Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Harry Trott, Yeshim Deniz, Kevin Jackson

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Industrial IoT

Microservices Expo: 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.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
For organizations that have amassed large sums of software complexity, taking a microservices approach is the first step toward DevOps and continuous improvement / development. Integrating system-level analysis with microservices makes it easier to change and add functionality to applications at any time without the increase of risk. Before you start big transformation projects or a cloud migration, make sure these changes won’t take down your entire organization.
The margins of cloud products like virtual machines are still in the 50% range. In essence, price drops are going to be a regular feature for the foreseeable future. This begets the question - are hosted solutions becoming irrelevant today? Boston-based market research firm, 451 Research, has been publishing their ‘Cloud Price Index' for a few years now. The quarterly study looks into the pricing of various offerings in the cloud market to understand the shifting dynamics in the public, privat...
What's the role of an IT self-service portal when you get to continuous delivery and Infrastructure as Code? This general session showed how to create the continuous delivery culture and eight accelerators for leading the change. Don Demcsak is a DevOps and Cloud Native Modernization Principal for Dell EMC based out of New Jersey. He is a former, long time, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, specializing in building and architecting Application Delivery Pipelines for hybrid legacy, and cloud ...
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...
"Tintri focuses on the Ops side of the DevOps, which basically is pushing more and more of the accessibility of the infrastructure to the developers and trying to get behind the scenes," explained Dhiraj Sehgal of Tintri in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We do one of the best file systems in the world. We learned how to deal with Big Data many years ago and we implemented this knowledge into our software," explained Jakub Ratajczak, Business Development Manager at MooseFS, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
Five years ago development was seen as a dead-end career, now it’s anything but – with an explosion in mobile and IoT initiatives increasing the demand for skilled engineers. But apart from having a ready supply of great coders, what constitutes true ‘DevOps Royalty’? It’ll be the ability to craft resilient architectures, supportability, security everywhere across the software lifecycle. In his keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Jeffrey Scheaffer, GM and SVP, Continuous Delivery Busine...
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann and Aruna Ravichandran have been named Co-Chairs of @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo Silicon Valley which will take place Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "DevOps is at the intersection of technology and business-optimizing tools, organizations and processes to bring measurable improvements in productivity and profitability," said Aruna Ravichandran, vice president, DevOps product and solutions marketing...
Managing mission-critical SAP systems and landscapes has never been easy. Add public cloud with its myriad of powerful cloud native services and this may not change any time soon. Public cloud offers exciting new possibilities for enterprise workloads. But to make use of these possibilities and capabilities, IT teams need to re-think everything they have done before. Otherwise, they will just end up using public cloud as a hosting platform for their workloads, aka known as “lift and shift.”
There's a lot to gain from cloud computing, but success requires a thoughtful and enterprise focused approach. Cloud computing decouples data and information from the infrastructure on which it lies. A process that is a LOT more involved than dragging some folders from your desktop to a shared drive. Cloud computing as a mission transformation activity, not a technological one. As an organization moves from local information hosting to the cloud, one of the most important challenges is addressi...
The reality of data ubiquity is here—data is buried in operational statistics, machine logs, stacks of overflowing tickets and customer details, among other things. How can any user get valuable information amid this rapid influx of data? Imagine a situation where your firm’s revenue takes a hit owing to an unexpected failure in some business process. It would be a nightmare for IT admins to sift through the interminable piles of data to deduce exactly why and where the problem occurred. To sav...
Hybrid IT is today’s reality, and while its implementation may seem daunting at times, more and more organizations are migrating to the cloud. In fact, according to SolarWinds 2017 IT Trends Index: Portrait of a Hybrid IT Organization 95 percent of organizations have migrated crucial applications to the cloud in the past year. As such, it’s in every IT professional’s best interest to know what to expect.
Both SaaS vendors and SaaS buyers are going “all-in” to hyperscale IaaS platforms such as AWS, which is disrupting the SaaS value proposition. Why should the enterprise SaaS consumer pay for the SaaS service if their data is resident in adjacent AWS S3 buckets? If both SaaS sellers and buyers are using the same cloud tools, automation and pay-per-transaction model offered by IaaS platforms, then why not host the “shrink-wrapped” software in the customers’ cloud? Further, serverless computing, cl...
In the decade following his article, cloud computing further cemented Carr’s perspective. Compute, storage, and network resources have become simple utilities, available at the proverbial turn of the faucet. The value they provide is immense, but the cloud playing field is amazingly level. Carr’s quote above presaged the cloud to a T. Today, however, we’re in the digital era. Mark Andreesen’s ‘software is eating the world’ prognostication is coming to pass, as enterprises realize they must be...
A common misconception about the cloud is that one size fits all. Companies expecting to run all of their operations using one cloud solution or service must realize that doing so is akin to forcing the totality of their business functionality into a straightjacket. Unlocking the full potential of the cloud means embracing the multi-cloud future where businesses use their own cloud, and/or clouds from different vendors, to support separate functions or product groups. There is no single cloud so...
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, Doug Vanderweide, an instructor at Linux Academy, discussed why major players like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Google Cloud Platform are all trying to sidestep VMs and containers wit...
Companies have always been concerned that traditional enterprise software is slow and complex to install, often disrupting critical and time-sensitive operations during roll-out. With the growing need to integrate new digital technologies into the enterprise to transform business processes, this concern has become even more pressing. A 2016 Panorama Consulting Solutions study revealed that enterprise resource planning (ERP) projects took an average of 21 months to install, with 57 percent of th...
New competitors, disruptive technologies, and growing expectations are pushing every business to both adopt and deliver new digital services. This ‘Digital Transformation’ demands rapid delivery and continuous iteration of new competitive services via multiple channels, which in turn demands new service delivery techniques – including DevOps. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, panelists examined how DevOps helps to meet the de...