Strategies For Growing A Great Services Business

November 21, 2007

By Julie Giera,

Of the top 35 global IT vendors, 22 are either services providers or product companies with a large services business like IBM. This shift to services has been accelerating over the past five years among technology vendors looking to drive recurring revenues, deeper customer relationships, and additional channels for their products. Building a great services business is tough for many technology vendors, because the things that contributed to their success as product companies are the very things that can be their downfall in services. Forrester has identified the top ten strategies technology vendors can employ to build a great IT services business.

  1. Stick to services that closely tie in to your products’ strengths.
  2. Organize for services separately from products.
  3. Hire experienced sales people.
  4. Limit the services portfolio.
  5. Automate the proposal process.
  6. Market your message through multiple channels.
  7. Limit risk in very large contracts.
  8. Develop the channel and deal with conflict early.
  9. Weigh a direct service model against a subcontracting arrangement.
  10. Know your value proposition: Wal-Mart or Tiffany’s?

Source:Forrester Research

How to Pitch InformationWeek

November 19, 2007

Circulation & Readership
InformationWeek’s audience consists of 1.6 million CIOs and business technology managers and staff found in more than 250,000 locations: 45.6% live in North America, 27.3% in Europe, 20.9% in Asia, 3.8% in Latin America, 2.4% in Africa and the Middle East.

440,000 IT professionals alone read the magazine each week. It’s first in reach to CIOs (107,000) and technology buyers with the biggest annual budgets ($250,000 to $1 million). 72.8% of the readers are IT executives and senior staff; 27.2% are in business management. Their average annual spend is $45.7 million.

Editorial Coverage
InformationWeek is much more than a weekly print magazine. It’s “at the center of our business technology news gathering and analysis,” says Preston. The style and tone are practical and detailed. It’s the publication to which industry professionals turn for subjects, such as vertical industries and IT.

Sections include:
o In Depth (their take on the latest business technology topic)
o News Filter (how top stories affect readers)
o News & Analysis (cover story)
o Tech Portal (security, software, wireless, mobile)
o High Five (business professional’s insights)
o IT Confidential (industry trends and events)
o Down to Business (urgent issues)
o Personal Tech Guide (useful tech tools)

Special issues: The magazine fields more than 20 research studies every year. Topics include: salary survey, information security survey, CIO agenda, mobile and wireless and business intelligence.
The Web site gets 1.4 million unique monthly visitors and 300,000 weekly enewsletter subscribers.

The five newsletters and their circulation:
o InformationWeek Daily: 100,000
o This Week on InformationWeek: 55,000
o InformationWeek Between the Lines: 100,000
o InformationWeek’s Outsourcing Newsletter: 30,000
o TechCareers Report: 15,000

How to Pitch InformationWeek – 10 Tips
Tip #1. Familiarize yourself with the magazine
Acquire some knowledge of InformationWeek’s content and the focus of the reporters you contact. Indeed, lack of knowledge about the publication is one of Preston’s pet peeves. “Build relationships with reporters. Don’t just blanket them with the same messages you send everyone else.” And don’t think of your query as a pitch. “Ideally, you are not selling something to us; you are providing information that we want.”

Tip #2. Provide contacts
If you have a product you would like InformationWeek to review, provide a few consumer contacts so reporters can get feedback from them. Offer as much detail about the technology and its manufacturer as possible. Avoid industry-speak; describe concisely the characteristics of the product, its purpose, price and audience.

Tip #3. Keep it simple
Keep your information simple and straightforward, yet fascinating enough for a case study. They don’t accept embargoed material. They prefer to take “an end-user enterprise perspective.”

Tip #4. Send an email
Most editors favor email. If you must leave a voicemail, clearly state your name and phone number. Don’t ramble (i.e., don’t wait until the system cuts you off).

Tip #5. Craft subject line
Write succinct yet meaningful subject lines that don’t include the words “press release,” exclamation points or all caps. Then, customize your plain text pitches to the journalist’s coverage.

Tip# 6. Don’t send attachments
Don’t include email attachments, especially unsolicited ones. Do include the following bulleted points: what, when, who, where and how.

Tip #7. Limit number of slides
If you send a PowerPoint presentation, limit it to five slides.

Tip #8. Target your queries
Check InformationWeek’s editorial calendar to better time your queries.

Tip #9. Contact the right reporter
Send your story leads directly to the reporter who covers the beat or technology you’re involved in. You can find a list of reporters, beats and contact information here:

Tip #10. Identify time zones
Consider time differences when contacting them. Not everyone is based in New York.

