Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Announcing FirstRain's New Enterprise Customer Intelligence System

Today is a very exciting day for FirstRain, as we accomplish yet another important milestone in delivering groundbreaking intelligence solutions to our customers. This morning we’re announcing the launch of the first ever Enterprise Customer Intelligence System.

The news today is the release of our new workflow and integration system that lets you use FirstRain intelligence on your customers and market wherever you are: it doesn’t matter if you're on the road, at a customer site, on your iPads (see the FirstRain iPad App in action here), iPhones or Android phones, via email, or integrated directly into company CRMs or social enterprise portals such as, Jive or Microsoft SharePoint - it's all easy now.

We are seeing two huge waves of change impacting sales and marketing teams today: the introduction of Social Enterprise platforms and the iPad, which over 90% of the Fortune 500 are deploying or evaluating right now. Our new solution is intended to make it easy for you to use FirstRain seamlessly in your new workflows and so grow your revenue and market share.

This new system is an extension of the powerful semantic analytics technology you may already be using, but now it's an end-to-end integrated solution for highly personalized, yet easily managed, customer intelligence across your entire enterprise. This is the information that customers like you already rely upon to continuously stay aware of the critical developments that impact revenue growth and renewal in your business—it’s what we call Enterprise Customer Intelligence (ECI).

We've been working on this version of the system for over 2 years - first we went after the quality of the customer and market intelligence our customers are already using - and now we have released the workflow to match your enterprise. We have developed it in collaboration with many of our leading enterprise customers in technology, communications, life sciences, materials and financial services.

If you're one of the customers who has helped us develop and hone this exciting innovation, thank you! And if you're one who has not yet had the opportunity to see how our new ECI System can help your organization get even more out of the great FirstRain intelligence you receive today, please, drop me a line.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The business case for Enterprise Social Networks

Social networking is the topic du jour. Facebook is going public at a gazillion dollar valuation; Jive market cap jumped 30% in the past few weeks because their charismatic CEO, Tony Zingale, got Barrons to say they are Facebook for the enterprise.

And no question, companies are deploying enterprise collaboration platforms fast, trying to keep up with the need for information sharing. One customer - a CIO - told me "we don't know why but we're going to do it anyway!".

Given all this frenzy I was pleased to see a sensible report published last week on the business case for ESN - Enterprise Social Networks - written by Charlene Li and published by Altimeter. It's full of advice on how to think about your deployment and your ROI.

We see a smorgasbord of options at our customers - some have SFDC (Salesforce CRM and sometimes Chatter), some have SFDC and Jive, some have Microsoft and Yammer, some have 3 or 4 around the globe - you name it, we see the mix. Some departments like one, some like the other, sometimes global likes one and the US likes another. It's definitely a challenge. We have the advantage that because of our architecture we can easily integrate our customer intelligence into all, but I feel for the IT teams trying to administer so many choices.

This chart is the answer to "what is your primary enterprise networking solution?" across 77 companies who could only answer one.

Source: Altimeter report Making the Case for Enterprise Social Networks Feb 2012

But as the Altimeter report explains - workflow is the key issue. ESNs do encourage sharing - critical when you have a global sales team working on a global customer. They do capture knowledge, especially tribal knowledge about how the customer's requirements are developing and how the market is impacting them. We get feedback all the time that our customer intelligence, integrated into Chatter and Jive, helps the sales team be smarter about what's happening in their customer's market.

The 3rd value an ESN brings is helping your sales team take action because they can find solutions faster by collaborating, then of course in the end an ESN is empowering when it is working well because your sales team has a voice (although what sales team doesn't!).

Enterprise collaboration is on a roll right now. It's good to see analysts helping IT teams cut through the chatter (pun intended) and evaluate the business value of their choices.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kiteboarding and the wilder side of Costa Rica at the Nicaraguan border

Every year in February my husband and son head to the very North West corner of Costa Rica to go kite boarding at Playa Copal. There is a kiting spot in Baja Salinas where the bay is wide, the wind howls, there is a kiting instructor (Bob) on the beach to help with equipment challenges and so a handful of kiteboarding addicts litter the beaches with every size of kite and every style of board.

