“Appification” Part 1 – Why did we fall in love with Apps?

AppsI was privileged once again to participate in AIIM’s Executive Leadership Council in December, and this time the theme was “the ‘Appification’ of the ECM Industry”. Given that “appification” is not yet a word in the Oxford English Dictionary, that was always going to be an challenging discussion! I will leave it to AIIM’s paper (which I will link here once it’s available) to align the different interpretations of the theme from the multiple contributors at the ELC event, but I offer here my own contribution.

Definitions

Let’s start with the basics. The closest I found to a reasonable definition of “Appification” was provided by the IGI Global Dictionary:

“The replacement of Websites and Web pages with programs that run on mobile operating systems and mobile devises. With appification instead of the Web being a user’s primary user interface, it becomes an underlying service layer for apps, which become the new user interface.”

It’s an OK definition, but it does not go far enough for me. “Apps”, in the form of readily downloadable, simple task applications, mostly on mobile devices, have become a phenomenon that has dramatically impacted buying behaviours in the software market: Everyone who ever owned a smartphone, has downloaded an App at some point in time. This is not a phenomenon exclusive to the “millennials, or Generation Z, most of us use a smartphone. These same users are looking for similar experiences in their corporate environment.

So, for me “Appification” looks at the impact of the “App” cultural phenomenon on the software industry and, in the context of this forum, particularly to the ECM software market.

Why did we fall in love with Apps?

It’s difficult to understand the impact of Apps to the enterprise software market, without understanding first the reasons they became so universally successful at the personal market. What were the reasons that the mass population of smart phone and tablet users fell in love with mobile apps?

  • Availability: “There is an App for that” is the defining slogan of the App generation. With over 2.5 million apps to choose from on each of the main platforms (iOS/Android), users are spoilt for choice. A simple search and one button, gives you access to exactly the functionality you need.
  • Portability: We carry Apps with us all the time. From the handy units conversion app, to our banking services, to maps and GPS, to our digital darkroom. Everything is readily available wherever we happen to be.
  • Self-service: We don’t need to ask permission from anyone, especially from IT, to install a new app. We just do. We don’t need any special skills, we don’t need training programs, we don’t need elaborate configurations. 30 seconds later, it just works.
  • Price: We also don’t need permission from anyone, to spend $1.50 to buy an app, let alone install a free one. Not even our spouses would bat an eyelid at the typical App price. Contrast that with a typical IT budgeting and procurement cycle for enterprise software.
  • Usability: App designers thrive on usability. The fact that most apps have no need for training, and intuitively deliver value through an interface that is constantly improved, has dramatically challenged traditional software design by putting the user right in the center of the design.
  • “Ghost” contracts: When was the last time you read the terms & conditions of an App? We are so used to just clicking the “Accept” button, that the small print has completely disappeared from the App experience. Press the install button and use it. Acceptance of contractual terms & conditions is implicit!
  • Provider vetting: There is an underlying assumption that when we download an App, someone has vetted that app for security and malicious code. Rightly or wrongly, we very rarely agonise about installing a new app on our phone of tablet. We just assume that it will mostly play nicely with the other apps on our device, and it will not suddenly take over the device to cause World War III on our behalf.
  • Continuous improvement: The overnight, unsupervised, software update. Unlike enterprise software, it just happens and we mostly let it. No planned downtime, to regression planning, no trial runs. New features just appear on our little screens and we (usually) welcome them.
  • Device proliferation: “I want it on my desktop / web / tablet / iPhone / Android / Xbox / TV / Fridge”. Apps are ubiquitous. Chances are that the app which securely holds all your passwords and bank details, synchronises them between your iPad, Android phone and your desktop. And you have instant access to your banking app from all three. And when you run BBC iPlayer or Netflix, you expect to continue your movie where you left off, even if you are watching it on your brand new refrigerator.
Appifying your fridge...

