Software as a Service (SaaS) - Adoption

“SaaS is just part of a wider move towards Internet based automated services.”

Often I get questions about Software as a Service (SaaS) adoption. Unfortunately the answer isn't very straight forward. There are many factors that influence the adoption. However, it will happen eventually! Software as a Services will become a utility, like electricity did in the beginning of the last century.

At Exact Software we work on Business Software for the Small and Medium Businesses (SMB), I will try to give a clear answer from this context. The key issues to be considered are:
  • Trust, are you a trusted service vendor? A trusted Software vendor doesn't necessary make you a trusted Services vendor!
  • Value proposition, does your SaaS solution offer significant better value that a competitive On Premise solution? Software as a Service solutions allow for multiple businesses to share the same environment. This shared environment can serve as a platform for additional value and functionality such as collaboration, benchmarking, etc..
  • Market Segment, each market segment has a different rational for adoption. Is your target segment ready for SaaS?
  • Buying behavior, visionary buyers are already adopting SaaS, but conservative buyers are still holding off. Conservative buyers might however already adopt SaaS accessories to extent the life cycle of their current investments.
  • Mission Critical, how crucial is your solution for running the business? Of course all solutions are crucial for the success of a business, but still some are more important than others. The most crucial solutions might get slower SaaS adoption, because the risk for failure is larger.
  • Economy, low initial investments and pay as you go business models might be in favor in the current turbulent economy. These do
I've summarized this all in the presentation below.

At Exact Software we have seen good SaaS adoption with the Exact Online accounting solution in the Netherlands and Belgium. It's interesting to see that most buyers are young enterpreneurs in small companies and their accounting is not mission critial (it can be down for a couple of minutes). They especially value the tight collaboration with their accountants.
I personally think that adoption might accellarate, as a result of generational shifts.

Related posts:

LinkedIn Polls

LinkedIn polls are smoking!

A few weeks ago I wrote about my crowd sourcing experiments. In the post I mentioned a LinkedIn group: Users Exact Synergy where I initiated a simple discussion. Part of the discussion I asked an additional question to the group to prioritize some topics. To my surprise this was picked up by one of the group members that created a poll. I was not aware of the functionality... but it's smoking...

You call to action
1. Join the conversation in the LinkedIn group: Users Exact Synergy
2. Complete the Poll, found here..

Tough Times, grab the opportunities

Recently a lot has been written about the financial recession we are heading for. Business is slow and people are loosing their jobs. Especially in during the Holiday period this is not a nice thing to have on you mind. You should turn it around, Don't Panic! and grab the opportunities.

In previous posts I already wrote 'Crisis fuels Innovation' and 'Crisis or Tipping Point', both dealing with opportunities in challenging times. I'm proud to work for a company that doesn't put innovation and future investments in these challenging times on hold, but instead keeps investing to continue to be ahead of the peer group and demonstrate their strength.

For software developers in Delft, Netherlands there is a great opportunity to work on the next generation products. Check (Dutch only) and don't hesitate to contact me for more information on the content of the positions.

Image credit: detritus

RSS is Cool for Non Geeks Too!

RSS Are you ever doing this:
  • Searching for news?
  • Scanning different websites for news?
  • Curious what will be written next by your favorite blogger?
  • Curious what is new in you online tools?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions you should consider adopting RSS. I will explain what you can do, but first watch the following movie from CommonCraft.

Now you know what to do:
  1. Start using an RSS Reader. I use Google Reader and I love it.. You easily find it here at Google. If you already use iGoogle, GMail or have a Google account it's super easy. Just sign-in and off you go.
  2. Subscribe to RSS feeds.  Click here to start with this blog
For those already subscribed to this blog,
  1. Thank You.. I do appreciate it.. and I hope you enjoy the content.
  2. I recommend you to use the most recent feed:
Now you are geeky cool too...

Happy Holidays 2008

For all that I couldn't address in person I recorded a short video message..

You think I should do more video blogging?

Understandable Social Media Marketing

We all deal with the challenge to explain new trends to our peers and managers. This is not always very easy, but lucky enough there are people helping us. The guys and gals from Telezent create excellent flash presentations to make complex topics understandable for everyone. Keep the good work up!

Today it's Social Media Marketing!

Now you watched the presentation you learned:
1. You need to be open and transparent
2. It's a 2 way dialog
3. Rapid responses are required
4. ... and it's all about People...

Now have a look again at 'Ondernemen, Juist Nu' (Dutch Only).. It's not about selling and marketing, but about giving and listening. Come and join the conversation.

Enterprise 2.0 and Innovation

I love SlideShare and always find something good there.... recently I found the presentation below, it's wicked!

I can really relate to many of the observations, because they directly reflect back to my own experiences.
1. Business is about people and conversations. A statement I often use why social networking is so important. It's all about the conversation
2. Organizations need to get better at collaborating. Especially Globalization & Specialization, Consumerisation of IT and "The Google Generation" are driving this.
3. Enterprise 2.0 is already happening in your organization. We adopt because it Empowers us! it's easy, easy, easy and easy to use!
4. ... but a culture and behavior shift is required..
5. Social Software = Communication + Participation... so start to share, communicate and participate in the conversation... Comments are very welcome!

Enjoy the whole presentation and big thumbs up to the creators, check out their blog: The Content Economy

Twitter for Business

Ever wondered what Twitter can do for your business.. Have a look at this presentation by Ogilvy

Social Media and Crowd sourcing Experiments

People often question the business value of Social Media and Social Networking. I strongly believe it adds value and will become a standard part of doing business. Many others have written about this already, but nothing is more valuable than personal experiences.

