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Posts tagged ‘SaaS’

45% of Global Enterprises Are Running Production-Level Cloud Apps Today

cover graphicMicrosoft’s latest study shows enterprises’ pace of cloud computing adoption continues to accelerate.  Nearly half of the respondents (45%) report they have cloud-based applications running in production environments.  58% report that they selectively target new applications and projects for cloud computing.

Microsoft commissioned 451 Research to complete one of the most comprehensive global surveys to date of hosting and cloud computing, titled Hosting and Cloud Go Mainstream releasing the results earlier this month. The 74 page slide deck of results provides a wealth of insights into the current and future state of hosting and cloud computing.  451 Research constructed the methodology to include interviews with 2,000 companies and organizations of all sizes from 11 countries, with more than a third of respondents coming from the United States.  Microsoft and 451 Research provided the slides showing the result of screener questions, which provides a useful context for analyzing the survey results.

Here are the key take-aways from the study:

  • 45% of enterprises globally are running production-level cloud computing applications today.  North America and Asia have the greatest percentage of enterprises reporting broad implementation of production cloud-based applications (17% each).  North America has the greatest percentage of enterprises in the discovery and evaluation phase of cloud computing adoption at 29%.

cloud computing adoption by region

  •  58% of global enterprises are selectively target new applications for cloud computing, with 18% heavily relying on cloud computing for new projects.  The following graphic shows the distribution of organizations’’ approaches to using cloud computing for new applications or IT projects.

New Apps By Region

  • SaaS (71%) and Hosted Infrastructure Services (69%) are the two most common IT services currently purchased today, with 14% growth forecasted in each by 2016. The fastest growing category is Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), with 37% purchasing these services today projected to grow another 26% in two years.

current future it services

  • SaaS is most prevalent in enterprises with over 500 employees, and Hosted Infrastructure Services, in government and education.  Please see the graphic below for the distribution of responses by IT service and organization type.

 

current it services by company size

  • Spending on hosted private clouds will increase from 28% of spending today to 32% in 2016, with traditional dedicated infrastructure services dropping from 48% to 42%.

Hosted Infrastuctrure Services

  •  The majority of SaaS users are employees (45%) followed by businesses (which could be interpreted as suppliers and the broader supply chain) (22%), consumers (18%) and business partners (including distribution channels (14%).

primary application users

 

  • Telephone conversations with customer support specialists is the most valuable form of communication (just over 60%) across all support channels.  It is also the most preferred channel for SaaS support.

valuable forms of communication

  •  Business applications (17%), databases (14%) and e-mail 12%) are the top three application spending categories today in hosted and cloud applications.  The following graphic breaks out spending by hosting and cloud configuration.

hosted and cloud applications

  • Having a well-defined architecture for security (7.7 out of 8.0), understanding who the end-users are (7.6) and train users to be cautious with access & security (7.5) in addition to having a well-defined architecture for performance (7.5) are the three top best practices for cloud computing projects.

best practices cloud computing projects

  • 44% of enterprises globally have “shadow IT”, meaning business units are spending their own budget on cloud computing projects outside of the IT approval processes.  The following graphic provides the breakdown by type of organization included in the survey.

shadow it

  •  87% of respondents globally would recommend cloud computing to a peer or colleague and 13% would not. When asked why or why not, respondents most often mentioned a good experience and better service/it works (approximately 17%), followed by improving costs/cost effective/cheaper (approximately 16%).  Security issues and concerns (25%) and uncertainty/it’s too new (approximately 16%) are the reasons for not recommending cloud computing.

recommend cloud computing

The Best Cloud Computing Companies And CEOs To Work For In 2014

Job Growth2014 continues to be a year marked by the accelerating hiring cycles across nearly all cloud computing companies.

Signing bonuses of $3K to $5K for senior engineers and system design specialists are becoming common, and the cycles from screening to interviews to offers is shortening.  The job market in the cloud computing industry is leaning in favor of applicants who have a strong IT background in systems integration, legacy IT expertise, business analysis and in many positions, programming as well.

One of the most common questions and requests I receive from readers is who the best companies are to work for.  I’ve put together the following analysis based on the latest Computer Reseller News list The 100 Coolest Cloud Computing Vendors Of 2014.  

Using the CRN list as a baseline to compare the Glassdoor.com scores of the (%) of employees who would recommend this company to a friend and (%) of employees who approve of the CEO, the following analysis was completed.  You can find the original data here .  There are many companies listed on the CRN list that don’t have than many or any entries on Glassdoor and they were excluded from the rankings below.  You can find companies excluded here. If the image below is not visible in your browser, you can view the rankings here.

results

The highest rated CEOs on Glassdoor as of February 23rd include the following:

  • Jeremy Roche of FinancialForce.com (100%)
  • Robert Reid, Intacct (100%)
  • Randy Bias, Cloudscaling (100%)
  • Sridhar Vembu, Zoho (98%)
  • James M. Whitehurst, Red Hat (96%)
  • Larry Page, Google (95%)
  • Christian Chabot, Tableau Software (95%)
  • Aneel Bhusri, Workday (94%)
  • Bill McDermott & Jim Hagemann Snabe, SAP (93%)
  • Marc Benioff, Salesforce (93%)
  • David Friend, Carbonite (93%)