Contribute to InformationWeek
Staff writers and freelancers produce most of the magazine’s content. If you want to freelance, send an email to the managing editor/features.

InformationWeek does not publish unsolicited articles; make sure a story is approved before you spend much time on it. The magazine does accept opinion columns, however. They like to hear your perspective on relevant issues.

Also, consider the Lightning Post — the site’s discussion forum. It connects readers to editors. They don’t promise to answer you, but they do promise to read your message. “Because of sheer volume, we may not respond to every query,” Preston says.

Press Kits
Editors prefer emails to press kits. Always include contact information and a product summary with whatever you send.

Meet Preston and Other Editors
Preston says you can meet the magazine’s editors in any of their offices. They are even available at “the principal’s site, if the principal and story is compelling enough.”

Editors attend various conferences and trade shows. The major one: InformationWeek500, a three-day show at which the 500 most innovative business technology users are named.

Source:Marketing Sherpa

7 Deadly Startup Mistakes

November 16, 2007

By John Foley

Sun Microsystems drew some 300 entrepreneurs to a startup “camp” in New York. The event was full of advice on things emerging companies can do raise their chances of success — and a reminder of flubs to avoid.

Sun hosted the get-together as part of its outreach to early-stage companies. Sun launched its Startup Essentials program in the United States a year ago and has engaged some 1,000 companies since then. Sun extended the program a few months ago to India and China and plans to offer it in other parts of the world, according to Sanjay Sharma, Sun’s director of startups and emerging markets market development. Sun helps startups with free software, services, discounted hardware, and hosting in hopes the small fries will turn into larger customers down the road.

A lot of good advice was presented. Saeed Amidi, president of Plug And Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, Calif., talked about the benefits an incubator can offer. Since opening its 175,000 square foot facility last year, Plug And Play has become home to 112 startups backed by a total of $350 million inventure funding. Companies there have ready access to venture firms, data center hosting, tech vendors, and fellow innovators.

Other presenters included Jason Hoffman, founder and CTO of Joyent, who gave a primer on how to architect Web applications for scalability; Alan Sutin, an IP lawyer with Greenberg Traurig, who talked about patents and trademarks; and Jed Katz, managing director of DFJ Gotham Ventures, who went over the dos and don’ts of working with VCs.

The venue also served to demonstrate what to avoid if you’re an up-and-coming company. The following list is drawn from my observations at the day-long affair. Here’s what not to do if you’re a startup. Don’t…

1. Bungle the napkin pitch. Several of the startups I met were anything but concise in getting their ideas across. That’s a missed opportunity. Entrepreneurs must be able to articulate big ideas in a few seconds.

2. Dress like a scarecrow. Old shirts, baseball caps, and sandals are great for the weekend, but they don’t make a great first impression at a business event.

3. Spill the IP beans. Attorney Alan Sutin warns that you have only a year to file for a patent after your idea has been publicly disclosed. Once you start blabbing, the clock starts ticking.

4. Go it alone. Veteran investor Amidi of Plug And Play Tech Center says entrepreneurs need to find one or two partners who share their passion for the business. If you can’t convince one or two others this is a great idea, it probably isn’t.

5. Set up shop in Timbuktu. You’re much better off in Silicon Valley or some other center of entrepreneurship and funding. “If you move to the Bay Area, your chances of success double,” says Amidi.

6. Call your investors dopes. One speaker said his startup got its initial funding from “friends, family, and fools.” He was kidding — I think.

7. Snooze during brainstorming. The guy next to me began snoring more than once during presentations. There are diminishing returns to those late nights working out a business plan.

I can’t guarantee your startup will be successful if you avoid these gaffes. But it’s good bet it won’t be if you don’t.


YourStreet Relaunches; White Label & Widgets On the Way

October 30, 2007

By Kristen Nicole

YourStreets found it wasn’t working out as a real estate resource for localized content, so it’s switched gears to become an aggregator of local data based on individual neighborhoods. This makes sense on several levels, but it’s a difficult task to undertake, and must be executed well for optimal results.

As it’s become a human-influenced search engine to some extent, it has the job of bringing all the relevant data, based on your neighborhood, to the forefront of your results. As a user you can submit your own content, and view other users (neighbors) that are nearby.

This is all displayed on a map as well, offering you a bit more context and an interactive way at which to delve for more information. Additionally, users can converse on various local topics, and these conversations (discussions) will appear along with your search results and on the map as well.