Some of my real life experiences:
  • LinkedIn group discussion for Exact Synergy users starts to provide information
  • Exact and the ImagineCup started with a DM Tweet 
  • I found good information on Windows Azure, based on a Tweet 
  • One of my friends, a banker, found one of mine SlideShare presentations and asked for more material to promote a project
... and my life has become much more information rich...
Related Posts
Image credit: andreaweckerle

Dos And Donts When Facing A Recession

Thanks to my coworker Kim for the nice presentation

Don't forget to complement her on the excellent work. She will be happy to receive comments are a nice  Tweet!

Exact Software and the ImagineCup

A while back I received a direct message Tweet from one of my Microsoft Twitter buddies asking if Exact Software was interested to participate in the ImagineCup 2009 (dutch), a global student technology competition focused on finding solutions to real-world issues. The timing was perfect, because just days before the tweet Exact Software signed an extensive collaboration deal with the Technical University in Delft.
I liked the idea of an additional way of working with students, because they will be extremely influential for future business software developments. Earlier in my post on Unified Communications I already wrote about the impact of Generation Y and the way they communicate. We all need to learn from them, to make sure we can offer future business solutions that match their expectations.
Today we had a dinner with Microsoft and some of the sponsors of the ImagineCup. I'm pretty excited and look forward to really get started. 
P.S. Without Twitter this would probably not have happened!

Exact Software and Social Media

I've been writing quite a few times about Social Media. I'm not an expert, but interested in the topic and do believe companies, products and services need to embrace Social Media. Within Exact Software I've always been an evangelist of Social Media, we need to listen and embrace the users of our products and services.

It's nice to have internal discussions, but in the end it's about experimenting and learning. In the past I was not very sure if I could write about my company, but started to do this more and more. Exact Software is now one of the most used tags of my posts. Also my buddies Andre, Eric and Ronald have started to blog and be fairly open. This is a clear signal that the company is changing and I'm proud of it!

I also reported earlier on the great initiative of Exact in the Netherlands with the 'Ondernemen. Juist Nu ' community. It's not about our products and services, but it's really about information for the Small and Medium Businesses related to the economic downturn. Sharing and conversation are the main ingredients.

In the meantime the Exact Research team and the Marketing teams are working together into the next steps of user engagement. I will keep you updated on future development. We are learning and I value your feedback and comments.

Related posts:
Image credit: Gary Hayes 

I need more Twitter followers!

Guy Kawasaki writes in 'How to Use Twitter as a Twool' to get as many Twitter followers as possible. Just because the nobodies are the new somebodies!

It's interesting reading, but for those to lazy you can see it visualized below.

Updated, 14 December 2008: Replaced the above presentation with a more current version.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, but only if it makes you feel happy.

The Evolution of my Tweets

When I started to use Twitter (See my first Tweet) I like so many started to really tell what I was doing. In hte beginning this didn't return a lot of value, but it did help social contacts... because your 'friends' where doing the same. This added more social knowledge, especially about the people you are working with. In the workplace it also helped to increase knowledge sharing, because coworkers just had better almost real-time information of what the rest of the team was doing.

Twitter behavior over time started to change. I said I started with just telling what I was doing, but after a while I started to ask questions... and surprise, I sometimes got answers. I also figured that just telling what I was doing would not be very valuable for a larger audience. I now try to share more information and participate in more conversation. However, FriendFeed is stealing part of the conversation, just because it's easier to use for the conversation.

In my post on the evolution of my bookmarking I already explained that I started to aggregate all my services into FriendFeed. This is still the case and actually powers even my livestream. Since the aggregation I also started to experiment with other services as Jaiku. I played around, but I don't have an audience there. Likewise I started to use BrightKite, but it's actually confusing me, it's too complex.

I've also been using a variety of Twitter tools. For a long time I just used the Twitter Website, because I found it convenient. On the iPhone I tried many, but Twinkle is for me the app to use. I like the location, the people near me and not to forget the picture support. I do however use TwitPic for most pictures. Just because it's so easy to use. On the desktop I for a while used Twhirl but nowadays it's completely replaced by TweetDeck. The group, and the ability to remove read Tweets make it a easy tool to use when following larger number of people. I'm also very excited about the new upcoming TweetDeck features, because they really are what I need.. especially the sync between multiple installs. Recently I also discovered the 'TwitThis' bookmarklet, an easy way to share information.

Tell me, how has your usage involved?

Windows Azure

Last week I was for a Global ISV briefing at the Microsoft Campus in Redmond. A significant amount of time was spend on Windows Azure and Azure Services Platform (Yes extremely confusing). It's all still in it's infancy, it only runs in 1 data center, but the expansion plans are huge. Related to the data center expansion plans I found the interesting video below.

Lets now all hope that the trucks don't get stuck in traffic when suddenly a need for additional capacity is required..

Google Friend Connect

This week Google made Google Friend Connect available to web masters that wanted to add a "dash of social". Just to get a feel for this all I've added Google Friend Connect to the sidebar of my Blog. Just visit and scroll down a bit. Enjoy!

To learn more watch the video below:

... or visit

Microsoft GISV Briefing - Wrap Up

The last 2 days I spend at the Microsoft campus in Redmond for a briefing. The target audience were the large global ISV's. There were about 30 people representing 20 companies. It was a small group but this allowed for good discussion. Since it was an NDA event I won't disclose any details, but share some general experiences.