Best- And Worst-Performing Cloud Computing Stocks Feb. 10th To Feb. 14th And Year-to-Date

cloud computing forecast update 2012The five highest performing cloud computing stocks year-to-date in the Cloud Computing Index are Akamai (NASDAQ: AKAM), F5 Networks (NASDAQ: FFIV), Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR), Fusion-IO (NYSE:FIO), Qualys (NASDAQ:QYLS) and Workday (NYSE:WDAY).  A $10K investment in Akamai on January 2nd of this year is worth $12,901 and $10K invested in F5 Networks is worth $12,509 as of market close yesterday.   IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP share prices are included for comparison.

best performing YTD Feb 14

Akamai delivered better-than-respected results for their latest fiscal quarter and year, gaining $436M in revenues for fiscal Q4 and $1.578B for fiscal year.  Media Deliver Solutions revenue increased 19% year over year to $207.5M in revenue.  On their latest earnings call earlier this month, Akamai also says that traffic for gaming, social media, software and video downloads all continue to accelerate.  Support and Service revenues grew 36% year over year, reaching $36.3M in fiscal Q4, and Performance And Security revenue reached $192.2M, increasing 18% year over year.  Adjusted EBITDA for fiscal Q4 was $192M.

The following graphic compares how $10,000 invested on January 2nd of this year in the highest performing cloud computing stocks, in addition to IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP are valued today.

total dollar value 10K feb 14 2014

Please see the full Cloud Computing Index for market caps, average volumes, 52-week high and low share prices, Earnings per Share, Price/Earnings Ratio, and Beta.  I am using the Google Finance Portfolio option to track the performance of these stocks.  For information on how this index was created, see the description at the end of this post.  I do not hold equity positions or work for any of the companies mentioned in this blog post or included in the Cloud Computing Index and this post is not meant to provide investment advice.  It is simply a glimpse into the performance of these company’s stock prices over time.  The following is this week’s Cloud Computing Index.

Cloud Computing Stock Index February 14

Best Performing Cloud Computing Stocks, February 10th to February 14th, 2014

Capturebest performing for the week feb 14

Worst Performing Cloud Computing Stocks, February 10th to February 14th, 2014

worst performing for the week feb 14

Best Performing Cloud Computing Stocks In 2014

best performing YTD Feb 14

Worst Performing Cloud Computing Stocks In 2014

worst performing YTD Feb 14

Comparing Cumulative Stock Performance Performance of the Cloud Computing Index over the last year is compared to NetSuite, Salesforce, IBM, Oracle and SAP is below. This index has been up 27.58% over the last year, with NetSuite (NYSE:N) up 63.84%, Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) up 43.50%, IBM (NYSE:IBM) down 8.59%, Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) up 9.10% and SAP (NYSE:SAP) up .14%. Please click on the graphic to expand for easier reading.

trending

Specifics on the Cloud Computing Stock Index I used The Cloud Times 100 as the basis of the index, selecting twenty companies all of which are publically traded.  The latest edition of the Cloud Computing Index is shown here.  The filter applied to these companies is that 50% or more of their revenues are generated from cloud-based applications, infrastructure and services

BCG’s Value Creators Report Shows How Software Is Driving New Business Models

boston-300x211Boston Consulting Group (BCG) recently released their fifth annual technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) value report. The 2013 TMT Value Creators Report: The Great Software Transformation, How to Win as Technology Changes the World (free, opt-in required, 41 pgs).

The five trends that serve as the foundation of this report include the increasing pervasiveness of software, affordable small devices, ubiquitous broadband connectivity, big-data analytics and cloud computing.  BCG’s analysis illustrates how the majority of TMT companies that deliver the most value to shareholders are concentrating on the explosive growth of new markets, the rise of software-enabled digital metasystems, and for many, both.

The study is based on an analysis of 191 companies, 76 in the technology industry, 62 from media and 53 from telecom.  To review the methodology of this study please see page 28 of the report.

Here are the key takeaways from this years’ BCG TMT Value Creators Report:

  • BCG is predicting 1B smartphones will be sold in 2013, the first year their sales will have exceeded those of features phones.  By 2018, there will be more than 5B “post-PC” products (tablets & smartphones) in circulation. There are nearly as many mobile connections in the world as people (6.8B) according to the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

bcg figure 1

  • 27 terabytes of data is generated every second through the creation of video, images social networks, transactional and enterprise-based systems and networks.  90% of the data that is stored today didn’t exist two years ago, and the annual data growth rate in future years is projected to be 40% to 60% over current levels according to BCG’s analysis.