Not wanting to be left behind again, this year I went with them and, with a few other kiting friends, we rented a house with internet (but no cell coverage) so I could work part time from Costa Rica but hang out with them in the evening.

The reason we came - Bret on the water at Playa Copal

Sebastian launching his Dad - wearing a full body suit (and his Senior class Tshirt) because of the fierceness of the sun on his very white skin.

Wanting to keep up with my swimming every day, I found a cove to swim across and get my mile in - until the day I misjudged the pull of the tide and had trouble getting back in. Sebastian asked me what I would have done if I had not been able to get back - I told him I would have had a Mai Tai in Tahiti!

The cove at the bottom of our road - yes it's deserted so no lawn chairs or cabana boys with drinks with little umbrellas in them.

The alternative cove I found with less current once I realized I was seriously risking ending up in Tahiti if I kept swimming in my first cove

Every evening our rag tag band met up at the top of our hill to celebrate the sunset. Recreo is a collection of houses on a hill up a winding dirt road that advertises a "Mountaintop Cantina" on the sign at the bottom.

So the first day I went looking for some semblance of civilization and, thinking there might be a bar at the top, took a golf cart up to explore. The joke was on me. What is at the top is two high wooden cocktail tables and 6 stools. Nothing else except wind. But it is an invitation to sit, drink and contemplate the beauty, which is exactly what we did every evening. And then, once the sun went down, we rolled down the hill and drove the half mile of dirt road to go to "Bob's" for dinner. I think I had fried fish, beans and rice every day.

Looking South West along the Guanacoste coastline at sunset

Looking North West up the Nicaraguan coastline

Looking North East over Baja Salinas towards Nicaragua where the guys
kited every day
- yup lots of bougainvillaea

Putting it all together using the Photosynth app on my iPhone

And once the sun is below the horizon Nicaragua looks misty and dark like Mordor. There are no buildings, so there are no lights. Except there is one house high on a cliff and a cell dish pointing from our hill to this house - someone wants to get cell coverage from the Nicaraguan jungle I think

The sky rapidly changed from saturated orange and blue to pastel then
to grey
once the sun set

Our motley crew would converge every night at the top of the hill with wine, chips and salsa to celebrate the day. Sebastian and Judy.

Bret still has zinc oxide on his face - he just made it for sunset this evening.
Bret, Mike, Sebastian, Erric and Judy.

One day mid week everyone took a break from kiting and we headed down the Pan American Highway (that's the big road: one lane each direction, lots of trucks, people and dogs, only one traffic light in the Guanacoste province) to explore the Monte Verde rain forest. Little did we know it was going to take us 4 hours each way, 2 of which were on brutal dirt roads. Climbing up to the continental divide, winding though steep river canyons until we found the bustling touristy town at the mouth of Monte Verde - and ice cream. The beauty is extraordinary and so it was worth it, but next time I'll stay a few days there.

One of the many dirt roads between Tileran and Monte Verde. By the time we made it back onto tarmac late in the day I had lost my sense of humor.

The long and winding path we followed to explore the Monte Verde rain forest from the floor

Every inch is thick and profuse with trees, ferns and flowers
My camera simply cannot capture the scope and size of the layer-upon-layer of canopies. Here I am 500 feet up on a hanging bridge and that tree top is at least the third layer.

My boys were of course chasing adrenalin and zip lining on the longest zip line in the world - 1km long and 500 feet up. I had to choose between that and trying out my new camera with one of our friends - who also had a new camera to play with - and just this once the cameras won but next time I want to zip.

Life is growing on life everywhere you look

And several days later, on our way to the airport, Bret, Sebastian and I decided to get wet on the Upper Rio Tenorio. We drove South and met up with our guides at the Rincon Corobici Restaurant in Canas. More dirt roads to get to the head of the section of the river we were rafting, the requisite safety briefing, and then it was white knuckles interspersed with monkeys, toucans, butterflies and glorious flora and fauna for two and a half hours.

Our first class 4 rapid -- note we are not yet soaked and delirious

The 12 foot drop - and for this one I chose to get off beforehand and climb over the rocks to meet Bret and Sebastian on the other side. Yes chicken, I know, but they did capsize when they hit the bottom so while I am sure it was exciting I was happy to be on the rocks laughing.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Netflix and how last minute filings can bite you

Filings, like any other piece of finished work, have a tendency to go to the last minute but in the case of your 10-K it's a mistake to let that happen.

