|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.
As the race for the presidency heats up, IT leaders would do well to recall the famous catchphrase from Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign against George H. W. Bush: “It’s the economy, stupid.” That catchphrase is important, because IT economics are important. Especially when it comes to cloud. Application performance management (APM) for the cloud may turn out to be as much about those economics as it is about customer experience.
Jan. 21, 2017 03:00 PM EST Reads: 4,737
I’m told that it has been 21 years since Scrum became public when Jeff Sutherland and I presented it at an Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages & Applications (OOPSLA) workshop in Austin, TX, in October of 1995. Time sure does fly. Things mature. I’m still in the same building and at the same company where I first formulated Scrum. Initially nobody knew of Scrum, yet it is now an open source body of knowledge translated into more than 30 languages People use Scrum worldwide for ...
Jan. 21, 2017 02:45 PM EST Reads: 3,103
When you focus on a journey from up-close, you look at your own technical and cultural history and how you changed it for the benefit of the customer. This was our starting point: too many integration issues, 13 SWP days and very long cycles. It was evident that in this fast-paced industry we could no longer afford this reality. We needed something that would take us beyond reducing the development lifecycles, CI and Agile methodologies. We made a fundamental difference, even changed our culture...
Jan. 21, 2017 02:45 PM EST Reads: 1,172
Synthetic monitoring is hardly a new technology. It’s been around almost as long as the commercial World Wide Web has. But the importance of monitoring the performance and availability of a web application by simulating users’ interactions with that application, from around the globe, has never been more important. We’ve seen prominent vendors in the broad APM space add this technology with new development or partnerships just in the last 18 months.
Jan. 21, 2017 02:15 PM EST Reads: 1,765
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
Jan. 21, 2017 01:45 PM EST Reads: 5,280
@DevOpsSummit taking place June 6-8, 2017 at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York Call for Papers is now open.
Jan. 21, 2017 01:45 PM EST Reads: 3,625
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dataloop.IO, an innovator in cloud IT-monitoring whose products help organizations save time and money, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dataloop.IO is an emerging software company on the cutting edge of major IT-infrastructure trends including cloud computing and microservices. The company, founded in the UK but now based in San Fran...
Jan. 21, 2017 01:15 PM EST Reads: 2,622
A lot of time, resources and energy has been invested over the past few years on de-siloing development and operations. And with good reason. DevOps is enabling organizations to more aggressively increase their digital agility, while at the same time reducing digital costs and risks. But as 2017 approaches, the hottest trends in DevOps aren’t specifically about dev or ops. They’re about testing, security, and metrics.
Jan. 21, 2017 12:15 PM EST Reads: 1,387
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
Jan. 21, 2017 12:15 PM EST Reads: 3,744
Thanks to Docker, it becomes very easy to leverage containers to build, ship, and run any Linux application on any kind of infrastructure. Docker is particularly helpful for microservice architectures because their successful implementation relies on a fast, efficient deployment mechanism – which is precisely one of the features of Docker. Microservice architectures are therefore becoming more popular, and are increasingly seen as an interesting option even for smaller projects, instead of being...
Jan. 21, 2017 12:00 PM EST Reads: 2,608
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint Systems, Inc., a provider of innovative web and infrastructure monitoring solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit at 18th Cloud Expo New York, which will take place June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into customer-critical services to help consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed ...
Jan. 21, 2017 11:30 AM EST Reads: 6,443
2016 has been an amazing year for Docker and the container industry. We had 3 major releases of Docker engine this year , and tremendous increase in usage. The community has been following along and contributing amazing Docker resources to help you learn and get hands-on experience. Here’s some of the top read and viewed content for the year. Of course releases are always really popular, particularly when they fit requests we had from the community.
Jan. 21, 2017 10:45 AM EST Reads: 1,220
In their general session at 16th Cloud Expo, Michael Piccininni, Global Account Manager - Cloud SP at EMC Corporation, and Mike Dietze, Regional Director at Windstream Hosted Solutions, reviewed next generation cloud services, including the Windstream-EMC Tier Storage solutions, and discussed how to increase efficiencies, improve service delivery and enhance corporate cloud solution development. Michael Piccininni is Global Account Manager – Cloud SP at EMC Corporation. He has been engaged in t...
Jan. 21, 2017 10:00 AM EST Reads: 5,179
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions with...
Jan. 21, 2017 10:00 AM EST Reads: 5,682
Here’s a novel, but controversial statement, “it’s time for the CEO, COO, CIO to start to take joint responsibility for application platform decisions.” For too many years now technical meritocracy has led the decision-making for the business with regard to platform selection. This includes, but is not limited to, servers, operating systems, virtualization, cloud and application platforms. In many of these cases the decision has not worked in favor of the business with regard to agility and cost...
Jan. 21, 2017 10:00 AM EST Reads: 609
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann returns to 'DevOps at Cloud Expo 2017' as Conference Chair The @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. "DevOps is set to be one of the most profound disruptions to hit IT in decades," said Andi Mann. "It is a natural extension of cloud computing, and I have seen both firsthand and in independent research the fantastic results DevOps delivers. So I am excited to help the great t...
Jan. 21, 2017 07:45 AM EST Reads: 2,465
In 2014, Amazon announced a new form of compute called Lambda. We didn't know it at the time, but this represented a fundamental shift in what we expect from cloud computing. Now, all of the major cloud computing vendors want to take part in this disruptive technology. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, John Jelinek IV, a web developer at Linux Academy, will discuss why major players like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Google Cloud Platform are all trying to sidestep VMs and containers...
Jan. 21, 2017 07:15 AM EST Reads: 960
An overall theme of Cloud computing and the specific practices within it is fundamentally one of automation. The core value of technology is to continually automate low level procedures to free up people to work on more value add activities, ultimately leading to the utopian goal of full Autonomic Computing. For example a great way to define your plan for DevOps tool chain adoption is through this lens. In this TechTarget article they outline a simple maturity model for planning this.
Jan. 21, 2017 06:45 AM EST Reads: 806
In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Claude Remillard, Principal Program Manager in Developer Division at Microsoft, contrasted how his team used config as code and immutable patterns for continuous delivery of microservices and apps to the cloud. He showed how the immutable patterns helps developers do away with most of the complexity of config as code-enabling scenarios such as rollback, zero downtime upgrades with far greater simplicity. He also demoed building immutable pipelines in the cloud ...
Jan. 21, 2017 05:30 AM EST Reads: 3,571
True Story. Over the past few years, Fannie Mae transformed the way in which they delivered software. Deploys increased from 1,200/month to 15,000/month. At the same time, productivity increased by 28% while reducing costs by 30%. But, how did they do it? During the All Day DevOps conference, over 13,500 practitioners from around the world to learn from their peers in the industry. Barry Snyder, Senior Manager of DevOps at Fannie Mae, was one of 57 practitioners who shared his real world journe...
Jan. 21, 2017 02:30 AM EST Reads: 972