I really like this concept of incorporating several aspects of local life into an aggregated resource, which is rather similar (though less intrusive) that what we’ve seen from Fat Door. So far, the biggest thing missing from YourStreet’s new aggregated view is filtering options to better scour through the data that’s been offered up.

Checking on the news around Chicago, I see a lot of content for sports, but I’d rather see what’s going on with restaurants within walking distance of my house. As it stands right now, there are no good filtering options that I can use to weed out the restaurant data from the rest.

Additionally, YourStreet has some big plans for its new service, which includes a white label solution. To this end, YourStreet will offer selected media partners, like newspapers, to offer a custom YourStreet map to show local news stories. I think extending this to support user-generated content could be a valuable offering to participating media companies as well.

There will also be a widget for you to put a neighborhood map on your blog, website or social networking profile. This embedded map will be constantly updated for new, incoming content. Both the white label solution and the widget offerings will be released early next year.

Business Intelligence Versus Business Analytics–What’s the Difference?

October 30, 2007

By Rock GnatovichThe marketing and analyst airwaves are flooding with speculation about what is next for business intelligence (BI). What will comprise BI 2.0?

Historically, this market has been served by vendors such as Business Objects and Cognos. But the competitive landscape is changing. Microsoft has now shrewdly entered the market by driving the placement of SQL servers into the space in order to broadly deploy and deliver its BI suite and reporting services in volume. Oracle has seen the effect of companies moving data out of the database to stage it for analysis. The resulting data warehouses have provided a degree of utility in housing, manipulating and delivering “strategic” information across the organization.

Recently though, established vendors such as SAP and Siebel have unveiled BI product suites under the banner of “analytics.” SAS, a perennial stalwart of the statistics market, is suddenly being touted as the number-three BI vendor and frequently positions itself as an analytics vendor.

With analytics finding its place within many functions and business processes it seems clear that it will be a defining feature of next generation business intelligence. Particularly, a significant new group of business users—a group I like to call “Go-To Guys”—are in need of analytics tools to tackle daily problems and opportunities. Go-To Guys are the operating managers of company—product managers, sales managers, researchers, engineers and marketers.

So, what is analytics? Neil Raden of Hired Brains, a market research and management consulting firm, has said that, “the proper term for interacting with information at the speed of business, analyzing and discovering and following through with the appropriate action, is ‘analytics’.”

CIOs often assume that business analytics (BA) comes along with BI. The traditional BI market has been associated with providing executive dashboards and reporting to monitor the assumptions and key performance metrics that are part of long term planning cycles.

Everybody wants a dashboard. To the extent that all of us are CEO’s of our own business discipline, we want a simple measurement display of how we are doing and an alert mechanism of when something goes wrong. Additionally, dashboards address the growing urgency around Sarbanes Oxley. Monitoring planning assumptions and key performance metrics has now become mission critical from a regulatory and compliance standpoint.

Where BI Stops and BA Begins
But BI reporting ends with the dashboard, which is sufficient only for some business planning, and BA picks up the rest for the Go-To Guys. Simply, this group must interact with data in a much different way from what traditional BI allows.

The Go-To Guys deal daily in unanticipated outcomes and unknown results and it is their job to mitigate risk and capitalize on opportunities. BI is not architected to iterate on new scenarios or for immediate response to unanticipated questions because it is set up to automate the distribution of standardized reports that monitor pre-determined key performance metrics and planning assumptions. BI’s answer to analytics has been to deliver the report to the business user and the business user typically takes the data in the report and dumps it into Microsoft Excel in order to do his own analysis.

As a result, there are $8B (yes, billion) of internally developed analytic applications with Excel as their front end. The BI players treat the output to Excel as a feature. But I actually think it’s a tremendous failing. It is proof that you don’t get BA when you buy BI. The BI architecture cannot support the operating needs of the business users to ask and answer their own questions in response to new occurrences and events in the marketplace.

Secondly, Excel is not an answer either. As soon as the data is dumped into Excel, the user is out of the BI system with no way back in. Any insight that the business user gains while interpreting Excel spreadsheets tends to stay with him—all opportunity for organizational learning or process improvement is lost.

So requirements for analytics are different than the requirements for BI, but the benefits are different as well.

Technically Speaking…
There’s also a technical component to all of this reinforcing the claim that the technical requirements to support analytics are different from the technical requirements that enable BI. To facilitate reporting and dashboards, BI traditionally works with aggregated data. Business users cannot rely solely on aggregated data in the operating environment. They have to be able to get to the details. The aggregated data will many times obscure the key issue or opportunity in your information.