bcg figure 2

  • The ascent of communications speeds is surpassing Moore’s Law as a structural driver of growth.  BCG completed the following analysis graphing the progression of microprocessor transition count (Moore’s Law) relative to Internet speed (bps) citing Butter’s Law of Photonics which states that the amount of data coming out of an optical fiber is doubling every nine months. BCG states that these dynamics are democratizing information technology and will lead to the cloud computing industry (software and services) reaching nearly $250B in 2017.
    bcg figure 3
  • BCG predicts that India will see a fivefold increase in digitally-influenced spending, ascending from $30B in 2012 to $150B in 2016, among the fastest of all nations globally according to their study. India will also see the value of online purchases increase from $8B in 2012 t5o $50B in 2016.

bcg figure 4

  • 3D printing is forecast to become a $3.1B market by 2016, and will have an economic impact of $550B in 2025, fueling rapid price reductions in 3D printers through 2017.  BCG sees 3D printing, connected travel, genomics and smart grid technologies are central to their digital metasystem.   The following graphic illustrates the key trends in each of these areas along with research findings from BCG and other sources.

bcg figure 5

  • Only 7% of customers are comfortable with their information being used outside of the purpose for which it was originally gathered.

bcg figure 6

  • BCG reports that mobile infrastructure investments in Europe have fallen 67% from 2004 to 2014.  Less than 1% of mobile connections in Europe were 4B as of the end of 2012, compared to 11% in the U.S. and 28% in South Korea.   European operators have also been challenged to monetize mobile data as well, as the following figures illustrate.

bcg figure 7

bcg figure 8

  • Big Data is attracting $19B in funding across five key areas according to BCG’s analysis.  These include consumer data and marketing, enterprise data, analytical tools, vertical markets and data platforms.  A graphical analysis of these investments is shown below.

bcg figure 9

Lessons Learned From The 2013 Pacific Crest SaaS Survey

Pacific Crest SurveyDeveloping the ability to upsell existing customers into longer-term, higher value contracts that are multi-year in duration is one of the most critically important skill sets any SaaS business needs to attain.

These and other insights were gained from analyzing the 2013 Pacific Crest SaaS Survey, published earlier this month by David Skok.   The survey is based on responses from 155 SaaS companies, compiled by Pacific Crest Securities.   David’s blog For Entrepreneurs provides excellent content on SaaS metrics, start-up advice and a wealth on insight in the areas of sales and marketing, business models and the specifics of how to manage a SaaS business model profitability.

Key take-aways from the 2013 Pacific Crest SaaS Survey include the following:

  • Median GAAP revenue growth increased by 41% in 2012, projected to reach 47% in 2013 across all 155 SaaS companies included in the analysis.  When smaller companies whose revenue growth projections are excluded, median revenue growth for 2012 was 32%, projected to increase to 36% this year.  The following two figures illustrate distribution of revenue growth by number of companies.

  • The fastest growing SaaS companies have median contract sizes that are between $1K to $25K.  Companies’ with less than $2M in revenue were excluded from this analysis given the smaller deal sizes they generate.

  • The larger the median ACV (Annual Contract Value) the greater the reliance on field sales.  In results from previous surveys Pacific Crest found that mid-tier companies were more reliant on inside sales.  54% of respondents in the $5K to $25K ACV segment of companies this year are reliant on insider sales, up from 33% in 2012.
  • 13% of new ACV is generated from upsells across all SaaS companies, with the largest capable of expanding into other departments and divisions of existing customers.  SaaS companies with sales over $60M are generating 32% of new ACV from upsell strategies. It’s interesting to note that upsell is a more effective strategy at gaining market share versus marketing spending, and this hold true across sizes of SaaS companies.  The following graphic illustrates percentage of new ACV by size of SaaS company and an analysis showing the fastest-growth SaaS companies generate a higher proportion of new ACV from upsells compared to their peers.
  • 76% gross margins are being achieved across all respondents.  This does not change significantly when smaller companies are removed from the analysis.
  • Try-Before-You-Buy is used far more often than Freemium because it generates additional sales.  The following graphic shows the expected contribution of each to ACV in 2013:

  • Professional Services are 12% of 1rst year ACV across all customer segments.  Selling professional services into the enterprise generates 23% of first year ACV according to the study.  A graphic showing the distribution of first year ACV as a percentage of professional services by customer segment is shown below:

  • SaaS companies who primarily rely on Internet-based distribution methods are attaining the highest growth rates.  When companies with less than $2M in revenue were taken out of the analysis, those companies primarily based on inside sales grew 10% more than field sales.  The following graphic presents this analysis, excluding companies with less than $2M in revenue.

  • 37% of respondent companies rely on field sales as their primary means of distribution followed by inside sales (29%) and Internet sales (17%).  When smaller companies with sales less than $2M are excluded, field sales jumps to 50% of all respondents using this method as a primary means of distribution.  Inside sales (29%) and Internet sales (8%) are second and third.  While Internet sales is the cheapest form of distribution, it also leads to the highest churn rates (9%) recorded in the survey.

Predicting Enterprise Cloud Computing Growth

69% of enterprises who have separate budgets for cloud computing are predicting spending increases this year and into 2014.

