Archive for October 2008
Imagine a world where personal privacy is protected yet companies can still gather marketing intelligence to help develop and sell their products better. Not long ago, we used to hear about TV watching statistics based upon polling from companies like AC Neilsen where they had according to urban legend sample representative families wired with set top boxes monitoring their TV watching habits along with personal surveys they we paid to fill in. Thanks to those folks we got binges like the sitcom mania of the past or more recently ‘reality TV’.
Today, most of us use digital cable and/or satellite boxes to watch TV but with the advent of Tivo and personal digital recorders maybe we aren’t really watching what they think we are. I guess I would not be surprised if the digital cable set top box I use did track and send back times and channels but given my own watching habits I believe the data sent back would likely be more erroneous than beneficial. For one thing, I do not turn off my cable box just my TV. So without being able to sense the TV being on my stats would show 24×7 TV watching. Secondly, I like DVDs commercial free and able to be paused when I want and since I own them I can watch them multiple times (actually improving my ROI). Again, while the cable box is on and the TV is on, I am watching a DVD, so my data is false. In the system of the future the TV would need to be the monitoring tool and be able to determine the source of the program being displayed; but alas, even then people leave the room and even the TV does not how many people are watching it or sleeping while it’s on. Perhaps the couch can be wired.
Fortunately, not all marketing intelligence needs be so convoluted. This is the case for your existing customers and their use of your products right? Well, maybe it’s not exactly as clear cut as you would want but most companies could probably build a customer profile out of existing data, but do they? Why build a customer profile, aside from CRM usage, the marketing people can review the information to look for patterns and the sales people can look for opportunities. In any company with more than two products and two licensing options it becomes important to understand not only who buys from you but what they buy.
Building a customer profile out of static information is a good start but if the people are like me, they don’t register products and they don’t keep their profiles up-to-date. So where can we get accurate data, well generally speaking the sales order is a good start. Okay we sold it, are they using it? The license key management system might be able to help us there. If the licensing model is done in a configuration specific manner we might be to track activation and supposed usage configurations. In the world of independent customer self-service given the right infrastructure you can answer what was downloaded, when and where (and since notification is direct to the user their email address is maintained up-to-date or bounces). So matching up the instance of software from the order (entitlement we call it), to the license information for the instance, to the activity related to downloads (including keys and updates) looking across multiple products, we can sketch a customer profile. Yes there is missing data but it does form a better outline than polling.
The upshot really is: it is generally easier to sell your existing customer more things than it is to sell a new customer. Companies with many products can look for opportunities via bundling to increase their penetration and increase the long term probability of staying in an account. Adapting more data elements and sources can create a more detailed profile. One that could look at features and benefits in a new light (what’s used) and that can be used for both existing and new customers. In the world of marketing intelligence, the approach and the tools can be as equally limiting as the data.
Just read this post over at ArsTechnica. We were just having a conversation on the pros and cons of securing all the transactions in our customer-facing entitlement and download tools, so this is a timely post for us.
Essentially, we agree with the premise of the article: HTTPS (or TLS) is now so inexpensive from a cpu/cyle-time perspective, that encrypted communications should be the default for all transactions, including downloads.
Here is the link to the ArsTechnica post.
Adam Langley wants to encrypt all web traffic, but without having to type those pesky HTTPS URLs. His solution: opportunistic encryption without user intervention.
(Via Ars Technica.)
Is Anybody Listening Out There?
As OMS has just recently started this blog site, I was reminded by our CTO to put a reminder in our last email mail-out for people to add our blog site to their RSS Readers. Now, there is something I never setup myself. I rely on good old email and my own searching of the web to find out what’s new in the world.
Although I have never seen any statistics not even anecdotal, I am guessing I still in the majority of people not using an RSS reader (but that’s probably shrinking). The concept of needing to know immediately whenever any interesting sites are updated, made little sense as I am interrupted enough as things are.
About a year ago, our Digital Product Management tool RESCUE enabled an RSS feed for product alerts, in addition to the traditional email method. It seemed to me at the time, this was useful for this specific case. I guess I always thought of using the RSS Reader like instant messaging (which I also do not use due to the interruption factor).
