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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Lessons from a Business Focused CIO of an SMB

Jagdeep RandawaI first met Jag Randhawa at Dell World. It was a meeting organized by Dell Analyst Relations to showcase Dell’s Cloud Business Applications. Unbeknownst to Dell Analyst Relations, we hardly discussed Dell. What struck me immediately was his smiling demeanor and an earnest desire to be a champion of business innovation and his views on what IT could do to spur growth through employee involvement and implementing new technology ideas.

We re-connected, ten months later at his office.

Jag Randhawa is the VP of IT at CAMICO Mutual Insurance Company, an SMB with slightly less than 100 employees. And he is the quintessential CIO who loves his job, his company and his fellow colleagues. He also showers high praise on Dell’s customer intimacy, likes VMware’s virtualization solutions and embraces Open source.

Specifically, he uses Dell for Network, Switches, PCs, Servers, Storage and is purchasing Microsoft Software. From VMWare, he uses their server virtualization technologies and software like VMotion and inventory management software for managing all the VM servers.

Cloud Focus

His is a Dell shop, to the extent that he has replaced all existing storage and security solutions with those from Dell. He and his IT team of twelve do not work with any channel partners. His philosophy – whichever applications that can be pushed to the cloud without compromising security of his customer data, just do it. And he has done it; CAMICO is using 12 cloud applications which are:

    1. SalesForce.com – Sales Management

 

    1. SilverPop – Marketing Automation

 

    1. Nexure – Agency Management Solution

 

    1. Acuity – Legal Partners Expense Management

 

    1. DocuSign – Electronic Signature

 

    1. LearnLive – Webinar Broadcasting and Training

 

    1. ADP/HCM – Payroll and Human Capital Management

 

    1. Skype – IM and Video

 

    1. Paypal and Total Biller Solution – Credit Card Payment Gateways

 

    1. Concur - Travel Expense Management

 

    1. RingCentral – Telephony

 

    1. MailRoute – Email Spam Filter



Business Perspective Focus

To increase employee engagement and help grow the business, he created a Bottom-up Innovation Program at CAMICO, in which employees submit ideas to grow the top-line, increase operational efficiencies, improve customer service, enhance business processes, and reduce cost. This program has generated many valuable ideas, and as a result he is embarking on two of his most ambitious business focused IT projects.

    1. Using Open Source for eCommerce solutions

 

    1. Developing a Big Data Proof of Concept



Both of the projects are still in infancy stage and they are both being developed using Open Source. To explain further on the eCommerce solution initiative, he says, “We currently host our website and members-only extranet using Oracle Portal, and now we are planning to use Drupal for our website and another open source software for extranet, which is yet to be determined. Our website and extranet also have eCommerce capabilities embedded in it, so we will be porting our eCommerce into this new Open Source portal”.

He is most excited about the big data project which is his initiative to provide actionable insights and perspectives for the business management at CAMICO. When I asked him about the key objective of working on a big data project, he said, “We are experimenting with Big Data using many of the Open Source software to analyze and find correlations among loss trends. The first objective is to find loss causes in our current data and subsequently use these findings to better underwrite future risks.”

Employee Engagement Focus

As mentioned earlier, The Bottom-up Innovation Program was his brain child. The program encourages all employees to submit ideas that could add value to customers or the business. Employees observe their environment, listen to customers, and bring their outside experiences as consumers to generate ideas that could benefit the company or customers. These ideas are validated, refined and prioritized by a committee of fellow employees. For every accepted and implemented idea, employees are recognized for their contributions through intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. This program makes employees more an integral part of the company, thereby increasing employee engagement and retention. The program has become such a success that he is invited to speak at several industry events for the benefit of other organizations. He not only speaks about the concept but also explains the implementation mechanics and expected outcomes of the program.

