Microsoft Gets It Right On Two Fronts –Elastic Infrastructure and Online Meetings

On Tuesday, April 30, 2013 a couple of press releases attested to some success Microsoft® has experienced with its elastic computing infrastructure and virtualization product Windows Azure, and with Skype. Sales for Windows Azure exceeded $1Bil. Access to Skype conferencing features (including video) would be included in the Outlook.com web email service through a special plug in.

We aren’t surprised at their success with Windows Azure. We think Amazon AWS (market leader with greater than 80% of the current market for elastic infrastructure and virtualization services) is highly vulnerable. The AWS control panel is very difficult to use. The AWS MARCOM is almost entirely directed to technical users (principally developers). The task of setting up a service for the average smaller business looks to be too demanding.

Windows Azure is a natural for enterprise IT organizations with a substantial on premises commitment to Microsoft Windows desktop computing. The increases in sales points to more enterprise IT organizations adopting a multi tenant, off premises solution for at least part of their infrastructure needs. We think the “Cloud First” initiative by the US Federal Government is also driving some of these sales. Windows Azure, as a Microsoft cloud offer should benefit substantially as both of these groups (enterprise IT and the US Federal Government) increase use of cloud services.

The plans to offer a Skype add on exclusively for Outlook.com also make a lot of sense. GMail has been a very big success for Google, why not Outlook.com for Microsoft? Providing a browser add on for Skype on the Outlook.com website for Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer provides Microsoft with an opportunity to also gain market share from competitive browsers. This strategy looks like a substantial change from the old approach of only building new features for Microsoft browsers. Someone in Redmond has his or her eyes open and should be commended for both of these successes.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


A Further Word on Why We Think Enterprise IT ISVs Ought to Build Products with a Minimal Feature Set

We published a post or two to this blog, recently, on the topic of why it makes sense for product marketers at enterprise IT ISVs to focus, entirely, on equipping products with no more than a minimum set of requested features. As part of our presentation on this topic we recounted our opinion as to how the approach of both businesses that constitute “Wintel” computing, namely, Microsoft® and Intel®, which amounted to exploiting a complex instruction set computing (CISC) method, actually exposed them to competitors who have now better served the market with so-called smart devices that actually operated on a substantially reduced set of capabilities. In fact, in our opinion, the App phenomenon is actually a bridge that developers can use to build processes on anything that will run, nevertheless, on reduced instruction set computing (RISC) devices, including tables, and smart phones.

There is nothing new about our position. In fact, most business schools espouse the same type of “lean” approach to product design. What is worth repeating about this approach, in light of our recent collaboration with an esteemed client, Rehmani Consulting, Inc. on the design of an enterprise IT computing product that has recently won an award from a major publication in our client’s market, is that a disciplined approach to this minimal product design method can produce opportunities for follow-on products, which can keep revenue flowing far beyond an otherwise normal product life cycle.

We like to refer to this approach as the “razorblade” strategy. This strategy can be summarized with a quick reference to manufacturers of men’s shaving equipment. In fact, the revenues these manufacturers receive from sales of the non durable components of men’s shaving systems (namely razor blades, disposable razors with non replaceable blades, and shaving aids like shaving cream) far outweigh the revenue they receive from sale of the durable component, meaning the razor, itself. After all, these non durable components have a limited life span. Periodically users must replenish their supply of these components, which usually costs them precisely the same price each time.

In fact, we are keen on product marketing that can leverage a “razorblade” strategy. Another plus for this approach is that it affords manufacturers the capability of producing products that scale, based upon customer requirements. In other words, the same product “chassis” can be used to service a wide range of customer requirements. Building new solutions at a higher level upon a uniform chassis is, of course, less expensive, which should lead to greater profitability.

In the next post we will look at two examples of a “razorblade” strategy.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Teleprospecting can be Successfully Used Within a Product Development Program to Identify High Probability Opportunities

One of our clients, Rehmani Consulting, Inc. has been awarded the bronze prize for SharePoint product of the year, 2012, by Windows IT Pro magazine. Our client’s product that won this award, VisualSP is a help system for Microsoft® SharePoint® 2010. We provide Rehmani Consulting, Inc. with teleprospecting services as part of our sales and marketing offer. Teleprospecting provided highly useful information about market requirements for this type of help system, which were incorporated into the design of the feature set for this product.

It is currently a widely accepted precept of product marketing for information technology (IT) products, services and integrated solutions, that building products based upon market requirements makes a lot of sense. In fact, IT product development has matured far beyond the obsessive approach of the early 1980s, best characterized by the notion of entrepeneurs building “solutions without problems.” Now, the two leading tenets for IT product marketers are to

  1. build products that offer merely the minimum set of features requested by a significant portion of a market, and
  2. to maintain conversations with representative contacts within markets on topics that can produce useful indication of future product requirements

When social media are used in conjunction with a judicious application of teleprospecting, then highly valuable information can be collected, which, in turn, can be used to put together the type of successful product that Rehmani Consulting, Inc. achieved with VisualSP.

