|By Hollis Tibbetts||
|March 5, 2012 07:45 AM EST||
In building, marketing and selling software, the biggest enemy isn't the competition. Or "rivals" at work.
Characteristics of The Enemy
Your biggest enemies are smart - sometimes blindingly smart. They're confident, and convincing. And incredibly dangerous - because you trust them, and you think they're helping you succeed. They may not be guiding your boat right into the rocks, but they're probably not taking you where you need to be. And the difference between survival, success, and phenomenal success can come down to very slight variances in navigation over time.
Who Is the Enemy?
In most cases, your biggest enemies are YOU - and the people you trust at work to provide you with the most important information of all - an understanding of the buyers of your product. And they hurt you at the most critical moments - when you're making strategic decisions with big ramifications.
"Knowledge"? That's Not Knowledge
Here's the typical situation - at any particular software company, a bunch of people think they know everything about "the customer". They think this for any number of reasons (all of which are wrong):
1) They've read every research report out there and spoken to all the expensive analysts
2) They've sold the software to a number of customers
3) They've supported the customers
4) They've implemented the product at a bunch of customer sites
5) They used to be a customer, or used to work in a "target market" of interest to your company
6) They built/designed the software, so they know what it can do
7) They've worked at the company forever
8) They used to work for a competitor or know the competitive landscape really well
9) Something worked in the past at some other company
10) They are "in charge" and have an important title.
I Don't Care What You Think (and neither should you)
I saw a pretty snarky coffee mug for sale on pragmaticmarketing.com (an excellent site, by the way) the other day. It was borderline offensive, but none-the-less true. It said "Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant".
A nicer and more diplomatic way to put it would be "the only things that count are what the (target) customers for your product think, want, and are willing to spend money for". But that wouldn't sell many coffee mugs.
Knowledge Is Your Enemy(?)
So many people at every company have an opinion on what the "target customer" thinks or wants. It's pretty unusual for anyone to actually know. When they do know something, it's usually a dreadfully skewed, imbalanced view. For example, the CEO who speaks with lots of CIOs and VPs. The consultant who implements solutions on-site.
People would be better off with NO customer knowledge at all than to have skewed and imbalanced viewpoints. Why? Because people with no opinion are almost always open-minded. Give someone just enough knowledge to form an opinion, and they're no longer willing to admit that they "don't know".
Opinions vs. Knowledge: The Difference
How do you sort out whether someone is really the voice of the customer, or simply sharing some potentially damaging opinion that has no real basis in reality?
- When was the last time those "customer experts" actually really spoke with reasonable number of "representative target customers"? I don't mean 60 second trade-show interactions.
- Were those interactions with the economic buyer? The user? The executive? The technical buyer? Balanced interaction is important.
- Were those interactions done with a specific purpose in mind that would have prejudiced the perspective (for example, trying to close a deal, trying to fix a problem)? Or was the purpose of the interaction truly to "get to know the target customer"?
- Are the interactions only with customers who decided to buy your product? Or are they also with those who chose a competitor's product? Or decided to build their own solution?
- What about interactions with "target customers" who have never contacted you at all? Perhaps all you are doing is the equivalent of talking to people who like and buy anchovy pizza - missing out on the biggest opportunities out there.
- How long has it been since the "industry expert" was actually in the industry?
- How long since the "former customer" was a customer? Was the former customer economic/user/technical/executive buyer all wrapped into one?
If you're looking to make strategic decisions for your company - whether it's "should we build a new product" or "who do we sell to" or "how are we going to increase sales of a product" or "what does the future of our product look like", the only opinion that counts is that of the people and companies out there who will potentially be writing you big checks.
The Enemy Revealed
If you hear the words "I think the customer wants..." or "in my opinion the customer thinks..." as an answer to a business-critical question - those are the words of the enemy, unless immediately followed by the words "I'm going to pick up the phone and validate that".
The ally says "I know the customer wants" or "the customer definitely thinks..." The ally knows this because they've made it their business to know. And when you ask "how do you know that??", you get a good answer.
