Accenture publishes a study pointing to an expanded IT systems decision-making role for CFOs at many enterprise businesses

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthWith a publication date of December 29, 2014, Accenture released its annual High Performance Finance Study for 2014. The findings presented reinforce the notion of a changed decision-making hierarchy for IT systems and solutions within many enterprise businesses.

In my opinion, anyone with an interest in Microsoft should take a look at this report. The two core IT topics:

  • “complex legacy systems and environments”
  • and “[t]he rise of digital on the CFO agenda”

may provide two of the planks of a foundation beneath a joint effort between the two companies, apparently scheduled for 2015: Microsoft, Accenture partner on hybrid cloud offering.

The first of the IT topics presented in the report, “complex legacy systems and environments” make up the on-premises component of a typical hybrid cloud computing scenario. The second, “digital”, “which may include cloud computing or software as a service (SaaS), big data and/or analytics, mobility and social media” (quoted in entirety from an Annual report from Accenture. I have provided a link to the entire report, above), amounts to the other half of the hybrid computing solution.

As I wrote recently, Microsoft provided more of an indication of a shift in the route taken by examples of technology “innovation” as these improvements enter enterprise businesses (and their larger counterparts in the public and not-for-profit sectors) in a global roadshow intended to help these organizations hasten the rate at which they are adopting cloud, SaaS computing offers (with Office 365 as the leading offer from Microsoft in this space). For readers unfamiliar with this global event, the title of this event is “Microsoft Office 365 Summit”, which I attended in New York City in early October. Since the New York City event, Microsoft has held the same event in Sydney, Australia and even in Moscow, in Russia. The Keynote from the New York Show provided Microsoft with an opportunity to present the notion of enterprise IT organizations abdicating the “innovation” leadership role. The report from Accenture argues the Finance Organization has picked it up, although leadership apparently amounts to a lot more accomodation, and a lot less evangelizing new computing methods. Of course, given ubiquitous BYOD across most of these organizations, the changes make sense.

The task facing the CFO as new enterprise tech leader, if the Accenture report is credible (which I think is the case), is much more a matter of building the right container to house “innovation” than actually leading on it. The role is a good one for Finance, which, after all, has to pay the bills, anyways.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Microsoft Continues to Service the Majority of Very Large Organizations with SharePoint and/or Office 365

If the group of attendees at this year’s SPTechCon, Boston, can be used as a reliable gauge of the positions of Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 in the enterprise computing market, market interest in these solutions remains healthy and infectious. This writer has had numerous conversations, at this popular conference, with stakeholders from large organizations spread across a number of industries, including:

  • Government, both State and Federal
  • Healthcare
  • Banking
  • Insurance
  • Consumer Staples

In each case, these contacts have expressed keen interest to do what it takes to improve the computing experience of their users, and, thereby, hasten their adoption of computing methods unique to SharePoint, or SharePoint Online, Office 365.

A number of these contacts let us know their organizations had either decided to migrate from SharePoint on premises, to SharePoint Online, Office 365, or to implement the latter in parallel to SharePoint running on premises. Under normal circumstances this point would not be noteworthy, but when the industries within which their organizations compete — healthcare, banking, insurance — the notion of any of these firms seriously considering public tenancy on a cloud, SaaS has to be seen as some sort of win for Microsoft.

Contrary to a lot of market commentary, these organizations did not exhibit a diminishing interest, neither in SharePoint, nor in SharePoint Online. On the contrary, many of them spoke to a very high level of utilization for SharePoint, which can only elevate the importance of an application like this one to the position of a “mission-critical” set of procedures.

Once an application takes on this importance for an organization, it is not likely to be unseated. Since many of these organizations include thousands of seats, Microsoft should be able to count on a dependable, substantial revenue stream from these products for years to come. The only possible threat is the intensity of Microsoft’s own efforts to convince its customers to migrate to Office 365. Pressing much harder on this petal could turn out to be a bad thing to do.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Microsoft Provides Customers with Incentives to Hasten User Adoption of Office 365 Computing

On September 3, 2014, Microsoft published a press release [a]nnouncing Office 365 deployment benefits for new customers. Now organizations can avail of a multi-featured program, offered directly through Microsoft, to increase the odds of success for larger organizations choosing Office 365 and SaaS for their office automation needs. The features of this program include direct management (at no additional charge for qualifying customers), by Microsoft, of the Office 365 onboarding process for any new customer purchasing 150 Office 365 seats, or more, for specific Office 365 subscription offers (which are listed in the press release).

