Welcome!

SOA & WOA Authors: Cynthia Dunlop, Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Scott Bampton, Gilad Parann-Nissany

Related Topics: SOA & WOA, XML

SOA & WOA: Blog Post

Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

Or is it someone you work with (and trust)?

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.

  1. Know the difference between a wild-ass guess and knowledge and don't tolerate wild-ass guesses, as they are dangerous.
  2. Don't let people fool themselves into thinking they "know the customer" when they only know part of a customer.
  3. Hold certain people accountable for REALLY KNOWING THE CUSTOMER.  That needs to be part of their job.  Get out there.  Meet with them. Interact.
  4. 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.

More Stories By Hollis Tibbetts

Hollis Tibbetts, or @SoftwareHollis as his 50,000+ followers know him on Twitter, is listed on various “top 100 expert lists” for a variety of topics – ranging from Cloud to Technology Marketing, Hollis is by day Evangelist & Software Technology Director at Dell Software. By night and weekends he is a commentator, speaker and all-round communicator about Software, Data and Cloud in their myriad aspects. You can also reach Hollis on LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/SoftwareHollis. His latest online venture is OnlineBackupNews - a free reference site to help organizations protect their data, applications and systems from threats. Every year IT Downtime Costs $26.5 Billion In Lost Revenue. Even with such high costs, 56% of enterprises in North America and 30% in Europe don’t have a good disaster recovery plan. Online Backup News aims to make sure you all have the news and tips needed to keep your IT Costs down and your information safe by providing best practices, technology insights, strategies, real-world examples and various tips and techniques from a variety of industry experts.

Hollis is a regularly featured blogger at ebizQ, a venue focused on enterprise technologies, with over 100,000 subscribers. He is also an author on Social Media Today "The World's Best Thinkers on Social Media", and maintains a blog focused on protecting data: Online Backup News.
He tweets actively as @SoftwareHollis

Additional information is available at HollisTibbetts.com

All opinions expressed in the author's articles are his own personal opinions vs. those of his employer.

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that AgilePoint, the leading provider of Microsoft-centric Business Process Management software, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 2nd International @ThingsExpo which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. AgilePoint is the leading provider of Microsoft-based Business Process Management (BPM) software products, has 1,300+ on-premise and cloud deployments in 25+ countries and provides the same advanced BPM feature set as J2EE vendors like IBM and Appian for the Microsoft .NET native environment. AgilePoint customer...
Samsung VP Jacopo Lenzi, who headed the company's recent SmartThings acquisition under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovaction Center (OIC), answered a few questions we had about the deal. This interview was in conjunction with our interview with SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson. IoT Journal: SmartThings was developed in an open, standards-agnostic platform, and will now be part of Samsung's Open Innovation Center. Can you elaborate on your commitment to keep the platform open? Jacopo Lenzi: Samsung recognizes that true, accelerated innovation cannot be driven from one source, but requires a...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, will discuss how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money! Speaker Bio: Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, has spent 16 years as a marketing, product management, and busin...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TeleStax, the main sponsor of Mobicents, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TeleStax provides Open Source Communications software and services that facilitate the shift from legacy SS7 based IN networks to IP based LTE and IMS networks hosted on private (on-premise), hybrid or public clouds. TeleStax products include Restcomm, JSLEE, SMSC Gateway, USSD Gateway, SS7 Resource Adaptors, SIP Servlets, Rich Multimedia Services, Presence Services/RCS, Diame...
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, will address the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. How important are public, private, and hybrid cloud to the enterprise? How does one define Big Data? And how is the IoT tying all this together?
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
The only place to be June 9-11 is Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo 2015 East at the Javits Center in New York City. Join us there as delegates from all over the world come to listen to and engage with speakers & sponsors from the leading Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data companies. Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo are the leading events covering the booming market of Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data for the enterprise. Speakers from all over the world will be hand-picked for their ability to explore the economic strategies that utility/cloud computing provides. Whether public, private, or in a hybrid form, clo...
SYS-CON Events announces a new pavilion on the Cloud Expo floor where WebRTC converges with the Internet of Things. Pavilion will showcase WebRTC and the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices--computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridsto...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Group, will discuss how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, senso...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics...
Internet of @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley announced on Thursday its first 12 all-star speakers and sessions for its upcoming event, which will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. @ThingsExpo, the first and largest IoT event in the world, debuted at the Javits Center in New York City in June 10-12, 2014 with over 6,000 delegates attending the conference. Among the first 12 announced world class speakers, IBM will present two highly popular IoT sessions, which will take place November 4-6, 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., will show what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He will discuss opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and tec...
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.