We need to note that we have implemented a wide open approach to teleprospecting for this client. The primary objective of this type of telephone contact is to collect impressions from contacts on topics relevant to a computing environment (in this case where SharePoint® provides the computing foundation). We have found that discussions on these topics can produce information that may be suitable (depending on a client’s objectives) for inclusion in a features plan for a product like VisualSP. As we discussed the results of our work with our client, some of the key features of the help system took shape. We do not see how our client could have identified the features included with the VisualSP without access to the kind of candid market opinion that we collected through our telephone calls.

Of course, we need to note that the type of marketplace sampling effort we have undertaken with teleprospecting methods for this client is far removed from the type of telephone sales approach that usually typifies lots of telephone outreach campaigns to prospects. Telephone sales is usually very much focused on prospecting for customers. In order to achieve the type of results that we obtained from this teleprospecting effort, we needed to carefully scrutinize ancillary information that generally has little to do with sales prospecting, but lots to do with truly attending to candid statements of marketplace sentiment.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Is there a DevOps Value Gap for Enterprise IT Organizations?

We are reading a report on the DevOps concept published by O’Reilly and promoted on its O’Reilly Radar web site. We now understand that this concept presumes that, for many enterprises (like Netflix and Amazon as mentioned in the report), development teams will, literally, need to write programs for the computing infrastructure — including servers, applications, etc — in order to support the latest evolution of efficient enterprise computing. We must admit that we were way off with our presumption that DevOps had to do with the consumerization of IT in any other way than to provide the computing infrastructure for office workers who opt to bring their own portable storage to the enterprise IT work day through DropBox, iCloud, or some variant thereof.

While we feel kind of dumb at our own ignorance of what this concept is about, we need, as well, to point out that (now that we understand a bit more about DevOps) we think it will be quite awhile before the average Enterprise IT organization for a bank, diversified financial institution, or government agency opts for a DevOps strategy. We base our assumption on two points:

  1. Despite lots of prodding, enterprise IT CIOs will not endorse wholesale adoption of off premise computing unless/until the associated security risks can be objectively verified as entirely subdued and manageable, going forward
  2. The wholesale virtualization of servers, applications and networks is a specialized method that works very well for some enterprises and not nearly as well for others. Therefore, we do not see CIOs, en masse, jumping on lots of virtualization in the coming near term

It is fine for Netflix, and/or Amazon to embrace cloud and lots of virtual computing. Indeed, it is fine for Microsoft® to promote its version of the same capabilities via Windows Azure and its “infrastructure on demand” concept.

Nevertheless, the primary customer for these services are still not the enterprise IT organizations that we just pointed to. Rather, these customers are either, in the case of Netflix, retail customers, or in the case of Amazon and, we will venture, Microsoft, emerging businesses in the SMB category, which likely includes lots of emerging technology efforts. As far as the data center crowd is concerned, the assumptions required to truly avail of DevOps as a methodology are still very far off in the future. We plan on looking further into O’Reilly’s report with our next blog post on this topic. As well, we plan to search a bit harder to see if we can find an enterprise IT success story (as we see it) for this concept.

If you are an ISV developing a DevOps solution and want to make sure that your MARCOM effort is on track, please consider IMB Enterprises, Inc. We look forward to an opportunity to work with an ISV that understands the value imperative as it considers how best to handle MARCOM for this type of product. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion about our retained consulting services. Plans begin as low as $1250.00 per month (3 mos minimum). You may also email Ira at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Dumbing Down the Personal Computer May Not Have Been a Good Idea After All

In late August, 2012, Gartner, Inc. released an opinion that the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon amounts to the most important moment in the evolution of automating enterprise office procedures and daily tasks since the introduction of the PC in the early 1980s.

We agree with this notion, but we think the truly important point that PC manufacturers and enterprise IT ISVs should assimilate from this market shift from PCs to tablets and smart phones is that it illustrates why software like Microsoft® Windows®, and Apple’s graphical user interface were not a very good idea, after all. In fact, these graphical user interfaces enabled a flat and wide expansion of the prospect base for PCs to include users who would otherwise only need a personal word processor, spread sheet processor, or an audio video media player to get their work done. We think this market expansion was problematic.

Once PC manufacturers like Dell planted their flag in this flatter, but substantially richer terrain, where the ability of users to write custom computer applications, or to perform other activities appropriate for the computing power built into PCs, really did not amount to much of a use case, a vulnerability was created, which today, has resulted in wholesale adoption of comparatively “dumb” devices like tablets and smart phones to handle office work in place of more expensive, bulkier PCs and laptops.