The content covered in slides is mainly publicly available, but the discussion went beyond that. For successful technology adoption it's necessary to have a common understanding on the business value and align the product road maps. Those that work with Microsoft will know that this is not always very easy. However Microsoft was very open in the discussion and will work on helping us to do better business.

Today no movie, because I learned that no camera's are allowed... oops.. You have to check yesterdays, that can be found in HD on Vimeo . Further I did Twitter the event, but don't expect any real news.. ;-)

Microsoft Global ISV Partner Briefing

I'm spending some time at the Microsoft campus participating in the Global ISV Partner Briefing. It's an NDA event, but it's mainly PDC content and for the rest I get shot if I tell you about it.

I also got this nice little Flip MinoHD camcorder to play with. It's not available in Europe, so I really had to get it here. I'm testing it a bit and here you also have a little impression of the event.

Thanks for watching

Introducing my Lifestream

A few times I already mentioned that I aggregate all my services into FriendFeed. I love this because it gives me a nice time line of events and it gives you a good way to follow what inspires me. This is also called life streaming.

In order to make it easier for you to follow me I've embedded a FriendFeed powered lifestream in my blog. You can find it here or in my profile section sidebar. Enjoy the lifestream.

Games give better everything

After I wrote 'Gaming meets Business Software' I found an excellent presentation by Jane McGonigal on 'The Rise of the Happiness Brands'. In short it says that people just want to be happy and that happiness is the new capital. We are all in the happiness business and need happiness engineers.

About 20 percent in the presentation she mentions that Games work better, better instructions, feedback, community and emotion and creates the link to what people really want. Games are happiness engines, but are broken from reality. It's necessary to bridge the happiness gap between games and reality. Reality should be turned into games and consumers into players.

I guess I've to dust off the XBox 360 in my office...

Gaming meets Business Software

Every month I present to all new employees in the company what Exact Research is doing. I spend time on the current, trends and inspiration sources. Often I mention that we get inspired by the Gaming industry.

Just a few examples why this is so interesting.
1. Every 6 year old understand the game immediately, probably even better than their dads. In a non English speaking country this is even more noticeable, because most games are in English only.
2. Games don't come with extensive manuals, at best there is a leaflet describing the controls to use and nothing else. This is extraordinary because most games are pretty complex.
3. Learning is build into the product. Often before you can access a new lever or use new devices you have  to complete a 'training' program as part of the game. This makes learning more fun and you will learn on the fly.
4. Games often start to give subtle hints and directions when the player gets stuck. You can just start and depending on your skills and expertise you get help on the way. This reduces the entry level.
5. As a last point from my personal experience and I'm actually not really sure if this is real or just my perception... but it doesn't matter. For the game industry it's important that I've enjoyed the game (so I will buy the sequel) and that I reach near completion. Often I do get stuck, just because it's too difficult, but the game will sense this.. and it will use lots of Artificial Intelligence to determine when I'm going to give up... Just before reaching that level I suddenly pass the level and continue... This is extremely smart, because I feel good... I made the next step...

Today I saw a Tweet from @jowang with a nice futuristic impression on the marriage between games and cinema. Worst case: 2017 first marriage between Avatar and Human... I guess by that time the Avatar can also deal with my administration, check and process my workflow.

The evolution of my bookmarking

We probably all recognize the following: I've seen something on the internet, but can't remember where!

My browser bookmarks always got into a mess quickly. I use different computers, I'm not very organized and they don't have any timeline embedded. I wanted bookmarks in the cloud, accessible from everywhere. Google bookmarks do a reasonable job, if you don't have more than say 20 of them. Useful for sites you visit regularly, but not for storing bookmarks 'on the go'. They are just too difficult to maintain, especially if you don't want to install an additional toolbar.

About 2 years ago I started with Digg and was pretty happy. The main purpose was too keep track of what inspired me. So I got a timeline of pages I dugg. After a while I also started to use Digg to search for information and Dugg them to remember. It was pretty useful, but I also noticed that my use reduced and I found other ways to keep track of information.

For a very short time I tried Delicious , but I never liked it. It appeared to be far to complex, I only liked the 'bookmarklet' what made bookmarking a lot easier as in Digg.

StumbleUpon was the next thing, but the toolbar is a too big barrier for me. I appreciate screen real estate and I dont' want to clutter the screen with additional toolbars. I do sometimes use it, but not very frequently.

In the meantime I learned that aggregating information into 1 list became a very useful way of sharing information. Also since the number of RSS feeds that I started to read increased significantly and I like to share inspiring documents. First aggregator I worked with was Plaxo , primarily because I already used the service to keep track and synchronize contacts. However soon there after I started to use FriendFeed and I'm still a very happy user. I like the vibrant users and 'likes'. For any new bookmarking services for me to try, I first look if they are supported by FriendFeed. That is how far it goes now.

In the meantime I also have been playing with Mixx, mainly because I've the feeling that Digg isn't moving forward. Digg really should add a simple to use browser 'bookmarklet'. Recently I also started to use Diigo and I have to say, the 'highlight' feature really adds something extra.

So when do I use which service? Since I aggregate all into FriendFeed it doesn't really matter anymore. I use the service that is most convenient. I always hope to find an obvious Digg, Mixx, Stumble, etc.. button.. and if that is not there I will most likely use Diigo. It's all about ease of use.

Let me know, what do you use?