This is one of several key take-aways from a research study published today by TheInfoPro, a service of 451 Research.  TheInfoPro Wave 5 Cloud Computing Study is based on research completed in the first six months of 2013, and relies on live interviews with IT management and primary decision-makers in midsize and large enterprises in Europe and North America. You can view details of TheInfoPro Cloud Computing Overview Program and methodology here.

Additional key take-aways from the study include the following:

  • The worldwide cloud computing market will grow at a 36% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2016, reaching a market size of $19.5B by 2016.
  • 38% of enterprises surveyed break out cloud computing budgets, while 60% include cloud-related spending as part of their enterprise-wide IT budgets.  TheInfoPro asserts that cloud computing’s benefits of greater business orchestration and reduced time-to-market have led to a change in budgeting approaches.
  • The median enterprise cloud computing budget is $675,000 and the mean enterprise cloud computing budget is $8,234,438.  The study found the largest enterprise cloud computing budget at $125M.  The following graphic provides a distribution of cloud computing budgets by range.

cloud-computing-budget

  • Internal Private Cloud (35%), Cloud Provider Assessments/Strategy Planning (33%), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) (31%) and Software-as-a-Service (30%) are the top four cloud computing-related projects enterprises are working on right now.  Cloud Provider Assessments/Strategy Planning have seen the largest increase, attributable to more enterprises looking to better support strategic plans with more agile, efficient IT organizations.

top-challenges-graphic2

  • 83% of enterprises face significant roadblocks that hold them back from moving beyond cost reduction to faster time-to-market and better orchestration of their businesses. Respondents mentioned that politics, budget, time and staff are the main sources of roadblocks to getting more value out of their cloud computing investments. The majority of these roadblocks are not related to IT.  They include lack of clarity regarding organization and budget (37%), resistance to change (16%) and lack of trust (visibility and reliability) (15%).  The following graphic illustrates the enterprise cloud journey as defined in TheInfoPro Wave 5 Cloud Computing Study.

deciphering-the-cloud-journey

  • Consistent with many other enterprise cloud computing surveys, security is the biggest pain point and roadblock to cloud computing adoption (30%).  Migration and integration of legacy and on-premise systems with cloud applications (18%) is second, and lack of internal process (18%) is third.  The following graphic shows a rank ordering of cloud computing-related pain points.

cloud-related-pain-points

451 Research: Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) Fastest Growing Area Of Cloud Computing

public-cloud-computing-forecast-2011-2016The majority of cloud computing revenue in 2012 was generated from vendors with sales over $75M (66%) and who are privately held (77%), with Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) projected to attain a 41% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2016.

Market Monitor, a service of 451 Research, is also predicting 36% CAGR in cloud computing, growing from $5.7B in 2012 to $20B by the end of 2016 in their Cloud-as-a-Service overview report. Other research firms including Gartner have much higher forecasts for cloud computing in general and IaaS, PaaS and SaaS specifically.

Market Monitor relies on a bottoms-up forecasting methodology that includes revenue analysis and forecasts from 309 cloud-services providers and technology vendors across 14 sectors. Their taxonomy defining Cloud as a Service is shown in the following graphic:

taxonomy cloud as a service

Here are the key take-aways from the report:

  • The cloud computing market will grow from $5.7B in 2012 to $20B in 2016, attaining a 36% CAGR over the forecast period.  The following graphic from the report shows the breakout of revenue on a yearly basis throughout the forecast period.

forecast breakout

  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) will attain a 41% CAGR through 2016, generating 24% of total cloud revenues.  71% of PaaS revenues will be generated by vendors over $75M in sales according to the study.
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) will attain a 37% CAGR through 2016, generating 51% of cloud revenue.  69% of IaaS revenues will be generated by vendors over $75M in sales according to the study.
  • SaaS will attain a 29% CAGR through 2016 and the distribution of revenue by vendor size shows how fragmented this area of the market is.  The following is a summary table from the report showing distribution of sales by vendor and category.

distribution table

PRISM Projected To Cost U.S. Cloud Computing Industry $35B

prismU.S.-based cloud computing providers are projected to lose up to 20% of foreign market revenues or $35B over the next three years as a result of disclosures involving PRISM.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank published How Much Will PRISM Cost the U.S. Cloud Computing Industry? (free to download, no opt-in) on August 5th.  The report highlights how the disclosures involving PRISM quickly are turning into a catalyst that rival countries’ cloud providers are using for their competitive advantage.  PRISM has also fueled protectionism throughout European countries, with the report citing Germany’s response in detail.  Jörg-Uwe Hahn, a German Justice Minister called for a boycott of U.S. companies in response to PRISM.

Key take-aways from the report are summarized here:

  • Of the $13.5B in investments that cloud computing service providers made in 2011, $5.6B or 41.5%, came from companies outside North America.
  • Global spending on cloud computing is expected to grow by as much as 100% between 2012 and 2016, while the global IT market will grow only 3% in the same period according to the report.
  • The global enterprise public cloud computing market will be a $207B industry by 2016 according to sources cited in the report.  The following graphic illustrates how non-U.S. markets are projected to grow through 2016.

figure-1-ww-cloud-market

  • The ITIF completed two forecast scenarios as part of their methodology, the first assuming 10% reduction in foreign market share to European and Asian competitors, and no loss of current projected market share domestically.  The second forecast scenario assumes 20% reduction in foreign market share, and constant market share growth domestically.  The table below summarizes their findings.

estimated-cost-of-PRISM

Thank you Jeff Nolan and Manuel Pumarada for distributing the link to the report and for sharing your insights, much appreciated.