I've seen far too many products crash and burn because they were based on opinions or on consensus of opinions about what the customer wants and thinks. Only to find out that it wasn't solving the right problem, wasn't solving a critical enough (and valuable enough) problem, wasn't targeted at the right market, wasn't being sold to the right people, wasn't positioned the right way and on and on. The world is chock full of the wreckage of software companies and software initiatives that fell victim to "in my opinion".
Banishing the Enemy
The solution to this is pretty clear. The payoff is huge. The downside of NOT doing it is equally huge.
- Know the difference between a wild-ass guess and knowledge and don't tolerate wild-ass guesses, as they are dangerous.
- Don't let people fool themselves into thinking they "know the customer" when they only know part of a customer.
- Hold certain people accountable for REALLY KNOWING THE CUSTOMER. That needs to be part of their job. Get out there. Meet with them. Interact.
- Don't get all prideful. You can't know everything from all perspectives all the time. Nobody is that smart. Don't be afraid to "make your best guess" and then "validate and improve" afterwards.
[slides] Storage for Docker Containers By @OnModulus | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #Docker #Containers #Microservices
Learn how to solve the problem of keeping files in sync between multiple Docker containers. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Aaron Brongersma, Senior Infrastructure Engineer at Modulus, discussed using rsync, GlusterFS, EBS and Bit Torrent Sync. He broke down the tools that are needed to help create a seamless user experience. In the end, can we have an environment where we can easily move Docker containers, servers, and volumes without impacting our applications? He shared his results so yo...
Jul. 31, 2015 11:45 PM EDT Reads: 783
Modern DevOps Tool Kit By @Logentries and @NewRelic | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #Containers #Microservices
Auto-scaling environments, micro-service architectures and globally-distributed teams are just three common examples of why organizations today need automation and interoperability more than ever. But is interoperability something we simply start doing, or does it require a reexamination of our processes? And can we really improve our processes without first making interoperability a requirement for how we choose our tools?
Jul. 31, 2015 11:15 PM EDT Reads: 425
Cloud Migration Management (CMM) refers to the best practices for planning and managing migration of IT systems from a legacy platform to a Cloud Provider through a combination professional services consulting and software tools. A Cloud migration project can be a relatively simple exercise, where applications are migrated ‘as is’, to gain benefits such as elastic capacity and utility pricing, but without making any changes to the application architecture, software development methods or busine...
Jul. 31, 2015 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,345
The Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), which enables organizations to seamlessly run in a hybrid cloud model (public + private cloud), is here to stay. IDC estimates that the software-defined networking market will be valued at $3.7 billion by 2016. Security is a key component and benefit of the SDDC, and offers an opportunity to build security 'from the ground up' and weave it into the environment from day one. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Reuven Harrison, CTO and Co-Founder of Tufin,...
Jul. 31, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 495
Jul. 31, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 290
You often hear the two titles of "DevOps" and "Immutable Infrastructure" used independently. In his session at DevOps Summit, John Willis, Technical Evangelist for Docker, covered the union between the two topics and why this is important. He provided an overview of Immutable Infrastructure then showed how an Immutable Continuous Delivery pipeline can be applied as a best practice for "DevOps." He ended the session with some interesting case study examples.
Jul. 31, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 194
Approved this February by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), HTTP/2 is the first major update to HTTP since 1999, when HTTP/1.1 was standardized. Designed with performance in mind, one of the biggest goals of HTTP/2 implementation is to decrease latency while maintaining a high-level compatibility with HTTP/1.1. Though not all testing activities will be impacted by the new protocol, it's important for testers to be aware of any changes moving forward.
Jul. 31, 2015 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 166
One of the ways to increase scalability of services – and applications – is to go “stateless.” The reasons for this are many, but in general by eliminating the mapping between a single client and a single app or service instance you eliminate the need for resources to manage state in the app (overhead) and improve the distributability (I can make up words if I want) of requests across a pool of instances. The latter occurs because sessions don’t need to hang out and consume resources that could ...
Jul. 31, 2015 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 198
Alibaba, the world’s largest ecommerce provider, has pumped over a $1 billion into its subsidiary, Aliya, a cloud services provider. This is perhaps one of the biggest moments in the global Cloud Wars that signals the entry of China into the main arena. Here is why this matters. The cloud industry worldwide is being propelled into fast growth by tremendous demand for cloud computing services. Cloud, which is highly scalable and offers low investment and high computational capabilities to end us...
