Tag Archives | crm

Three Basic Mistakes That Can Derail Cloud Software Adoption

Cloud Computing Best Practices for Salesforce for Financial Services Industry

The great news for customers of a Software-as-a Service (SaaS) product is that the vendor is incentivized for your success, since you pay as you go. A good SaaS provider backs their product with a solid customer success program to make sure their customers use the product. That doesn’t mean customers will always be able to successfully use the product. Sometimes, lack of enthusiasm from the customers’ side can become a stubborn barrier to adoption.

I manage the Success Team at Navatar and I can proudly say that 95% of our clients are successfully on-boarded to our cloud platform. We see some common themes across the ones that don’t. Here are some of them:

1. Lack of leadership buy-in:

Change is difficult. If senior leadership is fully behind the rollout, they can generally push through the message to the entire team. We have seen scenarios in which adoption never occurred as it was not mandated. Most people continued to do their day-to-day tasks as a new product meant additional workload.

If senior leadership shows interest in the new product, everyone pays attention. It really works when management can set usage targets for employees. I have also seen quite a few of our customers give out usage awards, based on employee activity in the new system. The goal is for employees to recognize that the rollout is important to management.

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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.

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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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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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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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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 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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Are You Wasting IT Services Dollars In Cloud Computing?

The premise for my latest InformationWeek article, How To Reduce IT Service Costs In The Cloud, is that companies are paying unnecessary consulting and support fees for cloud apps, increasing their total cost of ownership by upto 50%. Several commentators disagree – their main contention is that services will always be required in order to provide a better fit with a customers needs or to integrate with other systems.

They aren’t wrong. Application integration, for instance, does require services. However, the cost of both middleware products as well as supporting services has been lowered significantly since integration became available as a service (ask Informatica). You will notice a similar trend with professional services in the cloud – they cost much less than professional services for on-premise software. In fact, traditional systems integrators have not yet been super successful in the cloud, primarily because it’s not providing them as much services revenue as on-premise software has been.

My point is that quite a few (but not all) of the professional services in the cloud are either costing much less (most people would agree with that) or are not required (since they are either redundant or available for free).

Let’s understand why. Cloud is a new technology but, unlike other new technologies, it’s a game-changer which drastically alters the existing business models. The new model forces cloud providers to provide certain services for free, so that they can keep customers long-term (this wasn’t needed in the on-premise world), not because it’s some gimmick (in fact, since the cloud model is subscription-based there isn’t any room for gimmicks – sustained customer satisfaction is of paramount importance). Just the way Starbucks provides internet for free, in the hope you will buy their coffee (and scones, which I like), but if you don’t, you still get something (internet and a decent environment to use it) for nothing.

All this is great news for customers of cloud apps. They will be the ones to benefit most.

Now, does this mean that there will be no professional services needed and all systems integrators will eventually go out of business? Not at all. There will always be areas needing services. There may still be a lot more consulting services required, for instance, to sort through the mess created by a proliferation of niche cloud providers. Systems integrators that provide application support may have to start focusing on providing that support to cloud providers, instead of companies. In summary, if you are a provider of professional services, cloud computing will force you to rethink your portfolio, value proposition and target customer base … at a minimum.

Alok Misra

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Is Multi-Tenancy Essential to Cloud Computing for Enterprise Customers?

Techno-Pulse started this debate, since a provider named Virtual Ark thinks otherwise. Here’s an excerpt from their CEO’s interview at Cloud Computing Journal:

Marty Gauvin: No, not at all. Virtual Ark can manage dedicated instances of the application for specific customer needs as if they were “one” application instance. In our view, the security, integration and performance requirements of our target market, large enterprise customers, are ill-suited to multi-tenant solutions. We think this is a key reason why SaaS has not been taken up more strongly by this market segment, and why many ISVs have not modified their applications to be multi-tenant. Virtual Ark sees this as an important differentiator in its value proposition.

Here was my response to this, at the Techo-Pulse site:

It may be hard to argue with Marty when he says large enterprise customers, are ill-suited to multi-tenant solutions. Large customers, usually, are too high-maintenance, both in terms of their unique requirements as well as their highly political environments. Had they been simple to deal with, consulting firms like Deloitte or PwC, that make most of their money from organizational complexities, would have gone out of business by now. No wonder, it’s hard for a vendor offering a multitenant solution to convince a large customer to buy.

So if you’re an ISV targeting large enterprise customers, an easier option may be not to be multitenant, so you can tailor for each customer’s unique needs. It’s a perfectly valid (and maybe lucrative) business model. The issue is that eventually you will turn into a services company or, in other words, most of your revenues will come from services (see my InformationWeek post Product Cloud Or Service Cloud? Know The Difference).

If you want to be a viable cloud vendor selling products (see my InformationWeek post Why Multitenancy Matters in the Cloud), you have no choice, your product must be multitenant in order to survive in the cloud world.

I think this debate about multitenancy will go on, as long as ISVs believe there are “quickie” routes to having a cloud product. I have covered this subject extensively in my new book : Force.com as your Key to the Cloud Kingdom.

However, Marty’s comments do raise other important questions: Is it possible to sell and maintain multitenant cloud products to large companies? Are there examples of companies doing that?

Would love to hear from you.

Alok Misra

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Navatar’s Mutual Fund CRM in Salesforce.com’s Cloud Highlighted by Money Management Executive Publication

Money Management Executive magazine highlights Navatar Mutual Fund Cloud in its latest Operations & Technology Special Edition. Navatar Mutual Fund Cloud now makes it possible for a wholesaler to get CRM, Sales Reporting, Transfer Agent Data and much more for a low monthly fee through salesforce.com’s cloud. A great example of multitenancy at its best.

Editorial Director Tom Steinert-Threlkeld says it is now possible to measure funds sales performance across various channels.
“Take Navatar. This is a buzzword-friendly service that works “in the cloud,” giving you access to tools for managing relationships with brokers, banks and financial advisers “on demand.” Alternately, you can consider it “software as a service,” running on top of a suite of services offered by Salesforce.com, which pioneered the concept of letting companies subscribe to online versions of computer programs which they didn’t have to install or maintain.

Navatar’s mutual funds add-on to Salesforce.com lets sales managers see aggregate sales data from different regions of the country or by broker-dealer firm or other overall measures. But it also breaks down sales to the transaction, so the performance of any individual rep can be tracked and evaluated.”

Navatar Mutual Fund Cloud is used by prominent firms such as Jefferies & Co., Guggenheim Partners, Alps Funds. It includes transfer agent data from DST, Sungard, Envision and others. It also includes intermediary feeds from Schwab, Fidelity, DST and others.

To learn more about Navatar Mutual Fund Cloud, visit:

http://sites.force.com/appexchange/listingDetail?listingId=a0N300000016cPkEAI

To read the full article, you can sign up for a free trial of this publication aimed at leaders in asset management http://www.mmexecutive.com/.

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O Multitenancy: Will Thy Survive Oracle?

It surely takes someone as influential (and smart) as Larry Ellison, to be able to dismiss multitenancy as a “horrible idea” (See article, Oracle’s CEO Holds Court on Salesforce, Fusion and More). Every customer being in the same database is a “horrible security model,” Mr. Ellison says. With the likes of Oracle strongly attacking it, will multitenancy die a premature death?

It is possible. After all, we’re all familiar with this story in the tech world – an upstart with a new technology starts stealing revenues from an established player, established player buys upstart, established player kills new technology and goes back to maintaining its dominance (Lauren Carlson of CRM Software Advice discusses some acquisition scenarios in her survey).

But before we start writing its epitaph, let’s consider this. Although salesforce.com introduced us to it, multitenancy isn’t a “product,” owned by one vendor – which makes it a little harder to be bought and killed. It isn’t just a cool architectural concept – customers reap real cost benefits because of multitenancy. Jefferies, for instance, would have to maintain 3 separate boxes to handle CRM, broker data and compliance for their mutual funds, versus the multitenant Navatar Mutual Fund Cloud, which helps them function without any boxes for a low monthly fee (for more on multitenancy’s benefits, see my Informationweek post Why Multitenancy Matters in the Cloud).

Multitenancy, however, has no shortage of enemies. Most legacy software vendors are beginning to lose money to smaller multitenant competitors. To protect their turf, these vendors jump into the cloud themselves but discover they don’t like the financial model (Oracle’s example discussed in my old post Oracle Cloud Computing and the CFO’s Dilemma). Their answer, then, is to have a cloud play without multitenancy?(yes, it’s possible if you can redefine what the cloud really stands for).

Even large systems integrators are no friends of multitenancy. As David Linthicum points out in his Infoworld post What cloud computing can and can’t do, consulting firms worry about losing the big bucks they otherwise make from enterprise architecture complexities. They don’t like to hear about any client efficiencies that may reduce their billable hours.

The question then is – with so many influential enemies, will multitenancy’s fate eventually turn out to be similar to Julius Caesar’s?

I don’t know. To survive, it will need many more customer ROI stories, more successful vendors as poster kids and a longer tail of cloud providers. Above all, it will need some influential champions with strong enough shoulders to carry the multitenancy flag.

As always, would love to hear your thoughts (you can read more about multitenancy in my new book Thinking of …Force.com as your key to the Cloud Kingdom, just reviewed by Sand Hill Group).

Alok Misra

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Are Free Salesforce Implementations for Real?

Is there such a thing as a free lunch??

After Navatar made the announcement for free services for Salesforce, here are a just a few of several questions I received:

How will you make money?”

Free – Ha Ha...”

Very interesting … still digesting what it means..”

The questions were genuine and?their underlying theme was clear – everyone seemed very?surprised since they didn’t think it was possible to provide any services free of cost. They were trying to figure out what the catch was.

There really is no catch. This is the way it is supposed to be in the cloud computing model. Cloud products are not physically installed for each customer the way on premise products are. True cloud products are multitenant and share databases, infrastructure and labor. Which means that the costs of implementing, maintaining, supporting and innovating can be shared too. That’s why, when you buy a cloud product you are supposed to get most services related to product implementation and support free of cost. It’s as simple as that.

All said and done, this is still a concept that will take some time to stomach – particularly, for folks that are like myself and have spent almost a couple of decades in the technology world, have long made a living implementing and maintaining software and have seen several fads come and go (I too spent years helping Deloitte and PwC make money on systems integration work). So their skepticism is understandable.

But there’s another category of doubters – those that have bought into the idea that implementing Salesforce for your business is simple enough to be accomplished with a few button clicks while playing poker. It’s often hard for them to see the value of what we offer (at least initially) since they are driven by the notion that it’s an easy DIY job. However, they typically realize after 6-12 months that the task of getting Salesforce to support their business, though not as daunting as plugging an oil well leak, can be extremely cumbersome and distracting.

So the answer is: No, we are not offering free lunches. Cost is one of the important advantages that Cloud Computing delivers – services costs are a big part of the TCO of software that the cloud promises to reduce. Real Cloud Product Companies will offer low cost subscriptions to useful, out-of-the-box (or, shall we say, out-of-the-cloud) products without charging customers for services – which is what we at Navatar are doing. The idea is that every Hedge Fund (or every Broker/Dealer or every Mutual Fund) doesn’t have to spend time and money doing the same thing just to implement and support software. Once customers see that value, they will be the real winners.

Alok Misra

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Private Equity CRM Capital Calls Functionality Will Improve Productivity

You asked we delivered. You don’t have to work long hours to manually calculate, create, print and deliver capital call notices any more. Navatar Private Equity now also automates capital call and distribution processes, eliminating all the time consuming manual work on your part.

Your Investor Relations team will not have to spend time preparing spreadsheets and performing complicated calculations. The pre-defined logic in the system computes the capital drawdown/distribution and fee allocations to various limited partners. The system also allows flexibility for exceptions – for example, the allocation for a limited partner can be overridden if their side letter states they don’t invest in certain countries or industries. The system also performs automatic rolls ups for each LP and fund, on various metrics, to help users manage the process efficiently.

The IR team will not have to manually create and mail capital call letters either. The Capital Calls functionality will, in a few easy steps, allow them to:

  • Set up custom capital call/distribution email templates using the fund’s logo and branding
  • Dynamically populate the capital call notice with relevant contacts, limited partner’s commitment and capital call/distribution information
  • Identify the contacts across limited partners to whom the capital call/distribution notices need to be sent based on the limited partner’s preferences
  • With a single click, email notices to all the relevant contacts across limited partners

We will continue to add more functionality to increase the productivity of your investor relations, fundraising and deal flow teams. If you weren’t aware, Navatar Private Equity CRM is built on salesforce.com’s cloud computing platform. Follow the link for a demo:

Demo of Navatar Private Equity

Shweta Kumar

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Cloud Computing Killed Siebel – Will You be Next?

Everyone knows how salesforce.com crushed Siebel a few years ago, to become the de facto standard in CRM. What started with a win in the On Demand CRM battlefield, has now revolutionized the delivery of software through cloud computing. Legacy software vendors under attack from newer cloud providers, are scrambling to protect their turf, like Siebel tried to do in the early part of the decade. However, most of these legacy vendors are fighting a losing battle.

Take the case of Netage, an established vendor that has been providing CRM to Financial Services. Netage will continue to lose deals to Navatar (read River Cities Capital Funds has selected Navatar’s Private Equity CRM over Netage Dynamo). The reason is simple: for a legacy vendor like Netage, winning the cost/value battle against a cloud provider like Navatar is next to impossible unless they can rethink their entire business model.

Legacy vendors typically give the cloud a try, as a defensive move – they launch a hosted offering, available through the internet to avoid losing business. They often try to save money by using all or some of their existing on-premise infrastructure and practice for their hosted offering (masked as a cloud offering), by avoiding the investment in a new technology infrastructure that supports multitenancy. However, the high cost of replicating and maintaining instances for each single tenant (or customer) eventually catches up with them, and their margins get lower as each new customer sucks up more resources (read Why Multitenancy Matters in the Cloud to learn more).

It isn’t just smaller companies – larger companies such as Oracle are faced with the same issue when it comes to competing with cloud providers (read Oracle Cloud Computing and the CFO?s Dilemma). But because of their size and scale, larger companies like Oracle have the ability to change the market demands/dynamics and fight the battle on a different turf.

The clock, in the meantime, is ticking for most other legacy software providers. If all they do is launch a cloud offering in addition to their on premise offering while maintaining the same business model, they will die soon. Their survival will depend on whether they can make a complete transition to the cloud world.

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Five Strategic Questions to Ask Before Building on Salesforce.com’s Force.com Platform (PaaS)

There is no doubt that Force.com, Salesforce.com‘s platform-as-a-service (PaaS), is the leading cloud computing platform today. If you are an independent software vendor (ISV) or an entrepreneur looking to build commercial products in a public cloud, it’s probably on your radar already. Force.com gives you the potential to save on development time and get a product to market faster–even more important, the potential to build a business with fewer resources.

Does that mean you can create a profitable cloud business by building your product on Force.com? The answer is–not necessarily.

In reality, most companies struggle to see the return on investment after all their development effort. Here’s why: In a perfect world, seat sales through the AppExchange would happen at the same rate that consumers download music on iTunes. Business buyers, however, are harder to reach and take forever to convince. Both traditional ISVs and startups usually discover they have been overly optimistic not only about how fast they can sell but also about what price targets they can achieve. To make things worse, ISVs find the product development, maintenance, and delivery costs to be much more expensive than anticipated.

Why does this happen when the world seems to agree that cloud equals reduced costs? It happens because ISVs don’t ask the right questions before jumping into the cloud. All ISVs want to know is the answer to two fundamental questions:

  • Is Force.com the right platform?
  • How much would it cost to build our product?

These questions are good. However, they are only related to product development, not profitability. Looking to build a successful cloud business requires much more input than just developing an application. If you don’t ask the questions upfront to understand the cloud business model, you could be writing checks for years before seeing any revenue. Here are the most important questions you must ask before you begin building:

 

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Buy Side Fundraising Suffering – Can Salesforce CRM Help?

In the wake of news reports that Venture Capital fund raising had its lowest quarter since ’03, you might be surprised that very sophisticated buy-side firms such as Hedge Funds, Venture Capital firms and Private Equity firms often rely on the must rudimentary, home made fund raising methods (see article: Only 17 venture capital firms raise money in Q3 fewest in 15 years.) For example, many firms are still tracking their efforts in Excel or via notes in Outlook. It’s a very manual, time consuming and arduous way to track and manage their efforts.

Ironically, this is happening at a time when it has never been easier for a Venture firm to switch to better systems with almost no effort. The same browser they use to search for news and research can also be used for the industry’s most sophisticated CRM. No hardware needed other than the laptops they are now using and access to the Internet.

Whether they use our service built on the force.com platform or on top of salesforce.com or some of the other services out there, you have to wonder why, during this time of great stress they are still trying to make do with Excel and Outlook. If it is cost that is holding them back, you really have to wonder. We have priced our service at about the price of a couple of cups of coffee a day on Wall Street. On top of that, our Marketing Department is launching a “buy one get one free” promotion.

If you are in one of these financial firms and suffering from the funding drought – maybe it’s time to think about improving your pumping equipment.

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Social Media “Bleeding Edge” Leg Up

“No one’s social (yet),” says CRM Magazine’s Marshall Lager in the June edition. In other words, based on a study by ES Research, social media isn’t a big factor in closing B-to-B sales yet.

But, it’s clear that going “social” is the new bandwagon to jump on.

Below Marshall’s article there’s a big excerpt from The Facebook Era by Clara Shih, the head of social media alliances and product strategy at salesforce.com. The full (and really long) title of her book is, The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff.

According to one reviewer on Amazon, (Adam Smith,Bainbridge Island, WA), “The Facebook Era is a bleeding edge guide to how social networking portals such as Facebook can give astute businesses a leg up.”

We know a trend we see one. The “no software” folks are leading the charge into social media CRM selling.

Expect a tidal wave of new sales books coming out with titles like Strategic Conceptual Facebook Selling for Complex Sales.

Seriously though, we have just downloaded Shih’s book onto our Kindle2 and look forward to reading it during the commute home from Wall Street tonight.

Have a great day!

Allan Siegert

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Placement Agent CRM Released

Placement Agents have been in the news a lot recently and some of the stories haven’t been particularly friendly to the profession. Now, there’s some good news – a product that will make their jobs easier.

The product is designed to:

Manage prospective clients (both sell side and buy side)
Manage sell and buy side relationships
Manage fund sales
Conduct Due Diligence on Funds (Fund Managers)
Quickly and easily generate client reports and client metrics (dashboards)
Track CRM activity including calls, meetings and emails Mass mailings

Navatar Group has built this product on top of the force.com platform (it is 100% native to the salesforce.com programming). We are long-time salesforce.com partners headquartered in New York (44 Wall Street). We specialize in financial markets (hedge funds, fund of funds, mutual funds and private equity).

Allan Siegert

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One insider compares tracking Private Equity deals to …

During a late afternoon conversation, the CFO of a Private Equity firm tells us what starts off easily quickly becomes like a complicated Russian novel. Toss in lots of emails and attachments and it really becomes headache inducing. Especially when you have to create reports.

“You have to track who you talked to when and what you talked about. Later, are those people you talked to still interested in investing or not? And, ultimately track what they chose to invest in or not and as what entity and in what fund.”

Helping you easily keep all this straight is the problem we solve for essentially the price of a daily cup of coffee (we are talking about the one we used to buy across the street at Starbucks on Wall Street, not the lower priced McDonalds in Westport, CT). Navatar’s Private Equity is built on the salesforce.com platform so all you need to access your data is a browser. Of course, seeing is believing. We are always happy to give a quick demo so please don’t hesitate to ask.

Allan Siegert

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Cynical about Mobile CRM

We have always been cynical about mobile CRM.

Maybe it’s a left over feeling from the early mobile stock market devices we sold for Reuters they were the size and weight of a brick and if you moved too far from a window, they blanked out – of course, that was about a decade ago.

We have been playing with mobile CRM on a Blackberry and it’s surprisingly good. Okay, we are not an early adopter of this salesforce.com mobile but we now like it a lot. You can see data or add data regardless of connectivity. That’s because the application and the data are loaded on your device. So, for example, you can quickly add a meeting report during an airline flight. The data synchronizes immediately when you land and are connected again.

The only problem is that we have a Pearl (8130). That’s the one with the really small screen (about the size of two postage stamps) – so, we have to carry a magnifying glass to see our accounts and tasks. Maybe this is an excuse to upgrade to a new phone.

Allan Siegert

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End-of-Month Sales Pressure

Here we are at the month end and sales reps in many firms are going to be instructed to do what it takes to close deals. So, there’s this quote that we literally ripped out of Ron Hubsher’s book, Closing Time that might help.

Ron says:

1. Sales is about creating an eager buyer. By creating an artificial timeline to get a discount for the buyer, you have not created any real value to the buyer. If the buyer was convinced you were the best choice and was ready to choose your offering, you have needlessly given away 20% of your revenue.

2. If the buyer is not ready to commit to you, you have dropped your pants. What do you think will happen next? If the buyer eventually decides to choose your solution, will he pay full price? Probably not. What minimum discount will he start with?

Ron goes on to say that you will have trained your buyer to delay his purchase and ask for a larger discount.

So … best of luck from all of us at Navatar Group on creating a winning month!

Allan Siegert

Oh, one more thing.

More about Ron?s book at: http://www.salesog.com/bookpage. By the way, he has a killer list of blurbs that any author would die for; here is just one of them:

“An outstanding system for negotiating and closing sales opportunities on a global basis. I would recommend it to executives looking to drive revenues, command price premiums, and increase shareholder value. It is easy to understand, easy to use, and easy to implement. It is a must read.”
– Jim Steele: Chief Customer Officer, Salesforce.com

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Hedge Fund CRM

NEW YORK, April 21, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Navatar Group, a global salesforce.com partner in financial services, today announced several new customers, including KStone Partners, Kelvingrove Partners and Zebra Capital. The firms are using Navatar’s customized CRM for Hedge Funds, a cloud computing application to manage hedge fund and fund of funds operations. Navatar CRM for Hedge Funds is built and run entirely on the Force.com platform from salesforce.com and is available on the Force.com AppExchange. http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/news.html?d=163434

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Cloudforce London

It was at the same place the G-20 met but there were no protesters.

The attendance was massive and from some of the largest firms in Europe. Some estimates were 4,000 people. Discussions were lively! We’d tell you more but the true spirit of the event is well captured by the force.com blog – so we’ll point you there: http://blog.sforce.com.

Have a great weekend!

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