Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

March 30, 2011

Is there a Method to Social Media Madness?



Co-authored by: Sanjeev Aggarwal and Laurie McCabe, SMB Group, and Brent Leary, CRM Essentials  SMB adoption of social media for sales, marketing, product development and customer service is on the rise – but how are SMBs tracking, analyzing and measuring the success of their social media endeavors?

In our joint SMB Group-CRM Essentials “2011 Small and Medium Business Social Business Study,” we surveyed 750 SMB (small business is 1-99 employees; medium business is 100-999 employees) decision-makers about their use and plans for social media for sales, marketing, customer service and support, product development, HR and other business functions.

Featured Study Highlights

To put social media adoption in context, we asked several questions to better understand how SMBs accomplish their business objectives though different channels and mechanisms, including, “How does your currently track, analyze and measure the success of the company’s social media efforts?”

In the medium business segment, 52% of respondents indicate that they currently use social media. Among these respondents, about 19% say they use it in and “ad hoc, informal” way, while 33% indicate they use it in a “structured, strategic” manner. When we take a deeper look at how medium businesses using social media track, analyze and measure success of social media efforts, we see that companies that take a strategic approach are more likely to incorporate a greater number and more actionable metrics to measure social media effectiveness than their informal, ad hoc counterparts (Figure 1).

  • For strategic users, actionable, customer-centric metrics such as referrals (14%), click-through rates (12%), and inbound links (11%) top the list. These are followed by social media measurements such as number of followers and friends (9%), and sentiment analysis (9%), along with anecdotal feedback (9%).

  •  Companies that use social media in an ad hoc manner are more likely to rate “softer” measurements, such as anecdotal favorable feedback (6%) and buzz from social media (4%) as top tracking criteria and yardsticks for success.

Not surprisingly, SMBs that take a structured, strategic approach–and use more actionable metrics–are also more satisfied with the results of their social media efforts than those engaging in an ad hoc manner.

This underscores the need for better integration of social media with traditional sales, marketing, and service/support solutions–along with better tools to track and measure results.
Figure 1: Medium Business: Comparison of Strategic and Ad Hoc Users Criteria to Track and Measure Social Media Implementation
 
 
 
 

 


Quick Take

For SMBs to truly evolve into “social businesses,” they need to be able to easily track, measure and tweak the results of their social media investments across a wide range of business activities, from marketing through customer service and product development.

Although the social media drumbeat is loud, SMBs’ enthusiasm will be curbed if they can’t figure out what impact their social media initiatives are having. Whether on their own or via partner solutions, vendors will need to give SMBs the tools they need to integrate and evaluate social media efforts into their larger business strategy and framework.

Because social media engagement does not occur in a vacuum, businesses will want to measure social media efforts in context of broader sales, marketing and customer service or other initiatives. Although collaboration, CRM, marketing automation and other vendors are integrating social media into their existing solutions, few provide the analytics required to track and measure the effectiveness of social media and its different channels in an actionable and streamlined manner.

April 16, 2010

Highlights from Iron Mountain Digital 2.0 Industry Analyst Meeting

Highlights: The overall annual growth in data volumes is beings driven by an increase in unstructured data created by social media and collaboration solutions, mobile solutions and rich media which is leading to much higher costs for information storage and management. This problem is further exasperated as the information creation moves from customer on-premises sources, to now include mobile edge devices and the cloud. SMBs and mid-market enterprises now need to take a much more holistic approach to information management. Driven by the need to support compliance, litigation, business continuity and disaster recovery requirements – SMBs need to carefully consider who they partner with as their trusted guardian of their information considering their need to store, protect, manage and retrieve this information in a virtual world anytime, anywhere, and anyplace.

Quick Take: I’ve been following Iron Mountain for a while, and this was their 3rd. analyst event that I attended. Everyone recognizes Salesforce.com as a cloud solution market leader; I would venture to say that the 2nd biggest cloud solution and services provider is Iron Mountain Digital. Key insights from the conference are:

  • Shift in company focus from Storage-as-a-Service to ‘Integrated Information Management Solutions‘ that is based on a location agnostic strategy – from on-premise to edge to cloud

  • Key Value Propositions to address the customers Total Cost of Ownership/Total Cost of Management of Information include:
    • Help customers reduce their spend and risk in owning / storing their rapidly growing information through policy-based intelligent information storage and access
    • Help customers improve operational efficiencies and reduce their spend in managing their information for use
    • Trusted partner in information management for both physical and electronic records and information, and in bridging from one to the other in terms of document conversion, data restoration, scanning, etc. 