Appifying your fridge…

I don’t think anybody would suggest that these are the defining characteristics of the average Enterprise software suite. Enterprise Software, including ECM, fails on each and every one of these aspects. It just can’t deliver this experience today. We tend to attribute a lot to the “millennial” generation and their upcoming expectations from the corporate environment, but it’s probably fair to assume that all of us would like to enjoy this “App” experience in our working environment.

Following soon: “Appification” Part 2 – How do Apps influence the ECM market?

Why is voting so archaic? 

votingThis morning I went to my local polling station to put a cross with a pencil on a piece of paper which I folded and put in a plastic bin, for someone to open and unfold later in the day and count one (1). I didn’t even need to show any ID.

This is 2016, the age of mobile apps and digital transformation. This process baffles me! I have a National Insurance number and a unique on-line government ID, through which they accept my tax returns, my benefits requests, my passport application, even my driver’s license renewal. Why isn’t that good enough to vote with?

Just consider the costs involved with current voting process: sending out voting cards (card+printing+envelope+postage), the hiring of the polling station, the people manning it throughout the day and counting the votes at the end, my time wasted going there and back, the time to open and count votes, the cost of managing postal votes for people who can’t vote in person (more cards, special printing,several envelopes,postage X2), etc. etc. And then the plethora of people involved in communicating (drip-feeding) the results throughout the night. And God only knows what other hidden back-office costs that I’m not even aware of.

If this isn’t a solid business case for replacing a paper process with electronic, I don’t know what is! It would have been so simple to have another gov.uk page for voting. I would log in from any browser with my government gateway ID (they already know who I am) tick a box, and press submit. That’s it, instant voting results! And on top of everything else, it is a lot more secure and auditable as a process. And it would encourage more people to vote.

C’mon UK government, can we move voting to the 21st century and save some of my taxpayer money in the process? Pretty please?

IOS – A comet of Jurassic proportions

Every so often, an idea comes along that stops you in your tracks.

Innovation is happening at the speed of light all around us but most of of the time it consists only of incremental, evolutionary thinking, which takes us a little bit further in the same direction we were going all along. We have become fairly blazé about innovation.

And then you spot something that makes you sit up, pay attention, change direction, and re-think everything. I had one of these moments a few weeks back.

The name “EpyDoc” will probably mean nothing to most of you. Even looking at their existing website I would have dismissed it as a second or third-rate Document Management wannabe. Yet, EpyDoc is launching a new concept in April, that potentially re-defines the whole Data / Content / Information / Process Management industry, as we know it today. You know what happens when you mix comets and dinosaurs? It is that revolutionary.

I have lost track of the number of times over the years that I’ve moaned about the constraints that our current infrastructure is imposing on us:

  • The arbitrary segregation of structured and unstructured information [here]
  • The inherent synergy of Content and Process management [here]
  • The content granularity that stops at the file level [here]
  • The security models that protect the container rather than the information [here]
  • The lack of governance and lifecycle management of all information, not just records [here]
  • The impossibility of defining and predicting information value [here]

…etc. The list goes on. EpyDoc’s “Information Operating System” (a grand, but totally appropriate title), seeks to remove all of these barriers by re-thinking the way we manage information today. Not in small incremental steps, but in a giant leap.

Their approach is so fundamentally different, that I would not do it credit by trying to summarise it here. And if I’m honest, I am still discovering more details behind it. But if you are interested in having a taste on what the future of information management might look like in 5-10 years, I would urge you to read this 10-segment blog set which sets the scene, and let me know your thoughts.

And if, while you are reading through, you are, like me, sceptical about the applicability or commercial viability of this approach, I will leave you with a quote that I saw this morning on the tube:

“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad”
(President of the Michigan Savings Bank, 1903)

 

P.S. Before my pedant friends start correcting me: I know that dinosaurs became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period, not the Jurassic… 😉

CIP – The amazing power of Social Media

December 20, 2015 3 comments

Just in case you have not followed the recent saga of the demise and reinstatement of AIIM’s CIP certification, read Mark Owen’s blog here, which has a good summary of events.

