Wednesday Apr 23, 2014

A Two-Way Street for Software Vendors?


by Jim Lein, Oracle Midsize Programs

As I examined software review sites, my search results varied greatly from site to site. Many Oracle products weren’t represented or had very few or no reviews.

“How can that be?” I wondered out loud.

A Two Way Street for Vendors

Oracle offers applications spanning all business functions and over a thousand published customer references. Why aren’t all these products listed on every software review site?

When an IT buyer encounters a similar and counter intuitive situation it can typically be explained by one of the following reasons.

  • Lack of Collaboration—the vendor hasn’t proactively worked on the review provider’s terms to make sure the profile for every product is complete

  • Focus—Very few software review sites can or want to boil the ocean by attempting to cover all products within all categories

  • Vendor Cheerleading—Some vendors are more proactive in encouraging their users to review their products as a form of grass roots awareness marketing

  • Revenue Sources—If a vendor won’t pay for leads, it could adversely impact the likelihood of their products being recommended

A Comprehensive and Balanced Approach

Oracle is successful not because we work closely with software reviewsites but instead because we have helped hundreds of thousands of customers become more successful.

Like it or not, software review sites aren't likely to replace RFPs. But without a doubt, they are replacing some stages of the traditional buying process, especially for lower cost, less complicated products. With so much at stake, caveat emptor still applies – selection managers & IT buyers must be diligent in assessing the veracity, objectivity, and completeness of any online advice they choose to follow.


In this series:

  1. The (R)Evolution of IT Buying Behavior--including steps in the traditional software buying process
  2. The Death of the RFP?- the basics on software review sites
  3. How Software Review Sites Are Like Apples-including how such sites are not all the same
  4. A Two-Way Street for Software Vendors?-including why you won't find every product on every software review site

Jim Lein

I evangelize Oracle's enterprise solutions for growing midsize companies. I recently celebrated 15 years with Oracle, having joined JD Edwards in 1999. I'm based in Evergreen, Colorado and love relating stories about creativity and innovation whether they be about software, live music, or the mountains. The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

The Death of the RFP?

by Jim Lein, Oracle Midsize Programs

IT buying processes have evolved over the last decade to leverage the power of the internet. For many, it has not evolved fast enough or far enough. The traditional software buying process (as I describe in "The (R)Evolution in IT Buying Behavior) is ponderous, expensive, and produces variable results. Buyers and vendors alike are frustrated.

The Role of Enterprise Software Review Sites 

Enterprise software review sites—such as Software Advice, G2 Crowd, and TrustRadius—are to IT buyers as sites like Amazon, Yelp, and Expedia are to consumers. Online advice & reviews—with some caveats—works exceptionally well for consumers. The question many IT buyers are asking now is, “What role should software review sites play in my buying process?”

To find answers to that question, I interviewed experts in the Oracle community as well as the founders of several software review  sites. I learned they can serve as a valuable source of information and influence as part of a comprehensive and balanced selection process. Buyers seeking fundamental knowledge during early stages can save time and money when trying to get to a short list of vendors. Likewise, user reviews can swing the pendulum one way or another when everything else looks equal. And the weight placed on any advice will vary based on each IT buyer’s circumstances.

The Basics

Not that long ago, vendors, industry analysts, and consulting firms were seen as the exclusive gatekeepers to knowledge.Now, software review sites are intended to bring the power of knowledge to all IT buyers by providing access to vast resources of online product information and reviews.

But buying enterprise software is not the same as renting a hotel room for a night. With the power of knowledge comes responsibility. IT buyers seeking online advice need to understand how these sites work.

Buyers want three types of information:

  • Functional—what does the solution do and not do?
  • Comparative—how does one solution differ from another?
  • Experiential—did the solution deliver value to users as expected?

Each software review site provides some blend of these via a combination of three formats:

  • Directory—a repository of vendors and product information gathered from publicly-available data, vendors, and reviewers
  • User reviews—a crowdsourced forum reflecting the experiences of product users
  • Analysis—validation and assessment applied by the resources of software review sites, both people and technology
Ultimately, software buyers will determine the fate of each site. One way or the other, their actions will or will not drive revenue to each site and determine its financial viability.

In this series:

  1. The (R)Evolution of IT Buying Behavior--including steps in the traditional software buying process
  2. The Death of the RFP?- the basics on software review sites
  3. How Software Review Sites Are Like Apples-including how such sites are not all the same
  4. A Two-Way Street for Software Vendors?-including why you won't find every product on every software review site

Jim Lein

I evangelize Oracle's enterprise solutions for growing midsize companies. I recently celebrated 15 years with Oracle, having joined JD Edwards in 1999. I'm based in Evergreen, Colorado and love relating stories about creativity and innovation whether they be about software, live music, or the mountains. The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

How Software Review Sites Are Like Apples


by Jim Lein, Oracle Midsize Programs

Walk into the market and you can buy a dozen different kinds of apples. We each pick a fruit based on its color and flavor. And we don't always choose the same apple because our tastes can change from day to day based on what we're looking for and what mood we happen to be in. 

