Archive for the ‘CRM’ Category

Get a Horse

Posted: December 12, 2013 in CRM
Tags: , , , , ,

ImageI was literally gobsmacked and I had to re-read the post several times.  Gartner analyst Robert Desisto—who I don’t know at all—wrote a short post last week saying that today’s SaaS vendors, “will resist to the move to ‘pay as you go’ because it will have a very big impact on their business model predictability” and become “legacy dinosaurs” as his headline said.

But, but, but! I stammered to myself.  How can that be?  I have been researching and writing about this space for fourteen years.  I was the first analyst to cover Salesforce and a bunch of other early entrants, and one of the first people to have a practice dedicated to SaaS.  They all had pay as you go models, at least back then.  Did I miss something?

One of the real challenges of running a subscription business, and this includes SaaS companies as well as the Dollar Shave Club, ZipCar, and all the other companies that jumped on the bandwagon, is that you have very different revenue flows that must be accounted for.  Companies like Zuora have built big businesses and attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in venture funding to build billing, payment, finance and accounting systems that cater to this massive industry.  Now along comes Gartner with the clear implication that the pay as you go model is not in fact alive and well?  I didn’t get it.  Still don’t.

As a sanity check I contacted Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora, a subscription billing, payments and finance provider.  In his previous life Tzuo was CMO of Salesforce and at one point had the job of inventing a billing system for Salesforce that operated the way subscriptions run.  Here are some points from Tien.

  • Just because some SaaS companies do three-year contracts that doesn’t make them enterprise software dinosaurs.  Every successful SaaS company realizes that keeping churn low is a core part of the model, and every successful SaaS company realizes that long term contracts do not equate to low churn—the only thing that truly reduces churn is to have strong adoption and customer success.  That’s why SaaS vendors invest in customer success while on premise software companies do not
  • Many SaaS companies actually don’t offer three-year contracts.  At Zuora, we see lots of companies with month-to-month models.  CDNs, cloud companies, API companies, point-of-sale systems—these industries all skew towards month-to-month.  Radian6 also had a month-to-month model.  The post also says doing three-year contracts makes SaaS companies vulnerable to other startups who choose to offer month-to-month … but there’s nothing to stop the SaaS vendor from changing their billing policy whenever they want. (my note: provided they have a product like Zuora that makes this easy to do the billing and accounting).
  • Customers don’t have to accept three-year contracts.  It’s naive to say that it’s the SaaS vendor that forces it on them—many companies actually prefer long term contracts once they are committed to the SaaS vendor, as this gets them the best price as well as longer-term price protection.  This can be a win-win scenario.
  • This does create havoc on revenue recognition.  Monthly billing makes billing messy but revenue recognition easier.  Annual or multi-year billing makes billing easy but revenue recognition very hard.  There’s no free lunch.

It was such an odd thing to read.  It reminds me of some other chestnuts like, “If god wanted man to fly he would have given us wings,” or “We will never need telephones in England because we have such an abundant supply of messenger boys,” or “Someday every town will have a computer,” or my favorite, “640 KB is all the memory your computer will ever need.”  These are all such Luddite comments you just knew upon hearing them that they won’t stand the test of time.  Heck, this one didn’t survive a day before people started scratching their heads. 

Perhaps the last word on this comes from the most authoritative source—the marketplace.  On December 10, BrainSell, a Boston-based technology company announced it would offer an integrated solution of Intuit’s QuickBooks with bi-directional synch to Salesforce.  According to the press release, “What’s really great is that customers can get a Salesforce subscription from BrainSell with no contract, and the ability to pay month to month!”

http://www.itbusinessnet.com/article/Salesforcecom-Month-to-Month-Subscriptions-Now-Available-through-BrainSell-Boston-Based-Technology-Firm-2963070

 

 

We have moved

Posted: January 12, 2013 in CRM

Hi and thanks for coming to this blog.  We have recently launched a new website at our primary domain BeagleResearch.com which will now contain the blog as well as all other information about Beagle.  If you automatically go to the blog through an RSS feed, you should just find yourself redirected there.  If you are here and looking for our latest content simply click on the link above and you will be taken to the site.  By the way, the site is also built on Word Press so there should be nothing to learn over.  Thanks for your participation.