But here is the thing that I realized (okay a little slow on the uptake) unlike IM I do not need to be listening constantly, I can use it to go gather the data (updates) and then look at them at that time or so I assume. I guess I am interested if and how others are using the RSS Reader function and why. Quite possibly I am missing the true power of a productivity tool rather than wasting time with the hunt and look method or worse waiting for the message to arrive in my inbox several hours/days later on things I am interested in.
So if anyone is out there listening, let us know how you feel about RSS Readers and what you recommend or at least what works for you.
FYI. We’ll be at the Software Business 2008 conference in a couple of weeks. Hope we see you there!
TJ Caveney will be presenting “Customer Self-Service: Electronic Software Distribution – The Competitive Edge” at the upcoming Software Business Conference in San Fransico October 30-31. TJ’s session is currently scheduled for 11:25am on Friday October 31st.
This presentation highlights how establishing a customer self-service center can help boost your company’s competitive edge through better customer support, and reduced product delivery and support costs. It starts out defining the base functionality that a customer self-service center should have and how the customer can be empowered to act when and how they feel it necessary while having their needs better serviced. The flip side is the company downloading support costs, streamlining distribution and reducing service calls. The presentation outlines the goals and discusses how a phased approach can provide tactical wins while addressing strategic goals such as increased sales, marketing, business intelligence and internal productivity gains and reduced time-to-market.
Click on the Software Business 2008 link below to register or view the conference site or contact TJ if you are interested in hearing the presentation at another time.
Quick FYI for our readers.
The BIS has announced few changes to Export Compliance regulations related to the distribution of software.
Nothing too aggressive here, but its good to keep up with.
Here is the press release.
October 1, 2008
BIS Announces Five Regulatory Updates
Proposed rule to amend the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to establish a new license exception entitled “Intra-Company Transfer (ICT).” (To be published in the Federal Register)
Interim final rule to amend the EAR to make the treatment of encryption items more consistent with the treatment of other items subject to the EAR. (To be published in the Federal Register)
Final rule to revise the EAR to implement changes agreed upon in the December 2007 Wassenaar Arrangement Plenary Meeting and the provisions regarding solar cells agreed upon in the December 2006 Plenary Meeting. (To be published in the Federal Register)
Final rule to amend the EAR as a result of a systematic review of the Commerce Control List. (To be published in the Federal Register)
Interim rule to amend the EAR to change the de minimis calculation for foreign produced hardware that is bundled with U.S.-origin software. (Published in today’s Federal Register)
Central Infrastructure – Common Goal or Common Enemy to Process Re-Engineering for Mergers and Acquisitions
One of the themes that we find ourselves discussing with potential clients is that many of today’s largest software and technology companies are built based upon mergers and acquisitions. We usually find practical reminders of a company’s M&A history buried in the operations. Product management procedures and business rules are greatly influenced by a product’s early history. Product teams are used to doing things a certain way and for certain reasons, many because that’s the way it’s always been done. Product release processes in particular are usually built adhoc and out of necessity. They tend to grow as the business grows and generally do not scale well with a business’ success. They may be tolerable in smaller companies but as companies merge this becomes a real threat to the bottom line because of the multiplier effect.
For the same reason why companies need a central and common ERP, companies need to think about a common product management, release and delivery toolset. Exception processing which is the norm in smaller companies has a huge impact on time-to-market and cost of goods for larger companies. Using separate processes, separate teams and potentially methodologies to manage the product lifecycle is inherently inefficient and usually more expensive in the longer term.
During the initial adjustment (absorption) period, it is helpful to leave the existing processes in place in order to focus on customer facing issues and cash flow. Minimizing the impact to the schedule and to customers helps mitigate the risk of ‘fouling up the system’. When is the right time to streamline, we believe a company must always be looking at ways to improve process and harmonize business rules, particularly ‘after the dust settles’ but before institutionalism becomes a barrier to success.
This is where common infrastructure can be the catalyst for change (adoption and streamlining), creating a common change point or a common enemy if you like. In the absence of a common release and delivery mechanism, manual exceptions will always prevail. Infrastructure provides the form and flow which defines the process as much as the divergent groups involved in the process. As companies are continually challenged to competitively develop and release products in the global marketplace, companies must look at all aspects of the product lifecycle, as more software is delivered electronically there are greater returns to updating and streamlining the release process from a physical manufacturing/logistics viewpoint to a digital product management, release and delivery infrastructure. The challenge is not only in deploying the infrastructure but also industry best practices while preserving those essential business rules and innate company processes which define the company.