thomas.wieberneit@aheadcrm.co.nz
Platform Partners: A Question of Trust

Platform Partners: A Question of Trust

The enterprise software world is one where few, if any, companies can stand alone. Cloud computing has greatly increased the availability and usability of business applications. However, no vendor can claim to supply a complete homegrown solution. The SaaS world is one of partnerships. Partnerships are best when all the partners are trustworthy.Business software customers still need to pick a brand and stick with it for a while. That brand—the platform—represents a serious investment of time and trust. Sure, you own your data, and changing platforms is supposed to be easy. But ask anybody who’s done it whether they would want to do so again next year.Platform customers have to weigh more than just the price and features of each platform provider. They must also consider what the future holds for that platform and its partners. None of the big platforms are likely to disappear or merge anytime soon, but their fates and fortunes are not constant. They also have histories and reputations. Increasingly, they have prominent social and/or political stances as well. Those issues matter enough to some business owners and investors to affect their decisions. There are also simpler matters, like whether the customer likes the feel of the software environment, or has concerns about possible changes. Can I Trust You? In the end, these decisions boil down to variations on a single question: “Can I trust you with my business?” Contracts and commercial laws deal with businesses that act in bad faith; this is more about responsibility, reliability, and safety. Examples: Will you continue to support the applications I use?Is my data secure?Do you have good...
Ecosystems, how to play for small players

Ecosystems, how to play for small players

Lately, we have talked a lot about ecosystems, in particular business ecosystems. Normally, business ecosystems follow a hub and spoke model rather than a network approach; one major player sets it up, and then adds customers and partners like independent software vendors, systems integrators, analysts, consultants, suppliers, or other similar entities. Good examples of successful ecosystems are the ones around the big four enterprise software vendors: Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce and SAP. Sure, there are other ones, but these are easy reference examples. In theory, ecosystems shall provide more value to customers, better serving their needs by making it easier for them to get access to information, knowledge, skills and productized enhancements to the core solution that they chose to implement. They also get a broader choice of possible enhancements, provided by different vendors in the ecosystem. Of course, this also benefits the other participating stakeholders. Customers are, of course, an important group of every ecosystem. Treating them as partners helps the platform company to create a transparent prioritization process for delivering requested new functionalities that extend the own solution in an optimal way. Not all customers provide the necessary input, though. For the platform provider, the ecosystem creates stickiness. Still, this company cannot develop and provide all the functionality that is ever needed by its customers. Nor can it provide sufficient implementation services. And it does not want to, either. So, it needs ISVs and SIs as members of its ecosystem to provide this functionality, either as products, or as consulting solutions. What these companies deliver on top of the core solution also increases the attractiveness of the ecosystem. ...
How to avoid the looming CRM crisis

How to avoid the looming CRM crisis

A short while ago the CRMKonvos team had the opportunity to invite Frank Tjaben of SugarCRM into our living rooms or home offices for a lively discussion about whether businesses are facing a crisis of customer relationship management and if so, why. To use some slightly clichéd terminology, Frank has been both a hunter and a farmer throughout his career, putting him in a unique place to talk about exactly this topic. He has seen it from both sides—as a user and seller of CRM software. He started his career as a call center agent, and then held various sales and sales management positions, including customer advisory roles for both enterprise organisations and SMBs. He says that a sales person’s main objective is to get into an as good as possible dialogue with the customer, regardless of one’s actual role. At the end of the day it is about solving a customer’s problem. He firmly believes that those who understand the customer best are the ones who close the deal. This is where the value of CRM systems begins. These systems are good for managing to-dos and activities, which is important in sales. It is important to be reliable. “It might sound conservative, but then sales is a conservative craft,” Frank says. “If you make an appointment for next week, then this is what is meant, an appointment.” He maintains that this, although important, is only a part of it. It only looks at the basics. The business evolves. Therefore, customers need to also know that the vendor’s product vision matches their future needs. The big question is: What...
How to avoid the CRM crisis

How to avoid the CRM crisis

Customer relationships are on the cusp of a crisis, are they? And if this observation is correct, what can we do to avoid the crisis, or even get out of it in case we happen to have taken the step over the precipice? In this CRMKonvo – sponsored by SugarCRM – amongst other things, we talk about the results of the 2021 CRM and sales impact report. Core questions are what has a positive, or negative, impact on sales performance or customer loyalty. The report covers insight gained by 1,000 sales pros.  We are discussing with Frank Tjaben, who moved on to sales after having gained considerable experience in various different roles in call centers and other types of organizations. Frank now uses his experience on the other side of the force and has a lot of interesting stories to tell about how a CRM helps or does not help, depending on its implementation. This CRMKonvo is in German language (the report is available in German and English language and definitely worthwhile having a look at)....

Rising to Swift Challenges in App Development

You may have heard about The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, or the idea of an MVP (minimum viable product). These methodologies say only build what subscribers ask—and will pay— for. Business app development isn’t a one-way street; sometimes a customer will come to you with an idea for a product you wouldn’t otherwise have had in your cycle. When that happens, a responsive company with a close relationship to its customers will be able to deliver something new. Such was the case when financial advisory firm White Glove came to Fastcall with a request regarding Einstein Conversation Insights.Salesforce recently introduced Einstein Conversation Insights. ECI transcribes a recorded conversation, identifies keywords and records metrics (such as talk time per recipient) from phone calls, and provides recording shortcuts to quickly review the calls. Rob Lyons, head of technology for White Glove, identified a natural fit for ECI with his company’s existing use of Fastcall. “I saw this feature was available to us as HVS users,” Lyons says. “I wanted to see if this AI could give me insight into our sales calls beyond standard activity logging.”Such requests are part of the job for Fastcall founder Rich Rosen, and they often spring from curiosity. “Subscribers ask us for stuff they do not really plan to implement,” Rosen says. “We do the work, it does not get used, but is available for the next subscriber.” Even so, this is where innovation is born. “It was worth doing as this is a differentiator,” Rosen says. “Not many other CTI apps have the integration. And it gave us a chance to reach out to...
Ecosystem Play – One Game at a Time

Ecosystem Play – One Game at a Time

It is not that uncommon that a software company creates new software based upon customer requirements. Actually, this is the way things should be done; not exclusively, but to quite an extent. Now, there are few software vendors who are truly independent. Most vendors are, and need to be, part of one or more other vendor ecosystems. This is simply a matter of scale, as there are only a few vendors who have the size and market power that are necessary to surround themselves with a good number of customers, ISVs, system integrators and other partners. And the number of these ecosystems is rather shrinking than growing.  What this means is not that these few companies can implement and deliver what they want, but that the other ones need to carefully check two things. First, which ecosystem(s) to belong to, be it one or more than one. And as the CEO of 3CLogic, Denis Seynhaeve in a recent CRMKonvo said: It is important to choose wisely, which ecosystem to commit to. One of the fundamental consequences of this decision is the degree of dependency on other vendors that the smaller vendor has. This degree naturally decreases with the number of ecosystems it participates in, although they can never be truly independent – which is also not wanted when playing the ecosystem game. Conversely, participating in more than one ecosystem increases options and the potential reach. On the other hand, there are some other factors that come into play. The software architecture and the software itself will become more complicated when different vendors’ systems shall get augmented. Deep knowledge in...