BI data is typically staged in an OLAP cube to support drill-down. In analytics the Go-To Guys have to be able to get directly to the source data in the database. The key facts needed to make your operating decision are often not in the cube because they haven’t been anticipated by the IT department. This is not a question of the trees obscuring the forest—you have to be able to see both. The business users cannot be disconnected from the critical data needed to make a key business decision.

And lastly, the requirement of the BI system has been to monitor the data based on pre-configured questions requiring only a thin client environment to inform the user. In the operating world, users need to engage with the information requiring a richer client to support interactivity and the ability to ask and answer their own question without having to go back to IT.

What are the characteristics of an analytic savvy organization? First of all, even the planners want into the act. Analytics is enabling more proactive, high-frequency planning cycles. Planners are better able to refine and iterate the plan, shifting resources to higher performing areas with the goal of being first-to-market and never having a warehouse full of trendy goods once the trend is over. Secondly, the analytically savvy organization is more agile—able to adapt and respond—whether that’s to a competitor that releases a new product, a change to the pricing structure in the marketplace or the success of its own marketing campaign.

Remember, you don’t get business analytics when you buy business intelligence. The requirements are different and the benefits are different. The return on information and expertise achieved by arming your operating managers with analytics will supercharge your existing BI investment.


An Introduction to Business Intelligence (by CIO)

October 30, 2007

Compiled by Ryan Mulcahy, CIO

What is business intelligence?

Business intelligence, or BI, is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of software applications used to analyze an organization’s raw data. BI as a discipline is made up of several related activities, including data mining, online analytical processing, querying and reporting.

Companies use BI to improve decision making, cut costs and identify new business opportunities. BI is more than just corporate reporting and more than a set of tools to coax data out of enterprise systems. CIOs use BI to identify inefficient business processes that are ripe for re-engineering.

With today’s BI tools, business folks can jump in and start analyzing data themselves, rather than wait for IT to run complex reports. This democratization of information access helps users back up—with hard numbers—business decisions that would otherwise be based only on gut feelings and anecdotes.

Although BI holds great promise, implementations can be dogged by technical and cultural challenges. Executives have to ensure that the data feeding BI applications is clean and consistent so that users trust it.

What kind of companies use BI systems?

Restaurant chains such as Hardee’s, Wendy’s, Ruby Tuesday and T.G.I. Friday’s are heavy users of BI software. They use BI to make strategic decisions, such as what new products to add to their menus, which dishes to remove and which underperforming stores to close. They also use BI for tactical matters such as renegotiating contracts with food suppliers and identifying opportunities to improve inefficient processes. Because restaurant chains are so operations-driven, and because BI is so central to helping them run their businesses, they are among the elite group of companies across all industries that are actually getting real value from these systems.

One crucial component of BI—business analytics—is quietly essential to the success of companies in a wide range of industries, and more famously essential to the success of professional sports teams such as the Boston Red Sox, Oakland A’s and New England Patriots.

With an analytical approach, the Patriots managed to win the Super Bowl three times in four years. The team uses data and analytical models extensively, both on and off the field. In-depth analytics help the team select players and stay below the NFL salary cap. Patriots coaches and players are renowned for their extensive study of game film and statistics, and Coach Bill Belichick reads articles by academic economists on statistical probabilities of football outcomes. Off the field, the team uses detailed analytics to assess and improve the “total fan experience.” At every home game, for example, 20 to 25 people have specific assignments to make quantitative measurements of the stadium food, parking, personnel, bathroom cleanliness and other factors.

In retail, Wal-Mart uses vast amounts of data and category analysis to dominate the industry. Harrah’s has changed the basis of competition in gaming from building megacasinos to analytics around customer loyalty and service. Amazon and Yahoo aren’t just e-commerce sites; they are extremely analytical and follow a “test and learn” approach to business changes. Capital One runs more than 30,000 experiments a year to identify desirable customers and price credit card offers.

Who should lead the way?

Sharing is vital to the success of BI projects, because everyone involved in the process must have full access to information to be able to change the ways that they work. BI projects should start with top executives, but the next group of users should be salespeople. Because their job is to increase sales and because they’re often compensated on their ability to do so, they’ll be more likely to embrace any tool that will help them do just that—provided, of course, the tool is easy to use and they trust the information.With the help of BI systems, employees modify their individual and team work practices, which leads to improved performance among the sales teams. When sales executives see a big difference in performance from one team to another, they work to bring the laggard teams up to the level of the leaders.