Everybody has a year-end synopsis these days and it’s fun to see what each person deemed important.  Sometimes you wonder if you lived through the same experiences but it’s a good thing to recall everything one more time and maybe reconsider how you’ll remember each.  Here’s my synopsis which is no more or less valid than anyone else’s.

Marketing’s resurgence might be the most interesting development of ‘12 for several reasons.  First, the switch to marketing from other areas of emphasis (like service) shows that many people in the CRM universe feel that the economy is not only healing but returning to form.  In the last few years, social and service, and often the two together, were the CRM market drivers but with marketing showing new vigor, it suggests to me that next year will see business accelerate.  Maybe that won’t take us all the way back to 2008 but what it will be an improvement.

Also, marketing’s renaissance comes via a social salient, especially in using analytics to better understand and segment markets.  Analytics tells me that vendors need ultra low cost ways to get to their customers because the economy is still weak and no one wants to hire people so they’re going for automation and software.  That’s just the new reality and I hate to be bringing the news.  Many markets are price driven — as opposed to quality or service driven — and companies are trying to give customers what they want.

And speaking of price driven and automation, there’s been a nice uptick in the number of vendors offering software robots that can at least triage a service call.  That includes VirtuOz, a CRM Idol finalist and personal favorite.

Big Data hit CRM through the link to analytics and marketing and companies like Dun and Bradstreet, Lattice Engines and InsideView are all taking a cut at this important space.  Another one worth checking out is Awareness, another CRM Idol finalist.  They do cool stuff in applying analytics to the big data pile captured with social media.  In all, social and analytics have shown us that there’s more to social marketing than sentiment analysis which can only be good for the future of the market.

If marketing is becoming automated and socialized, a similar thing is happening in human resources.  Many an HR software vendor has made the leap to the cloud and also to social.  The two will radically transform HR from a back office preserve to something much more front office in its orientation.  HR is rapidly becoming a specialized case of social front office application with important contributions from Work.com, Jobscience, Vana and lots more.

Also, despite what Gartner said in its recent gamification report, I think the future is largely positive in that market.  The major analyst firms put out reports that spell doom when it becomes clear that an early market has gotten frothy and no one in their right minds can reasonably expect the new thing to live up to all the, well, hype.

But the good news about gamification is that it is reaching its adolescence, a time when some of its early adopters will harness it and make it successful.  So the good news I see is that the vendors and customers who do it right will be fine and it will be clear who has the goods next year.

Then there’s mobile, mobile, mobile or browser apps, native apps and always connected native apps.  Making mobile work this year was the result of a collaboration of infrastructure vendors and people who make the applications.  I have noticed recently that wireless vendors are getting aggressive about offering tablet packages for only ten bucks a month to users who subscribe for other devices.  Ten bucks is important as it represents a manageable fee so I look for mobile adoption to accelerate now that all the pieces seem to be in place.

Mobile infrastructure comes at the right time also because numerous vendors have put significant development resources into moving their applications to the tablet.  HTML5 is robust and popular but so are new CRM applications that run natively adopting all of the pinches and swipes that people like about tablets.  Salesforce has a decent solution in Touch and I think we’ll see more vendors produce “develop once, deploy on many devices” solution sets in the year ahead.  Over the last couple of years we’ve watched the early stages of PC and Laptop sales tanking and the hockey stickomatic rise of the tablet and the handheld and next year will be the time when mobile puts its foot down on the accelerator.

