Archive for the Business Process Category

Think “Process” NOT “Software”

Posted in Business Process, Entrepreneurship, Pain versus Need on December 4, 2009 by Shankar Saikia

On Saturday evening I met a gentleman who had been attending football games at Stanford for 53 years. We started to talk about Stanford football which has always been one of my favorite topics. Later our conversation drifted to entrepreneurship and he told me a story about how he recently advised two former homeless guys that started a diaper and toilet-paper distribution company. The lesson he gave me is to “sell what the market needs” – go here for more on this fascinating story.

As someone in the enterprise applications software industry I often dream up ideas for new, innovative products. The goal is always to solve a business problem. Lately I have been interviewing business owners and asking them the following question:

“What are your two or three biggest pains”?

Here are the most popular answers:

  • CASH FLOW: having cash to run the business
  • PERSONNEL: while “personnel” is somewhat of an archaic term for human resource professionals (“human capital” seems to be the new phrase)  one business owner told me that people are important because “during bad times they will help you, during good times they will help you”
  • LEADS: one business owner told me that during good times generating leads is not as important as during bad times such as now

These answers are fascinating because, while they are challenging problems, solving them requires changing business processes. Software consultants and salespeople often like the peanut-butter strategy of answering every question with the words “yes, our software can do that” ;).  The reality is that software alone does not solve most  problems.

The next time you work on entrepreneurial ideas or are trying to sell enterprise software think of how you can solve your customer’s  problems with better business processes.

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Selling Enterprise Software To SMB: 5 Lessons

Posted in Business Process, Enterprise Software Sales, SMB Software Sales on July 21, 2009 by Shankar Saikia

In my 19+ years in enterprise software I learned a lot about the differences and similarities between selling to larger businesses and selling to the SMB (small & medium-sized businesses). For the purpose of clarity, in the US a business with upto 100 employees is considered “small” and one with 100-500 employees is in the “medium” category.  Here is what I learned about selling to the SMBs:

1. Scarce IT resources: SMBs typically do not have employees with deep expertise in technologies such as relational databases, middleware, enterprise application integration etc.

LESSON: Show how easy it is to use your software and de-emphasize technical complexity and robustness.

2. Hosted solutions: Lack of IT resources and elimination of relatively large upfront license fees are some of the reasons why SMBs prefer the software as a service (SAAS) model.

LESSON: While emphasizing SAAS ensure that you address issues of data security, such as “how will you ensure that my data is safe?”

3. Process expertise: SMBs usually do not have well-defined processes for operations such as purchasing, expense reports, order management etc.

LESSON: Show how your software can help implement processes and describe how processes will save money.

4. Support: SMBs, because of their lack of IT and process resources, need support in all major areas such as networks, e-mail, security, applications functionality and business processes.

LESSON: Ensure that you understand the customer’s definition and interpretation of support.

5. Quick start: SMBs want solutions that can be used right away – 18+month implementations will not work.

LESSON: Demonstrate quick “time to value.”

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Social Media Marketing: It’s the PROCESS dude!

Posted in Business Process, Social Media Marketing, Twitter on July 9, 2009 by Shankar Saikia

One of the most important lessons that the enterprise applications software business taught me is that business processes are more important than specific enterprise applications software vendors. For example, Dell’s success was mainly due to its build to order (BTO) model, and not necessarily the ERP or supply chain software vendor that Dell used. Similarly, Southwest Airlines’ business practices led to its unparalleled performance.

Similarly, success in social media marketing will result from proper business processes and not necessarily solely from the use of any specific software platform. For example, one company may rely on Twitter whereas another may depend on a suite of different tools. What is absolutely important is to determine the set of business processes that are appropriate for each firm. As I survey the social media landscape I am amused at how there is a different flavor of the day – MySpace yesterday, Facebook today, Twitter tomorrow etc. Regardless of the specific platform, social media is here to stay. We live in an internet democracy and the users have voted – social media beats mass media, social media marketing beats traditional marketing.

For a great writeup on how social media marketing helps brands, read this post from Bob Warfield.

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