What makes Iron Mountain different?

  • Information management platform with intelligence-driven and policy-enabled applications. This has been enabled through internal development and innovation (Digital Record Center for Compliant Messaging, for example), partnering (Total Email Management Suite, powered by Mimecast), and a carefully crafted acquisition strategy that started with Connected® and LiveVault® for backup to recent acquisitions that include Stratify® for eDiscovery and Mimosa for archiving.
  • Unique capabilities
    to “look into” and “look across” information
    . This will help with categorization of data – even at the point of creation – to enable intelligent access, compliance (including risk management), discovery, recovery, destruction and other potential use cases

  • Trusted partner who is financially strong. There are several companies offering remote backup solutions, and hosted email archiving, including you local VAR. But will these companies be around when you need the information 10-20 years from now for compliance purposes or to support litigation?
     What is still missing? Iron Mountain is accumulating a good war chest for location-agnostic information management solutions. They do have global relationships with large enterprise and upper mid-market companies – developed as the dominant leader in the physical information management services business that includes the storage of paper documents and magnetic tape storage media for backup and archiving purposes. They serve the SMB market through some core services, through direct and indirect channels. However, in my opinion, there is a larger opportunity in the SMB and core mid-market that includes:

    • Backup and archiving to support daily operations for desktops, servers and mobile devices
    • Backup and archiving to support business continuity and disaster recovery
    • Information management to support risk and compliance management
    • Virtualization of servers and desktops, and cloud computing is creating new and unique information creation and management opportunities which need to be addressed. The vendors that address these solutions (on public clouds based solutions) will be in the unique position to provide the services that Iron Mountain Digital 2.0 is seeking to provide. 

The first mover vendors will gain tremendous benefits, as these solution partnerships are now easy to replace – Iron Mountain can attest to this with their decade-long relationships with a large percentage of their customers. Iron Mountain needs to craft an SMB and core mid-market strategy with a more aggressive go-to-market plan than what I see at present.


 

January 28, 2010

Mid-Market companies benefit from the significantly better ROI offered by the synergistic relationship between ERP and BI

Strong value in considering/purchasing ERP plus BI simultaneously/at the beginning of the implementation cycle

ERP solutions come with a reporting toolset consisting of a predefined set of reports and with general purpose query tools to generate reports from data within ERP database. Most often, these tools are difficult and confusing to use and rely on an IT team to deliver the requested report, which can take time. ERP systems provide acceptable reports on day-to-day operations but if business requirements change, these static ERP reports need to be customized. Business users need on-demand reports, which are cumbersome and expensive to deliver in a timely manner. By using BI reporting solutions, these systems empower the business user to define and generate the needed reports, freeing valuable IT (or consultant) resources in the process, such that data and time can be better exploited to make meaningful business decisions.

I have been talking to several mid-market companies that have implemented ERP solutions followed by a business intelligence solution (initially deployed for reporting from the data in the ERP solution). Their recommendation, based on their experience of deploying both solutions, is that mid-market enterprises should consider utilizing ERP and BI together (possibly through a planned phased implementation approach), a strategy that would realize significantly higher ROI versus the alternative of considering each independently of the other.

The crux of this recommendation comes from closely looking at the customizations required to make the ERP solution useful for these companies. A significant number of customizations needed in ERP systems are related to generating reports to provide detailed information (in part, similar to that previously obtained through their formerly implemented legacy systems) for decision-making and presenting it in a useful and easy-to-understand manner—a daunting and expensive proposition. Complementing a BI solution with an ERP solution makes the generation of reports required by corporate management and various lines-of-business very easy and eliminates the need for any extensive customizations (as was required to generate these in an exclusively ERP system). The right business intelligence solutions can help extract significant value from the extensive data repositories in an ERP solution. The combination of ERP and BI should also bode well for mid-market companies in the current difficult economic environment, as companies strive for maximum efficiency by looking to cut costs and realize projects that provide them with short-term returns. The companies that have already implemented ERP could benefit by focusing on BI solutions for reporting, corporate performance management and consolidation (CPM) and strategy planning.

Mid-market customers using SAP Business-All-in-One as their key ERP solution have said that the extra time, effort, and money spent to customize their initial ERP could have gone towards paying for a BI solution (in several of the cases they were using SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI). Additionally, the reports they now get from their SAP BusinessObjects solutions (after integration) are more detailed and accurate than before. Other added benefits of this integrated solution—including savings on maintenance, IT administration time, integration and consulting support for upgrades, etc—largely result from the fact that SAP has already spent the time and effort to tightly integrate these two solutions providing better workflow and departmental self-service capabilities to develop and customize reports for their needs. With this solution, individual users can also more easily drill down from these reports to get deeper context to explain the factors influencing what is shown in reports beyond the visually attractive graphs and tables.

As a result, this combined SAP Business-All-in-One and SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI solution could provide significantly better Return on Investment (ROI) than each solution considered independently, and if the SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI can be paid for by reducing the customizations required in SAP Business-All-in-One, the combined solution also has a much lower total cost of ownership (TCO). With the mid-market focused Business All-in-One fast-start program from SAP coupled with the SAP best practices for the SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI for reporting and CPM solution, mid-market enterprises will be able to benefit from fast deployment, more productive and streamlined solution.

November 8, 2009

Increasing interest for Corporate Performance Management (CPM) in Mid-Market Enterprises

In today’s world overloaded with buzzwords, terms such as “Business Intelligence (BI)”, “predictive analytics” and “Corporate Performance Management (CPM)” are confusing to mid-market enterprises.

BI technologies provide historical views of a company’s business operation. Some of the enterprise –class BI solutions now include predictive analytical capabilities also. BI is a term used to describe the technology used to access, analyze and report on data relevant to an enterprise. It includes ad-hoc query, reporting, on-line analytical processing (OLAP), dashboards, scorecards, search, visualization, etc. Initially, most BI vendors lacked the ability to build models that can project in the future. However, in the past 3-4 years, the enterprise-class BI vendors have added some of these capabilities to replicate functionality offered by CPM vendors. BI and CPM are complementary solutions, and the BI platform provides a natural-basis to build a CPM solution. BI solutions are usually very complex and expensive for most mid-market companies. However, some of the more focused and template/wizards driven “Express” or “Fast-start” solutions, which are more affordable (especially if they are available in a online or appliance) and can be implemented in a reasonable amount of time – are becoming interesting for the mid-market if the vendors can show measurable benefits and short-term ROI.

In the CPM world, “predictive analytics” is generally used to refer to software solutions that automate and manage process related to corporate performance – financial forecasts, budgets, financial strategies, financial consolidation, scorecarding, and reporting. Another term used to identify CMP is BPM (Business Performance Management but this is sometimes confused with Business Process Management – two very different areas). Some CPM solutions regularly monitor some key performance indicators (KPI) in terms of actual vs. budget and, whenever a significant discrepancy is identified, help perform root causes to identify sources that could be causing this.

The BI and CPM solutions do not need to come from the same solution provider, as the two technologies are complementary and could co-exist. However, there may be economies and synergies related to getting them from the same vendor (if offered). In some instances, mid-market ERP solution vendors are now developing deeper integration to some CPM solutions (like NetSuite with Adaptive Planning).

In the current tough economic conditions, this segment is under tremendous pressures to improve financial processes, measurements and management of the mid-market enterprises. To adress the above, mid-market businesses are increasingly deploying CPM solutions to improve planning (forecasts and budgets), manage costs/optimize profits and more importantly risk and compliance.

The following companies provide enterprise and mid-market CPM solutions:

Increasing interest and deployment of these solutions by mid-market enterprises is demonstrated by the double-digit growth rates most of these mid-market solution companies are experiencing. The CPM applications are targeted at the mid-market company CFOs, C-level executives, finance team and corporate strategy teams.

How were majority of these mid-market companies addressing the financial planning issues until now? Majority of these companies are using Excel spreadsheets. Using Excel, has significant accuracy limitations and  the amount of time spend on the planning process. It also denies the organization a collaborative, connected and productive planning process. Mid-market organizations need to take a more objective view to replace Excel based planning and replace them with CMP solutions. Some basic analysis on time (and accuracy achieved) spent on Excel planning and the results achieved will quickly show the benefits and ROI that can be achieved by CPM solutions – these can be split into the “hard” benefits quantifiable by replacing Excel and the many potential “soft” benefits derived from using a CPM solution.

October 4, 2009

Could Video Conferencing become the SMB segment ‘Killer App’ ? At least Cisco thinks so with the Tandberg acquisition!

Good move by Cisco. The key beneficiary of Cisco’s acquisition of Tandberg will be the SMB and mid-market. Cisco already has video Telepresence solutions. However, these Telepresence solutions are primarily enterprise solutions – way beyond the affordability of the SMB (1-499 employees) or the mid-market enterprises (500-1000 employees). Both segments together are referred to as SMB in this blog.

The SMBs and vendors (that service this segment) are rapidly comprehending the business value and short-term ROI that Video Conferencing solutions offer. The global SMB video conferencing solutions and services market opportunity is around $150M in 2010 and forecasted to grow at an annual rate of around 9%. The SMB segment purpose built, cost effective, standards based solutions (from vendors like Tandberg and Polycom) coupled with rapidly declining prices of high throughput network bandwidth are now making the SMB video conferencing market very interesting.

In my 2 previous blogs, I have addresses the market opportunity for these solutions and vendors that provide solutions: Video Conferencing Solution – Now Affordable by the SMBs, SMB’s turning to Conferencing Solutions in tough economic times

Tandberg has an extensive video conferencing solutions family purpose built for the SMB market. With the introduction of the Quick Set C20 solutions, they have priced these solutions more in-line with what the SMB market can afford. What Tandberg lacked was a channel that could sell and service the SMB market – hence, not much of a installed base.

What does Tandberg bring to the Cisco-Tandberg party?

  • A complete set of video conferencing solutions for the SMB market that are standards based
    • Personal, desktop to conference room based video conferencing solutions
    • Desktop video conferencing phone with E20 and the MPX desktop solutions
    • PC based video conferencing with Movi
    • Conference room based solutions from standard def. to HD with the Quick Set C20
  • Almost no product overlap between Cisco and Tandberg in the SMB segment
  • The recent acquisition of Nortel Enterprise Div. by Avaya makes them the market leader in the SMB IP Communications segment. Cisco’s differentiation for these products was diminishing. Adding video conferencing to the Cisco product portfolio will provide the required differentiation.

What does Cisco bring to the Cisco-Tandberg party?

The Cisco/Tandberg pairing will open-up opportunities for Polycom to work with vendors such as Avaya, Nortel, HP (a Tandberg partners) – as they compete with Cisco in the SMB segment.

Cisco’s strength in integrating some of the SMB segment based acquisitions has been less than stellar, especially in the collaboration area. Acquisition such as WebEx, Jabber, PostPath have lost the momentum they once possessed before the Cisco acquisition. Hopefully Cisco will do a better job integrating Tandberg.

One private company (which is a partner of Tandberg) that will make a good acquisition target for Cisco is Broadsoft. They could provide Cisco the push and presence with the global service providers for hosted VoIP and Unified Communications solutions that Cisco currently lacks or are not much of a competitor.

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July 9, 2009

Business Intelligence (BI) – Does it have a place in the SMB and Mid-Market Enterprises?

Filed under: Business Applications, Business Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Infrastructure, mid-market, ROI, SaaS, salesforce.com, SMB, SMB strategy, TCO — Tags: , , , , , , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 6:14 pm

The recent demise of LucidEra has brought forward the discussion of the need for BI in the SMB and Mid-Market enterprises (companies with 1-999 employees and revenues usually less than $1 billion). My take is that this was based on the limited BI value LuidEra offered and the current difficult economic conditions vs. their SaaS based business model. With the explosion of BI solution targeted at the SMB & mid-market, the BI industry is inundated with newer solutions and scaled-down versions of existing enterprise solution targeted at this segment. I have also seen several discussions on the potential increase in adoption of BI solution based on these solutions being delivered in a SaaS model to address the IT resources and infrastructure in the SMB and mid-market companies.

Business Intelligence is all about gaining 360 degree insight into a company’s business, and helping company executive make decisions based on the facts as opposed to information in Excel spreadsheets or gut feel. Business intelligence can offer significant benefits to small and mid-sized organizations. The problem becomes sifting through the plethora of solutions to select offerings that meet the SMB’s needs. SMBs don’t have the required resources or time to do this.

The key question that needs to be addressed is – what are the BI related need of the SMB and mid-market companies and weather these needs are being met by these BI solutions? The solution delivery model is secondary to the key question. This segment of companies is realizing that business decisions need to be made on more than excel spreadsheets and gut instinct.

SMBs don’t understand data warehouses and BI, as it is applied to large enterprises as they do not have staff that can make sense out of the reporting provided by these standalone BI tools nor do they have IT resources/budgets to integrate standalone BI applications to data from various business applications and business processes. SMBs understand BI in the form of dashboards and reports with drill down capabilities. They need solutions that can provide quick real-time insights and ROI that can have measurable business results. How can the use information from the past to more accurately predict the future or to look at real-time data to more efficiently utilize the existing resources or inventory; make changes to enhance business process or operational efficiencies?

In my recent interaction with business solution vendors that focus on the SMB and mid-market, BI solutions are now available and embedded as part of a larger business solution – integrated business solution like NetSuite; SAP (based on Business Objects acquisition) – Businessone, Business-by-Design, Business All-in-One; Oracle Business Intelligence Standard Edition; other ERP and CRM solutions (Salesforce.com) .

SMB and mid-market companies need to first investigate the BI capabilities that are already provided by these applications or modules that are already integrated and can be easily add-on to their business application solutions. It does not matter whether these solutions are cloud-based (SaaS), hosted or on-premise; utilizing these exiting BI functionality will provide much easier implementation and ROI compared to bringing in new vendors. Most of the vendors mentioned provide easy to use dashboards with BI analytics capabilities to enhance operational efficiencies, analytical and predictive analysis, risk analysis, forecasting, etc. Business application vendors need to increase their focus on their BI solutions as a key value proposition to the SMB and mid-market.


 

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July 7, 2009

The Compelling TCO Case for Cloud-based business applications in SMB and Mid-Market Enterprises

Filed under: Business Applications, Cloud Computing, Cloud Computing Platform, Dynamic Computing, Infrastructure, ISV, mid-market, ROI, SaaS, salesforce.com, SMB strategy, TCO — Tags: , , , , , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 1:11 am

A 4-year total cost of ownership (TCO) perspective comparing cloud and on-premise business application deployment

Small and medium businesses (SMBs) face a tricky dilemma in today’s tough economic climate. It’s no longer business as usual; companies need to figure out how to survive through the current downturn, and get on track to capitalize on new opportunities that will emerge as the economy starts to grow again. They need business solutions to help them to manage more efficiently day-to-day, and also the intelligence they need to move the business forward.

As SMBs weather through turbulent economic storms, total cost of ownership (TCO) is often top of mind when evaluating new business applications. Many customers have become interested in how cloud computing or software-as-a-service (SaaS) can help lower their costs by eliminating upfront capital investments and ongoing maintenance costs associated with on-premise solutions.

Hurwitz & Associates recently completed an in-depth study comparing TCO of cloud-based business application and equivalent on-premise solutions.

Cloud computing essentially eliminates the need for customers to buy, deploy and maintain IT infrastructure or application software individually. Regardless of the application, the cloud computing vendor takes responsibility for all of the infrastructure required to run the solution–servers, backup, software, operating systems, databases, updates, migration, power and cooling, facility space, etc., and associated internal and third-party staffing costs. Because cloud computing vendors manage all of their customers on a single instance of the software, they can amortize costs over thousands of customers. This yields substantial economies of scale and skill, and lowers TCO.

Key findings from our analysis include:

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