With mobile’s arrival as a more or less equal in the platform wars we will be witnessing the first true global platform that I have been talking about.  A global platform means adding millions of new users and customers to the ranks all at once—ok not ALL, all at once but enough to make you notice.  I have a feeling that while a significant portion of those new users will have a good grasp of English, companies that offer bi-lingual interfaces will be the early leaders.  The first step will, of course, be to analyze where your traffic comes from and then maybe to pilot a few pages.  All this may suggest an opportunity for translation services short term.

But that’s next year.  For now, thanks for continuing to read this space and please come back in 2013.


On Beagle’s ninth anniversary.

This is a special time of year for me personally, regardless of everything else going on for the holidays because it’s a professional anniversary too.  I started my career as an analyst on January 3, 2000, the first workday of the new millennium, at Aberdeen Group.

My job was to cover SFA in the exploding CRM market and, just for fun, I told my boss, Chris Fletcher when I started, that I thought this idea of hosted applications would be a major inflection point and I wanted to cover it.  As luck had it, SFA and hosting went well together and my career bloomed.  I wrote about the space for four years at Aberdeen and did pretty well advising clients like Salesnet, UpShot and, of course, Salesforce.com.

At the end of 2003 we were in a recession and Aberdeen looked like it was destined for oblivion.  New management came in and rather than dealing with what I felt was a punitive regime, I left, four years to the day after I’d started.

But I really liked being an analyst and it was something I was good at so it was hard to leave just because I didn’t have a job.  That’s how Beagle Research got started.  The HMS Beagle was Darwin’s research vessel on a five-year voyage around the world for the British Navy.  I’d always had an evolutionary orientation, which I have applied to my study of markets with great success, so the whole Beagle Research name made sense for me.  I hung out a shingle and the rest just happened.

So as we end 2012, I am celebrating the completion of nine years of success as an independent analyst, researcher and consultant and my beat continues to expand. For instance, social was not an established part of CRM when I started out but it is now, so I keep learning and it’s been fun.

Now’s a good time to say thank you to all of you for sticking with me as friends, clients, associates and fellow analysts.  I couldn’t have gotten through the last nine years without people like Paul Greenberg, Esteban Kolsky and Brent Leary or the many outlets that carry my writing — and all of my clients.  I am going to stop here because there are really too many people to thank and I will miss some but you know who you are.  I see you at shows, sit on panels with you, write for you, do research with you and most importantly trade ideas with you and learn from you.  So, thanks for being unwitting partners in this journey and Happy Holidays!

 

FYI, we’re getting ready to launch a new website which will have a more establishment look.  It will be up shortly and will finally consolidate the blog, the neglected website and the common URL.  I look forward to continuing our many conversations and to the idea exchange that makes this work so much fun.

Oracle Buys Eloqua

Posted: December 20, 2012 in CRM
Tags: , ,

That’s it?  Only $810.8 million?  Not even a whole billion?  I would have thought Eloqua would command a higher price, especially with a market cap in the $4-500 million range.  Lots of people are saying nice things about the deal but I ain’t buying it just yet.

They IPO’d in August at $11.50 per share and raised $90+ million and in the last year had revenues of about $85 million.  So from this perspective the strike price of $23.50 makes some sense.  However, marketing automation is heating up and it’s a good place to hang out a shingle these days so I would have expected more of a premium.

This leaves Marketo and a bunch of smaller companies in the space and curiously opens up the market quite a bit.  Eloqua is a good Salesforce partner but you have to wonder how much longer that will last given that Larry doesn’t even invite Marc to OpenWorld any more.

I think Eloqua’s Salesforce business goes in the tank immediately meaning that Oracle might have over paid given Eloqua’s revenue is somewhat dependent on good relations between the two companies’ sales forces.  So look for Marketo to get a lot more interest from Salesforce (as if they don’t have enough?).

This acquisition clears the field for Salesforce and I could easily see Marc buying Marketo just to make sure he has something in the corral.  If that doesn’t happen, then every SAP and IBM in the world will want Marketo and soon.  Marketo would be a good fit for Salesforce, better than Eloqua in some respects, given the social direction of the Marketing Cloud.