Jul. 31, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 120
The Internet of Things. Cloud. Big Data. Real-Time Analytics. To those who do not quite understand what these phrases mean (and let’s be honest, that’s likely to be a large portion of the world), words like “IoT” and “Big Data” are just buzzwords. The truth is, the Internet of Things encompasses much more than jargon and predictions of connected devices. According to Parker Trewin, Senior Director of Content and Communications of Aria Systems, “IoT is big news because it ups the ante: Reach out ...
Jul. 31, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 405
Where the Network Got Invited to the Party By @LMacVittie | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #Docker #Containers #Microservices
At DevOps Summit NY there’s been a whole lot of talk about not just DevOps, but containers, IoT, and microservices. Sessions focused not just on the cultural shift needed to grow at scale with a DevOps approach, but also made sure to include the network ”plumbing” needed to ensure success as applications decompose into the microservice architectures enabling rapid growth and support for the Internet of (Every)Things.
Jul. 30, 2015 08:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,774
Designing the IT Architecture of the Future with Adrian Cockcroft | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #Docker #Containers #Microservices
Our guest on the podcast this week is Adrian Cockcroft, Technology Fellow at Battery Ventures. We discuss what makes Docker and Netflix highly successful, especially through their use of well-designed IT architecture and DevOps.
Jul. 30, 2015 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 786
[slides] A New Architecture for the Internet of Things By @JKirklan | @ThingsExpo @RedHatNews #IoT #M2M #InternetOfThings
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Arch...
Jul. 30, 2015 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,403
This week, I joined SOASTA as Senior Vice President of Performance Analytics. Given my background in cloud computing and distributed systems operations — you may have read my blogs on CNET or GigaOm — this may surprise you, but I want to explain why this is the perfect time to take on this opportunity with this team. In fact, that’s probably the best way to break this down. To explain why I’d leave the world of infrastructure and code for the world of data and analytics, let’s explore the timing...
Jul. 30, 2015 05:45 PM EDT Reads: 384
Take the Long View with Digital Transformation By @IoT2040 | @ThingsExpo #IoT #M2M #API #Microservices #InternetOfThings
Digital Transformation is the ultimate goal of cloud computing and related initiatives. The phrase is certainly not a precise one, and as subject to hand-waving and distortion as any high-falutin' terminology in the world of information technology. Yet it is an excellent choice of words to describe what enterprise IT—and by extension, organizations in general—should be working to achieve. Digital Transformation means: handling all the data types being found and created in the organizat...
Jul. 30, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,095
[slides] Workloads and Public Cloud at @CloudExpo By @utollwi | @ProfitBricksUSA #DevOps #Containers #Microservices
Public Cloud IaaS started its life in the developer and startup communities and has grown rapidly to a $20B+ industry, but it still pales in comparison to how much is spent worldwide on IT: $3.6 trillion. In fact, there are 8.6 million data centers worldwide, the reality is many small and medium sized business have server closets and colocation footprints filled with servers and storage gear. While on-premise environment virtualization may have peaked at 75%, the Public Cloud has lagged in adop...
Jul. 30, 2015 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,211
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Jul. 30, 2015 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 459
MuleSoft has announced the findings of its 2015 Connectivity Benchmark Report on the adoption and business impact of APIs. The findings suggest traditional businesses are quickly evolving into "composable enterprises" built out of hundreds of connected software services, applications and devices. Most are embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and microservices technologies like Docker. A majority are integrating wearables, like smart watches, and more than half plan to generate revenue with ...
Jul. 30, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 110
[session] DevOps State of Mind By @RedHatNews | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #PaaS #Jenkins #Kubernetes #Docker
Rapid innovation, changing business landscapes, and new IT demands force businesses to make changes quickly. The DevOps approach is a way to increase business agility through collaboration, communication, and integration across different teams in the IT organization. In his session at DevOps Summit, Chris Van Tuin, Chief Technologist for the Western US at Red Hat, will discuss: The acceleration of application delivery for the business with DevOps
Jul. 30, 2015 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,122
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, S...
Jul. 30, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,061