Showing posts with label CRM. Show all posts
                                  Showing posts with label CRM. Show all posts

                                  Tuesday, April 28, 2009

                                  Pre-seeding CRM With Data-as-a-service To Accelerate Adoption

                                  I had discussion with Jim Fowler, the CEO of JigSaw, a couple of weeks back where he walked me through their new offering, Data Fusion, that JigSaw announced today. Data Fusion is a data-as-a-service offering that allows Salesforce.com customers to buy a large list of prospects with detailed verified contact information provided by JigSaw. There are plenty of legal and ethical issues around how JigSaw acquires the business contact information. Michael Arrington does not like JigSaw and Rafe Needleman calls it one of the creepiest products that he has ever seen. I don't want to argue about these ethical and legal aspects. I would let the other people, users, and customers sort that out.

                                  I find the idea of acquiring such a list to pre-seed a CRM instance with the vetted data is an interesting one that utilizes data-as-a-service. A pre-seeded CRM instance speeds up the adoption of the tool inside an organization since suddenly sales people start seeing value in the tool and are willingly to invest their time into it. This could cause similar kinds of network effects that a social network causes where more people and more data bring in a lot more data. The sales people inside an organization typically view CRM system as an administrative overhead since they don't get any value out of it. They are compensated based on the deals closed and not the data being correct. This dynamics affect the adoption of a CRM tool and the quality of data in it. Pre-seeding a CRM instance with some good data and keeping it clean moving forward could solve this problem.

                                  Jim Fowler says if the organizations have made a conscious decision not to own software by moving to SaaS why should they even own data? That's certainly an interesting take on data-as-a-service to enable SaaS 2.0. There has been an ongoing tension between LOBs and IT since most of the SaaS purchase decisions are initially driven by LOBs and IT is brought into the discussion late in the game. LOB will continue looking for an easy solution that meets their needs and does not require upfront IT involvement. The data-as-a-service certainly has an added value on top of SaaS. I can imagine some "come to Jesus" meetings between LOBs and IT. I would love to be a fly on the wall for some of those meetings!

                                  Thursday, February 5, 2009

                                  Demystifying Sales Pipeline Crystal Ball - Risk Management With VaR And Black Swans

                                  “If you put a gun to my head and asked me what my firm’s risk was, I would use VaR.” - said Richard Bookstaber, a hedge-fund risk manager. New York times has a long article on the role of VaR in risk management (bugmenot for nytimes) that includes the arguments on both the sides. Simply put Value At Risk, known as VaR, is a mathematical framework based on many underlying models that quantifies the risk into single dollar figure with 99% probability. Firm managers really like this number since they can measure individual trader's risk and the total risk of the firm. People such as Nassim Nicholas Taleb who are against VaR passionately argue that not being able to measure the impact of the last 1% could result into catastrophic losses under Black Swan events. He argues that people cannot predict and measure the risk using a model for the events that they have not seen in their lifetimes but the events that do occur in their lifetimes. Nassim is a person who hates ties, loves reading though does not read newspapers, and does not watch movies. He strongly believes that the current economic downturn is an example of financial firms manipulating VaR that resulted into asymmetric risk proportions leading to such catastrophic losses.

                                  I am not an expert in financial risk management and won't argue whether VaR is a good or bad indicator of the health of firm's portfolio. I would rather describe a phenomenon as it relates to direct sales process that lacks VaR like indicators leading to poor risk management. Sounds strange, isn't it? But it is not.

                                  Let's take an example of traditional direct sales process of enterprise software company. Due to the unpredictable current market conditions many enterprise software companies have stopped providing revenue guidance. Even during bullish economy the health indicators of sales pipeline, similar to the health of investment portfolio, are more of an art than science. The sales reps have "confidence" in certain opportunities that they are pursuing and there is no model in place to roll up all the subjective indicators and come up with single confidence number that allows the executives to communicate the revenue risk based on the current pipeline. The enterprise software systems are good at keeping track of what sales people are actually doing but they are not designed to model the risk of opportunities based on macroeconomic changes such as customers' aspirations to go green, changes in government subsidies etc. These systems are not even designed to model customer-specific risks that could derail the sales process such as viability of customer's business model, probability of change in customer's annual IT budget, CIO likely to get fired, a possible merger or an acquisition etc. As a whole these systems do not provide any support to roll up the risk to the executives to empower them to intervene, mitigate, and communicate.

                                  It is critical for an organization to stay on top of their sales pipeline to meet and exceed the street's expectations, but it is even more critical to detect the risk early on and course-correct to mitigate and manage the risk. That's what all the stakeholders - executive management, employees, customers, and investors - would like to see in a sales process of a modern organization. There is a lot that the sales pipeline can learn from the financial portfolio risk indicators such as VaR. And yes, there are Black Swans in the IT world too - a dot com burst would certainly qualify being one of those. Sales pipeline needs a robust set of models that are built on subjective sentiments and objective data to represent the risk of loosing a opportunity leading to lost revenue.

                                  Tuesday, September 4, 2007

                                  SugarCRM hops on to multi-instance on-demand architecture bus

                                  SugarCRM announced Sugar 5.0 which has multi-instance on-demand architecture. This is opposite to multi-tenancy model where many customers, if not all, share single instance. Both models have their pros and cons and adding flexibility for an on-premise option complicate the equation a lot. But the fact is that many customers may not necessarily care what on-demand architecture the products are being offered at and any model can be given a marketing spin to meet customers’ needs.

                                  The multi-instance model resonates well with the customers that are concerned with the privacy of their data. This model is very close to an on-premise model but the instance is managed by a vendor. This model has all the upgrade and maintenance issues as any on-premise model but a vendor can manage the slot more efficiently than a customer and can also use utility hardware model and data center virtualization to certain extent. The customizations are easy to preserve for this kind of deployment, but there is a support downside due to each instance being unique.

                                  Multi-tenant architecture has benefits of easy upgrade and maintenance since there is only one logical instance that needs to be maintained. This instance is deployed using clusters at the database and mid-tier levels for load balancing and high availability purposes. As you can imagine, it is critical that architecture supports "hot upgrade". You take the instance down for scheduled or unscheduled downtime and all your customers are affected. The database vendors still struggle to provide a good high available solution to support hot upgrades. This also puts pressure on application architects to minimize the upgrade or maintenance time.

                                  And, this is just a tip of an iceberg. As you dig more into the deployment options, you are basically opening a can of worms.