Further, this BYOD phenomenon should be instructive to hardware manufacturers and ISVs as they assimilate a golden rule from this lesson: it should be absolutely clear why designing hardware and/or software that meets the minimum market requirements is a much better approach than broadly including lots of features in products in order to appeal to very flat and wide market segments that will not have the resilience to stick with solutions as competitive options are introduced that are more appealing from a cost and convenience basis.

If these tech innovators can truly take away the above noted lessons from the BYOD phenomenon then, truly, the event will prove to be worth the pain for companies like Dell or Hewlett Packard who will need to move on if they are to survive. If your product marketing effort has not been audit to ensure that the principle of designing solutions for the absolute minimum set of market requirements, please consider IMB Enterprises, Inc.

We can be a powerful resource that can review your products, present and planned to ensure that their market message is completely aligned with your product plan. Further, we can analyze your product to for compliance with a market approach that offers only what the market, pervasively, is after. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion about our monthly retainer based consulting services. You may also email Ira at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Online Engagement: When Something Sticks Do More Of It

We recently worked with our customer, Rehmani Consulting Inc of Plainfield, Illinois on a Press Release and follow up response on the topic of a debut of a new product. Our customer is in the business of producing video training content for Microsoft SharePoint. The response to the Press Release for VisualSP was surprisingly good. We received a magnitude higher level of in bound requests for information than we had for other online campaigns. Our natural response, and one that we highly recommend for innovative tech businesses, is to do more of what works.

Of course, a key component of getting to the point that we have arrived at is maintaining a “ready fire aim” strategy for marketing communications. We’ve written elsewhere about this approach, but with regard to core product marketing. While we do not like the very fast market entry that is characteristic of businesses that implement “ready fire aim” for core product marketing, we do like it for online marketing communications efforts. We think we are in good company with our position. General industry position appears to be that tech businesses should experiment with different approaches to online communications until a working formula is found that is “repeatable”.

So what is going to be our next step, now that we’ve found something that sticks to the market? As mentioned above, we will do more of the same. But we need to collect opinions from “names” from the market who have opted to engage with us to determine just what it was that they found to be sticky. Was it the communications piece itself, or something else? We will not be able to offer an answer on this until we have collected responses to make that determination.

Despite our uncertainty, we can certainly note here that even if the responses have been stimulated by the type of product, itself, we can still reframe the rest of our marketing communications efforts around a product theme, which is consistent with this effort. If this effort succeeds, then we will have successfully added more stickiness for the rest of our online communications efforts.

If your business is grappling with a need to produce more engagement with online web site visitors, email campaign recipients and the like, let’s talk. Please telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


2 Important Points Emerge from Microsoft’s Unsuccessful Acquisition of aQuantive

Innovative tech CEOs studying Microsoft’s public announcement on July 2nd that it would take a $6.2Bil charge against earnings as it writes down an unsuccessful acquisition of aQuantive should note two important points:

  1. Companies like Microsoft that have proven to be enormously successful servicing the needs of enterprise IT computing are not necessarily going to be successful should they choose to enter into other technology-driven markets like online advertising. In fact, we think that the two markets are largely dissimilar. Enterprise IT ISVs like Microsoft would do better to either allow acquisitions to self manage or to stay out of these markets, altogether
  2. In our opinion the online advertising market built around click ads (regardless of whether revenue models are built on pay per click, or pay per action) is not the cash cow that it is generally taken to be. At some point Google will catch this same cold.

The inevitable conclusion that must become apparent as the result of point 1) is that innovative tech businesses planning on entering enterprise IT markets should staff up with talent in marketing and sales with demonstrated success in these markets. Enterprise IT is a world unto itself. It is not possible to extrapolate from online sales success, even with business to business products, to success in enterprise IT markets. Better to source candidates from known competitors than to chance a hire with little if any experience in the enterprise IT computing area.

The second inevitable conclusion should be that innovative tech businesses looking to online promotion and advertising as a revenue model should exercise skepticism as they formulate and then review revenue projections. As we mentioned above, we think the online click ad market will not display the exponential year over year growth that was formerly the case, despite an opportunity to extend advertising efforts to a growing list of mobile devices. Bottom line: click advertising is an expensive method for almost any business that opts to avail of this approach to advertising. Until a better return on investment can be found, better to assume attrition in the size of this market than to bank on a strong flow of easy money.

Of course, we think it makes complete sense for CEOs to keep both of these points in mind and plan accordingly around them. If you are grappling with a need to improve planning and market position for your business, we would welcome an opportunity to connect with you. Please telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved