Successfully Promoting Apps to Enterprise Business Requires More Than An Appeal to Mobile Users

2 Color Design Hi-Res From the recent financial results of leading software vendors — Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and more — it should be apparent enterprise computing remains the most lucrative software market in mid 2015. So early stage tech businesses (ISVs) need to conceptualize, architect, and build solutions on a foundation including a clear understanding of what enterprise computing is all about if a revenue plan includes marketing to enterprise business.

Unfortunately, ISVs with CRM apps written for iOS who expect business consumers to buy simply because they use iPhones are not likely to succeed. Sure these apps will work fine — to an extent — for SMBs, but not for enterprise computing. A scalable architecture is absolutely required for this market segment. After all, enterprise computing includes PCs, Mainframes, and mobile devices (including tablets as well as smartphones). So it makes sense to either include a PC version of your solution, which will work seamlessly along side your client for the iPhone and iPad. If you do not have the PC solution, then you must have the hooks in place to allow users to plug your solution into one built on a scalable architecture addressing this market requirement.

All of the above may seem rudimentary to readers, but I was recently approached by an early stage business with a CRM built for iPhones, only. When I asked about clients for PCs, etc, my questions went into the void and my email exchange abruptly terminated. So early stage ISVs often combine a promising solution for a solution businesses may really need, with a very limited and inadequate understanding of just how users will actually consume the solution.

Of course, building your solution for an enterprise computing market doesn’t stop when you have successfully equipped your solution with a scalable architecture. You will have to also use a method of authenticating users. So here, too, you should choose the method most familiar to the market — in all likelihood something built to communicate with Microsoft’s Active Directory.

The list of critical architectural requirements does not stop with the above couple of examples. There are more, in fact too many to discuss, completely, in this post even in no more than broad terms.

If you have a solution you think is promising for enterprise computing, but are not familiar with the requirements posed by this market, you need to add someone to your management team who can fill this gap. Our temporary VP of marketing plan can execute on this role until you identify a right candidate for the spot. Please contact us to learn more.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved


ISVs should operate with realistic assumptions about enterprise consumer appetite for product updates and software assurance

An important plank in the floor boards supporting most product plans for enterprise software is an assumption about enterprise consumer willingness to implement product updates, and, in turn, purchase software assurance. Therefore, early stage ISVs should ensure they are operating with correct assumptions about both of these points. Here are some points to think about:

Product Updates

More likely than not enterprise consumers will implement product updates at a very slow pace. The pace at which they actually consume product updates (both free and paid) depends on just where in the office automation apparatus an ISV’s product plugs in. We argue enterprise organizations consuming software products for very large computing platforms (for example, IBM Notes, Microsoft SharePoint, Oracle, etc) will be especially slow to implement. It is simply very difficult for these organizations to implement a separate upgrade/update policy for software serving as an add-on to a larger solution. Any/all updates are more likely to happen when they are coordinated with plans to implement updates to the host software platform.

Software Assurance

Assuming enterprise consumers, more often than not will decide to purchase software assurance (aka annual maintenance) is a safe assumption. But this assumption can be better fortified when promotion efforts for software assurance emphasize something other than an opportunity to implement new features, which will only be available in future versions of a product. The real emphasis for promotion for assurance should be on the importance of a specific product, within the enterprise computing architecture for a specific organization. This emphasis is legitimately important as one’s product has been assimilated within a core enterprise computing platform. If the customer is committed to maintaining the overall computing platform, then assurance should be provided to one’s product as a now important component of the overall platform, itself.

Opt for Cloud Delivery as a SaaS and Solve Both Problems

Opting for a cloud, SaaS delivery method for one’s product certainly removes most of the obstacles between enterprise consumers and the benefits designed to be delivered via product updates. When an ISV controls the timing of when updates are applied (which is entirely the case for software delivered via cloud subscription), then consumers can be confidently expected to realize the benefits in keeping with one’s product plan.

The question of whether or not software assurance makes sense for one’s enterprise consumers is also completely removed. If enterprise consumers maintain SaaS subscriptions, they are maintaining software assurance.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


Microsoft Provides Incentives for iOS and Android App Developers to Implement Xamarin with Visual Studio as their Platform

iOS and Android App Developers comfortable building solutions with C# should consider adopting Xamarin with Visual Studio as their coding platform. Microsoft is offering some financial incentives for these early stage ISVs to adopt Xamarin. Additional information about these incentives can be found on a page of the Xamarin site, titled “MSDN”, which publicizes the Microsoft offers.

Xamarin is one of a number of cross platform development offers. The biggest difference between Xamarin and its competitors, in this writer’s opinion, is the role C# plays for the Xamarin solution. C# sits at the center of the Microsoft application development paradigm. But from the promotional content on Xamarin’s site, one would also think C# is the best method App Developers can implement to maximize the value of App architecture by reducing the time required to implement the same App functionality for iOS, Android, and Windows.

The Mono Open Source implementation of Microsoft’s .NET framework is also sponsored by Xamarain, so the role Xamarin can play for Microsoft, should they magnetize critical mass across the App developer community, should be very clear. Without developers it is not likely Microsoft will successfully capture more of the mobile App market than it currently has (generally acknowledged as somewhere under 5% of the global market).

Xamarin appears to be winning over some important adopters. A quick glance at the corporate icons on the bottom of the first page of the Xamarin site attests to adoption from some very large enterprises, including Dow Jones, Kimberly Clark, McKesson, Bosch Siemens, and NBC Universal. Quick adoption on the part of enterprise business and comparably sized organizations in the public sector would make sense given the dominance of the “Microsoft stack” across these organizations.

Of course, magnetizing significant numbers of App developers from IT, and their partners servicing Line of Business (LoB) units within the same enterprises with Xamarin may ultimately prove to be good news for Microsoft’s latest product with a claim to a fast launch — the Enterprise Mobility Suite.

At a minimum, anyone harboring deep skepticism about Microsoft’s chances of establishing a legitimate position in the mobile App market may want to re-think his/her position.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


Does Public Micro Funding of Very Early Stage ISVs Help or Hinder Creation of Viable New Businesses?

Perhaps it is harsh to say, but some very early stage businesses are better off as concepts than actual funded efforts. For early stage Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) this is, too frequently, the case. Simply put, either no one on the management team has any prior experience with the kind of immense start up effort at hand, or the product concept, itself, has not been studied, sufficiently, to warrant capitalizing the notion and kicking off a business with it.

But with the availability of public “micro funding” resources, commonly referred to as “crowdfunding”, more of these notions and teams are actually embarking on a business effort, than one would otherwise hope to be the case.

Jenna Wortham published an article on the New York Times web site on June 14, 2014 titled Why That Phone Charger Took Two Years to Arrive. Ms. Wortham’s article, perhaps inadvertently, reports on some of the early stage gross errors capable of crippling an ISV business powered by a creative, but poorly assembled product notion.

The subject of the article is Ms. Wortham’s history of an investment she made, via KickStarter, a famous “crowdfunding” web site, in a business set up to sell a product called “JuiceTank”. As is typical of these investments, Ms. Wortham received no equity in return for her investment of $55.00. What she received was a confirmation of her order for something once called “JuiceTank”, which later became something called “the Prong”. As Ms. Wortham explains, this product promised to look like a “slim iPhone case”, but to serve as a “wall charger” for an iPhone.

So what’s the problem with all of this? the reader may ask. First and foremost, any investment in a start up with absolutely no product to show should be an equity investment, and not an order. After all, it took two years for this business to fill Ms. Wortham’s order. Further, Mr. Lloyd Gladstone, one of the founders of this “business”, as Ms. Wortham reports, “had no prior experience with products or manufacturing.” Mr. Gladstone’s lack of experience, when combined with the prior experience of his partner, Mr. Jesse Pliner, in Investment Banking, evidently resulted in acceptance in the KickStarter “crowdfunding” effort.

But who really benefits when an effort like “the Prong” nee “JuiceTank” secures the capital to get off the ground, but then leaves a lot of very small investors literally waiting years for delivery on a product purchased on no more than a whim. I would argue no one. In all likelihood Messrs. Gladstone and Pliner have felt no small amount of pain as they meander through a series of very dangerous errors. In turn, the group of very small investors waiting for their $55.00 purchase to show up on their door step, has also felt some pain.

Simply put: public micro funding, in this writer’s opinion, benefits no one other than the venue hosting the effort. Small investors are better off sitting on the sidelines while legitimate venture capital makes an effort to properly manage ISV notions all the way through to viable emerging businesses.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


What’s Behind Amazon’s AWS Activate Offer?

Back on October 13, 2013, Amazon debuted its AWS Activate offer. This program includes promotional credits, developer support, training, coaching, and a special toolbox along with the usual community support offer. There are two tiers of service: “Self Starter” and “Portfolio Package”. The latter refers to early stage businesses working with a set of venture capital firms.

All of the above makes sense. But early stage ISVs can’t, enmasse, simply sign up for the AWS Activate offer. An application is required for one of the tiers offered — “Portfolio Package”. The other tier — Self Service — also requires an application and isn’t available to some current AWS customers.

So how does Amazon benefit from the program? Some of the information required to answer this question can be found in a blog post written by Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon and published on the same day as the press release. The title of the post is AWS Activate – Supporting Startups on AWS. The post lists several successful businesses, including Pinterest, Spotify, Etsy, and Instagram. In the last paragraph of the post Vogels lists some other prominent businesses, not the least of which is Netflix, who are using precisely the same services as the ones offered in the AWS Activate service.

The real benefit to Amazon is, of course, the substantial usage charges the successful businesses listed on Vogel’s page pay for the use of the AWS services once they graduate from the program. Assuming the list of moderately successful businesses continuing to use, and pay for, AWS services post incubation stage is an order of magnitude greater than the handful of their enormously successful cousins, then it’s clear Amazon is benefiting substantially from the program. It may be safe to say most of the success of AWS, itself, as a profitable business unit within Amazon can be directly attributed to the kind of early support services and tools offered in this program.

At another level the AWS Activate service can be seen as Amazon’s effort to do its part to reduce the complexity of its IaaS and SaaS offer. Perhaps the approach they’ve taken with the AWS Activate service should serve as a model for competitors looking to make their own effort to ease the entry of new customers to their own Cloud offers.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


Why There is Still a Very Large Opportunity for Further Improvements in Online Search

During Google’s Q4 2013 webcast, Nikesh Aurora, Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer answered a question with a remark about how people search on the web ” . . . over time, when people look on the web, they look for more and more precise answers, and which was the genesis of why we believe that entity level search begins to make more and more sense, whether it’s in travel, it’s in hotels, or in product listings. People are looking for more specific answers and as you get mobile you want even more bite sized answers so that people can get the information as quickly as they want.” (quoted from a webcast of Google’s Q4 earnings conference call).

If it’s safe to assume the Google Search Engine is, by far, the most popular method web visitors use to find information, then we can say the range of opportunities for early stage ISVs to better satisfy the needs of consumers of online search services have never been better. A simple scan of Mr. Aurora’s comments produces a couple of very important conclusions:

  1. Google completely sees the search experience from an ecommerce perspective. Earlier in the call, Mr. Aurora referred to the average search consumer as an “end user” who, at some point in her/his search experience, will buy something.
  2. Incorporating abstract terms into a presentation of how search is changing, in other words, referring to a heightened level of consumer interest in “more specific answers”, and, further, a keen need, for mobile users, for “bite sized answers” caters to a very simplistic view of, truly, a very complex process.

Online Search is All About ecommerce
Probably this is very much an erroneous assumption. A combination of Google’s dominance in this market, together with Google’s one dimensional approach to catering to online shopping needs for consumers generally looking for tangible products (the stuff PLAs are all about), has, perhaps, rendered the online search experience into something “all about ecommerce”, but, long term, in my opinion the direction will change.

Online Search is Gaining Precision
Serving up truly precise answers to millions of entirely unique, dissimilar search consumers is a very complex and intricate process. As privacy concerns build I can’t help but consider the task of accumulating the requisite amount of personal information about billions of search consumers as something of an insurmountable obstacle.

Early stage ISVs may want to jump into the market, the upside seems very great, from here.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved