Is Cloud Computing Secure for Financial Services Industry?

Cloud Computing for Financial ServicesMy recent article for Seeking Alpha predicts a significant uptick in cloud adoption in financial services, thanks to the arrival of industry-focused cloud providers,  improving trust in cloud security, and a bunch of other factors.  Not everyone agrees. Dissenters argue that cloud security cannot be trusted.

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Here is an excerpt from one of the comments on the article:

“As a communications programmer, I tell you that most customers have not fully realized the risks inherent in the current implementations of multi-tenant cloud computing. Those can be cleaned up eventually, but they CAN NOT BE CLEANED UP COST EFFECTIVELY. The encryption required means non-trivial CPU usage. So, you’re faced with either doing whatever you’re doing insecurely, or doing it with dedicated hardware. The multi-tenant, elastic model is simply broken from a security and efficiency perspective.”

This is a typical argument we hear from old school IT or legacy vendors such as Oracle. They tell you multitenancy is bad for you, either because they haven’t upgraded their skills (and are fighting to save their jobs) or because they want to sell you dedicated hardware.  CPU power is commoditized and getting cheaper every day, so the “non-trivial CPU usage” claim doesn’t hold water.

In fact, I realized that the case against cloud security now rests heavily on the recent hacking incidents, as some of these comments suggest:

“Target and others are just beginning to learn how difficult it is to do security correctly even on dedicated closed systems.”

“… the most critical data needs to be kept inhouse. The recent string of hacking cases against Target, Niemen-Marcus, and Michael’s should demonstrate that to everybody.”

Clearly, Target’s data was kept inhouse and secured by their internal IT.  Turned out that wasn’t the best security, after all.  Another person, who commented on the article, highlighted the irony:

“The irony here, regarding financial services organizations, is that they are breached constantly. I’ve had every major credit card I own compromised in the past 18 months. These banks also have more down time due to weather, outages, failed upgrades, etc than would never be accepted in the public cloud.

If you understand how public clouds like Amazon Web Services handle availability, you wouldn’t be concerned about outages. For an in house or on premise service to have the same type of capabilities related to availability is cost prohibitive. Banks are already severely wasteful with their data center resources.

The primary reasons banks haven’t moved to public cloud yet is more around Public Relations, sunk investments in under-utilized, owned infrastructure, and, well, complacency.”

Security arguments notwithstanding, Gartner asserts more than 60 percent of banks worldwide will process the majority of their transactions in the cloud by 2016.  Ovum claims capital markets will accelerate their adoption of cloud this year.  And Oracle’s CEO declares that its main rivals are no longer IBM and SAP, but instead they’re Amazon and Salesforce .

All of this suggests that despite the security concerns, the cloud is gathering momentum within the industry. If you are seeing a different trend, would love to hear from you.

Alok Misra

 

 

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Are Private Equity Deal Makers Seeing Increased Competition?

“Competition is heating up in the world of private equity,” says William Alden in his Dealbook article.  According to him, private equity executives are noticing an increase in competition for deals in the last year or so. Several say that, in the face of competing bids, they have been forced to sit on the sidelines more often than they would like.

Is this competition primarily due to low interest rates and generous bank financing, as the article suggests?  To a certain extent, that is true. However, there are other important factors at play, that may be worth exploring, as well.

To quote the article further:

“We’ve been a little less active than we would have liked to have been in the last 18 months,” Joseph Baratta, the global head of private equity at the Blackstone Group, said at a venture capital and private equity conference. “We’re not finding that edge. We’re being a little more disciplined on that value metric.”

Like Mr. Baratta, Candice Szu, a senior vice president at the Carlyle Group, emphasized the importance of finding an “edge” in competitive situations. That often means bringing a particular expertise in an effort to make an offer more compelling, she said. “It’s something we always ask ourselves: What can we bring to the table that’s a little different?”

Why do Blackstone and Carlyle need an “edge,” one may ask?  Firms like these traditionally had unmatched resources and reach which, in the past, helped them uncover deals that others couldn’t.  However, that has changed.  Today, smaller private equity funds are also able to get to the same opportunities, thanks to social media and specialized deal marketplaces (such as Navatar Deal Connect).  Smaller funds are getting savvy at securing a large inflow of deals and becoming efficient at processing  them rapidly, thanks to the latest cloud-based tools and databases, that can easily match or exceed the infrastructure of larger firms.  Armed with the new tools, they are able to level the playing field with a more “personalized” approach, causing larger players to have to find an “edge” to compete.

A good example of how smaller firms are competing, is outlined by Martin Stein (Managing Director at Blackford Capital), in this webinar.  Blackford, a middle market private equity firm focused on manufacturing & distribution, has mastered the science behind widening their reach to get in front of the right deals.

In addition, there are margin pressures, as the article points out.  Private equity managers must find cheap investments at a time when stocks are near historic highs.

Though private equity firms will continue to hunt for bargains, returns may not be as high in the future as they have been in the past, David M. Rubenstein, a co-founder and co-chief executive of Carlyle, said in a keynote speech on Sunday.

“The days of getting fabulously rich in private equity may be a little bit behind us,” Mr. Rubenstein said.

Are the low returns a temporary phenomenon, due to interest rates and other factors? Or are they here to stay? I’m no private equity guru, so I will leave that to the experts.

But I do believe that competition can’t be all that bad.  It may lead to better times ahead, for the industry.

Alok Misra

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Vertical Cloud Computing Providers Arrive for Financial Services Industry

Salesforce For Financial Services

Cloud Computing Predictions for 2014

The cloud’s main story so far has been one of horizontal providers, such as salesforce.com, Microsoft and Amazon, offering one-size-fits-all solutions.  While these providers had some success in the financial services sector, their products weren’t specialized enough to address the need of asset managers or bankers.

The advent of vertical SaaS providers is the topic of my latest article, Will 2014 be the Year of Vertical Clouds, written for Wired.  Even though they’re a young market today, expect to see a larger number of these vertical cloud providers getting scale and attention, in 2014.

In the days before the cloud, on-premise software providers that focused on selling into a vertical market were considered second-class citizens to the ‘big guns’ selling into the broader horizontal marketplace. However, with the advent of the SaaS model, the tables have turned,” according to Gordon Ritter of Emergence Capital.

Which is great news for the financial industry, since we will see vertical providers going very deep even in niche areas that which most people thought didn’t exist, or weren’t sizable enough.  For instance, Navatar provides products for corporate venture funds and corporate development groups, a market few software providers had historically paid any attention to.

As I have pointed out in the article, vertical cloud providers go deep to address the needs within their market – much deeper than a one-size-fits-all provider would. They act as a one-stop-shop for their customers. Navatar, for instance, provides wealth managers with CRM from salesforce.com, content sharing from Box, and data from custodians, portfolio management and reporting systems — all bundled into one offering. Not only do these solutions provide a competitive advantage for financial firms, but they also reduce spend on IT staff.

We may see a huge influx of vertical providers, and a lot of lame lemmings and road kill. A vertical cloud provider’s success will depend on their ability to fully address their market’s needs as opposed to offering a piecemeal solution or an easily replaceable solution. Equally important, their survival will depend on how well they support their customers (customers are becoming more aware of their increased clout in the cloud and getting more demanding and less forgiving).

But, we will surely see some great companies emerge. So far, the future looks promising.

Alok Misra

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Are You Using an Older Version of Salesforce.com’s Service?

The answer is - it isn’t possible.  ”No one’s ever on an old version of Salesforce.com because Salesforce.com is multitenant, that is everybody shares the same servers, so when those servers are upgraded, everybody’s upgraded.”

So naturally, when a perplexed customer asked me whether “Navatar runs on an older version of Salesforce,” I became very curious about what could have prompted that question.

When the customer revealed that a consulting firm had advised him about Navatar being on an older version, the mystery began to unfold.  Basically, consultants and systems integrators make money customizing software. Some of them don’t like Navatar’s pre-built software for financial firms (built on the Salesforce platform) since it reduces the hours they can bill to a customer. To steer the customer away from off-the-shelf products, they feed false information so they can make money re-inventing the wheel.

This happens often, since the cloud, still in its infancy, is a bit like the wild west. Fortune hunters, such as consultants fixated on their billable hours or software salespeople obsessed with their commissions, sometimes discover easy money by planting fear or simply distorting facts. … when that happens, it is the customer who often loses.

The customer loses because they walk away with the impression that reinventing the wheel is a better and easier option. They end up spending a phenomenal amount of time engaged in system implementation, instead of their core business – in addition to paying thousands of dollars for consulting and support services that are redundant or available for free in the cloud world (see my InformationWeek post:  How to Reduce IT Services Costs in the Cloud).  But their frustration really peaks when, even after all the spending and distraction, they never get a system that meets their needs. They are then left with two difficult options:

a) changing course – switching to a pre-built product, which requires writing off the time/money spent on system implementation (it also requires someone willing to acknowledge their mistake, which is probably a bigger challenge)

b) continuing the reinvention process – assuming, somehow, that they are close to the finish line and finding a different consultant with the hope they can somehow salvage their investment (which inevitably requires throwing more good money after bad).

How to avoid getting into this situation? Read on.

So, should I reinvent the wheel?

Even though there will always be con-artists, having choices isn’t a bad thing. Customers need to be aware of some simple facts that can lead to an informed decision, when they choose between buy versus build, a standard IT industry concept. Build refers to buying some generic software or platform and then using it to build the functionality you need – you also then need to continue maintaining and supporting whatever you build. Companies usually go the build route when they believe their business processes are so unique that they cannot fit any packaged product – some large companies also choose to build since they are heavily invested in their IT organizations that like building systems. A company will buy commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software, instead of building, if they believe 75-80% of their needs can be met by it (read more about buy vs. build in this article). So, both buy and build are valid options, suited to different types of scenarios.

The cloud offers options between buy and build.  For instance, Salesforce provides a top notch cloud (and CRM) platform, which is sold directly by them as well as by other resellers and OEM partners, through AppExchange and other channels. You can find so many products on AppExchange that can provide you what you need – if not, you can also try to build it yourself using the Salesforce platform (or other cloud platforms). Not every product can be replicated using the build process, but given time and money, quite a few of them can.

When it comes to build, there are plenty of available statistics around the value provided by software development projects. According to Standish Group (Chaos Report), 68% of all software development projects are unsuccessful. Mercer Consulting’s Firoz Dosani claims 80% of technology projects actually cost more than they return. In the cloud, the build success percentages may be better – but so are the number of buy options available to you.

The statistics notwithstanding, if you choose to build in a cloud environment, you have to be ready to spend (at a minimum) the next 6-12 months working with consultants (or IT staff) – and then hope your investment will pay off. All this time you will be spending your time thinking about what your system should be doing, how it should be modified, how to generate reports, etc – and if you do get a system that does what you want, you will also need to figure out how to support and maintain it.

That said, if reinventing the wheel still seems tempting, it’s most probably due to one (or more) of these reasons below:

1.   You believe your business processes are very unique - you’re convinced, after careful analysis, that other businesses similar to yours operate in a very different way and no off-the-shelf product comes close to matching the way you do business.

2.   You have to deal with complex integrations - you have to integrate the new system to several of your internal systems, before it can provide any value.

3.   You are an IT person who loves to build - you are not scared of writing software or you find building to be a fun activity or you believe doing it yourself will make your job secure.

4.   You have assumed that building is very straightforward - you have been told that building is simply a matter of a few mouse-clicks, while enjoying a couple of beers – or a consultant has convinced you that building can save you a lot of money.

5.   You’re worried about the viability of the COTS provider - you like the off-the-shelf product but are concerned about the risks of the provider going out of business.

6.   Someone with credibility has badmouthed the buy option - this is exactly what happened in the example above.

If your reason is #1 or #2, you may not have much choice but to build - the best option then may be to hire a good consulting firm who can provide proper guidance. But remember – good consultants don’t reinvent wheels. Stay away from the type that I described in the example above and hire a firm that has credibility in your industry.

If your reason is #3, you may have made your decision already. Assuming that your job will remain secure in case the build project doesn’t deliver as expected, at least you’ll have fun doing what you love.

If your reason is #4, you will do yourself a huge favor by assessing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of what you are about to do, to understand what it would really take to build and maintain the system. You will need to understand the time and money involved in requirement gathering, building, modifying, training, supporting etc, over a period of time (there are several simple TCO models available). It won’t take you more than 30 minutes to understand the TCO, if you can spare that time.

If your reason is #5, you have to understand that in the cloud world you’re not really buying software – you’re only paying for a year’s usage, so your real risk isn’t that of losing your investment; the only risk is the additional cost of migrating to another system, which is usually lower than that of reinventing the wheel. Generally speaking, if the provider has been around for more than 3 years and has more than 100 customers, you should be on solid ground.

If your reason is #6, you can test the credibility of whoever advises you against buying, by asking them to put their assertions in an email. If you never see that email, you will know that they are not acting in your interest.

It’s really about TCO

When it comes to choosing a cloud-based product, there are a number of factors to be considered (which I will cover in a later post). At a minimum, the product fit and the total cost of ownership (TCO) are important. Most customers are able to assess whether a product fits their needs – it’s their inability to estimate TCO upfront is what steers them away from their core business, into the messy world of systems integration. It shouldn’t be that way.  As Robert X. Cringely observes:

Unless you are operating a software company, software should not be central to the way you view your business. It’s just a means to an end. And to be classed as truly successful, the means should be quietly efficient and as close to invisible as you can get.” 

Alok Misra

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Strategic Buyers Increase Media M&A Activity On Navatar Deal Connect

According to a survey released today by M&A firm AdMedia Partners, an overwhelming majority (81 percent) of senior executives at leading content, marketing services and marketing technology companies believe mergers and acquisitions by strategic buyers in the industry will rise in the coming year.

We are beginning to see it unfold.  Just a few days ago, Atlanta based Cox Media sold three Connecticut radio stations to Connoisseur Media in Westport, CT.  Inside Radio reports on FCC filings that show Cox is also selling stations in Alabama, South Carolina, Hawaii and Virginia to Summit Media and private equity firm High Point Summit.

Cox Media also started using Navatar Corporate Development CRM service last July, after the company announced a new strategy focused on larger markets, cross market collaboration and heightened impact in fewer markets.  They are clearly executing that strategy.

Continue Reading →

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Cloud Computing & Salesforce Expands Into Financial Services Firms

Susan Wright of Investment Underground interviewed me about the rapid increase in the adoption of cloud computing on Wall Street. Yes, it’s happening. It’s not surprising since financial firms have never been afraid of new technologies. What has also helped us is the fact that traditional software providers tend to be cloud-averse. As I said in the interview:

Our competitors are mostly on premise software providers, who charge insane amounts of money for software from 2 generations ago. Their products were not created for today’s interactive internet and social media world – in fact, it is very hard to modify them. If a user wants a report, you cannot just quickly generate it – you have to pay the vendor $15000 to $20000 in services fees to develop a report for you. There are very high implementation and support fees involved.

The other set of competitors we have are consultants that convince financial firms that their problem is very unique and no off-the-shelf product will fit their needs. They make tons of money reinventing the wheel at the customer’s expense.

However, it’s our value proposition that is compelling for these firms. To quote from the interview:

Our customers love our products because they’re out-of-the-box, based on a pay-as-you-go model and are fully supported by industry experts. They are very flexible, reporting is easy, and the products can be used from mobile devices. And, they are built on Salesforce, the cloud computing leader, so the customer data doesn’t sit on the servers of some local provider. It is as secure as it gets.

Even more importantly, cloud computing and multitenancy enables continuous improvement of the products. Customers get free upgrades as the products improve.

In addition, I think salesforce.com has done a fantastic job of eliminating most of the apprehensions around data security – they have made our job much easier.

To read the full interview, please click on the link below:

Cloud Computing Takes Shape Over Wall Street

Alok Misra

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Private Equity Deal Sourcing & M&A Relationships Are About Quantity in a Cloud Computing World

My investment banker buddy at Morgan Stanley insists that dealmaking has always been about fewer quality relationships, and will remain so.

Not everyone agrees, though. An increasing number of dealmakers today are taking a very different approach to relationship building. These savvy private equity or strategic buyers approach intermediary relationships as more of a science than art. They are investing their efforts in building much larger and efficient networks, to compete for deals in the fast-paced age of cloud computing and social media.

The “old way” of doing business, for private equity buyers/sellers, was centered around maintaining 100-200 closely held relationships with intermediaries. A lot of nurturing went into these relationships – frequent phone calls, meetings & lunches required a significant investment of time.  ”Word of mouth” was usually the way to learn about and be introduced to new intermediaries.

In the new online world, “quantity” is the key to success. Today’s dealmakers maintain 5,000 – 10,000 intermediary relationships that they can easily initiate using online deal marketplaces (such as Navatar Deal Connect). The time they spend on each relationship is really minimal – some of them only make 5 minute phone calls to each intermediary 2-3 times a year. Instead, they use email blasts and social media tools such as twitter and linkedin to communicate regularly and use cloud-based CRM such as Navatar Private Equity or Navatar M&A to manage the communication, relationships and the resulting deal flow.

At the end, intermediary relationships are still critical. What is changing is the efficiency needed to manage a much larger number of these relationships, to increase the deal flow correspondingly.  Maybe it’s not as important for some of the larger players, who have their own worldwide networks – but for smaller firms, the new order is a necessity.

Ask Martin Stein, Managing Director of Blackford Capital, who has been one of the pioneers of this new approach. In this recorded webinar, The New Rules of Private Equity, Martin provides a lot of metrics around these efficiencies and how a firm’s deal sourcing efforts can benefit from them. According to him, one big advantage of this approach is that a smaller firm, with limited resources, can have the ability to compete with much larger players, for similar deals.

Intermediaries are also taking notice. After all, they are the ones that may be able to push this change faster.

Alok Misra

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How Salesforce CRM Helps Private Equity Funds Improve Deal Sourcing & Portfolio Performance

The private equity business requires a lot of focus – focus on fundraising, on finding the right deals, on company performance – before it can deliver successful returns for its limited partners.

Distractions can be plenty.  Martin Stein, Managing Director of Blackford Capital, who is one of the most tech-savvy private equity professionals, discusses some of these issues in a new video. He outlines why focus is so critical in the private equity world.

Martin has been one of the early adopters of cloud technologies and social media, deploying Navatar Private Equity CRM, which is built on the Salesforce platform, at Blackford Capital 3-4 years ago. Blackford Capital is a private investment firm that acquires, manages, and grows middle-market manufacturing, distribution, and service companies. Blackford also uses Navatar Deal Connect for deal sourcing and building intermediary relationships.

According to Martin, the cloud has helped Blackford Capital focus their time and efforts a lot less on deal sourcing, so they can allocate more time towards their portfolio companies. He adds:

In the end, it is finding a good deal and managing that deal effectively that allows us to drive higher returns for our LPs.” 

In addition to the video, do not miss the recorded webinar, The New Rules of Private Equity, with Martin Stein, to learn about the detailed metrics that Blackford uses to improve operating performance. When it comes to focus, Martin is one of the pros in the business.

Alok Misra

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Is Oracle’s Cloud Multitenant? Does It Matter?

Meg Bear of Oracle, who manages their Cloud Social Platform, hammered multitenancy in her post “Multitenancy and Other Useless Discussions,” on Oracle’s blog.  She says “multitenancy doesn’t matter … in the same way that your VHS player having progressive scan doesn’t matter.” Saying that I disagree with Meg would be an understatement. I casually responded to the post but the Oracle moderators didn’t approve my response (seems like they only allow their own marketing people to comment on their blogs), so let me try to provide a more cogent argument here.

When (prominent) people make claims such as this one, it may either be because they’re old school (and haven’t yet grasped the realities of the cloud) or they’re just making a self-serving statement. Since Oracle has historically taken a consistent stand against multitenancy (see my article O Multitenancy: Will Thy Survive Oracle), I would guess it’s the latter.

So, first let me just say it bluntly. If you’re buying a product which is labeled “cloud” but is not multitenant, you’re simply buying on-premise software. It may still be good software but it is not cloud software. The entire concept of the cloud is based on sharing resources, which is accomplished through multitenancy. My InformationWeek article, “Why Multitenancy Matters in the Cloud,” highlights why a buyer should care about multitenancy.

You cannot compare multitenancy in the cloud to a feature in a VHS player. An apt comparison would be with the concept of an assembly line in manufacturing. What Henry Ford, with the assembly line, gave to the world was a radically efficient way of producing vehicles. The other automakers at that time, who didn’t switch to this model, claimed that it didn’t matter to the car buyer how the operations of a car manufacturing plant were structured, as long as the car had all the desired features (technically, they were correct). In due course, however, each of the automakers was either forced to switch to the assembly line or go out of business, because of all the reasons now apparent to everyone.

Marc Benioff and salesforce.com demonstrated to the world what multitenancy can do – they did to software what Henry Ford did to manufacturing (or Steve Jobs did to mobile computing). If their tremendous success isn’t evidence, wait for a few more years to witness the gradual demise of the traditional software delivery model (that doesn’t mean the traditional vendors won’t fight tooth and nail to convince the world that the cloud and multitenancy don’t matter).

In fact, multitenancy operates at several levels in the cloud world. Salesforce is multitenant and Navatar, another layer of cloud software used by financial firms, which sits on top of Salesforce, is also multitenant. Which means that as and when either Salesforce or Navatar improves, all customers automatically benefit. As more customers sign up, they share the cost, so both Salesforce and Navatar benefit.

So getting back to the Oracle platform, Meg does say that it is also multitenant, but according to her, what really matters is business value, not multitenancy. That’s stating the obvious – of course, no product (even it is a photocopier) can survive if it doesn’t deliver business value. But why the stand against multitenancy?

As, I wrote in my InformationWeek article, “Those who say multitenancy isn’t necessary to making the cloud model work are typically companies that have long made money from on-premise software and don’t want to cannibalize their existing revenues. They might offer a subscription for their single-tenant application, but this could simply be the software license, maintenance, and hosting fees divided into monthly payments which almost certainly would be much higher than a comparable multi-tenant application.”

That may be one explanation – Oracle may prefer to install boxes at every client site, so naturally, they find multitenancy to be a thorn in their side. Another explanantion, as David Linthicum offers in his Infoworld post, “The Silly Debate About Multitenancy,” is that vendors often “find that building multitenant architectures is a much bigger nut to crack than they thought.”  Either way, Linthicum agrees, there should be no debate here: “Cloud computing, both private and public, requires the concept of multitenancy. The traditional providers are welcome in the cloud as long as they can provide multitenancy. If you can’t do it, then don’t try to argue that it’s not needed. Get to work!

As Denis Pombriant observes, IT is over.  As a buyer of a cloud product be aware: If you’re buying a cloud product that isn’t multitenant, you’re buying it from someone who really wants to sell you boxes or consulting or something else – there is a high probability that that product won’t survive the next few years.

Alok Misra

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Navatar Bringing Cloud Computing for Investment Banking & Asset Management to Latin America

Alternative Latin Investor highlights Navatar’s role in bringing the cloud to the capital markets and investment banking world in Latin America, in a recent article.

“Foreign market leaders such as Fidessa, Direct Edge and Navatar are challenging local providers in the race to meet the booming region’s needs,” says the article.

Read the full article here. It goes on to say:

One subsector of the industry in particular is pioneering a new paradigm of easy distribution: cloud computing. One of the leaders in cloud computing for global investment is Navatar, a New York based firm. Their first product line came out 3 years ago, and in the last year sales have more than doubled, giving the company a name recognition that has attracted major international financial firms. The hardware and software with which they serve their clients is hosted by the cloud computing host Salesforce.com.

The major financial firms they are referring to, are names such as PNC and Jefferies. In Latin America, we have customers such as Banco Lafise, a prominent bank. One big reason they like our products is that they never have to go to their IT departments or hire consultants. As the article quotes me:

“Our products are very tailored to the type of asset class,” Alok Misra explains, “But they are also out-of-the-box, so companies don’t have to spend so much on IT and maintenance – it’s all included at no additional cost.”

Another key reason for our success globally is Navatar Deal Connect, the free marketplace for middle market deals – if you’re a dealmaker in Latin America, there is no better way to build relationships in America and Europe – without spending a penny.

Stay tuned for more developments in this exciting region.

Alok Misra.

 

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Webinar – Salesforce CRM Meets Deal Sourcing for Private Equity Funds

Don’t miss this webinar, Deal Sourcing meets Salesforce CRM, to learn how Navatar Deal Connect, integrated with Salesforce, is redefining how private equity operations are managed.

Navatar Deal Connect is the free online marketplace for middle market transactions, used by thousands of dealmakers worldwide. Salesforce CRM helps manage fundraising, investor relations, deal sourcing, deals, portfolio and much more.

Register here.  In this webinar, you will learn how these two critical tools now work together, so you can:

  • Build private connections and interact confidentially on relevant transaction opportunities worldwide, and have those connections and deals be delivered right to your Salesforce CRM
  • Use Salesforce, fully pre-built, for automating investor relations, deal management, deal sourcing, portfolio management as well as secure investor reporting – without paying any extras
  • Quickly benefit with little to no investment, so you can save your precious time and money instead of spending it on subscriptions or software development/maintenance

Register for the webinar here.  Also, feel free to post your thoughts after the webinar.

Alok Misra

 

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Navatar Private Equity CRM and Hedge Fund CRM for Salesforce Cloud Featured in Hedgeweek

Hedgeweek and Private Equity Wire mention the work Navatar is doing in bringing cloud computing to the alternative asset world, in their latest article that they interviewed me for.

“US-based Navatar Group is a leading provider of cloud computing for Wall Street firms, but increasingly that client base is widening out to alternative investment managers as they start to fully appreciate the benefits of cloud systems and how they can streamline their operations.”

We see this as a sector that will be gaining a lot of prominence in the US, given the regulatory changes that are anticipated. However, we have also received significant attention from European firms recently and our customer base across the pond has been growing rapidly. We are working on recruiting resellers in each country so we can provide local support. More on that soon …

But I’m truly happy that only 1 out of 50 prospects now mention data security as a concern (our partner salesforce.com has done an excellent job of alleviating those concerns). I’m excited because it takes us to the next step – opening the door for some game changing innovation, as Greg Johnsen points out in his Wired magazine article, The future belongs to cloud-networked companies.

“We’re only in the second inning of cloud computing. Its most profound impact will not be on reducing total cost of ownership, but rather for enabling powerful, game-changing systems — that were not possible before.

Today’s systems were designed for a world without an internet. They assumed little to no connectivity between or across companies. They were designed for companies, in isolation — not communities or “networks” of companies collaborating together.

To survive, companies must transform themselves from silo-based, inward-facing corporate operators to interconnected, highly agile business network orchestrators. They must leverage newer cloud-based B2B platforms designed specifically for inter-company process orchestration and collaboration on a global scale.

I will be communicating more about the cloud platforms of the future, that we and some of the others have been building (it will take more than just Navatar to bring about this change). So back to Hedgeweek, and as I am quoted in their article:

“As with everything, change only happens when clients realise it’s possible and force the vendors.”

Alok Misra

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Can Salesforce.com or Navatar Help Alternative Assets Avoid Hurricane Sandy Problems?

Hurricane Sandy appears to be heading toward a major area for Private Equity, Hedge Fund and VC’s, the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.  The big storm could bring power outages and flooding along with other damage the beginning of this week.

For those alternative assets firms still relying on on-premise equipment, they have the weekend to work on business continuance issues. We hope that they have data backed up to a remote site with some provision for  employees to work from home by dialing into a remote server using encryption.  If they don’t have a remotely backed site, they need to plan for power issues, lost telephone service  and potential damage to the closet or data center that houses their equipment.

We expect the storm to be less of an issue for firms that are using Cloud computing. For example, in the case of Navatar private equity, hedge fund, M&A along with Corporate M&A and VCclients, their data is stored in more than one location (salesforce.com servers mirrored and backed up across data centers). They can expect to face the loss of power but fortunately battery powered laptops, iPads, iPhones, BlackBerrys and Android devices can bridge the gap until power comes back up. Because of a couple of storms last year, many of the people I know in Connecticut now have generators at their homes that will not only save the food in their freezers but will allow them to work without interruption.  By the way, the Navatar Support Team is geographically dispersed so they will not be affected and available to support customers.

The biggest vulnerability for the Cloud clients is losing access to the Internet. It just takes one tree to take out cable delivered broad band service. Fortunately, there is cellular data coverage as an alternative. Most people have access to more than one smart phone. It might make sense to forgo the family plan and put one of your phones on AT&T and have another member of the family use Verizon or some other service. If you do lose service you still have the option of driving to another location (unless that tree that knocked the wires down happens to be blocking your way).

One situation that’s a challenge for both those with either the on-premise or Cloud model is having the schools closed for week with the kids home. As a private equity executive told me today, that scenario really makes it hard to get work done!

 

 

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Cloud Computing Jobs – Marketing, Sales & Product Management for Navatar’s Products in Salesforce.com’s Cloud

Navatar is hiring in New York and we want to hear from you.

We’re hiring for marketing, sales and product management. You must be an overachiever, that thrives in an entrepreneurial environment. You must have the DNA that drives the faster pace of cloud companies.

You think this may be you or your friend. Then read on:

Marketing manager to lead the marketing team? You’ll work as a key member of our core team and be accountable for developing and driving a strategic marketing plan. You will work closely with the sales team, product team, customer success team, resellers, partners, customers, prospects and PR agencies. You will be defining the messaging and positioning of Navatar products for various markets. You will lead the end to end communication and execution of the marketing plan.

You must have 4-6 years recent experience managing the full marketing lifecycle for a SaaS, or cloud company and at least 2 years experience in lead end to end marketing programs for a specific product. You must have hands-on experience in the development and execution of corporate and customer communications programs as well as communicating across traditional and new social media channels. Knowledge of financial industry may be a plus.

Product Managers to drive the development of Navatar cloud products. You will guide a team that is charged with a product line contribution as a business unit. This extends from increasing the profitability of existing products to developing new products for the company. You will build products from existing ideas, and help to develop new ideas. You must have the ability to create a big-picture vision, the attention to detail required to translate the vision into executable work components and the drive to make that vision a reality. You must enjoy spending time with customers and prospects to understand their problems, and find innovative solutions for the broader market.

You must have 2-6 years experience managing products in a cloud environment – experience with the Salesforce platform/ecosystem will be a big plus. You will have the ability to work with business and technology teams as well as a diverse customer base in multiple countries. Financial services experience desirable.

Account Executives to join our dynamic, high energy sales team. Ideal candidates should possess solid B2B technology sales experience, in a?fast-paced environment. You will be empowered to sell the popular Navatar financial solutions that are used by large and small firms worldwide. You must be smart, ambitious and a quick learner, to take advantage of an opportunity with incredible growth potential.

You must have 2-4 years of quota carrying software sales experience, with a track record of over-achieving quota (top 10-20% of company) in past positions. You will have experience managing sales cycles for a large number of deals, simultaneously. Bachelor Degree required. Experience selling to financial institutions will be a plus.

If you’ve never heard of Navatar, we are a leading provider of cloud computing for Wall Street, with customers in more than 30 countries. Our financial cloud solutions for capital markets, asset management & banking are used by leading banks and financial institutions worldwide, such as PNC Bank, M&T Bank and Jefferies. We are one of the top ISV partners of salesforce.com, and all our products are built in the Salesforce cloud. Navatar is headquartered on Wall Street, New York.

Please email careers@navatargroup.com. Spread the word.

Alok Misra

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Webinar – Navatar Deal Connect – Deal Sourcing – Private Equity Funds & M&A Advisors

The buzz is building.

Don’t miss this webinar, Introduction to Navatar Deal Connect, so you can take advantage of Navatar Deal Connect, the free global online marketplace for collaborating on middle market transactions. Learn how Deal Connect is helping thousands of investment firms, investment bankers & corporate development professionals build private connections and interact confidentially on relevant transaction opportunities worldwide.

Navatar Deal Connect is completely free, not just for sellers but also for buyers – there are no subscription fees or transaction fees. It is integrated with Salesforce CRM, making it easy for you to build connections and collaborate on opportunities.

In this webinar, run by Allan Siegert and Ketan Khandkar, you will learn how to quickly set up your account with preferences and start making connections.

View the webinar here. Also, feel free to post your thoughts.

Alok Misra

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Financial Firms, Salesforce.com and Thumb Drives in Iran

The New York Times today talks about America’s cyber attack on Iran and about duping someone into inserting malicious code. A hard trick because the computers running Iranian centrifuges were physically isolated from the Internet.

“It turns out there is always an idiot around who doesn’t think much about the thumb drive in their hand,” said a plan architect.

The term “idiot” is probably unfair. The people working at a nuclear plant probably are smart but thinking about other things than security. That’s why the ruse was so clever. Who hasn’t received a thumb drive as a promotion and stuck it into a computer without thinking.

The people we work with in private equity are all smart with great educations. Regardless, I expect that some are still keeping your strategic buying targets, your notes and investor lists in Excel. Probably still saving your spreadsheets onto virus vulnerable hard drives and backing up and moving data with thumb drives. Right?

Perhaps one of the partners is at this moment using a thumb drive he/she received as a promotional gift.

As head of sales here, it would be irresponsible not to say that you would be safer with Navatar and by having your data stored securely, mirrored and backed up in the salesforce.com Cloud. That way, only you have the logins and the ability to access your data.

So, think twice about that thumb drive. Talk to us about upgrading to Navatar.

Allan Siegert

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Webinar – How Cloud Computing & Salesforce.com are Setting New Rules for Private Equity

Do not miss this recently recorded and well attended webinar, “The New Rules for Private Equity Firms” with Martin Stein, one of my favorite speakers.

With a more competitive private equity environment, it’s often challenging for smaller firms to match the resources and reach of larger firms. Whether it’s getting the right deal flow, building better LP relationships or managing portfolio companies, smaller firms have had to work much harder.

However, this is changing – cloud computing and social media are leveling the playing field. In this webinar, Martin Stein of Blackford Capital, a private equity pioneer, outlines how smaller private equity firms are becoming equally important players in the private marketplace.

In this live session with Ketan Khandkar, Martin explores the answers to these important questions:

- What smaller firms need to do to differentiate themselves in today’s markets?
- How cloud and social media will transform intermediary/LP relationships and deal flow?
- How cloud computing is providing competitive advantage as well as eliminating IT costs?

View the webinar here. Also, feel free to post your comments and ideas.

Alok Misra

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Will India Produce Indigenous Cloud Computing Providers?

The interest level around cloud computing is already on the rise in India. Several global and local software players have been going all out to get attention, by making the one pitch that everyone wants to hear – lower TCO.  However, it still hasn’t resulted in very high sales numbers for these providers.

There may be several reasons for low cloud sales, but I think one of the most important one is pricing. Take any popular desktop software like Microsoft Office or Symantec Antivirus: it always has a different price for the India market which, typically, may be 40-50 percent lower than its price in western markets. Cloud computing services such as Google Apps, Microsoft Azure and Amazon EC2, offer no regional pricing for India. In fact, most of these are priced in US dollars. They also, mostly, accept only credit card payments. In fact, Microsoft recently started accepting Indian rupee cheques for their online services, but only for larger customers.

When it comes to TCO, Indian firms have a different formula for software/hardware depreciation as well as IT manpower costs. Cloud pricing turns out to be too high for them. Moreover, paying thousands of dollars through credit cards is not something that most Indian companies are comfortable with.

So can the cloud pricing ever get lower for Indian markets? For on premise software, offering lower pricing for Indian markets may be easier. All they have to do is to copy the software on a disc and sell it. The only costs are related to packaging and distribution. In the cloud, there are added infrastructure costs that the cloud provider has to bear for every seat sold. If a cloud vendor is maintaining mirrored multitenant infrastructure, with data centers in several continents, there may be no easy way to lower pricing for one country (or one tenant).

What if the cloud vendor’s infrastructure was completely located in India? A homegrown cloud vendor would, arguably, be able to provide better pricing to Indian customers. We would then have CRM, ERP and all kinds of other SaaS solutions made in India, hosted in India and priced for India.

That sounds great but it also assumes that customers (Indian companies) of these SaaS solutions wouldn’t have to do any business internationally. With global customer bases and supply chains, nowadays, is that really possible? As Indian companies try to compete in the global arena, would they really want to use software that takes them in the opposite direction?

So, Indian clouds may be able to solve the pricing issue but may fall short in other areas. However, they may still be able to play an important role getting the global players to drop their prices.

Of course, in addition to pricing, there are other significant barriers, such as the absence of a cloud ecosystem, high speed connectivity and the general lack of awareness. However, as with most things, if the economics works out, everything else will follow.

What do you think?

Amit Chaudhary

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How Social Networking May Impact Private Equity Deal Sourcing?

Nicholas Donato explores how technology and social networking are influencing the way private equity funds operate, in his well-written article for the PEI Fund Administration & Technology Compendium, titled:

The fund of tomorrow … today

One of the questions that the article raises is whether social networking can change the way deals are sourced, in a people business like private equity? Here is an excerpt from the article:

….. Navatar is also rolling out a free cloud service to connect GPs with M&A bankers and other industry contacts to form an online community where deals can be collaborated. Navatar’s social networking site for private equity professionals works by having buyout shops create an online profile describing the types of deals they target alongside their contact information. Bankers, business owners and other sources of deal flow can then access profiles that match their capital seeking enterprises.

The free cloud service, that Nicholas refers to, is Navatar Deal Connect, scheduled for a beta launch in late August. The article goes on to say:

At the moment GPs don’t rely on portals for originating transactions, sources say. Private equity is after all a people business, points out Philipe Bucher, chief financial officer of Adveq. But similar to the evolution of social networking sites, who’s to say one portal won’t feed off its own success to morph into a dominant internet presence, a feat Facebook accomplished after eclipsing rival sites such as hi5 and MySpace. One can imagine a GP in the future sourcing deals from the comfort of an armchair, jokes Bucher when asked whether portals have the potential to be a significant source of deal flow down the line.

Will GPs ever get comfortable with the idea of sourcing deals from an armchair? I’ve never been a GP in a private equity firm, so I’m not sure I have the credentials to answer that (although that doesn’t stop me from babbling about how deal sourcing is about to change). I can tell you, though, that during the early days of Linkedin, most of us who were sourcing consulting business for Deloitte (that’s what I did back then) scoffed at the idea of getting a Linkedin account – of course, most of my management consulting buddies (Deloitte partners) have had a (dramatic) change of heart on this issue.

OK, I’m biased, but what would it take for a social networking portal to bring about this change, in your opinion?

Alok Misra

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Private Equity Deal Sourcing – Where is the 800 Pound Dealrilla of M&A Opportunities?

If you haven’t noticed middle market private equity dealmakers trolling for deal flow these days, just join the cocktail hour of an industry networking event. Buyers, sellers, intermediaries (and others) frantically seek each other at these events, exchanging business cards and pieces of paper, as M&A activity heats up.

I’m sure that searching for deals was a similar exercise 20 years ago (maybe even 50). You’d think things would have changed, considering the increased cross-border M&A activity, or considering we have tools like internet, social networking and iPads. But they haven’t. Let’s see why.

Here’s an excerpt from a brochure related to a recent event (organized by Capital Roundtable):

With more and better deals out there, there’s also a great deal of competition. So it’s never been so important to refine your strategy, improve your tactics, and study the approaches that are working for others. You just don’t want random deal flow. Rather, you want the right deal flow where you see opportunities that are relevant to your strengths — and likely to be successful.

That takes a thoughtful marketing plan, one that you execute with precision and recalibrate as needed. And it takes familiarity with all the potential avenues for originating deals today, from intermediaries and auctions and trade shows and ACG parties — to email campaigns and LinkedIn networks and Google AdWords….

And today, most firms are trying to figure out how to leverage social media and Internet presences into tangible deal sourcing. Yet before you jump in with both feet, you’ll want to know how results are being generated by Facebook pages, LinkedIn groups, and Twitter tweets.

While no 800-pound gorilla website has yet evolved for aggregating private equity deals, …..

So it seems like you need more time (and more money) today to find deals, even though there are more channels than ever to connect with the right people. No wonder, things haven’t changed much.

They will, only if the 800 pound gorilla turns out to be more than just a website or a portal (or a social networking site, for that matter). The gorilla would have to take the critical elements of the old-school networking and relationships and scale them for a global M&A arena.

That’s our goal.

The outcome – Dealmakers won’t have to go looking for sellers (or buyers) – the deals will come to them … without having to pay anything.

The technology – cloud computing (the same technology that Navatar Private Equity CRM and Navatar M&A CRM runs on).

Stay tuned.

Alok Misra

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Podcast with Sunny Vanderbeck – Navatar Private Equity CRM (Cloud)

Sunny-Vanderbeck
We’re pleased to bring you this podcast with Sunny Vanderbeck , Managing Partner of middle market private equity firm Satori Capital, a customer of Navatar Private Equity. Sunny talks with us about how cloud computing has helped his firm manage the complexities of private equity fund raising as well as a pipeline with more than 900 deals.

Sunny Vanderbeck’s bio:

Sunny Vanderbeck has a track record of high achievement in all of his endeavors, including as an entrepreneur, CEO, investor, board member, and military leader. Prior to co-founding Satori Capital, Mr. Vanderbeck co-founded and served as Chief Executive Officer of Data Return, a leading provider of managed services and utility computing. As CEO for eleven years, Mr. Vanderbeck led the company through all phases of growth and transformation. The company sustained 40% quarter-over-quarter growth and reached $50 million in revenue after only three years.

more>>

Vanderback Net Castversion1   Hide Player | Play in Popup | Download


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Parker Harris Discusses Early Days of Salesforce.com

Cloud computing is the white-hot topic in information technology and salesforce.com is the leader in enterprise cloud computing. It’s incredible to consider, especially since when we started in 1999, the term cloud computing wasn’t even used. We didn’t have much in those early days: just a rented apartment as an office, a server stored in a closet, and a small group of developers (sleep deprived and living on beef jerky). What we did have, though, made up for what we lacked. We were motivated by a vision to change the software industry, and we had a simple idea about how to make it more democratic.

Businesses drastically needed more efficient and economical enterprise software, and once customers were experiencing success with our CRM application, we realized that we could achieve something even more significant. What if we made our platform available to let others build their own cloud apps? The idea to offer our platform as a service was also a way to resolve our own problem: customers were demanding more apps, and we couldn’t build everything ourselves. But – more importantly, and something that as an engineer I could truly appreciate – it offered an opportunity to change the landscape for anyone who created applications.

There was so much that was arduous about software development. (If you haven’t been there, trust me; I was one of those sleep-deprived developers.) There were the purchases: networking devices, storage systems, databases, app servers, data centers. Then we had to write the software and ensure it was fast, high quality, mobile and above all scaled for the Internet. There were technology issues to address, such as authentication and availability. It seemed as if the to-do list never ended…

Those are the words of Parker Harris, Cofounder, salesforce.com. They have been excerpted from Parker’s Foreword for my recent book, Thinking of Force.com as your Key to the Cloud Kingdom, co-authored by Ian Gotts.

To read the entire Foreword from Parker Harris, download a free book summary here:

http://navatargroup.com/book-force-com-as-your-key-to-the-cloud-kingdom.html

Alok Misra

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Salesforce.com ISV Mistakes #3 – Force.com As Your Key to the Cloud Kingdom

Customers never pay for upgrades

The startup had done really well in their first year. They started with $500k of seed money, and the talented technical team launched the first version of the workflow management cloud product, built on Force.com, in 8 months. Their CEO, well connected in the technology world, brought in the first sales. They had 10 customers with around 120 subscribers in just 4 months. Although they were only collecting $20 per subscriber each month, things seemed upbeat. After all, they had the product already and all they needed were more customers. They projected adding 1500 subscribers in the next two years. They hired two more salespeople and began ramping up the back office team as well.

The trouble began when their customers started coming to them asking for more features. It seemed that another salesforce.com partner had also launched a competing offering. The startup had to act fast. Their technical team worked with the customers, compiled a list of all new features/functions required and came back to the CEO with the game plan. The underlying object model and design of the product would have to be changed to accommodate the new features. It would take around 6 months to develop and roll out. However, the catch was that there was no way to roll out an upgrade to existing customers due to the changes in the object model. Each existing customer would have to be migrated to the new version. Each migration for a customer was expected to take 3-4 weeks and would cost around $20k. By the time the new release would be ready, they estimated they’d have 80 customers to migrate, and would therefore need a significant chunk of change to fund that.

Ever the salesman, the CEO assured the team he’d be able to get the customers to pay for the migration. He went and talked to two customers about the plan. They would be getting all the fabulous new features in 6 months however, they’d have to shell out a one-time $20k fee for the new features. The CEO wasn’t prepared for the response. Why do we have to pay these fees for the new features? Doesn’t Cloud Computing mean that we pay you a monthly fee and you figure out the rest?? was the response he received. It became clear to him, after the first few conversations, that the customers wouldn’t pay anything for the upgrade. This was an unanticipated cost which threatened to completely destroy their business plan.

The example above is extracted from my recent book, Thinking of Force.com as your Key to the Cloud Kingdom, co-authored by Ian Gotts. The book, featured in CIO Magazine’s “What We’re Reading?” List for March 1st, 2011, will help ISVs ask the right questions that are critical for commercial success in salesforce.com’s cloud.

Getting your financial model right is one of the biggest challenges. It’s very important to ask the right questions upfront, so you don’t get blind-sided.

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Salesforce.com Mistakes #2 – Force.com As Your Key to the Cloud Kingdom

Here’s another case study of a start-up that wanted to build a commercial cloud product. They haven’t been able to launch their product.

Unrealistic ROI expectation

We’ve estimated that we should be able to sell 50,000 to 70,000 subscribers in 3 years, asserted the CEO of a start-up that wanted to build a Force.com app for a vertical market. They assumed that, with 70,000 subscriptions at a price of $125 per month, they’d bring in over $100 million in revenue in their third year. Pretty aggressive!

Now let’s look at the CEO’s cost model. To build their product, they had hired a programmer with 5 years experience who had dabbled with Apex in a previous job. The programmer had convinced the CEO that he could launch the first version of the app if he received some help from a skilled company in developing the more complex pieces. Together, they estimated the total cost of launching the product at $150k. This included the programmer’s salary. They assumed that once they had a basic version, the programmer would be able to continue enhancing it.

The overall estimated cost was $500k per year against revenue of $100 million. Do you see a problem with this model?

The example above is not fiction, it is painfully true. It is extracted from my recent book, Thinking of … Force.com as your Key to the Cloud Kingdom, co-authored by Ian Gotts. The book, featured in CIO Magazine’s “What We’re Reading?” List for March 1st, 2011, will help ISVs ask the right questions that are critical for commercial success in salesforce.com’s cloud.

Getting your financial model right is one of the biggest challenges. The cost of building, maintaining, implementing, supporting, and upgrading all versions of your service will be much, much higher that you anticipate. You also need to be realistic about the number of subscriptions you will sell and the price and number of seats you will get.

The CEO, in the example, was right to get excited about the potential that cloud computing and Force.com offers. However, building a cloud app is not like winning the lottery. If you don’t ask the right questions up front to understand the cloud business model, you could be writing checks for years, without seeing any return.

Alok Misra

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Salesforce.com Mistakes #1 – Force.com As Your Key to the Cloud Kingdom

The following is a real case study of how an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) failed in their attempt to launch a cloud product.

Building a consulting practice instead of a cloud product

I hold you responsible for not telling me earlier that this would cost so much, yelled the EVP of Product Development at the consultants that were helping him launch a cloud offering on Force.com. He was right about the cost spinning out of control. However, he and his team never really paid attention to the advice they were given. As far as the EVP was concerned, his team had been in IT product development for years and had the business knowledge as well as the technical caliber to pull it off. He wanted complete internal ownership of the project – the consultants were just there to help with a few tricky items on the fringes, so their advice was largely ignored.

Things started heading south after the first two potential customers continued to demand more features in the product before they paid a cent. Then came the expectations related to performance and more advanced features. The expectations kept mounting. Within the next few months, a significant number of the product team members got involved in figuring out how to meet the rapidly escalating demands from the first set of buyers.

Mired in product features and attributes, the product team didn’t realize that they were getting into a consulting role with their potential customers but, that was also something they weren’t trained to do. They didn’t know how to manage the scope of work or customer expectations. They had no idea how to push back so they continued accepting all demands and suggestions, turning the product scope into a constantly moving target.

The EVP went to the CFO for more funding and the executive team was appalled. They had already spent upwards of $2 million and it seemed like a bottomless pit with no revenue in sight anywhere. The executives pulled the plug on the entire initiative.

The example above is not fiction, it is painfully true. This is one of many organizations that thought that making money in the cloud model was easy – they spent all the money & effort but still ended up with less than they started with. The case study is from my recent book, Thinking of … Force.com as your Key to the Cloud Kingdom, co-authored by Ian Gotts. The book, featured in “CIO Magazine’s “What We’re Reading?” List for March 1st, 2011“, will help ISVs ask the right questions that are critical for commercial success in salesforce.com’s cloud.

It’s important to ask these questions before before you go and spend too much money. It’s quite possible that after considering all the questions you may come up with the answer No. That’s a No to Cloud Computing, or No to Force.com, or Not now but possibly later. Any of these answers is fine.

What is important is that the decision has been made with due consideration.

Alok Misra

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