Once you get salespeople on board, you can use them to help get the rest of your organization on the BI bandwagon. They’ll serve as evangelists, gushing about the power of the tools and how BI is improving their lives.

How should I implement a BI system?

When charting a course for BI, companies should first analyze the way they make decisions and consider the information that executives need to facilitate more confident and more rapid decision-making, as well as how they’d like that information presented to them (for example, as a report, a chart, online, hard copy). Discussions of decision making will drive what information companies need to collect, analyze and publish in their BI systems.Good BI systems need to give context. It’s not enough that they report sales were X yesterday and Y a year ago that same day. They need to explain what factors influencing the business caused sales to be X one day and Y on the same date the previous year.

Like so many technology projects, BI won’t yield returns if users feel threatened by, or are skeptical of, the technology and refuse to use it as a result. And when it comes to something like BI, which, when implemented strategically, ought to fundamentally change how companies operate and how people make decisions, CIOs need to be extra attentive to users’ feelings.

Seven steps to rolling out BI systems:

  1. Make sure your data is clean.
  2. Train users effectively.
  3. Deploy quickly, then adjust as you go. Don’t spend a huge amount of time up front developing the “perfect” reports because needs will evolve as the business evolves. Deliver reports that provide the most value quickly, and then tweak them.
  4. Take an integrated approach to building your data warehouse from the beginning. Make sure you’re not locking yourself into an unworkable data strategy further down the road.
  5. Define ROI clearly before you start. Outline the specific benefits you expect to achieve, then do a reality check every quarter or six months.
  6. Focus on business objectives.
  7. Don’t buy business intelligence software because you think you need it. Deploy BI with the idea that there are numbers out there that you need to find, and know roughly where they might be.

What are some potential problems?User resistance is one big barrier to BI success; others include having to winnow through voluminous amounts of irrelevant data and poor data quality.

The key to getting accurate insights from BI systems is standard data. Data is the most fundamental component of any BI endeavor. It’s the building blocks for insight. Companies have to get their data stores and data warehouses in good working order before they can begin extracting and acting on insights. If not, they’ll be operating based on flawed information.

Another potential pitfall is BI tools themselves. Though the tools are more scalable and user friendly than they used to be, the core of BI is still reporting rather than process management, although that’s slowly beginning to change. Be careful not to confuse business intelligence with business analytics.

A third impediment to using BI to transform business processes is that most companies don’t understand their business processes well enough to determine how to improve them. And companies need to be careful about the processes they choose. If the process does not have a direct impact on revenue or the business isn’t behind standardizing the process across the company, the entire BI effort could disintegrate. Companies need to understand all the activities that make up a particular business process, how information and data flow across various processes, how data is passed between business users, and how people use it to execute their particular part of the process. And they need to understand all this before they start a BI project, if they hope to improve how people do their jobs.

What are some benefits of business intelligence efforts?A broad range of applications for BI has helped companies rack up impressive ROI figures. Business intelligence has been used to identify cost-cutting ideas, uncover business opportunities, roll ERP data into accessible reports, react quickly to retail demand and optimize prices.

Besides making data accessible, BI software can give companies more leverage during negotiations by making it easier to quantify the value of relationships with suppliers and customers.

Within the walls of the enterprise, there are plenty of opportunities to save money by optimizing business processes and focusing decisions. BI yields significant ROI when it sheds light on business bloopers. For example, employees of the city of Albuquerque used BI software to identify opportunities to cut cell phone usage, overtime and other operating expenses, saving the city $2 million during three years. Likewise, with the help of BI tools, Toyota realized it had been double-paying its shippers to the tune of $812,000 in 2000. Companies that use BI to uncover flawed business processes are in a much better position to successfully compete than companies that use BI merely to monitor what’s happening.

More tips for getting BI right

  • Analyze how executives make decisions.
  • Consider what information executives need in order to facilitate quick, accurate decisions.
  • Pay attention to data quality.
  • Devise performance metrics that are most relevant to the business.
  • Provide the context that influences performance metrics.

And remember, BI is about more than decision support. Due to improvements in the technology and the way CIOs are implementing it, BI now has the potential to transform organizations. CIOs who successfully use BI to improve business processes contribute to their organizations in more far-reaching ways than by implementing basic reporting tools.


Five tips for making a popular (and maybe profitable) Facebook app

October 30, 2007

Third-party developers offer the following tips on how to make a popular application for Facebook:

1. Target the friends list

2. Make it sticky

3. Make it social

4. Leverage your site

5. Prepare to scale

(see more at