The program also includes “the Office 365 adoption offer”. Under the terms of this offer, eligible organizations with 150-1000 seats on Office 365 can receive a cash payment from Microsoft of $15.00 per seat should they purchase consulting services from a “qualified partner of [their] choice” to “conduct adoption activities”. Similarly, eligible organizations with more than 1001 Office 365 seats will receive a cash payment from Microsoft of $5.00 per seat.

The notion of whether or not personnel within a larger organization require an adoption program, or not, has been, and remains a controversial issue for Microsoft’s customers for Office 365, and its predecessor, SharePoint. This writer is directly involved, currently, with a client marketing a set of solutions, which can be used to hasten user adoption of either Office 365, or SharePoint, so he can attest to the difficulties these organizations experience as they seek to define a real need for help in this area.

The September 3, 2014 press release from Microsoft should be of interest to anyone following this mature ISV’s business activities, as it includes direct mention of adoption as a step organizations ought to consider as they look into methods of rapidly transitioning from on premises office automation solutions, over to Office 365, cloud SaaS methods. Historically, some of Microsoft’s promotional information about SharePoint and, later, Office 365, attempted to emphasize the ease of use for average users, out-of-the-box. This announcement, in contrast, directly addresses the difficulties most organizations experience as they attempt to migrate over to Office 365, and, further, includes an offer for Microsoft to contribute to the funding of an effort (adoption) to ease the process.

In this writer’s opinion, the program Microsoft has announced should contribute, at a minimum, to more larger organizations seriously considering Office 365. The upside potential looks promising.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Even Apple Listens When Microsoft Debuts New Themes for Product Promotion

For several days in August, 2014, the online New York Times web site ran a front page advertisement for Apple’s iPad tablet computer. This ad presented readers with a short success story illustrating how tablet consumers have been using the iPad for some real work, and not the leisure activity more often used for a promotional opportunity like this one.

The same type of marketing communications content filled up the middle portion of Microsoft’s online, audio and video webcast debut of the Surface Pro 3, which was originally published on May 20, 2014.

But Apple’s attention to Microsoft’s style of product promotion for the Surface Pro 3 evidently didn’t just stop with providing its audience of potential consumers with its own examples of business applications for its tablet computers. If rumors about Apple’s product development plans can be taken as a reliable indicator of where the iPad is headed, this attention appears to have also permeated the actual design of the new iPad. On August 26, 2014, Daisuke Wakabayashi published an article for the online Wall Street Journal titled Larger iPad Heralds Blurring Among Apple Devices.

With a rumored screen size of 12.9 inches, the new iPad will be larger, by nearly one inch, than the Surface Pro 3 (which has a 12 inch screen). But of even more importance, Wakabayashi’s contention about the new iPad and a “blurring among Apple Devices”, if it proves accurate, places Apple in lockstep with Microsoft along a path of positioning its tablet as a laptop competitor.

If readers remain skeptical about Apple following Microsoft’s lead, it may be helpful to reflect on what segment of the consumer market for tablets likely remains “untouched”, despite nearly 4 years of heavy marketing of this product. The remaining segment at the top end, one can argue, is largely made up of enterprise business consumers, and their siblings in the public and not for profit sectors. For these markets, the entertainment features of tablets are “nice to have”, but not “mission-critical” capabilities. Given Microsoft’s position in these consumer markets, it makes complete sense for Redmond to be leading Cupertino around the neighborhood.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Has Microsoft Alerted Media As To Its Target Market And Its Niche for Windows Phone?

A recent review of a new HTC One, this one running the Windows Phone 8.1 O/S, points to more work for Microsoft Public Relations (PR).

The title of this review is HTC One for Windows: Another Great Phone You Probably Won’t Buy. The writer is Joanna Stern, and the publication is the online Wall Street Journal.

Readers unable to read the entire article are encouraged to watch the 3 minute video embedded in the article. Why the writer would choose Time Square as a fair location to collect a sample of public opinion as to the popularity of Windows Phone (or the lack of it) eludes this writer. But, to give Stern the benefit of the doubt, perhaps someone in Microsoft’s PR team has identified mass market smart phone consumers as the target market for the Windows Phone 8.1 O/S.