Best- And Worst-Performing Cloud Computing Stocks In The First Half Of 2013

Cloud computing stocks continue to show wide variation in performance throughout the first half of this year.

Ten of the twenty companies in the Cloud Computing Stock Index delivered returns to shareholders with NetSuite leading with a 37.30% share gain, delivering $13,730 on $10,000 invested on January 2, 2013.

To more fully define the stock performance of these companies, I’ve added Earnings Per Share (EPS), Price/Earnings Ratio, Year-To-Date (YTD) Total Gains or Loss, Annualized Gain or Loss, and Total Dollar Value of $10,000 invested on January 2, 2013.  You can download the latest version of the Cloud Computing Stock Index here.  The filter applied to these companies is that 50% or more of their revenues are generated from cloud-based applications, infrastructure and services.  Additional details of the index are provided at the end of this post.

 

Best Performing

Name

Symbol

(1/2/13 – 7/5/13)Total Gain or Loss

Annualized Gain or Loss

Total Dollar Value of $10K invested in this stock on Jan. 2, 2013 as of July 5th:

NetSuite Inc

N

37.30%

87.55%

$13,730.00

Keynote Systems, Inc.

KEYN

36.18%

84.53%

$13,618.00

CA, Inc.

CA

26.67%

59.83%

$12,667.00

Workday Inc

WDAY

23.81%

52.77%

$12,381.00

Cisco Systems, Inc.

CSCO

22.60%

49.82%

$12,260.00

Symantec Corporation

SYMC

18.84%

40.84%

$11,884.00

Amazon.com, Inc.

AMZN

11.10%

23.23%

$11,110.00

 

Worst Performing

Name

Symbol

(1/2/13 – 7/5/13)Total Gain or Loss

Annualized Gain or Loss

Total Dollar Value of $10K invested in this stock on Jan. 2, 2013 as of July 5th:

Rackspace Hosting, Inc.

RAX

-46.78%

-71.39%

$5,322.00

Fusion-IO, Inc.

FIO

-41.21%

-65.13%

$5,879.00

F5 Networks, Inc.

FFIV

-31.57%

-52.88%

$6,843.00

VMware, Inc.

VMW

-29.94%

-50.63%

$7,006.00

Riverbed Technology…

RVBD

-24.91%

-43.34%

$7,509.00

Red Hat, Inc.

RHT

-11.47%

-21.46%

$8,853.00

Key Take-Aways:

  • NetSuite leads the index with a 37.3% gain in their stock price, and $10K invested in their stock on January 2nd of this year would be worth $13,730 as of July 5th.  Cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems acceptance is accelerating, evidenced by the success NetSuite is having with their two-tier ERP strategy and recent announcement they are moving into manufacturing.  Their recent alliance with Oracle also shows upside potential.   A cloud-based ERP provider leading the index is good news for Acumatica and Plex Systems especially, the leader in cloud-based ERP systems for manufacturing and one of the most enthusiastic customer bases in enterprise software.  Both of these companies are privately held or they would have been included in the index.
  • The 20 companies that comprise the Cloud Computing Stock Index attained a 29.6% return from July 10, 2012 to July 5, 2013.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) gained 18.83%;  Microsoft, 14.02%; Oracle, 7.17%; and SAP, 27.51%.  The following chart compares the performance of each. Please click on the index to expand it for easier viewing.

  • Widespread adoption of Amazon Web Services, success using the Kindle series of tablets as customer acquisition tools for digital content, market leadership of the online retail landscape, and successful pilots of the AmazonFresh online grocery business in Los Angeles and Seattle are all fueling Amazon’s stock performance this year.

Specifics on the Cloud Computing Stock Index

I used The Cloud Times 100 as the basis of the index, and included the 20 following companies, all of which are publically traded.  The latest edition of the Cloud Computing Stock Index is shown here.  Please click on the index to expand it for easier viewing.

 Note: I do not hold equity positions or work for any of the companies mentioned in this blog post or included in the Cloud Computing Stock Index.  

How Cloud Integration Is Defining The Future Of CRM

Scribe SoftwareThe future of customer relationships depends more on context than transactions.   And this trend is accelerating, driven by the integration of social media into customer relationship management (CRM), rapid gains in usability of CRM and integration applications, and the global growth of the API economy.

Gaining a clear, contextually-based view of customers isn’t easy. Fine-tuning system integration to understand the nuances of customers, gain greater insights and infusing customer intelligence through a company requires more than APIs and cloud platform integration.  It requires a precise strategy of integration to align customer data to ongoing strategies.

The bottom line is that customer-driven integration is reshaping CRM and will accelerate as cloud platforms, combined with APIs, reorder the customer relationship landscape.

To gain greater insights into what’s going on in the area of cloud-based CRM integration and the impact of the API economy, I recently spoke with Lou Guercia, President and CEO, and Betsy Bilhorn, VP Marketing and Product Management of Scribe Software

Key take-aways from my interview with them include the following:

Cloud integration is one of the fastest growing areas of enterprise software today, made more complex by cloud platform providers creating their own unique approaches to APIs.  What are the top three lessons you’ve learned navigating Scribe through the many potential product and services strategies cloud platforms are providing today?

The top that come to mind are understanding that your cloud platform vendor absolutely affects your product offering and making sure your offering is portable, that you’re not too deep in one vendor’s technology or platform.

There are a many new cloud services and platforms – you have to make a choice between an established, proven vendor or taking a chance as an early adopter of something new. We decided to be an early adopter and we’ve had mixed results, which at times caused problems for our customers. Customers don’t care who caused your slowdown or outage – they expect that you have service available no matter what. As a result, we had to build out sophisticated and sensitive monitors, fail-over and availability capacity.

One of the things we did, and it was fairly controversial at Scribe, was make sure our offering was highly portable. Given the vendor’s brand name, there were people who felt that there was no way something could go wrong and we were showing a vote of no confidence by not completely embracing the service. Others at Scribe were skeptical and insisted we not get too deep into this particular technology so we could pull the plug quickly if it didn’t work out. Even though it was not a popular decision, we made sure this portability was part of our architecture from day one and we’ve resisted getting too dependent on unique capabilities even though it could be easier from a development standpoint.

Keeping that discipline turned out to be a very smart move – we’ve since had to move parts of our offering to other platforms and services that could better accommodate our growth and capacity needs. As we compare notes with other integration companies with cloud offerings, we’re hearing similar stories. We want to focus on our features and services and we want to be able to make sure our platform is stable and performing for our customers. Having the ability to move parts and pieces of our architecture when we need to is critical as we grow. Our planning and roadmap now include a capacity review and all options are on the table, including changing technology platforms or vendors.

Many say enterprise software is quickly moving in the direction of an API economy.  What are your thoughts on the API economy beginning with how you define it, and how will it change CRM in the next three years?

When we look at the enterprise software space and how it is still very challenging to integrate the data across these applications, it absolutely makes sense directionally. There are so many new technology stacks and platforms out there and the old ones aren’t going away either. APIs are a logical framework for people to access, share, and integrate data regardless of where it lives or how it’s stored.

This is really exciting for CRM. There is a lot of talk about the 360 degree view of the customer but the reality for most businesses is that actually getting all that data is still difficult and not standardized. If you’ve got a lightweight API to access any number of customer data points in and outside the business, CRM would be more a framework and platform to select and mash up those data feeds in a tailored presentation for particular roles in your business – sales, support, marketing, etc. You could put a very powerful, functionally relevant view of the customer at your employee’s fingertips. We’re already seeing that today with the ability to embed Google Maps, social feeds, and the like in CRM. But think about how incredible it could be for CRM if you were able to do that type of embed with virtually any data source.

In such a highly competitive, rapidly changing and technically complex market area, how do you continually innovate and generate new ideas?

The best way to describe how we innovate is that we take a clean sheet of paper approach when thinking about product. Our product team typically looks at the business problem first and gets very creative about how to achieve the desired outcome. We also take a hard look at the status quo and challenge “how can we do this completely different and better”? Our goal is to delight our partners and customers with product that they find easy to use and that gets the job done without a lot of hassle or drama. Sometimes it takes an unusual path and it typically isn’t your big, trendy items. For instance, most integration projects require a team of people to accomplish – experts in data, experts in business process, usually an outside consultant or professional services vendor. One of the things we heard in passing was what a pain in the neck it was to manage multiple clients and getting permission from the client’s IT organization to access the integration environment – one of those things you just talk about as an accepted pain of doing business. In response, our product team brought in social features like the ability to invite or de-invite members to a specific customer organization and allowing the owner of that customer organization to set permissions of what that member could do in their organization. In the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t seem like a big deal but today, that social user experience really excites our customers and partners and it’s become a key differentiator for Scribe.

For many enterprise software companies, selling through resellers is challenging.  What key lessons has Scribe learned about making a reseller strategy for cloud integration services successful? 

We’ve been selling through the channel for a long time now – understanding their business model and supporting their success is paramount to us as a business. Partners are all about standardization, efficiency, quality, and repeatability at scale – you need to be oriented to that outcome whether it’s product, programs, pricing, communications, or support. Who you are and what you provide needs to be consistent and fair to the entire community.

Our motto is “own the customer, respect the partner”. When we’re servicing a customer directly, we are very cognizant of the partner and we know that customer’s experience with Scribe can directly impact their relationship with that partner. You have to weigh your interactions with a customer against the whole of your partner relationship and calibrate accordingly. So we make sure that we give our customers the same touch and quality service as our partners. Your reputation with your partners and that partner community will dictate your success in the channel. You have a great reputation with your partners and you’ve got their back – they are going to reward you by being incredibly loyal. The top reason we hear from prospective partners looking to make a switch is “this vendor was really difficult to work with” or “this vendor failed in delivering to my customer and I need something now to get this customer back on track”.

The growth of the API economy has many parallels to growing a reseller-based business.  How do you view these parallels and how do they open up greater avenues of innovation to benefit those companies using CRM today and in the future through resellers?

Where we see a distinct parallel is taking hold of a something like data or an application, and evolving it into a completely new and innovative offering, which completely transforms the experience of using it – for the better. With APIs it’s about evolving connectivity and access. In CRM, the most successful resellers reinvent the CRM application as a platform. They craft entirely new solutions on CRM that are imbued with their particular expertise in a vertical or a set of business processes that make CRM much more straightforward and easier to use. Often these offerings are unrecognizable from the original CRM. This innovation benefits business customers as the reseller is productizing their expertise and making CRM much more turnkey for them. At the end of the day, it isn’t about the particular CRM vendor or platform but more about the particular capabilities that a reseller has in their turnkey CRM offering. That’s a huge benefit to customers as they’re now able to focus on picking the right reseller and their expertise to help their business versus being distracted and consumed with the nuts and bolts of hand-tailoring the CRM application to fit their needs.

What are you seeing in terms of on-premise to cloud migration on the part of resellers?  Are they bringing you more deals that are cloud-based versus on-premise?  Does this vary between North America and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East & Africa)? 

The reseller channel is going through an interesting evolution with cloud. What we’re seeing are resellers typically making two choices, going cloud or sticking with on-premise but focusing on larger, enterprise deals. We’re seeing some of our existing resellers re-aligning their offerings and services around cloud; they may continue to do premise deals but they aren’t leading with premise. We’re increasingly working with a third category of new partners who have entered the CRM business recently as exclusively cloud; typically these resellers represent multiple CRM vendors (Salesforce, Sugar, Dynamics CRM Online, etc.) in their practice.

Regardless of the partner orientation towards cloud, we are definitely seeing a shift towards cloud deals. EMEA is behind North America but is quickly closing the gap – we see growing adoption of cloud applications and there is an excitement and interest in EMEA for more cloud.

Can you walk me through the new product development cycles you use?  How are you seeing the market cadence right now from a cloud integration perspective?  Is it 6 months, or shorter than that for each new release?

The cloud is driving faster release & upgrade cycles overall. Customers use cloud applications in their everyday lives and those consumer applications typically have rapid response to feedback; it’s not unusual to get an update on your iPhone apps once a month. We’re seeing those same expectations in the business applications space – you shouldn’t be waiting 6-12 months or more for updates to the product. The nature of cloud allows us to be much more responsive giving us the flexibility to push out updates when we need to.

Our release cadence is 8 weeks. We might go longer to a 16- or 24-week cycle for a major release. Our connectivity release cycle is much faster. Each quarter we’re typically releasing 2-3 new connectors and 2-3 upgrades to existing connectors. This release cadence has been a real advantage for us in closing deals and building customer loyalty. Every two months we’re putting in enhancements and new features – many of those driven from direct customer feedback. We’ve won more than a few competitive and strategic wins because we were able to incorporate feedback from the prospect during the proof of concept or trial phase of those deals within a short period of time.

Earlier we spoke about how your company is successfully using personas to guide new product development.  Can you comment on how personas guide the development and launch of new products?

Personas provide that guiding star for the development team to build towards. It’s not just the “what” and the “how”, it’s the “who” and the “why”. When we start with personas we’re talking about the business problem or goal that our customer is grappling with. That’s where the innovation we talked about earlier comes in – we try to solve for the real world business problem and an authentic user experience for our target customer. After we have the persona solidified, then we apply a particular technology approach and design. Starting with what success looks like to the customer keeps things very clear and real in terms of design, scope, what the product will and will not do.

The development team has a much clearer understanding who they are building product for and why it needs to be a certain way. If there is a question or difference of opinion about the user experience or the way a certain feature should work, we always go back to the persona. It’s a very efficient sanity check throughout the development process – would our persona really use this feature in this way, would they be comfortable working that way in real life, do they really need this feature or capability to do these extra 5 things we think they do?

Personas are very helpful in discouraging developing products that might be perceived as cutting edge to the tech community but ultimately don’t give the customer what they need and want. We like cool technologies and features, and we’ll put it in there but only if it fits the persona.

Has any customer measured the impact of Scribe integration solutions in the context of improved user experience and customer satisfaction?  If so, can you share those figures? 

An interesting question and one we asked in our recent State of Data Integration 2013 survey. What we found was that over 70% of our survey respondents had no formal process for evaluating the success of their integration and articulating the return on investment either in operational improvements or customer satisfaction. With a partner involved there is some improvement as the partner has to typically prove the success of their engagement but it’s not what we’d like it to be. It’s virtually impossible to get a customer to capture any meaningful metrics after the project has been completed.

What we’re finding is that partners and customers don’t know where to begin to measure the impact of their integration and there are no standard templates or resources to use as part of the project planning & tracking. This is a problem we’re tackling in the coming months, providing standard metrics that any partner or customer can use to track the success of their integrations.

What are the most important metrics to keep in mind when evaluating the performance of a cloud integration platform?  How did these metrics influence the design, coding and launch of Scribe Online?

The most important metrics are usability and performance. The obvious one, performance comes in many flavors but the big ones we look at are the responsiveness of the platform user interface, the throughput and speed of the integrations, and the reliability/availability of the platform overall. These are table stakes. When we say usability, we mean how many customers are actually creating and running integration jobs? How often are they logged into the system and what are they doing? Are they adding new integration jobs? Using new connectors? How many customers are renewing and/or increasing their subscription levels? These are metrics we measure. If a customer were evaluating a platform, questions I’d be asking would be “how long does it take to get a typical integration project live and running?”, “do you require professional services and how much/how long does that engagement typically run?”, and when talking to references “did you get your integration project done in the time frame you expected?”

Usability is very, very important to us. You can have a platform that processes billions of rows a day but if it is difficult to configure, use, and maintain, customers are going to gravitate to vendors that have both performance and better usability.

Have you seen a shift in the types of CRM applications being integrated within the last twelve months, and do you see trending of these systems changing in the next three years?  Why or why not?

In the past twelve months, we’ve seen a shift where customers appear to be doing less of the rip and replace with new CRM systems and more where they are adding on other, customer-facing applications with discrete functions like marketing automation, e-commerce, sales productivity, or support. We’re also seeing an uptick in two-tier CRM integrations where a division or line of business will use one vendor’s CRM for specific range of capabilities but want to integrate with the legacy or corporate CRM.

Certainly the CRM vendors are adding more capabilities and providing more complete platforms that include marketing automation, support, e-commerce, finance, and social. What will be very interesting in the next three years is if businesses will embrace these platforms completely or if they will use parts and pieces of these platforms and integrate them with existing application investments or other CRM platforms. For instance, would a business decide to purchase Salesforce Support Cloud and integrate that with NetSuite? We think given what we’re seeing in with legacy applications – that businesses have made major investments in and are still realizing value from these applications – that a rip and replace to a complete CRM platform from one major vendor might be a bit of stretch. Given that cloud integration is evolving quickly, it would seem that a business could put together best of breed cloud CRM apps just as they did with premise applications in the past.

Often integration in small and medium businesses, which is a market Scribe excels in, are complacent about the need to change and adopt a more unified CRM system.  Is complacency is your biggest competitor?  How do you overcome that in your channel development, marketing and selling strategies?

We’re seeing SMBs are as savvy as our largest enterprise customers about integration. They get the need for an integrated CRM system to keep competitive. SMBs are requiring integration in the first phases of their CRM implementation and are asking partners about it. That’s a big shift from 4-5 years ago where partners had to educate the customer about the benefits of integration and why spending money/time/resources on integration are valuable. It’s less complacency that is our biggest obstacle with SMBs – its education and outreach that there are affordable, easy-to-use integration options out there for the SMB that allow them to realize the same business benefits as the big companies. If you define complacency as the common belief that there is just nothing out there right now for the SMB, then yes, it’s a competitor. We have been aggressive in recruiting partners who specialize in SMB and making sure our cloud integration platform have the features and capabilities so these partners can service a large volume of smaller customers quickly and cost-effectively. We also work with our partners with other marketing outreach to educate the SMB that integration is possible and how to best approach that first integration project. And it goes back to that usability metric – we want the SMB to have an easy time with integration – so that means proving it with our selling, our marketing, and our partner channel. All of it needs to be approachable and reinforce that integration is accessible and can be realized by the SMB.

What are Scribe’s top three goals for 2013, and how are you tracking to them?

Our top three goals in 2013 are to continue build out the features and services in our cloud platform, continue to offer more customer data connectivity, and continue to build out our ecosystem of ISVs and partners using our online platform. We’ve had excellent success in all three areas – we’ve announced partnerships and connectivity to Marketo, Silverpop, and ExactTarget and we continue to build and enhance the platform. The interest in the channel and the ISV community is very strong – we have as much incoming as we do active outreach – and we expect more ISV partnership announcements later this year.

When you and your company look three years into the future, what will cloud integration look like? 

In three years, integration should be ubiquitous in most business applications. It’s not just about APIs – it’s about customers being able to connect quickly, easily, and seamlessly to other applications without having to stitch code together or understand what entities and methods to use. When we use consumer applications today, we don’t care or think about things like how to send a Tweet to my Facebook feed – we just press a button and it happens. I think you’ll see more turnkey integrations based on common business processes that business users can provision and manage within the  user interface of their business application instead of using a separate application. There will always be a market for more sophisticated, unique integration needs but common business practices such as sales order processing should be something a business analyst or system administrator could invoke within a CRM or ERP user interface, perform some light customizations as needed, and provision.

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