Overcoming business challenges

Similar to most other CIOs, he and his team have a long list of IT initiatives but the top four initiatives for 2014 and beyond are:

    1. Replace Website, Members-Only and eCommerce platform

 

    1. Use Big Data for analyzing current and future risks

 

    1. Move more infrastructure solutions into the cloud

 

    1. Build targeted Mobile solutions



But there are enough challenges that his team (he detests the word “staff”) has to overcome. As per Jag, the biggest challenge for any IT department is money and talent. He elaborates on his statement, “There is never enough money to do everything we want to do. However in my view, if there is a business justification for an expense, money is never an issue. The definition of business justification is, for every dollar spent how much money the new solution is going to make or save? There are times when you cannot find direct or immediate benefits, so you have to find creative ways to show value and sell new ideas. Cloud applications make it easier to try new solutions without heavy upfront commitment”. To qualify, he quickly states that the big data project was unscripted and not budgeted but he was able to create a business value which catapulted it to be among the top four IT initiatives.

Business Focused CIO

He is very clear in his mind that there has never been a better time to be a CIO. And he has a message for other IT leaders, “Technology has become an integral part of the business. IT leaders should always be thinking of how they can leverage technology to create competitive advantage, grow the business and create operational efficiencies.” As if on cue, he recites what he practices:

    1. Partner with business peers. Look for ways to help them achieve their goals faster using technology.

 

    1. There is no IT project; every project is a business initiative. If you want funding for any initiative, figure out how it adds value to the business.

 

    1. Find partners who will help you showcase the value of technology.

 

    1. Above all, build credibility with your peers by providing excellent service.



Way to go.

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Next big thing for SMBs: Need for Enterprise Performance Management

CRM has become a core application for businesses and we have already seen that Sales Force Automation and Marketing Automation functions have been quickly incorporated along with Business Intelligence.  All of these can use the same or linked tables to provide a 360 degree view of the sales and marketing process. However, today, we have finally come to a place where it should be easy enough for SMBs to plan and execute business strategy using a structured performance management system, like the Balanced Scorecard. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be a standard part of the application architecture as should a meta-directory of KPIs that all applications can access.  To measure the effectiveness of Sales, Marketing, Operations, and industry-specific activities, each area should have standard metrics and access to benchmark data that lets the SMB know how they are doing compared to peers, but rather than only using historical data it should be based on forward-looking objectives (leading indicators) that are tied directly or indirectly to activities designed to ultimately improve financial results. SMBs are seriously interested in measuring elusive objectives like Return on Marketing Investment, Optimal Pricing, Cost of Acquisition, Lifetime Customer Value. They want integrated applications that can not only measure these objectives but also be able to optimize effectively.  This is what we call the Enterprise Performance Management (EPM).

For EPM applications to be really effective, they should be able to collect data from all applications and break into several areas; for people, productivity should be monitored through activity and results (as it already is in the new generation of SaaS applications), and effectiveness of software and equipment should be measured through algorithms that follow click paths, analyze application usage, optimize the process flow and usability of the systems. In some cases, like network optimization, filtering potential employees and ecommerce, systems should optimize themselves and human intervention should only be required when something is way outside the parameters defined by the administrator – who may increasingly be the LOB management.

With the EPM (Enterprise Performance Management) system SMBs will have a new attitude and culture that values and uses data visualization as the quickest way to gauge overall performance and specific areas of interest at a glance.

Most SMBs that have used CRM and ERP systems within the past few years are familiar with the dashboards that are available with many of these applications, either embedded or purchased separately. We believe that Dashboards will continue to evolve and be dynamic in several ways; the way they use data from subsystems like ecommerce and other real time feed sources, the way users can personalize the layout of their dashboards. Similarly, within the EPM, the actual KPIs should be dynamic and have the ability to build KPIs “on-the-fly” by calculating variables on the screen and saving the result in a meta-repository for all to use. It will have to become the norm.

While several SaaS vendors allow this kind of metric building and start the user at a dashboard, we have yet to see anything targeted to the mid-market or SMBs that connects the performance across front office, production, fulfillment and customer service. NetSuite does it to some extent almost out of the box. The market has to catch up. While this level of functionality is an excellent target, small businesses can probably get by with a good understanding of leads, opportunities, customers, invoicing, billing and customer service (or the appropriate subset) by integrating together several applications from different IT vendors. But the need for EPM is genuine and the industry has to quickly design solutions to empower SMBs with enterprise-level EPM technology at an affordable price.

 

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Oracle takes the plunge with Eloqua – Techaisle Take

We have covered Marketing Automation as a major topic, especially through the Techaisle SMB Marketing Automation Study conducted in US, UK, Germany and several blog posts, commenting on the rapid growth and consolidation in the market. In one fell swoop Oracle is now addressing a US$3.5 billion opportunity in the US by 2015 and US$6.0 billion opportunity globally.

Oracle’s announcement that it would acquire Eloqua for $871M, a leading Marketing Automation vendor, seems a little odd at first, mainly because majority of Eloqua’s customers are said to be using Salesforce.com as their CRM platform, and because Oracle competes with Siebel-on-Demand and recently released its’ own Fusion CRM product.

In the typical Oracle fashion of acquiring existing market leaders, i.e. Siebel Systems, PeopleSoft and JDE, Oracle snatched up another jewel for the Ellison crown, apparently valuing B2B and Enterprise-level functionality over SMB and Social Media Marketing automation that have been the focus of arch-rival Salesforce.com. It also sends a message to Redmond, whose recent acquisition of MarketingPilot seems to offer a substantial list of features and functions, but does not carry the weight of Eloqua’s brand. In the short term, it kind of looks like a mixed bag; the repercussions of the purchase seem to revolve along these areas:

SMB Customers:

1)     Oracle says they will continue to support third party applications, but they have a huge vested interest in on-premise CRM in Siebel and other solutions that will compete for resources,

2)     Enterprise customers who still have a staff to manage applications may be open to another level of integration with a combined Fusion/Eloqua/Siebel offer, but for those SMBs already on SFDC, it is very unlikely that there would be a compelling reason to move from SaaS to an on-premise model; getting away from capital purchases, IT headcount, maintenance fees and software upgrades was the main reason for going with Salesforce.com from the beginning. Same for those who are already managing their marketing campaigns and customer communication programs using Eloqua; it is hard to take that away without some revenue risk and employee dissatisfaction.

3)      In a recent Techaisle survey, 77% of SMBs interviewed stated they were looking for vendors to reduce complexity. The type and level of integration of Eloqua into the larger Siebel suite will either make things more or less complicated depending on the approach taken by product managers to create a seamless experience.

Competitors:

4)     Oracle denies access to Eloqua’s technology to Salesforce.com, which would have been a very good fit both in terms of customer acquisition/migration and start up culture. This may well be the most important (short-term) advantage gained by Oracle. This moves Marketo, SliverPop and others up the ladder as the large independents in the space, with Hubspot and Marketo obvious next-in-line M&A targets, in a market that has seen scores of start-ups, mergers and acquisitions over the past few years.

5)     Despite a 30% premium paid by Oracle for Eloqua ($23/share over the market $17), there is already a class action suit alleging that the board should have shopped a buyer more aggressively, suggesting a $27 price as more reasonable. No comment.

6)     Over the longer term the implications are larger in a market that is moving fast, which will be influenced increasingly by Big Data, Automation and Optimization -  Enterprise capabilities to compete with the big players like IBM,  Salesforce.com and  SAP, who will be bringing competition and automation to a new level in the next few years. A recent Wikibon Post is a good example of how hardware and software are evolving to meet these emerging real time challenges. The post describes how fast the bar is rising in optimization in general and online advertising in particular:

“Many commercial Web publishers make space available on their Web pages for banner and display advertisements. Typically, when a user opens such a Web page, the browser reaches out to an online ad exchange network and requests an ad unit to serve to that user. The ad exchange broadcasts this information, often enriched with behavior data specific to the user in question, to multiple advertisers. Each advertiser compares the information against its internal ad inventory and existing ad campaigns to determine what that ad impression is "worth" to them. It then decides whether to place a bid and at what amount. Bids are returned to the ad exchange, which determines who the highest bidder is and delivers the winning advertisement.”
- Wikibon


Online Advertising Forecast, Kleiner PerkinsAll without noticeable lag to the user. These are the kind of industrial strength capabilities that are on the way as the market compounds at almost 130%, dominated by Mobile spending as devices grow by the hundreds of millions, as shown in this Kleiner-Perkins forecast.

Who’s Next?

So in our opinion this is a significant acquisition for Oracle, mainly because Eloqua has a strong base of satisfied users and a strong brand, and strong technology that can be applied to Oracle’s stack in the long run. The $871M price tag was not enough to prevent a lawsuit for some shareholders, but represents a sizable investment for Oracle as they strive to define the ultimate Customer-Centric, Multi-Channel Relationship Management platform in their race against the large horizontal vendors in the space (IBM, SAP, SAS, Google, Teradata).  To this end Oracle has acquired eight companies in the last two years (ATG, FatWire. Endeca, RightNow, Inquira, Vitrue, Collective Intellect, and finally with this announcement, Eloqua). The scope of what used to be called the “360ᴼ customer perspective” has evolved to include pre-sales, sales, post-sales, customer service and lifetime customer value application components, with a relentless push to automate and integrate each piece of the puzzle.

In the wake of this acquisition, an obvious question is who's next? As mentioned earlier, Marketo is an obvious choice, as are Silverpop Hubspot, Responsys, and others.  Will SFDC respond in kind or continue to focus on the lower end of the market and Social Media acquisitions? Regardless, we think 2013 will continue to see a rich market for Marketing Automation M&A activity, following two years that have seen scores of transactions in the space.

 

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SMBs Using Cloud Applications Experiencing Terrific Improvements

Techaisle’s SMB Cloud Adoption survey shows that SMBs that are using Cloud applications are experiencing tremendous improvement in customer acquisition, retention and work satisfaction. In fact, 1 in 4 SMBs say that customer retention has improved, and nearly 1 in 3 says that customer acquisition has improved.


In general SMBs have experienced improved customer acquisition and retention after using cloud applications, however, SBs (1-99 employees) and MBs (100-999 employees) differ. Typically, SBs are more hard-pressed to acquire customers, a top business issue for them. With the adoption of cloud, 32 percent SBs say that they have seen improvement. MBs on the other hand, have better direct sales force for customer acquisition, but after equipping the sales force and marketing with cloud applications they have seen marked improvement in customer retention. Additionally, an important point to note is that 29 percent of SBs have reported improved group productivity and 34 percent improved employee satisfaction.

The survey also showed that B2C and B2B SMBs have had different experiences in customer acquisition and retention.  Specifically, B2B SMBs have reported nearly twice as high improved experiences as B2C SMBs. Many B2C SMBs are using social media platforms such as Facebook and twitter and marketing automation solutions to build a set of followers to improve their customer retention and acquisition. On the other hand, comparatively higher percentage of B2B SMBs are using LinkedIn, Twitter and specialized platforms such as Chatter, Yammer and GageIn to track news and conversations with their customersaction.


CRM has become the central application and the core around which other features and functionality are deployed as required by an SMB organization, department within an SMB or an individual user within the SMB. CRM is that core cloud business application. After the SMB CRM base has been built (or simultaneously), the order of implementation depends on the SMB’s focus but is likely to be business intelligence, marketing automation, Financials, HR/Payroll, customer service for service companies, ERP, fulfillment (SCM) and industry vertical applications.


There are four key areas of SMB cloud usage and deployment. Each has got many sub-sets of applications. These four areas are:

  1. Infrastructure and Platforms (US$13.0 Billion SMB Opportunity by 2016)

  2. Communications and Collaboration (US$7.9 Billion SMB Opportunity by 2016)

  3. Business productivity & Applications (US$15.5 Billion SMB Opportunity by 2016)

  4. Industry specific applications ((US$2.7 Billion SMB Opportunity by 2016)


While there are many niche vendors addressing each niche area, the complexity grows manifold as businesses move from one application to another, from one device to multiple devices. As Cloud computing adoption among SMBs grows, the real issue of data integration continues to come into play and it will become imperative for each of the four areas to communicate with the other. And once that “integration enlightenment” happens SMBs will witness even higher improvements in productivity, satisfaction, acquisition and retention.

Anurag Agrawal
Techaisle
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