I am not going to dwell on the ins and outs of AIIM’s decision, which has been analysed enough. However, there is an underlying story to the events which is significant: In case anyone had any doubts, this is one of the best showcases of the power of Social Media that I’ve seen so far: From the original decision announcement, through the members’ rebellion, to the final reversal decision, took just 7 days, and that included a weekend.

Think about this process: Within hours of the original decision announcement, the twitter feeds were buzzing! (well, the ECM twitter feeds at least, let’s not get over excited…). Amazement, scold, sarcasm, and a genuine discussion on the relative merits of CIP vs. IGP and vs. other AIIM certifications such as ECMm. A great amount of very good content. Over the next couple of days, the blogs started appearing. Most of the vocal people in our community were up in arms and made their voice heard. Even more twitter traffic, while these blogs were disseminated. People at AIIM saw and heard the response, loud and clear. A few more discussions later, a new announcement of the reinstatement of CIP (through a blog and twitter) and a lot more twitter traffic and a lot more blogs. For the most part, congratulating AIIM for being active, listening, responsive and doing the right thing.

AIIM is a community of several thousand people. There is a core of a few dozen people that have been actively involved with AIIM for a long time and, by default, they are the biggest advocates the most ferocious critics. They also happen to be prolific Social Media users, particularly on Twitter and blogs. You could argue that the statistical sample of the people that complained about CIP is not significant, compared to the overall number of AIIM members, but that would be a very short-sighted view. When you consider who these people were, the communities that they themselves represent, and the influence they exhort into the ECM community (again through the power of Social Media…), it would have been very difficult for AIIM to ignore.

On top of that, when your best advocates become critics, you tend to pay attention…

Kudos to AIIM for recognising the issue and doing something about it. Even bigger kudos to Social Media, as a platform for change. I don’t think that this kind of dramatic unfolding of events, immediate and overwhelming public response to an unpopular decision,  and finally the winning over of the disgruntled masses to a successful outcome, all in the space of one week, would have been possible in any other era or medium.

Finally, a quote from a tweet by Lisa Hoover McGreevy (@Lisah), who summed it up beautifully: “Well done, #AIIM members. And, uh, remind me to never piss you off. ;)”

Categories: ECM Tags: , , , ,

The rise and fall of CIP – by AIIM

December 14, 2015 8 comments

I like AIIM. I’ve been a member since 1995, and I have enjoyed watching it grow from a semi-obscure huddle of microfilm archivists, to a substantial, international, Information Management industry body. I’ve also witnessed its transformation from an introvert “from the vendors, for the vendors” organisation to one that offers significant value to IM practitioners and end-users through education, webinars, market studies, etc. But AIIM has just irritated a lot of its advocates.

When AIIM introduced the Certified Information Practitioner (CIP) certification back in 2012, I found it a very astute strategic move. Unlike the ECMp, ECMs, ECMm style certifications that preceded it, which were little more than a verification that that you have attended the relevant AIIM course, the CIP certification carried a much more significant value: It demonstrated that its bearers had a good grasp of most technologies in the larger IM scope, and had a sufficient understanding of the value and the issues of ECM-related projects not to embarrass themselves. It wasn’t a trivial exam – even for some of us veterans of ECM – and it was sought after: A badge of honour.

Unfortunately it wasn’t sought after enough, so AIIM has just decided to terminate the CIP program. Apparently, some 1,000 people have achieved CIP certification in the last 4 years, which by any accreditation measure is a significant success. Any measure apart from AIIM’s, that is.

Laurence Hart (aka Word-of-Pie) wrote an excellent article today on the unfulfilled potential of the CIP program (“The CIP, A lost opportunity“), which I totally agree with and I will not repeat here. He hints however to a key problem that plagued CIP from the beginning, the same way it plagued MoReq 2010 and numerous other standards and certifications. Laurence writes: “the CIP needed to be marketed inside and outside the profession“.

To the best of my knowledge, there are only two ways that a standard or an accreditation can succeed: (1) It is mandated by a government, law, or regulatory body, or (2) there is sufficient demand generated for it, to make it a de-facto standard. Otherwise it whithers and dies. There was no plan to ever mandate CIP, so the only way to it would ever be successful would be to generate sufficient demand for it. I am assuming that AIIM used the number of practitioners requesting to be certified as a measure of demand, against its success criteria, before pulling the plug on the project. We can argue whether issuing 1,000 CIP certifications in 4 years should be considered a success of a failure, but that would completely miss the point. That metric is entirely wrong.

Requests for receiving the CIP accreditation is not a measure of demand. It is a consequence of the value (actual or perceived) that CIP practitioners saw in achieving the certification. And that value in turn is a result of two other drivers: The real demand in the market for CIP certified practitioners, and peer recognition. The first one of these is tangible and measurable: How many projects, RFIs, job specifications or Statements of Work, explicitly request CIP certified candidates. I am not aware that there have been many. The latter is harder to measure and I suspect the one that drove most of the 1,000+ CIP certifications issued todate.

AIIM did little to promote either.

I fished out of my archives an email that I wrote to AIIM back in March 2012, soon after I successfully passed the CIP exam:

I believe that, until such time as CIP is a widely accepted (and requested) accreditation, I think we can create marketing drive based on its exclusivity… At the moment it’s a bit of an “elite” club, so let’s make membership to the club desirable! Some ideas:

1) Look at BCS Chartered statuses. I think this extends significantly beyond just the UK: http://www.bcs.org/content/conWebDoc/18215.
If we could somehow get the CIP Certification accredited through BCS (something like “Recognised/Accredited by BCS”) or as a certification that is somehow contributing to achieving higher membership, you will have CIP advertised to a much larger IT community than AIIM can reach.

2) Are there other similar organisations around the world that we could engage with?

3) Add it to LinkedIn as a formal “Skill” – See http://www.linkedin.com/skills/skill/Certified_Internal_Auditor?trk=tyah. Not sure what’s involved in this.

4) Create a LinkedIn “exclusive” group for people who have passed CIP. This could be “by invitation only”. Not only it gives kudos, exclusivity and a community to the members, but it’s a great hunting ground for headhunters and HR people.

5) Negotiate discounts for CIPs for conferences, events, publications, training, etc. Not only with AIIM but with external groups and other communities.

The idea behind all of these, is obviously to create incentives for people to want to become CIPs, because they are getting something back for it.

That was just a starting point and I’m sure there were many other ideas to generate demand. We know that the “build it and they’ll come” principle does not work. Like any other product, CIP needed consistent and persistent marketing to generate visibility and create demand. It needed Case Studies on the value it delivered to practitioners and their clients. It needed nurturing and it needed time to grow. It needed word-of-mouth endorsement and it needed public recognition. It needed an opportunity to mature.

Alas, it received none of that and, by all accounts, it shall remain another great idea, poorly executed.

R.I.P C.I.P

P.S. The ambiguity in the title is not coincidental…

 

 

Cloud Computing – Happy 45th birthday!

December 8, 2015 1 comment

I must have been about 8 years old, so this would have been around 1972. My father worked for BP in Greece at the time. In his office, was a giant (well, it looked giant to an 8-year old…) machine with a chunky typewriter keyboard and a paper printer in the middle.

My father typed some gobbledygook that I didn’t understand and the machine typed back some response. To an 8 year-old, this was magical! I’ve asked what that was all about. My dad explained that this machine was giving him access to some massive computer somewhere, where he could ask for certain problems to be solved and complex calculations to be performed. He would fire off the question and the computer (somewhere far away…) would come back with the answer.

I wanted to see more. My dad explained that every time he used the machine, the company was charged money. The more he used it, the more it cost. He also explained that many people from across the world would be sending these requests to the computer, and therefore there were sometimes delays while everyone was asking questions at the same time (that’s why it was called a Time sharing computer). And if we asked more, we might be slowing down someone else that needed the answer fast. But he ran a couple of more questions, just to show me and sure enough the response came straight back, a few seconds later.

It took me nearly 45 years to put 2+2 together: A massive shared computing resource, hosted off-premises, executing multi-tenant requests, and charged on a pay-per-use basis. That was my first experience of Cloud computing and SaaS.

Who says innovation is dead? Happy birthday Cloud!

Categories: Uncategorized

Sales 101 – Planning the perfect crime

Dead of night (c) George Parapadakis

“In U.S. criminal law, means, motive, and opportunity, is a common summation of the three aspects of a crime that must be established before guilt can be determined in a criminal proceeding.” (Wikipedia)

I have been around Enterprise Software Sales & Marketing for over twenty years, both as a buyer and as a vendor. I’ve trained many new and experienced sellers and I’ve got to know both extremely successful ones and spectacularly unsuccessful ones. Selling is an art, not a science.

Over the years, I’ve collected a few nuggets about selling, that they don’t necessarily teach in Sales School. Things which seem to be pretty obvious when you think about them, but which tend to be forgotten in the mad rush to close the Quarter and to make the numbers. So, in the next few articles I’ll relay some of these nuggets and hopefully help some of the less experienced sellers in our industry.

Let’s start with the basics: Sales is not about selling

If you want to succeed as a seller, stop thinking about selling and start thinking about buying. What makes or breaks a sales deal is not your ambition to sell, it’s your buyer’s willingness to buy, so start thinking as a buyer. To get a corporate buyer to send you a Purchase Order, he needs to be committing the perfect crime, and your role is to help him set it up.

Why the perfect crime? Have you ever watched police dramas on TV? CSI, NCIS, Law & Order, that kind of thing? If you have, you’ll know that when detectives qualify someone as the suspect of a crime, they are looking for are means, motive and opportunity (and to commit a perfect crime and get away with it, you also need an alibi). When you are qualifying a corporate sale, you need to look for the same criteria for your buyer.

Motive: Why do something? What’s in it for them? In most cases, the purchase may have a business case that justifies the expense to further the company’s goals. But ultimately, the buyer needs to look good by doing the best for their company: lower costs, achieve compliance, enable growth, retain employees. Why? So that he can further his career: a pat on the back from his manager, a promotion, a better commission. There is no buyer that commits his company’s resources without risk and without an ulterior motive. Find your product’s personal benefit to your buyer and you have his attention.

Opportunity: Why do something now? Here is where you are looking for the compelling event. The biggest enemy you have as a seller, is their option to do nothing. What is it that will compel your buyer to act now, this quarter, this week? A new regulation? A new manufacturing plant? A round of redundancies? A change in strategy? An audit? Your job as a seller is to identify their urgency. What is it that will convince your buyer that they can no longer wait before making this decision. If buying now or in six months makes no difference to them, you don’t have a sale.

Means: It goes without saying that they need to have a budget. Or some other vehicle for releasing funding. No money, no sale! Again, as a seller, you need to understand their funding cycles, approval routes and budget constraints. Also their priorities – there may have been budget allocated for your solution, but an expensive plant failure, or a company acquisition or a legal dispute may take precedence and grab that money. Look for confirmation that the funding is approved and still available, when you expect it to be.

Finally, alibi: You have established that your prospect has a need for the solution, they have the funding and the urgency. Why would they buy your product? How do they justify their decision internally? Your USP, your differentiators, your Total Cost of Ownership, your customer support – what is it that will convince them that your proposal is more defensible to their peers and their manager, over your competitors? You may think that you product is the best in the market, but does your buyer think so too and do they believe it strongly enough to be able to sell their story internally? Your job is not only to convince them but to give them the tools and the confidence to become an advocate and a champion internally.

Buying enterprise solutions is the same as buying anything else: an emotional decision, on top of a rational one. Ultimately, you may not have control over your buyers emotions, but at least you can make sure that the rational part of the decision making – the premeditated part, to continue the crime metaphor – is secure.

I know that comparing a corporate purchase to a crime is a bit crude, but I believe that the analogy of the mental process behind it is accurate. I have found it a useful and quick mental check to qualify and validate new sales opportunities.

Remember: Good sellers don’t sell. They enable their buyers to buy.

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