Case in point - Netflix last week. They filed their 10-K just 36 seconds before the Friday night SEC deadline and so Michelle Leder - the author of the blog - went digging for dirt. She has an assumption, often proven to be correct, that last minute filings are last minute precisely because they are contentious in some way. She calls them the "Friday night dump".

In this case the gem she found was Netflix' stated need to "“repair the damage to our brand”. Ouch. From a fantastic, positive, much-loved brand to having to file that their business results may be negatively impacted from their self-inflicted wounds. And it's an unusual risk that Michelle was not able to find in any other 10-K's

You can see the web spikes caused by Netflix' fateful decision to split their service and dump DVDs - and then reverse the decision - below. What a PR nightmare.

Of course, the gem Michelle found was in the Risk Factors section of the 10-K - and this section is written by their lawyers as a CYA against shareholder lawsuits. But the addition of new risks usually gives you insight into what senior management is worrying about (or being told to worry about by their outside council).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Apple, iPad and accelerating growth in the Enterprise

The most exciting development in the Enterprise today is not, as Salesforce and Jive would have you believe, "social networking for business" but the not-so-stealthy explosion of the iPad as a productivity tool.

We see dramatic deployments every day, especially into the enterprise sales and customer marketing teams which are the teams we work with most often. Eric Lal of ZDNet keeps a site updated with iPad pilots -- often documenting large company decisions we have already seen on the ground -- thousands at a time!

Even big blue IBM may now have one of the largest Apple and iPad deployments in the world. As an Apple fan it's terrific to see the corporate world finally seeing the light. Even my own R&D team (for a long time PC-based nerds) are adopting a mix of Apple in with their PCs, iPads (of course for development) and iPhones in with Android phones (which after all you can hack and play with so much more easily than an iPhone).

I also agree with Peter O'Neill at Forrester that many market researchers are falling behind in their methodology and not including broad enough sources of corporate deployment. They have a PC bias and may be missing the rapid growth of BYOD (bring-your-own-device) policies at companies large and small. BYOD is not only popular but in the end it's cheaper. Cisco pioneered this policy 5 years ago, showing that it was, in the end, cheaper for IT to support. And while IT departments still worry about data security, I was convinced this was solved the day my Symantec customer told me in 2011 that he could now work officially work on the iPad (Symantec is the most paranoid company on security - appropriately so given that it's their business).

There are two major waves happening for enterprise sales teams right now: social collaboration (yes I don't think Salesforce and Jive are wrong) and the iPad. And the FirstRain customer intelligence system is right at the intersection of the two - with our sizzling hot iPad app and integration into the top collaboration portals. We have customers deploying in all of them: Jive, Salesforce, Microsoft and Quad (Cisco) and in every case enterprise sales reps also have iPads (either their own or company issue) so they can stay on top of their major customers wherever they are.

And I hope I never have to use a PC again... although this is a false hope since my husband is the lone hold out in our family because he is an electronics designer and needs the high end tools which will probably never be on Apple (sigh).

Image from AllThingsDigital

Monday, February 13, 2012

Distractions in my [home] office

I like to believe I can work from anywhere - and so can travel with my family when I need to. But sometime nature makes fun of me.

This week I am in Costa Rica and working from a house high on a hill in a very remote area on the Pacific coast border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Why, you may ask, do I chose to go to a place that is 1 hour down a dirt road from the nearest "town" - which is a truck stop and a few houses with 1 traffic light?

The answer is that my husband and my son are fanatical kite boarders and this is one of the best spots in the world. So, rather than be left behind when they take their annual trip as I have the last 3 years, this year I decided to come with them and work from the house we have rented.

And this afternoon that is just what I was doing. Quietly working on a presentation in the shade when a family of 10 monkeys decided that I needed distracting. They came happily jumping through the trees, screeched at me to get my attention and make me jump up, run for my camera and spend a happy 10 minutes talking to them. Then just as quickly they scampered away and let me get back to work.