Ziggo Sucks

I'm well aware that this is not the place to flame a business, but there is a limit to lack of customer service and respect for your customers.

In May 2008 3 TV/Internet cable companies merged into Ziggo . The merger effected in a new name, new email addresses, but most importantly unreliable internet connections. Customer complains rose and customer services couldn't handle the increased volume. I was having problems too, about every hour I had to reset my modem. Complaints by email and phone (after waiting an hour) only resulted in remarks that it was probably my internal installation.

In June/July it became too much and I decided to switch. I moved to Alice , half of the price and hasn't been down ever since. I canceled my Ziggo account, they send me a confirmation and I returned my modem. In the months September and October I was invoiced only the amount for my TV, but in November they started to invoice again for Internet. Ziggo does not answer my email complaints and they can not be reached by phone. I'm now at the point to have my bank block the payments.

Today, the most remarkable thing happened. A lady from Ziggo on my doorstep, she had a great proposal. Since I was already having TV and Internet she could sell me additional services at a special rate. She just didn't believe me that I canceled internet 4 months ago, you are on my list...

Well this proves that not only the connectivity is a mess.. also their administration is a mess... and right now at this moment also the secure personal part of the website is down. Ziggo sucks big time

Ziggo, please fix the mess.....

Call me stupid, Why doesn't Apple buy Yahoo?

For a few months I've been thinking about this: Why doesn't Apple buy Yahoo.
Jerry finally stepped down and this fuels the discussion on MircoHoo again, but nobody every mentions my alternative. Apple seems to be working on a search engine and they could use some help on MobileMe.  An Apple - Yahoo combination to me looks a lot more more logical than MircoHoo, the creative culture, the location, the californian spirit and the extensive use of open source. There is less overlap an Yahoo would be a nice online Apple brand.

I probably miss something, so I would like to hear from you, why this doesn't make sense at all.

btw. An Apple also needs the Sun to grow.. ;-)

What do others say about the generation shifts

Since I wrote about the behavioral changes between different generations in my 'Unified Communications, bridging generations' post I found several others posts on the same interesting topic:
The last post referring to an article in the WSJ, A Perfect Match? It's about Small businesses and what a great place they are for Generation Y. At Exact Software we develop business solutions for Small and Medium Businesses and we are proud of our Entrepreneurial spirit and want to reflect this into our business solutions.


Yesterday in my Unified Communications, bridging generations post I explained some of the generation differences in communication preferences. Today I found at Mediasnackers a video explaining it a lot better than I can.

Unified Communications, bridging generations

Is Unified Communications the magic that will bridge the communication gap between the 2 main generations in a business environment?

For those who are not very familiar with Unified Communication, at the bottom there is a video of a  short Microsoft Demo, not to endorse the Microsoft Solution, but to show capabilities.

I noticed Irwin Lazar and Steve Wylie talking about Unified Communications improving efficiency by reduction of human latency. Well to me this is a typical IT argument, make up a reason to create a business case. I do believe that Unified Communication will increase efficiency, but the reason needs to be found in social aspects of a business

Today's businesses are primarily run by late baby boomers like myself. My generation loves email, still thinks it's magic and can't imagine a world without. Microsoft recognizes this and overloads Outlook with more and more functionality, including CRM, because the target group sees it as the desktop replacement. This is also the group of people makes the decisions and invents arguments on human latency.

Young ambitious people, generation Y, the digital natives, entering the workforce have a different view on communication. They communicate with text messages, IM, video chat, their social networks and consider email for 'old' people. If they email, it's probably to their mom, dad or grand parents.

Microsoft explains Unified communications based on the communication divide between telephony and the computer, well that is almost the same as the above generation difference, the phone/email versus Text messages, IM, Video chat and Twitter . The unification of the different communication methods will create a platform where both generation can stay in their communication comfort zones.

Generation Y is the future of our businesses, we want them to join, to be happy and productive. Embrace and accept their communication preferences. Give them IM, with heaps of emoticons , Video Chat , their Micro blogging, etc..  And don't forget, a communication zone does not stop at the companies firewall.... and I'm more than aware that this is the generation challenge for our IT managers.

Cloud Computing, the new Facebook?

The above remark was made by one of my team members. I really like the speed in which the team can embrace new trends and technologies. In the last few years we quickly moved from Server Oriented Architectures, Communities, Social Computing, Software as a Service and now towards Cloud Computing.

However, the adoption of these trends in Business Software solutions goes in reality a lot slower.  Of course we see implementations, in some functional areas quicker than in others, but the above trends are definitely not mainstream. They will, but it can still be years a head of us. We need to be on top of the trends, but we also need to balance on the fine line between 'hot' trends and customer implementation 'reality'.

Cloud computing is a good example. It first requires trust before a customer will trust us with their data in a Software as a Service environment. Us putting the customers data in someone else cloud is currently a step too far. It takes patience and time!

For those who want to learn some more about cloud computing... nice video explaining..

Elderly People and Technology - The iPhone rocks!

Last weekend I visited my mother in law for her 70th birthday. Since it far and remote and takes a day to get there it was a 4 day weekend. Besides being far, it was also very disconnected. Since a few years there is GSM coverage, but no 3G and no DSL on fixed line. So no possibility to write this post really in the weekend.

During the visit I made an interesting observation. My mother in law owns and uses a mobile phone, she is 'in touch' with technology. However the usage pattern is almost the same as with her previous fixed line. The phone has a permanent place in the home, next to a paper list with important phone numbers. There are a few numbers in the phone memory that she sometimes uses, but often is making a call is just typing the number and pressing the green button. It works and she is happy. Basic use works, but she needs help with more advanced features as storing phone numbers in memory.

My own mom, in her 70's also has a mobile phone, but can't use it. It frustrates her, because she does see the advantages. A few weeks back we talked about it and it really took some time before I understood. She was telling me all the time 'It goes black'. What did it mean? When the phone is locked it tried to preserve energy by blacking out the display after a few seconds of inactivity. Every time she tried to unlock the phone (Menu - * on a Nokia) she couldn't remember the button sequence and needed to read the screen for instructions. However reading the screen took longer than the inactivity period.... and the screen would go black again. Making her start over again. I'm pretty sure this never showed up in a usability lab.

As an experiment I gave her my iPhone with only 1 remark. If you don't know anymore press this (the home) button. She doesn't master the English language, but without any help managed to make a phone call.

We talk about elderly people and technology... as well as we talk about the business opportunity that lays into this group in the society... always remember the target group when you design your products!

I however doubt if Apple had a 70+ year old in their usability lab.... could someone tell me that?

Banks are Criminals

About a week ago I had a good laugh about Chris Brogan's experiences with The Bank of America . Whatever Credit Crisis, no lessons learned on customer service.

I've a similar story, I live in the Netherlands and use 2 banks, the Rabobank, for my daily banking, that offers me great service and a personal touch and the ABN-AMRO Bank just because I happen to have some stock managed by them. I've actually been too lazy to ever transfer them.

Both Banks offer Internet banking based on a little device that uses the chip in my debit card to deal with secure authentication. The system works fine, but after a while the battery on those devices run out. A few months ago this happened for my Rabobank device and with a quick phone call I learned I could pick up a new one from any of their offices. Excellent service!

Today I walked into the office of an ABN-AMRO bank to ask for a new device, because also that battery had run out. Expecting to get a new one, but the very friendly staff only answered: I can order one for you, it will be send to your home, but it will cost you 15 Euro. I was in shock, I wasn't sure if I understand well. I asked, do you mean I've to pay 15 Euro (20$) to get access to my own money? Yes, I'm sorry about that..

Of course I will not pay! I rather open a new account and let the bank go through all the additional paper work and administration and give me a new one for free. Back in the Office I filed a question, because I was actually thinking that the Bank employee wanted to rip me off! The turn around of the Internet question was reasonable, but again the message was: You can order one for 15 Euro. Some more research let me to the knowledge base of the bank told me the reason for the 15 Euro: It's a complex device with many more features... I don't want features! I want the bank to give me access to MY money!

I guess the banks get now so much government support that they start behaving like the government. Policies and Procedures, no more customer support...

Social Networking does have Business Value!

Quite often I get involved into discussion on the value of Social Networking solutions in a business. You probably will recognize arguments like: It's bad for productivity, It's a security risk, It doesn't have any business value...

Up until now my best argument for Social Networking in a business was: It's about social interaction and doing business is also a social interaction!

Today I saw a really nice presentation by VizEdu: Henk Creates Company Using LinkedIn. It clearly describes a success story on Social Networking, like a reference story... it helps the discussion.

Innovation Drivers for Business Software

While writing an internal paper I created a Mind Map with some relevant Innovation Drivers. Keep in mind that I focused on Business Software for the SMB market.

The mindmap is created with Mindmeister, an easy and simple online application. The mindmap is exported to an image instead of using a live mindmap, because the free version only allows me a limited number of maps.

You have anything to add?

Crisis fuels Innovation

I'm a great supporter for Web 2.0 development as Communities, Social Media etc... If you read historical posts back you will see I've several times referred to these developments. Internal in my organization I've done the same, most of the time with only luke warm reception.
I've also written about the economic crisis and the effect on innovation. A couple of days ago Exact Software launched a new platform for Small and Medium businesses to learn about the effects of the economic crisis on their business. It's a community to share information, discuss and ask questions.

(Click to View, Dutch only)

I'm proud and know this would not have been possible if 2008 would have been a 'business as usual' year. I'm happy I tried to educate people on sharing, and giving a way without expecting anything back.

Related posts:

Is Home Automation the New Innovation?

2 weeks ago I wrote about 'Domotica ' and in the past few days I suddenly run into some other articles touching the subject of home automation. Just look at some other articles that are recently published:
I do believe that home automation will take a big step forward in the near future.

The technical evolution created significant improved devices, but didn't connect them yet. Cheap Wifi might be the next innovation driver in the home, allowing all devices to communicate with each other, creating many new possibilities. Remote access and control, but also analytics on their use. Oeps did I turn off the coffee machine? Now you can easily check and correct this from a remote location.

Besides the technical evolution there are the social developments. It might very well be so that in the future we spend more time at home, because the way we are working is changing, we in general feel less safe and we definitely like to avoid traffic. When we spend more time at home, it also makes sense to invest in the home to make it a comfortable and convenient place to be. Due to the credit crises investing in the current home is probably easier than buying a new home. 

Innovation in 5 minutes

Nice presentation on Innovation and why it's important.

Some nice quotes:
  • "Innovation is the profitable implementation of ideas"
  • "He who innovates will have for his enemies all those that are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new." - Niccolo Machiaveli, The Prince

Windows 7 - I can't wait!

I have to write this down, because there is not a day that I don't think about downgrading Vista to XP, and I like to use this as a reminder that soon all my Vista troubles are solved..... and I mean this seriously...

Sometimes you don't need any real innovation... you just want stuff to work.. Information dripping down from the PDC 2008 about the promise that Windows 7 will offer:

  • Faster start menu, instant response of the task bar, boot time is faster and overall more responsive
  • Reduced memory footprint, reduced disk I/O
  • Substantially improved battery life
... and if also instant on/off (stand-by) is added to this list I really look forward to the RTM release.... 

Why is this all so important? We are more and more on the move, meeting in, meeting out... on a flight, working from home... we are just more mobile... all you want to carry around is a light notebook/netbook that goes on instantly, is easy on the battery and is silent..

Can't you MS guys put the above stuff already in a Vista SP2?

Crisis or Tipping Point?

Today I received an email from Productivity Partners, the guys promoting 'a new world of work' with the question: Crisis or Tipping Point (Dutch only). 'Challenging Times and a Tipping Point' would have been a better title. Crisis is too negative, while Challenging times identifies opportunities and yes also for 'a new world of work'.

Today's financial climate requires businesses to focus on productivity and reduction of the associated costs and this same climate also makes it easier to overcome hurdles related to time and attendance and change the corporate cultures. This combined with an upcoming young workforce that is used to communicate via the web and multi-task between study, work and social activities will change the way we work!

During the current challenging times we might very well see that productivity gets a new meaning, fueling an increase in working from home, because it reduces travel costs and safes office space and thus housing costs. This of course creates an interesting opportunity for those companies that can deliver the expertise and infrastructures to facilitate communication and collaboration between the remote workers.

Are we at a Tipping Point? What do you think?

Is the financial turbulence changing how we plan and deliver?

It might be coincidence, but I notice very clearly that the turbulence at the financial markets is fueling a discussion on planning and delivery of products, just to mention a few:
All the stories focus on agility, make smaller steps, plan less and just get it out there and ask for feedback. Fueled by attempts to optimize productivity, reduction of costs, reduce investments and lower long time commitments. This is nothing new, but for many organizations the required changes were just considered too risky: 'Why change if you do alright?' Today the situation is different, there is a constant news flow indicating that change is required. 
Yes, this might be the inflection point were we do change the way we plan our lives! What is your view on this?

Productivity 2.0

About a year ago I wrote about 'corporate culture changes ' and 'busyness versus bursty' related to the ability to communicate among completely different people.

Today I read at 'zenhabits' about Productivity 2.0: How the New Rules of Work Are Changing the Game that again described that we need to break way from the past and start to do things differently..

It gave me the same feeling as a year ago.. I guess we are somehow all stuck in the past

Innovation in the home

20+ years ago in my early engineering career I worked on an advanced 'bus' system for home devices. The different devices in the home (lamps, fridge, tv, etc... ) would all connect to the 'bus' that could be controlled from a central unit. This would allow the devices to communicate with each other offering completely new capabilities. Legislation, lack of standards and other political reasons never made the project economical viable and it got abandoned.

Almost 10 years ago a young talented engineer joined my current company. We worked together on different projects until about a year ago he left to start his own business MyDomotica.

Today, while going thru some of last weeks newspapers I read a huge half page commercial for domotica. Clearly supported by MyDomotica, well done Paul...

Innovation in challenging times

A couple of days ago Jeremiah Owyang asked on FriendFeed if the economic turmoil would be good for Social Media. I and many others commented that there are many opportunities, any form of crises makes people more creative and innovative.

I'm responsible for product related research and innovation and was very interested in the PC World article: 'Are You an Innovation Sucker or Winner?'. It discusses the consequences financial turmoil on innovation. Businesses need to tighten their belts and return to their business fundamentals beginning with delivering a great value proposition. This is especially important in challenging times, because customers need to validate their investments. Innovation is required to deliver a differentiating value preposition.

In my experience the creativity is always there, but innovation is often considered risky what slows down the progress. In times of need, these risks are often valued differently, opening doors for making progress and launching innovative products and solutions. For a long time I'm an internal promotor for Social Media, but only in the past 2 days I got several questions about help with implementation!

Exact Solutions for Challenging Times

A few days ago I wrote about the huge opportunity for SaaS in today's changing world. The SaaS solutions have the ability to add significant customer value related to communication and collaboration.

Today my employer launched a new campaign: 'Exact Solutions for Challenging Times', based on exactly the same concept. The solutions offer a significant added value, that even in times of financial turmoil, can help you doing and improving your business.

No matter the state of the economy, there are always opportunities. For your, for us, lets collaborate!

The World is Changing

In the last weeks a lot is written about the financial crisis, rescue plans and the effect on business software companies. I do agree with Steve Ballmer that no one is immune to a global crisis and I also believe this might be a good opportunity for SaaS as recession-proofing Software, but there is a lot more!

Let's look at some important trends we see in the society:
  • Possible reduces spending as a result of the financial turmoil
  • Increasing oil prices
  • Terrorist threats giving us an unsafe feeling 
  • Global warming and the need to safe energy
In the last 10 years we've also seen an enormous increase in communication volume. Mobile phones and the internet were the driving technologies behind this. It started with phone calls asking: 'Where are you?' and today we aggregate all our ambient awareness in FriendFeed. All this communication was driven by the need for more social interaction, what also explains the emerge and success of social networking.

The trends in the society will result in a reduction of travel, or at least slowdown the growth curve of travel. People will work more from home, but do need social interaction. Thus the need for social interaction will only increase, meaning that future business software requires more social features. These social features should not only be among coworkers, but also among prospects, customers and partners.

The social interaction and collaboration requires to bring people together, and SaaS solutions in the cloud are the easiest way to bring people together, thus explaining the importance and huge opportunity of SaaS.

The New Exact Headquarters

Today officially the construction of the new Exact Headquarters started. There was a ceremony that unfortunately I was not able to attend, but the research team was well represented. To make sure there is a solid foundation for the building and the future of Exact the research team made sure to put the actual sources of our research work in the foundation of the building.
More images: 

Web 2.0 and the Enterprise

A few days ago I ran into the interesting presentation from Tim O'Reilly. You find the presentation later in this post. I guess many people are currently asking themselves how does Web 2.0 influence the Enterprise. Some believe Social Networks are evil and should be banned, while others see huge opportunities. I've already several times mentioned that I truly believe that a lot of the Social Networking and Community concepts will end up in the Enterprise. The key reason is simple: A business transactions is basically a social transaction... Solutions that are more social will help doing business...

Tim makes a few interesting observations:

  • People will drive collective intelligence applications
  • Data, Data, Data and more Data
  • Turn your company insight out, let users into your back-office.. (if you don't others will!)
  • It's a reality bubble!
  • It's tough to predict the future
  • Great challenge = Great opportunity
Today we live in a changing world, including financial turmoil, businesses that need to turn inside out, generational shifts... This might be scary, but is a Great Opportunity too!

Social Media

I've already written several times about communities, social computing and the fact this is on the research and innovation agenda of my team. Future business software solutions will be highly influenced by these new, currently mainly consumer, technologies.
However, these technologies alone is not enough. The world is changing and Social Media is playing an ever larger role. Me and my team also in this area require to be front runners... check my twitter and friendfeed.. and find out more of what we are doing

Ambient Awareness

Here at Exact Software I give every month a presentation to the new employees about Exact Research. In the presentation I explain what inspires the researcher and visualize the directions we think the future of business software is going. Social computing, Social networking, Communities, Software as a Services are often in one form or another passing by. The audience is usually pretty mixed in terms of age ranges, although the younger generation seems to get the overhand. This often gives interesting feedback and questions, leading to good discussions
Last week I read a nice article in the NY Times, Brave New World of Digital Intimacy. It describes pretty well the feedback and questions raised during my presentations.... For those still not sure about the trend of Social Computing, please read the article.. it gives a nice overview.. based on my experiences.

SaaS so obvious...

Last week the statements by Harry Debes about the collapse of the SaaS market have not gone unnoticed. Every respectable company dealing with or thinking about SaaS is somehow effected by the statement.. At a minimum at discussions during coffee breaks.

However, weather we like it or not.... SaaS is very obvious, it's just the next evolutionary step in business software. A few posts back I showed the evolution of Business Software with a future phase described community Web... well that will all be SaaS driven. The presentation below, especially the first part shows very nice how software becomes a utility, like electricity in the beginning of the previous century... It's just evolution.. ;-)

Web 2.0 Business Models

While reading and researching some SaaS information... I ran into this nice presentation. It gives a nice overview of Web 2.0, Social Software and how to go after the money...

Getting some attention for my Jaiku posts

I'm already pretty active on Twitter...  but as many of my Twitter followers know I do have a 'relation' with Finland... so I need to check out Jaiku... although it's owned by Google the origin is in Finland.. But the question is now... how to find some friends without spamming them with invites?

I might get some feedback here... let me know if you need an invite..

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Digital Nomads

Digital Nomads, a term used for people on move while being connected. They work where ever they like or suits their plans, connectivity is the basis for their communication with the rest of the world. 

In an age where the environment is 'hot' again and 'green' is fashionable, fuel prices are on the rise, people work more from home or other locations than daily being in the office from 9 to 5.

Dell started an interesting Social Media Experiment the Digital Nomad. Described in more detail at Mashable

Welcome to Web 3.0: It's about collaboration!

A couple for days ago I came across a TechCrunchIT guest blogpost 'Welcome to Web 3.0: Now Your Other Computer is a Data Center' by Mark Benioff. He is right on many points, but there is more. 

As an ISV I can tell that the focus on customer value is always the most important aspect. In the past all software was developed in house, but this changed into assembly of solutions from standard components. The Software as a Service trend is only a logical extension of this trend. 

There is however more, Web 2.0/3.0 allows for much better collaboration between companies that traditional Client/Server doesn't allow. Today the majority of all IT spending goes into integration between systems, because it's complex and there are many (On Premise) systems to integrate. For this reason system integration is not accessible for small and medium sized customers.  

However, Software as a Service and the consolidation of cloud infrastructures is reducing the number of systems to integrate and eventually the integration will be offered as a service too. This makes system integration accessible for small companies too and thus changes the way we do business. 

It's evident that the role of the ISV will change and needs to adopt their business models.

I'm Charlie

A few days a go a coworker send me a PowerPoint... with the remark: an interesting Enterprise 2.0 presentation. Yes, it's interesting, but instead of reading it's even more interesting to live it... and really I'm Charlie... except my favorite application is my Mac and Safari... 

The evolution of Software

Today I gave a presentation for Productivity Partners, capability providers focused on The New World of Work and Productivity Reinvented. I shared some insight on what inspires the Exact Research team. The main inspiration comes from Communities and Social Computing. 

Social Technographics

When promoting Social Media and Communities there are often questions and discussions about the readiness of the community. It's important to realize there are different types of community members,  something very well described by Josh Bernoff in the  presentation below

Functionality in the Community needs to reflect the different member profiles.