No Two Sites Are the Same

Software buyers are likely to review more than one software review site and choose based on their own personal preferences and buying habits. G2 Crowd, Software Advice, and TrustRadius all provide reviews and advice but they differ in "color" and "flavor". Each  provide software buyers with free access to user reviews. All three gather information from vendors and publicly available sources.

G2 Crowd and TrustRadius primarily interact with vendors via self service mechanisms. They also advise vendors that the best way to get their products accurately represented is to encourage user reviews. With Software Advice, vendors who are willing to pay for leads can actively interact with Client Success Coordinators.

With Software Advice, founded in 2005, buyers never pay. Buyers are encouraged to work with an software advisor over the phone to match their needs to a product. G2 Crowd, launched in February of 2013, and TrustRadius, launched in March of 2013, rank and compare products almost entirely based on end user reviews. Currently, G2 Crowd generates revenue from buyers who pay for reports that rank products within a category based on all user reviews. TrustRadius is pre-revenue but expects to generate sales through some combination of premium user products and vendor services.

Information is Only As Good As the Source

Credible software review sites take great care in validating both vendor information and user reviews. IT buyers should understand how any given site validates its vendor information and user reviews or be prepared to take that advice with some grain of salt

Validating vendor information is to some degree self governing. If a vendor provides bad information, the outcome is not going to be favorable, in the long run, to anyone involved. Some sites (including G2 and TrustRadius) validate user reviewers via their LinkedIn credentials. Ideally, there is also some degree of scrutiny applied by a human being for both validity and quality.

For example, TrustRadius rejects about 5% of submitted reviews as junk or false. Buyers can also assess the quality of reviews based on the richness and structure of the content. For context, the average TrustRadius reviewer spends eighteen minutes on their first review and is encouraged to return in order to keep their reviews fresh and update.Likewise, G2 Crowd rejects 3-4% of reviews in addition to algorithmic checks based on reviewer LinkedIn data. Some reviews are flagged as "business partner" if submitted by, for example, a solution integrator, in order to identify any potential conflicts of interest. 

Sticking with the analogy...it's certainly possible that there are "bad apples" amongst the myriad software sites available. But the diligence shown by the good ones ensure that one bad apple won't spoil the whole bunch.


In this series:

  1. The (R)Evolution of IT Buying Behavior--including steps in the traditional software buying process
  2. The Death of the RFP?- the basics on software review sites
  3. How Software Review Sites Are Like Apples-including how such sites are not all the same
  4. A Two-Way Street for Software Vendors?-including why you won't find every product on every software review site

Jim Lein

I evangelize Oracle's enterprise solutions for growing midsize companies. I recently celebrated 15 years with Oracle, having joined JD Edwards in 1999. I'm based in Evergreen, Colorado and love relating stories about creativity and innovation whether they be about software, live music, or the mountains. The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.


Thursday Apr 17, 2014

People First! The Priority for Midsize Companies


by Jim Lein, Oracle Midsize Programs

Early in my technology career, I conducted an ROI assessment to help a very large customer update their HCM business processes across seven operating entities and tens of thousands of employees.

Their HR department was a room full of desks, each covered with stacks of blue paper cards. A legion of clerks each spent forty hours a week transferring hand written data from the cards into a main frame system. The scary part? The decision was to be based entirely on anticipated cost savings, not benefits. That was only a dozen years ago!

HR used to be at the bottom of the totem pole when it came to IT spending. Today, Human Capital Management and Talent Management solutions are surging to the top of the priority list at both midsize and enterprise companies. Finally, everyone seems to agree that people are a company's most important asset.

I asked Richard Atkins, EVP of Oracle Cloud applications for UK based Certus Solutions, what is driving investments in Oracle's Human Capital Management.

 "Cloud has changed everything," says Atkins. "We used to work almost exclusively with large enterprises. Now, most of our new clients are growing midsize companies with global operations. Our Cloud solutions enable them to deploy best practices fast and affordably. It's that simple."

Certus works with clients in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, and India. Most are either replacing a Tier 2 solution or have never had an HCM solution in place. In some regions, best practices for recruitment are a priority while, in others, the focus is on internal talent management.

"Our clients with global operations often need to cover both these scenarios,” says Atkins. “On the recruitment side, with social media and other options, it's almost becoming harder to find the right talent because there is just so much information out there. In areas where there still isn’t budget for hiring, internal talent management—like learning—is the priority. Oracle’s HCM cloud solutions covers all these needs for recruitment, social sourcing, learning, and core talent management. Clients have so much more information to make hiring decisions and to more easily spot the right people internally and retain the skills they need."

Growing Midsize Companies Want HCM Best Practices and Mobile

Certus clients are also eager to adopt best practices. "We rarely do requirements gathering anymore," says Atkins. "To our customers, the word 'standardization' is music to their ears. They want an out of the box system that delivers best practices quickly. They are encouraged by the ability of cloud solutions to deliver on that."

And mobile applications have massive appeal. “The kind of company looking at cloud solutions usually has a very mobile workforce,” says Atkins. “Senior management and, often, the entire workforce are working off smartphones and tablets. Oracle’s solutions work beautifully across those devices.”


Find out more about Oracle’s HCM Cloud And Taleo Cloud Service solutions if you’re ready to go mobile, enhance your learning programs, source talent socially, recruit more efficiently, or just replace your version of the blue card. See what Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has to say about managing your most precious assets.


Jim Lein evangelizes Oracle Accelerate, Oracle's Applications Strategy for growing midsize companies. He recently celebrated 15 years with Oracle, having joined JD Edwards in 1999. He is based in Evergreen, Colorado and loves relating stories about creativity and innovation whether they be about software, live music, or the mountains. 

Tuesday Apr 15, 2014

Impatient Customers Make Flawless Service Mission Critical for Midsize Companies


by Jim Lein, Oracle Midsize Programs

At times, I can be an impatient customer. But I’m not alone. Research by The Social Habit shows that among customers who contact a brand, product, or company through social media for support, 32% expect a response within 30 minutes and 42% expect a response within 60 minutes! 70% of respondents to another study expected their complaints to be addressed within 24 hours, irrespective of how they contacted the company.

I was intrigued when I read a recent blog post by David Vap, Group Vice President of Product Development for Oracle Service Cloud. It’s about “Three Secrets to Innovation” in customer service. In David’s words:

1) Focus on making what’s hard simple

2) Solve real problems for real people

3) Don’t just spin a good vision. Do something about it 

I believe midsize companies have a leg up in delivering on these three points, mainly because they have no other choice. How can you grow a business without listening to your customers and providing flawless service? Big companies are often weighed down by customer service practices that have been churning in bureaucracy for years or even decades.

When the all-in-one printer/fax/scanner I bought my wife for Christmas (call me a romantic) failed after sixty days, I wasted hours of my time navigating the big brand manufacturer’s complex support and contact policies only to be offered a refurbished replacement after I shipped mine back to them. There was not a happy ending. Let's just say my wife still doesn't have a printer. 

Young midsize companies need to innovate to grow. Established midsize company brands need to innovate to survive and reach the next level.

Midsize Customer Case Study: The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe, established in 1872 and the winner of 22 Pulitzer Prizes, is fighting the prevailing decline in the newspaper industry. Businessman John Henry invested in the Globe in 2013 because he, “…believes deeply in the future of this great community, and the Globe should play a vital role in determining that future”. How well the paper executes on its bold new strategy is truly mission critical—a matter of life or death for an industry icon.

This customer case study tells how Oracle’s Service Cloud is helping The Boston Globe “do something about” and not just “spin” it’s strategy and vision via improved customer service. For example, Oracle RightNow Chat Cloud Service is now the preferred support channel for its online environments. The average e-mail or phone call can take three to four minutes to complete while the average chat is only 30 to 40 seconds.

It’s a great example of one company leveraging technology to make things simpler to solve real problems for real people.

Related:

Oracle Cloud Service a leader in The Forrester Wave™: Customer Service Solutions For Small And Midsize Teams, Q2 2014


Jim Lein evangelizes Oracle Accelerate, Oracle's Applications Strategy for growing midsize companies. He recently celebrated 15 years with Oracle, having joined JD Edwards in 1999. He is based in Evergreen, Colorado and loves relating stories about creativity and innovation whether they be about software, live music, or the mountains. 

Wednesday Apr 09, 2014

Yummy! KIND Snacks selects Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and Demantra to Support Business Growth


by Jim Lein, Oracle Midsize Programs

Oracle and KIND Healthy Snacks issued a press release yesterday, "KIND Healthy Snacks Selects Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and Oracle’s Demantra to Support Business Growth".

That's delicious news for several reasons.

First, KIND's  Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants bar (pictured above) happens to be my favorite hiking, biking, and skiing snack. It's scrumptious and when you bite into it you see exactly what it's made of, unlike so many other energy foods on the market. You have to be careful how you pack it though, as I've melted a couple in my backpack on hot sunny hikes.

The press release states, "After evaluating more than a dozen different solutions, KIND selected Oracle's JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1 and Oracle's Demantra to help drive efficiencies and achieve the flexibility required to capitalize on the opportunities presented by fast growth and an ever-changing marketplace". Since I'm writing a blog series on “The (R)Evolution in IT Buyer Behavior” I look forward to learning about how KIND went about their selection process.

And finally, I'm excited that this is an Oracle Business Accelerator project. Again, from the press release, " KIND used Oracle Business Accelerators and the Syntax Accelerate Methodology to reduce the overall project risk and increase the speed of their JD Edwards EnterpriseOne application deployment".

That's a lot of good news from one press release. I'll enjoy a KIND bar at the top of Evergreen Mountain on my mountain bike ride in Alderfer Three Sisters Park this evening, along with a few sticks of red licorice and maybe a micro-brew beer. I know...there's no accounting for personal taste.


Jim Lein evangelizes Oracle Accelerate, Oracle's Applications Strategy for growing midsize companies. He recently celebrated 15 years with Oracle, having joined JD Edwards in 1999. He is based in Evergreen, Colorado and loves relating stories about creativity and innovation whether they be about software, live music, or the mountains. 





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