If this is the case (and one must ask, with so many of these “reviews” producing nothing more positive than “it’s a great phone, but no one will buy it”, over and over again) then someone at Microsoft should take corrective action to ensure PR communicates the right message to the media.

In this writer’s opinion, the target market for a comparatively expensive smart phone like the HTC One, with the Windows 8.1 O/S, is enterprise business users (inclusive of the “fringe” created by the consumerization of IT and the BYOD structures enterprise businesses have constructed to support it). After all, what’s a tourist in Times Square going to do with Office? Office 365? Enterprise Search (for which Cortana will play a big role)? Yammer?

One can argue these consumers will be attracted to the camera on the phone, but the camera is not one of the “mission critical” features of this smart phone. The Apps we just mentioned, and to name but one more, Remote Desktop Connection, make up the solution for the burning need this target market has for the Windows Phone. In this writer’s opinion, making the rounds of mass media every time a new feature is added to the Windows Phone O/S, or even to inform them about the debut of the Surface Pro 3, only serves to render Microsoft’s products something less than what they ought to be.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Is Collaboration the Irresistable Lure ISVs Need to Motivate Enterprise Business to Embrace Cloud Computing Offers?

Microsoft® appears to be using its Yammer business to equip SharePoint Online, Office 365, with ‘cloud only’ features. Does this point to collaboration as a very hot topic for enterprise business? Or is this move simply another example of engineers building ‘a solution without a problem’?

On June 3, 2014, Christophe Fiessinger, a Group Product Manager on Microsoft’s enterprise social team published a post titled Yammer brings conversations to your OneDrive and SharePoint Online files. This post introduced a new product called “document conversations”, which will only be available to businesses subscribing to Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud SaaS offer.

“Document conversations” look like a method to add comments to a work in progress (a document, spreadsheet, presentation, etc). This capability is, of course, now ubiquitous, and a familiar feature of not only each of the components of Microsoft’s Office suite, but also other authoring products, for example, Adobe Acrobat Professional, or InDesign, or even each of the components of Google Apps. But ‘document conversations’ expands the range of options for teams to collaborate. The feature is built on a “Yammer pane”, which is juxtaposed next to the work space, and can be used to directly solicit opinions from team members, or to present questions about the topic of the document-creation project. This “Yammer pane” can also appear next to an image included in a document, or even some external content.

Is Microsoft onto something here? Are enterprise business CIOs losing sleep over concerns about the extent to which personnel are collaborating (or, perhaps it would be better to say NOT collaborating) on organization-wide tasks, or even departmental objectives?

I am not prepared to answer this question, but I can confirm the components of the debut of this feature, meaning a set of capabilities exclusively offered to cloud SaaS subscribers only, is likely to be repeated, going forward, as Microsoft (and its competitors) ramp up efforts to persuade enterprise business to hasten the pace at which they are adopting cloud, SaaS offers.

ISVs have a lot to gain should enterprise business speed up this process. As their product marketing objectives become clearer (and I think the ascendance of Satya Nadella to the role of CEO at Microsoft, along with the introduction of the now familiar ‘mobile first, cloud first’ mantra is a good example of one of these businesses gaining clarity on just where it wants to go on this topic), then enterprise business prospects will likely witness a lot more of these efforts.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Are IBM’s Watson Product Problems the Result of a Confusing Market Message?

Spencer E. Ante recently wrote an article about IBM and its Watson super computer for the online Wall Street Journal. In an article titled IBM Struggles to Turn Watson Computer Into Big Business, He contends sales for this product have failed to meet up to expectations.

The revenue shortfall appears to be very significant. Mr. Ante recounts how “IBM Chief Executive Virginia “Ginni” Rometty . . . told executives she hopes Watson will generate $10 billion in annual revenue within 10 years, according to an October 2013 conference-call transcript reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.” (quoted from Mr. Ante’s article, a link to which has been provided above). But sales of the product were reported to be only $100Mil earlier in the same month.