At this stage Oracle is amassing an impressive string of software solutions that it is attempting to forge into some kind of suite.  But maybe not.  This reminds me that the last couple of years worth of Oracle acquisitions in the front office market resemble another spate of acquisitions the company embarked on in 2004-2005.  It ended up buying such names as PeopleSoft and Siebel and each of those companies had bought up many other companies like J.D. Edwards and Upshot to name just two.   I think of that as the Great Consolidation.  Lately things are looking similar.

Seven or eight years ago Oracle was chided for becoming the new Computer Associates and it was widely expected to cease all development and enhancement of the products and just collect the maintenance revenue stream.  That didn’t happen, the company pledged to keep the brands going and today they are.  It also promised to build powerful software that would link everything together in one big, happy mass.  The project was supposed to take 3 years but it reached double that before Oracle threw up its hands and declared victory in a parallel universe.

Fusion is still evolving and the separate applications are, well, separate.  But the focus now seems to be on bringing together RightNow, Siebel, ATG, Eloqua, and the other recently acquired systems under the Fusion umbrella.  Maybe it will work, I dunno.

For now, Oracle may have stolen first base buying Eloqua.  The marketing market is still hot, Salesforce is committed to big time social marketing, Marketo might be a target purchase for them but that’s not certain.  Sooner or later Oracle needs to put some stories together about how its new applications all work together otherwise the CA rumors will start all over.


I was doing some research in the Time Magazine archives (the best ones I have seen, by the way) the other day and came across this nugget from 1962:

“Despite the discouraging results so far, many scientists argue that military-space research will ultimately produce an overflowing cornucopia of marketable consumer products, from supersonic planes to small nuclear reactors for home power.”

State of Business: Where Are the Tinkerers? September 21, 1962

Take note of the date.  Supersonic planes for commercial travel became a reality with the Concord, an Anglo-French construction that operated between New York or Washington and Paris or London for many years until airframes started to fatigue and the small fleet was retired.  Supersonic travel never really caught on.  Airlines have gone in the other direction since then electing to buy big cattle cars for the masses rather than supersonic hotrods for the elite.

It makes perfect sense too given the rise of civilian aviation and private planes over the years and people’s refusal to hear sonic booms whenever a plane flew over.  But in ’62, who knew?  And that’s the point about prognostication, especially when you don’t rely on research to provide an inkling of what’s even possible or what other factors might have an impact.  That’s best seen in “small nuclear reactors for home power.”  In a society where people can’t be depended on to do the right thing when disposing of an old TV or refrigerator, small nukes simply offer the real possibility of a million Chernobyls.

What the Time article didn’t even hint at was the possibility of having small computers for home and personal use or what that might mean.  They couldn’t even imagine that but they are not to be blamed.  It’s human nature to think that tomorrow will be just like today in all its particulars and that’s one reason why we are so bad at making predictions.

With that in mind we turn to the new year and prognostications about what might happen in our tiny corner of reality, CRM.  Here are my thoughts.