For those near me... I've the book in my office..

Social Media

In my research team we spend a lot of time on technology, but we do realize that the technology is boring for others and is just a prerequisite to deliver excellent user experiences. The technology by itself does not have any value, we only apply the technology to create customer value. 

Currently very much inspired by Social Media, Communities and Social networking. We are very aware that the 'MySpace' generation is becoming a more important part of the workforce in the enterprise and expects different ways of working, communicating and collaboration. 

However the decision makers are not always very aware and we continuously search for ways to communicate the message about Social Media. I like how Jerimiah Owyang writes about this, especially in his blog post: 'How to Effectively Talk to Execs and Clients about Social Media'

Social Software in the Enterprise

People often ask me what is going to be the role of Social Software in the Enterprise. I often replies that doing business requires social interaction and thus it's obvious why Social Software needs a place in the Enterprise. This is a big opportunity for software vendors, but it also changes the competitive landscape, because the traditional Enterprise Software vendors might not necessary be the most innovative Social Software vendors. 

Last week I run into an article 'The end of Software...' from Dennis Howlett. He does a much better job describing the situation and dynamics in the Enterprise that I can ever do.

Therefor I like to close as he does: we live in interesting times . 

Selecting Relevant Features

In our Research team we work based on 6 week iterations, each with a defined focus area and a focused planning. The planning is finalized in the week before the start of a new iteration, a process that often leads to interesting debates on the scope of features.
With small iterations, yes 6 weeks is still long, the scope of features need to be limited. It often requires the selection of the most important features and a minimal scope. 
In the debates however the discussion is not on what the end user minimally needs, but often deals with fantasies on what the end user potentially could need. I believe it's understandable, because this is how we are educated. We are thought to design solutions in detail, make extensive use cases and try to cover all scenarios. However I also believe we are in a shift in our industry where we need to put the end user and the community above everything else, meaning we need to listen and analyze their usage based on facts... instead of dreaming and having fantasies of their behavior. We all need to focus on the important issues, and not on fantasies.

Agile development

In the research environment at Exact Software we pay a lot of attention to Social Computing and Social Media. I've written quite a few times about these... This time I make a few remarks about something else... because all the Community software also comes with a few additional requirements... we need to listen... and need to be agile...
Agile development is a change, it's something that goes against the natural behaviors of a lot of people... Everybody is afraid to under design... but I do believe that designs are fantasies anyway... so only design those parts where the probability is high... and that is usually only a very short time frame... I like to embrace chaos and change... Just live it... 
I love Slideshare and today found the inspirational presentation you see below... enjoy...

The Social Web

The Social Web is build on openness, human interaction and involvement. This is very different of most software, including web based applications, available today. Working at a research department requires me to have a vision and give direction to these new trends. Convincing others that the world is changing is not a simple task, because being open is not very easy... most people are afraid to loose control.

I therefor appreciate the 'Social Media Frequently Asked Questions' series by Jeremiah Owyang. It answers in the first 2 episodes already 2 of the key questions I've to answer frequently.

Cloud computing

Like so many in our industry I'm also following what is happening with MicroHoo. In general I see lots of challenges when integrating the companies... and this possibly leads to reduced focus in other areas.... very likely many will be happy about this... ;-)
Today I run into an interesting blog post on the subject: Microsoft's Colossal Strategic Mistake: "We Need to Be in Advertising". The part about the transition to cloud computing is the most interesting... this is something that is definitely playing in many other companies too.

Microsoft's Misconception: "Cloud Computing" = Software Supported By Advertising

The problem is the way Microsoft has always framed the "cloud computing" transition:

  • paid desktop software licenses giving way to
  • free web-based software supported by advertising.

This framing is wrong. It has also led Microsoft to believe it has no choice but to compete with Google in search and to buy Yahoo, aQuantive, et al, to beef up its advertising platform.

A better way of thinking about the "cloud computing" transition, in our opinion, is:

  • paid desktop licenses giving way to
  • paid web-based licenses

In this framework, today's stark differentiation between the "Corporate" and "Consumer" markets doesn't change. "Advertising," moreover, has nothing to do with it--except on the Consumer side, which is far less important a market to Microsoft than it is to Google and Yahoo.

Microsoft is not the only one making this mistake. I already got confronted with the same issue, people asking me about the required number of users necessary to make equal advertisement revenue as today on software licenses. It's understandable, because there is more attention for the growing online advertisement market and companies successfully exploiting this than there is attention for companies with a successful business model on pay cloud services.
Still the question doesn't make sense, because the current software license market is much larger than the online advertisement market. The online advertisement market is growing faster, but won't pass he market value for software licenses in the next decade..

We just need to be aware of this.... and let Microsoft make this mistake....

Kick Off 2008

It's already a week in February and finally the first post of the year. I've already been 3 weeks on the road this year.. and for a strange reason I'm not able to write from a hotel room. Travel on the other hand is also a good inspiration source.... a new environment helps to see things differently.. and travel often involves a lot of waiting... what are good moments to put your thoughts in order.

Many of the things I've been working on are related to community and social computing in a business environment. The success of Social networking in the consumer space is evident, but many, me inclusive, are still searching how this can be beneficial in business software.
Lets put it like this... Social Networking makes the web more social... and thus a better place... Business Software will transform to Business Services, preferably hosted in the social and better web...

... I will more regularly update on the topic..