But what kind of product is Watson? Are we talking about a super computer challenging the television game show “Jeopardy”, or are we talking about ” . . . a development platform in the Cloud to spur innovation and fuel a new ecosystem of entrepreneurial software app providers who will bring forward a new generation of applications” (this quote is excerpted from the front page of IBM’s online presentation of the Watson product. Or are we talking about ” . . . analytical software [with an] ability to ‘learn.'” (quoted from Mr. Ante’s article)

Markets don’t handle ambiguous products very well, and purchase them on a very slow schedule. Perhaps IBM product managers should take a step back to objectively sample marketplace perception of what Watson, the product, is all about, and redesign promotional messaging to better convey the message markets need to hear.

In 2014 enterprise consumers can select solutions from a variety of sources for any of the services it appears Watson can offer. Perhaps IBM is aware of the urgency and is moving, expeditiously, to clean up the brand for this product. If not, it makes sense for them to do so as quickly as possible.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


IBM Bulks Up on Cloud and Social Software Solutions and Looks Well Positioned for Second Half of 2013

IBM® reported a lot of progress re-positioning its business units to service target markets after cloud solutions in its Q2, 2013 earnings report. Two points stand out for us:

  • A large divestiture is in the works, though timing no longer points to a close in fiscal 2013
  • A couple of acquisitions — Kenexa and Softlayer Technologies — promise to contribute substantially to IBM’s competitiveness in the public cloud and human resources automation markets

IBM management had hoped to offset a $1 Billion “workforce rebalancing” charge, taken in Q1, 2013, with the profits from a planned divestiture of a large business unit, but timing is no longer favorable.

Kenexa, a clear competitor to Workday, as we see it, is included in the “Social Software” business unit, which was reported to have produced 20+ percent improvement in performance in Q2 2013. This business unit also includes the Lotus Notes business, which has been rebranded IBM Collaboration software.

Rebranding Notes makes sense and better positions the product to compete with Microsoft® SharePoint®.

The Softlayer Technologies acquisition provides IBM with a competitor to Amazon AWS and Microsoft® Azure®. This market is largely made up by larger SMBs.

The backlog claim is particularly impressive and, from the earnings report, is almost all due to substantially improved software sales. With strong software sales already booked for the second half of the year, the drag of diminishing sales of hardware products (with the notably exception of the Mainframe product line) is substantially diminished.

IBM reported particularly strong performance of its “branded middleware” business. Global Business Services (GBS) and Global Technology Services (GTS) showed improvements and clear progress towards profitability.

All of this points to large enterprise customers looking to maximize the value and inherent cost savings of mainframe computing plant already in place, while paring back on any expansion of on premises infrastructure. IBM appears to be listening to what the market is after.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


Go “Under the Radar” to Test New Markets

As I’ve just written in a previous post, in my experience, the principal reason to market and sell complex products to enterprise customers “under the radar”, meaning in “stealth mode”, is to delay the entry of competitors into a market while establishing one’s business in first position. The importance and value of first position in an enterprise market is well known and needs no further explanation here. I will simply say that first position in an enterprise market is a powerful placement where even competitors with better offerings will be hard pressed to unseat you. Therefore, the effort of operating “under the radar” makes sense as long as your product is either new, or of unclear value to enterprise customers.

There is another formidable reason to market and sell enterprise customers “under the radar:” If your business has established a brand name for other products, then be sure to insulate your established brand as you attempt to modify the market perception of what your business is about. Nothing could be worse than to undermine your core business as you branch out into new and untested markets. If you restrict your marketing and sales efforts to highly targeted prospects to whom you have disclosed your interest in entering new markets, you can always cease efforts should your efforts fail.

A key point here is to share with your prospects the truth that you’re making efforts to test new markets. Once prospects understand your tactics, then you will be able to realize the benefits as you will be perceived, in the market, as expanding and growing your presence beyond your initial product offerings rather than supplanting them with a new product. Therefore, the perfect tactic for product promotion/marketing communications within this “stealth mode” of operation is the survey which, once again, is familiar ground for teleprospecting.

Telephone surveys (and online surveys completed by registered web site visitors) will result in lots of useful information that can be leveraged should you decide to proceed with new, complex enterprise products.

If, on the other hand, you opt not to share the truth of your efforts with your prospects, you may add some further insulation to your core business, but at what cost? Whomever you contact as you test the case for new products will see you as less than honest, a negative impression that you will be hard pressed to dispel as you go forward.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved