Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

June 15, 2009

Intuit’s Federated Apps Cloud Computing Partner Platform Will Provide Very Significant Benefits to ISVs

One of the key technology pain-point (for SMBs) relate to multiple disparate SaaS/on-premise based business and collaboration applications that do not talk to each other (requiring re-entry of the same data) and each with their own separate access, UI, billing and pricing schemas – making it very difficult for them to resolve problems when they occur as they cannot triage the source of the problem. These SMBs lack the IT resources to identify the source of problems in an environment of multiple SaaS applications or have the capabilities integrate multiple soiled SaaS applications (each with a different UI, access requirements and billing platforms) and infrastructure services.

Intuit has a deep understanding of the SMB market based on its proven track record as leading business applications vendor in the U.S. Based on this in-sight, Intuit has developed a much more expansive CONNECTED SERVICES strategy to address the above mentioned technology problem – by providing a platform to connect and distribute all the varied cloud-based SMB applications and also providing a cloud-based development platform for ISVs that want to develop on the Intuit QuickBase platform.

Why is this of value to the ISVs that want to service the 6 million plus SMB companies in the U.S.?

  • Aggregation of applications on a cloud-based online application store – the Intuit Workplace portal to be part of the Intuit Marketplace with single sign-on where existing Intuit customers and Intuit and other small business prospects can find, try and buy any of the cloud-based applications that are part of the Intuit Partner Platform (IPP) ecosystem.
  • The biggest attraction for ISVs to join the IPP is the large installed base of Intuit customers in both the SMB and mid-market segments – more than 4 million plus active customers (with 25 million employees); which can be referred to as Customer Cloud. Reaching potential customers was identified as the biggest challenge by both the IVS panel and the VC panel. Selling to this vast SMB population has been the biggest barrier for ISV (especially the ones with less than 50 employees). Existing VAR channels do not work for this segment, online marketing channels are also very expensive and do not provide an adequate level of exposure to these hard-to-reach small businesses – in most cases the SMBs are not even aware of the application solutions. Successful cases of viral marketing based on social networking are rare. The Intuit IPP provides a platform for these ISVs to ride on the coattails of Intuit (several ISVs that are developing on the Salesforce.com Force.com platform have experienced similar success, although that ecosystem is only limited to applications developed on that platform – the federated strategy of Intuit’s IPP has the potential of creating a significantly bigger ecosystem).
  • The flexibility to:
    • develop new (and existing web applications) cloud-based applications with any programming language, database, or cloud computing resource and then publish them to the Intuit Workplace.
    • host the cloud-based solution on Intuit Workplace cloud datacenter or an alternate cloud computing data center (Amazon-EC2, Salesforce.com – CloudForce.com, IBM-Blue Cloud, Rackspace, etc.) and at the same time be part of the Intuit IPP application ecosystem and marketplace and get all the benefits associated with it.
  • The Intuit Workplace will provide the Single billing and e-commerce platform for all the ISV applications in the Intuit marketplace. This is of huge value of these ISVs.

This federated application capability now available on the Intuit IPP. Every application on the IPP will work together, use a single username and password, and be accessible via browser. Some of the federated applications will also work with the Intuit family of products. To make all these applications work in harmony on the IPP – Intuit will run a security assessment and privacy policy review on these applications prior to publication on the IPP. The four integration points for the federated applications are:

  • Data: To integrate applications with Intuit Partner Platform data, developers must program against APIs provided by Intuit to enable data synchronization
  • Login: A Federated Identity Web API allows users to use their Intuit Workplace login credentials to access the federated applications within Intuit Workplace.
  • User management and permissions: Intuit provides developers with a Web API so that their application can handle processes such as inviting additional users to their application.
  • Navigation: Developers with existing SaaS applications may have to make minor User Interface adjustments, such as removing sign-in/sign-out links within their solutions. The Intuit Workplace provides this in its toolbar to provide users a seamless experience between applications.

June 10, 2009

Video Conferencing Solution – Now Affordable by the SMBs

Filed under: Channels, Collaboration, Conferencing, mid-market, SMB strategy, video — Tags: , , , , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 10:06 pm

As the on-premise systems now support reservationless On-demand conferencing, they let employees hold impromptu meeting, without pre-scheduling these meetings – allowing them to collaborate when they need to, with whomever they need to, provided both parties have access to compatible video conferencing systems.

Vendors are recognizing the market opportunity and value of video conferencing solutions for the SMB market and are making available systems that are affordable and easy-to-install/ use/manage because SMBs typically don’t have the IT staff to support these solution. In some instances these solutions can be managed remotely by VARs and service providers. However, they are still a ways away from a price that will explode mainstream adoption in the global SMB markets.

Video conferencing solutions fall in three broad categories:

  • Top Tier of Telepresence solution at corporate locations to communicate with key accounts for executive management that support high-def.
  • Tier 2 small conference room solutions for teams/workgroup meetings and training sessions (low-end support standard def. and high-end support hig-def.)
  • Tier 3 of personal integrated or desktop system for more regular 1:1 communication sessions. These personal integrated web/video conferencing systems (which are point and click and only need a web cam or desktop systems (with integrated audio, video and content sharing capabilities).

Video conferencing solutions vendors are now developing products and solutions designed specifically for the SMB and mid-market. These systems are easy-to-use and priced appropriately for this market segment. Polycom’s QDX6000 system is now available for under $4,000. The QDX6000 is a full featured SMB product that offers high resolution DVD quality video room-based video conferencing solution that has low-bandwidth requirements. A these price points, SMBs can pay for the systems by reducing travel expenses – reduction of 2-3 business trips can now pay for these solutions providing short-term ROI.

Video conferencing solutions are leading to more frequent meetings between distributed workers (and in several cases with outsourcing partners), and providing improved productivity by speeding product development by helping teams triage and resolve problems faster. This is especially true for SMBs that sales and development office in the U.S., outsourced software development locations in India, and outsourced manufacturing in China and Latin America.

  • Applications/Markets



    Horizontally across all mid-market companies’ sales, marketing, training (for distributed employees, partners, and customers), recruitment, and product development are the key application segments. Vertical industries including financial services, professional services, technology, manufacturing, healthcare, oil and gas, law, entertainment and education are among the top adopters of video conferencing solutions. New applications for video conferencing are being launched with greater frequency as deployment increases; increases in travel costs are prompting SMBs to interview potential employees as this allows one to interact virtually face-to-face as if you were in the same room regardless of geographic locations and time zone differences.

  • Vendors


    Polycom, Tandberg, Lifesize, and Vidyo are the top SMB video conferencing solution vendor. Polycom is the leading video conferencing solutions vendor. On a global basis Polycom is shipping about 10,000 video conferencing systems, with a large number of them now going into the SMB segment. Tandberg is another front-runner providing comprehensive video conferencing that is increasing focus and products targeted at the SMB segment.

  • Channels

    – SMBs don’t have internal IT staff expertise to setup on-premise video conferencing systems. Increasingly they are turning to VARs and service providers that specialize in video conferencing services and rentals like WireOne Communications and Intercall to help setup and remotely support these systems. Video service providers enable rich media communications by providing IP network services optimized for videoconferencing traffic by providing dedicated MPLS-based IP networks that handle voice, video, and data on a single network with quality of service (QoS) built in to support the more rigorous needs of these solutions.

June 3, 2009

The next generation Contact Center – Social Networking + Traditional Contact Center

The traditional contact centers now support more real-time communications technologies – VoIP, IVR, e-mail, IM. However, the intelligence and information repositories that are leveraged by these contact centers is very much static and internally focused.

With the growing popularity of social networking and community knowledge, where contact center agents can take advantage of consumers/customers helping each other with issues and queries – reducing the number of inquiry interactions the contact center service reps have to make, delivery real cost savings and improving the contact center ROI. The issue is – the lack of a comprehensive easy-to-use solution that integrates blogs, social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, etc.) and search to easily aggregate the desired knowledge and mesh it with the internal knowledge repository, including the customer information stored in the enterprises CRM systems.

I was at the Salesforce.com CloudForce.com seminar some time ago, where they showcased their service cloud strategy. This Service Cloud showed an elegant and easy-to-use dashboard to present and search the popular social networking sites to the contact center agents – this will help them take advantage of all the community knowledge without spending a lot of time and effort following individual solutions like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress,

Traditional contact center solutions when integrated with an easy-to-use comprehensive community knowledge solution – presents a market disruption elevating this new contact center solution to one that provides significantly higher ROI and customer satisfaction. The Salesforce.com ServiceCloud can be integrated with the traditional contact centers solutions that have primarily relied on static internal information to service the customers, and have been separated from the community knowledge in the cloud from social networking conversations, blogs and Google. The Service Cloud presents an excellent dashboard to bring these two disparate clouds to establish a cloud-based customer service platform and knowledge for contact/call centers – for customer service agents, customer self-service portals and partners. SIP and presence enable this cloud service platform, and it is ready for some very significant communication and collaboration – via VoIP phones (click to call), e-mail, or IM based conversations.

Why is this of value to Customer Contact Center solutions companies? The current leading Contact Center solutions from the leading telecom equipment vendors like Avaya, Cisco, and Nortel are more along the lines of the traditional on-premise solutions and do not present an easy solution to integrate the cloud-based community knowledge, except in some cases they have integrated search solutions by integration with Google. The Salesforce.com Service Cloud platform can be used to provide an integrated internal knowledge base and the community knowledge/social network (enterprises can define the scope, and members of their communities) from Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Google search, etc. In addition, one can include CRM to monitor customer satisfaction, address any questions/concerns, resolve problems quickly, provide product tips and tricks, and send out information in the customers’ preferred way of communication – without long waiting times or endless forwards and escalations. This could present a disruptive service solution which has the capability to significantly improve customer satisfaction and at the same time reduce the cost to provide this service.

This presents a good partnership opportunity for the traditional contact center application vendors to integrate with the social networking/community knowledge cloud-based service platform without the long internal development cycle. Adopting the Salesforce.com Service Cloud platform will provide a 1-2 years time-to-market advantage vs. the vendors that choose to do it themselves.

 


 

Social Networking – The SMB challenge and how the SMBs can gain value from Salesforce.com Cloud Service solution

Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress are all the range in the B2B and B2C world today. But does the SMB business owners/CEOs or a lone marketing person have the time to devote to track and follow these sites without spending an inordinate amount to time and effort – especially when there is no clearly identifiable direct linkage that this leads to increased sales. How can SMBs participate in and leverage these market trends effectively to address their business and marketing needs?

All these social networking sites present vast amount of unstructured information to the SMBs. In addition, SMBs are also beginning to see a large number of e-mails sent to our e-mail In-boxes from these social sites – leading to information overload, and in many cases turning away the SMB that could benefit from it. What is needed is a solution that aggregates information from all these social networking/community knowledge sites and presents it to the SMBs in a manner that make the information (which at times is very valuable) more easily consumable and easily searchable.

I was at the Salesforce.com CloudForce.com seminar some time ago, where they showcased their social networking integration and service cloud strategy. The Service Cloud shows an elegant and easy-to-use dashboard to present and search the popular social networking sites to the SMB and mid-market enterprises – this will help the SMBs take advantage of all the community knowledge without spending a lot of time and effort following individual solutions like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, etc. CRM platform has the potential to pull together information/community knowledge from the various social networking sites and meaningfully relate it current customers, prospects, and partners to deliver more engaging conversations and communications – providing significantly better ROI compared to an ad-hoc social networking access.

Social networking & community services do have the potential to:

  • Improve customer interactions and relationships
  • Actively engage customers and partners
  • Engage potential customers in technology education and learning
  • Interacting with the channel/VARs for information exchange and support

SMBs are actively exploring how to participate and incorporate all of these social networking sites/feeds to develop a social networking strategy that drives a broader marketing and services strategy.

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