happy 2009” and I really am optimistic.   As FDR said so many years ago “All we have to fear is fear itself.”

There have to be opportunities — and with the new Obama administration about to take over it seems there will be a number of attractive areas.   Obama has promised global Internet access — so the network providers have a golden opportunity to come out of this downturn quickly.  The new administration is also very pro “green” — so if look for environmentally friendly solutions in your field.   The other attractive markets?

Government itself as a customer (federal for now, as the local governments who rely heavily on property taxes are “hurting”) and health care.  Baby boomers are aging and putting more and more stress on health care.  Again, the new administration is very interested in universal health care.  Keep in mind that Hillary Clinton, slated to be our new Secretary of State, was in charge of the Clinton Administration’s health care vision about fifteen years ago.  Back then I was working closely with the Chairman and CFO at Adventist Health System Sunbelt, and the CFO was on Hillary’s committee.  A lot of the visions then (electronic patient records that are patient-centric, not owned by individual doctors) are part of the vision yet today.

Tom Daschle has been named as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the new administration.   In his book Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis, he  discusses price controls (meaning health care providers need to find a way to improve quality to reduce costs).    Daschle is a big fan of Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) which has a two tier approach — everyone has access to a base level of health care and you can pay for private access if you so desire.

Time will tell what the Obama administration will do, but the time to begin exploring how you can take advantage of the new opportunities is now.  Welcome to 2009!

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