What a treat - thanks to the miracle of a satellite dish and the internet!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Customer love

There is nothing that feels as good as an email from a customer like this one we received today. This is from a company who wishes to remain confidential - but suffice it to say they are a large customer and have 9,000 employees using FirstRain intelligence. Well done Cory, Sagar, Ashutosh, Sweety and the rest of the support team. And thank you Jeff for your support of my team.

Cory and Team:

I just wanted to pause and say “thank you” to each of you for the hard work you do to produce and modify the [internal name they use for FirstRain daily intelligence briefs]. Your good work is evident each and every week and our [internal] clients are very pleased with [internal name]. Please know that your hard work is not going unnoticed and that you are having a positive impact with each [one] you produce and modify on behalf of our [internal] clients.

Job well done!!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Have courage in how you speak

A lot has been said about the big signs of courage from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King to Andrew Jackson but it also shows up in small ways in the office. Every day, in every meeting, courage shows up when people speak.

And in this case I am referring to how they speak. When someone makes a statement their courage and conviction shows up not only in the substance of their words but also in the very specific way they phrase their sentences and pitch their voice -- and many people take the power out of their own words because they are afraid of conflict.

Some of my favorite examples of not having verbal courage:

- Making a claim and dropping your voice volume as what you are saying gets more substantial - thereby signally that you are expecting to be disagreed with. Note this is not the same thing as using a quiet, controlled and soft voice to signal anger. It's tailing off that signals fear or lack of conviction.

- Use a "raidroading" voice - staccato, bullying your way through points so other people in the room cannot disagree with you. Bullies are cowards by definition.

- Make a statement and then soften the ending - such as "I think we should tell the customer we are going to turn of their access and all that other stuff, blah, blah, blah". By putting meaningless words onto the end of a strong statement the speaker takes the impact out of the statement, hence making it less controversial.

- Speaking too quickly and breathily, betraying your lack of conviction

- Mumbling

- Whining. Making your statements with a blamey, whiny voice - poor me, don't argue with me, pity me.

- Staying in your seat when you clearly should be at the white board or standing by the screen. You're an easier target when you stand up.

- Using 10 words when 1 will do, as an attempt to bamboozle your way through.

Instead, verbal courage is a confident, clear voice and short, uncluttered sentences. Make a claim, state your opinion clearly and then shut up and listen. State what you believe and don't be afraid to be wrong, and to have people disagree with you.

As Winston Churchill - one of the most courageous leaders (and speakers) of the 20th century said "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

Friday, February 3, 2012

Girls and 1000 tech jobs in Nashville

We have a real problem with jobs in tech. We have more jobs than qualified people.

This is not in the news today because for much of the US population there are not enough jobs. Not enough jobs that people are trained for. And yet in Silicon Valley we have 1 tech position open for every 2 that are filled. Hiring great technical staff is tough and increasingly expensive.

But this is not just a California problem. At the Nashville Technology Council’s annual meeting last week the theme was Diversity – and all the discussion was around education and attracting IT workers to Nashville. They have 1,000 open positions and not having enough IT workers is a real, commercial problem for them.

Commissioner Hagerty, in his warm up speech, talked about the need for technical education in their schools and local colleges. Followed by Mayor Dean who covered many of the same themes and a sense of urgency about education investment. The Nashville Technology Council has a mission to “help Middle Tennessee become known worldwide as a leading technology community, the Nashville Technology Council is devoted to helping the tech community succeed.” – and their main focus this year is Technology Workforce Development.

It was really fun for me to speak to this group and their membership. 500 people, all of whom care about technology jobs in Nashville.

Here’s my talk. I cover the urgency of the need to get more women into technology and the changes we can make to help women stay in technology. Today, even if they start out in the technical field, half of our tech women leave tech in the first 10 years – they either leave in college or they leave early in their careers. It’s just too hard and too isolated.

But it does not have to be this way – and that’s what I talked about. We have to solve this problem as a country. By 2016 we will only be producing 50% of the tech staff we need as a country. Today less than 50% of our workforce (women) hold less than 5% of the leadership of the technology industry.

This is such a waste of talent. It’s a competitive, bottom line issue for any company that needs tech workers – whether they are in health care, energy or computing.

We’ve solved it at FirstRain. We have women in leadership positions in engineering – and we have a very flexible work environment. We can solve it everywhere, and as a country, if we want to.

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