  1. Gamification will continue to gain interest as some people figure out how to avoid the crash that Gartner predicted when it said that 80 percent of gamification projects would fail by 2014.  The key will be understanding the difference between gamified tasks at work and work as a game.  See?
  2. Cloud computing will continue being adopted by enterprises.  The version of cloud that will be popular will involve moving the data center off site, not in fundamentally reorienting enterprise apps to face modern customers and users.  We are still in the early phases of adoption of this kind of cloud, which is best thought of as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).  Disenchantment is still a year or two off but it will happen.
  3. Back office applications will accelerate their migration to the front office.  We’ve seen billing and payments move much closer to the front office with products like Zuora making them part and parcel of the subscription economy.  But also, human resources applications like Work.com from Salesforce are also moving historically back office HR functions to the front office.  This will continue as other companies get into the act.  Eventually I expect to see many more customers interacting with raw material suppliers through vendor sites.
  4. Robotics invade the front office.  Companies like VirtuOz produce Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA’s) that replace people in many routine customer service functions like triage or even whole transactions.  IVA’s aren’t perfect but they can speed up the customer service process and they can be deployed 24/7 for consistent service.  Sometimes all you need is a robot to get something done and IVA’s will help segment the market and preserve human agents for more complex situations.
  5. Analytics will continue its land-and-expand mission.  It started with sentiment analysis, which has proven to be useful but there is so much more to be done.  Applying analytics to segmentation, influence and other more fine grained listening is not that hard.  Once you have an analytics engine the next piece is scoring and submitting the scores for analysis.  Scoring algorithms will therefore proliferate and the roll out of additional analytics ought to accelerate, bringing more refined ways of filtering big data.
  6. There is a hardware revolution going on that almost no one is attending to, partly because gear has become so commoditized at the personal end that we think of it as another appliance but also, so geeky at the main server end that few of us comprehend it.  But make no mistake about it gear is where innovation is at a fever pitch.  No gear, no social, no analytics, no cloud.  No kidding.  Devices that speed up data handling through in-memory (SAP and Oracle come to mind) databases, massive storage arrays with solid state drives, and sophisticated analytics to take advantage of all this, are in market.  This is another land and expand situation where landing has been ongoing so look for the expansion to get into high gear next year.
  7. CRM continues to melt like a jellybean on a summer sidewalk.  Everything continues to come together and the appeal of silo-ed sales and marketing applications continues to wane along with interest in desktop PC’s.  What replaces them is the holistic CRM database shot through with social and analytics for anytime decision-making and continuous buying.  CRM is not going away and neither is the jellybean, we’re just making soup.
  8. The cost of energy is beginning to affect front office business and we can see it in several ways.  Transportation is becoming costly for manufacturers who are beginning to move production closer to customers (think HP and Apple for starters).  Transport costs and travel in general will affect the front office too so look for credible alternatives such as video calling embedded in front office apps.  This is another technology already in market and ramp up will not be difficult.

That’s enough.  Hopefully none of this rises to the level of a small nuke for the home but if it does I will be back here next year to walk it all back.


bullpen_mediumFour talented front office analysts join forces in a unique model to deliver market research.

Contact: Denis Pombriant

Denis@BeagleResearch.com                                                FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

781-297-0066

(Boston) December 13, 2012 – Denis Pombriant, President of Beagle Research announced the creation of The Bullpen Group this morning. The Bullpen Group, a new research and analysis firm in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) market, includes such CRM industry luminaries as Paul Greenberg, Brent Leary, Esteban Kolsky and Mr. Pombriant.  The group’s purpose is to provide an ad hoc model for senior analysts collaborating on important market research projects that concentrate on some of the most important trends and topics from front office, CRM, social business, collaboration, to cloud computing and mobile computing.

Pombriant, the managing principal of Bullpen Group said, “In bringing together four of the best analysts in the front office market we plan to leverage both conventional research modalities and social approaches to provide vendors and end users with some of the most in-depth and actionable research in the market.”

According to the group’s business model, the four principals will continue their individual practices while coming together under the aegis of the Bullpen Group to perform research that requires the talents of more than a single researcher at a time.  Paul Greenberg, the group’s director of research said, “We know what the trends and practices that need to be investigated are. Our mission is to bring together the right resources to make sure that the research is of the caliber needed.”

Esteban Kolsky, founder of ThinkJar, LLC and co-founder of Bullpen Group, said, “This is the way primary research should be done – aggregated knowledge from experts shared across channels and time.  I am very happy to be part of this new endeavor.”

“Things are happening faster than ever before, and it still feels like we’re in the early innings.  While individually we are able to dig into a few areas, working together on projects allows us to cover more ground, provide deeper analysis and add more value to the industry,” said Brent Leary also a co-founder of the group.

The Bullpen Group can be reached at Denis@BeagleResearch.com.

 

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