Robust and Best-of-Breed

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I remember the good ole day of the ‘.com’ era at the turn of the century – I like to say it that way because it makes it seem so far back. And in technology years, it really is.

There was a line that the young ‘.com’ guys would say to those old folks over the age of 30 who would be attending some technology meeting, and who didn’t really understand what was going with all this new-fangled technology.

“Just show up in a new suit and keep quiet.”

You would get in the rooms with the venture capitalists and technology guys and talk about the sky-rocketing share prices of Google, Yahoo and Amazon, and wonder if you had just entered a 5 year old’s playroom.

And if you really wanted to sound intelligent, you could throw out some real neat words that would make you sound like you were “with it”…that you had captured the “technology culture zeitgeist” of the times.

Robust.”

“Best in Class.”

And of course you had to steal some term from Gartner and Forrester, the people who analyzed the industry and say words like…

“Best of Breed.”

It sort of sounded like this:

“We are building a Best of Breed solution that is going to be best in class and robust for the shower hook market. Something that is going to move the market from Bricks to Clicks and dis-intermediate the shower hook wholesalers- we call it from ‘Hook to Curtain’.”

And some intelligent looking financial sub-analyst with a dark suit and dark- rimmed glasses would ask you from the end of the table, “So what’s your current Burn Rate?”

Yes, burn rate. How much shareholder money are you ‘burning through’ in order to achieve this dream of ‘shower hook’ nirvana? Burn rate? Now that’s a concept to embrace. Taking investors’ money and seeing how fast you can lose it.

Sort of like the guy who decided to spend $10million on one SuperBowl ad back then, hoping so many pet owners would be watching the SuperBowl that his ‘.com’ company would all of a sudden be successful.

We ran into this again in the past few years with Social Media. Sometimes I think it’s a lottery – make sure you hype the winners so much, so much so that everyone else thinks that ‘easy success’ is around the corner.

It was a fusion of ‘software – meets marketing – meets financial engineering’. And while some companies were successful, most companies weren’t.

It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and tremendous resiliency to build a great business in technology. You need to stay laser- focused on your customers and what they are doing. You also have to understand the other choices that they have to solve their problems – not just other technologies, but other services and tools available to them. Note – the technology industry also gravitates to some new app or program quite often to solve a problem that can be easily solved by a simple new process or a change in behavior by an employee. Technology doesn’t solve everything, it shouldn’t do what Stephen Wright hints at in his comedy routine.

“I am working on a map of the world. I am scaling it 1:1.”

Sometimes that’s all technology does. You get to do the same thing you do with paper, on a whiteboard, on a note pad…and now you just get to do it all over again on a computer. Ah…but what a computer! It’s the latest iSurfaceThink pad-o-matic! Ooooh.

However, the biggest change in software over the past 15 years is the advent of the Software-as-a-Service model, supported by computer systems that host in the ‘Cloud.’ The Cloud…hmm. When that term first came out, that was a tough one for those ‘non-techie now over -40 year olds in the same suit guys.’

Reminds me of the time I told one of our professional services managers in a former company that he needed to make his offering simpler, clearer, that he should ‘productize’ his group of services – implementation, configuration and training –I told him to standardize it, make it like a “box of Tide.”

A few weeks later, I met with a rookie salesperson after his first two weeks on the job and asked him how he was finding his new job at our ‘old client server model’ software company.

“Well, the people are nice. I like the customers, too. But I haven’t been able to figure out where to find the Tide thing.”

Software as a Service works because it aligns with a true and tested business methodology– or way of doing business. Software as a Service is the continuous improvement of an application and services around the application in order to be responsive to ever-changing technology and business conditions. It ties the customer and the technology supplier together at the hip in ways it didn’t do before.

“You keep your product relevant and working, and I will continue to pay you for the month, or the year.”

Yes, it’s nice that it’s ‘best of breed’ or ‘robust,’ but it doesn’t focus on the hype and puffery around what it does. It more straightforward and provides a customer with a service – the monthly rental of the software – that keeps current with the changing conditions of the industry.

In our industry, the trucking and freight brokerage industry, it simply helps a company keep track of their customers and staff, their compliance with regulators, transact business, dispatch shipments, and send out invoices and make payments. It helps businesses operate more effectively each and every day. Pretty simple stuff.

Hmm…but there are days I just want to find out the latest price of the next SuperBowl ad.

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