Archive for the ‘Enterprise Web’ Category

SaaS: Where are you in this 2×2?

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Some SaaS ventures lead to category leadership while some lead to imaginary frozen quadrants. Here’s a little 2X2 to assess where you are in your journey to SaaS nirvana. When amazing products are sold in amazing ways, it produces the almost mystical flywheel effect.

2x2 Product vs Sales

Let’s dissect this.

Red: Weak Product and a Weak/Average Sales Team

This is a highly incremental quadrant where a single provider may be serving the exact needs of a handful of customers. It’s an equilibrium that doesn’t last too long. I’ll leave this quadrant at that.

This is a highly incremental quadrant where a single provider may be serving the exact needs of a handful of customers. It’s an equilibrium that doesn’t last too long. I’ll leave this quadrant at that.

Blue: Weak Product and a Strong Sales Team

When people say “that company is sales driven” this is what they are referring to. Founders of companies in this quadrant have a knack of story-telling and projecting a product market fit before a product is actually ready. What happens next is catastrophic. Sales drives the company’s culture, narrative, and product building. Both product and engineering go into a wild-balancing act of fixing the problems while trying to add features in a near random fashion.

It is unsustainable. It bloats customer service, support, and pre-sales. Lack of a strong product causes politicking, confusion, and populism in every department, which leads to relationship-driven rather than value-proposition driven outcomes. Unless a startup iterates on product rapidly or brings in a disciplined and creative leader, there’s a significant risk of revenues plateauing at $5m-$10m mark.

So why is it blue? Because it is fairly cushioned for a while though sales > everything is bad karma.

Yellow: Strong Product and a Weak/Average Sales Team

This quadrant probably causes hackers amongst us the most heartburn. A lot of strong products start with nobody focused on sales. They continue to write amazing code, design amazing screens, and setup amazing data pipelines, but they just don’t know how to position, craft a story people remember, distinguish themselves from 99 other guys who may have had the same idea. Many product founders suck at sales and often hire the first person who blinks.

Even for successful startups, this can be a transient stage, but successful founders realize their mistakes and then quickly hire a sales leader and move to the next quadrant. The good news if you’re yellow is that just like in real life, you can cross the traffic light before too much damage happens.

Green: Strong Product and Strong Sales Team

This is jazz improvisation zone. You can have a strong product and sales culture. It all starts with respect for both and it certainly involves finding the right talent that can craft what really works uniquely for you.

That’s why very few founders get there. A scalable sales model is crucial. A product alone can take you so far. For every Dheeraj Pandey ringing the IPO bell, there’s a Sudheesh Nair driving the quota home. For every Jyoti Bansal getting acquired at $3.7bn, there’s a Dali Rajic digging into sales capacity, and for every Jason Lemkin, there’s a Brendon Cassidy. When phenomenal founders and product builders pair up with their sales counterparts, to accomplish a sight to behold – a startup on a flywheel across the sky.

In each of these cases, the sales counterparts were able to hit their targets, because of a product which was able to either create demand or was superior to incumbents. If there was a product market fit, based on the narrative, the product scaled to bring in a perpetual stream of renewals and sources of new revenue.

Hopping in the 2×2

I hope you’ve found your color by this point. So how do we transition from a shitty part of the quadrant to an awesome one?

If you are Blue or Yellow, scale to Green quick. Here are some things that increase your chances in a hop

  • Listen to early feedback from customers and employees and suppliers. Setup key feedback loops
  • Iterate the product every week, every day, every hour. Continuous Beta. A living element
  • Once you cross $10 million, press the gas pedal. Go. Go. Go

Good luck and let me know if you think of additional colors.


Thanks to Leena for flywheeling this post!

9 reasons why VPN is not the right tool for remote access from Mobile

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Wrote a quick (but long!) post at Bitzer Mobile’s blog on VPN and why it ain’t not the right tool for remote access from mobile device and tablet. Read it here.

Collaboration in the Intranet: The existing ways are fundamentally flawed

Saturday, July 1st, 2006

Fundamentally flawed? Ye, right. Do you remember that the last document you created for your project plan is in the folder //HD4567Share/CorpDocuments/Plan/? Worse, an updated copy of the document is in Sue’s e-mail. Even worse, Sally has updated with her 2 cents and uploaded it on Notes. Go figure!
Mostly collaboration within the intranet is built on top of two technologies viz. e-mail and documents (and documents within your e-mail). Most communication around e-mail is 1:1 or 1:Many or Many:Many, everybody keeps adding their “stuff” on top of the original thread with corrections, clarifications, modifications to the original. A way too many times you have to scroll/wade through to figure out which is the most important e-mail with the most up-to-date/accurate content. And then that e-mail gets archived in one of the “folders” somewhere. Imagine a discussion on a Sales strategy or a Marketing plan. Yeah, you may have had face-to-face meetings, but the little oh-so-forgotten meeting minutes are still in e-mail. Imagine looking for the outcome of such a meeting 6 months down the road — It would be an exercise in vain.
Why this mess? Two-fold, collaboration platforms are draconian and proprietary. Wrote in word, can’t edit in HTML, your word document in e-mail is outdated the moment someone opens up and hits save. Using e-mail as the default publishing mechanism and document repository is killing the organizational knowledge. My exchanges with a former colleague are now in my mailbox. Good or bad, my boss doesn’t event know what ideas we exchanged for that product roadmap! Organizations are not to be blamed for this, there was no one-click publish platform to enable collaboration and knowledge exchange before e-mail. The over reliance is troublesome. Bob Sutor suggests PDF is good until no one wants to edit the document. Not bad, but how about few people collaboratively editing a document before it is published to a larger audience. We’re not there yet, at least not without paying a large fortune.
Come Wikis, Blogs, RSS, JotSpot and other platform. Don’t get this wrong, MediaWiki, the defacto Wiki platform and most of the other wikis still store the content in a data store which is not tuned for harvesting, publishing using other
tools except MediaWiki — All presentable content on Wikis are still HTML. The challenge as David Berlind puts it is “interoperability” of proprietary applications, their protocols. It’s the “walled” systems for content management, document management and e-mail management which are guarding collaboration. David points out that RSS alone can rescue us there:

With RSS as both the notification mechanism and the content subscription mechanism, you basically have a single technology that takes e-mail, e-mail attachments, and far too many round-trips (of email, to fully facilitate the collaboration) completely out of the equation.

Wikis by themselves have the power to change the way corporate intranets disseminate and share knowledge. It’s not a surprise it is easier to find a place to host a webpage and edit it’s content (or maybe even run a Wiki) on the public internet. Have you ever tried hosting a page in your intranet, if you were successful; how easy it was? Even if there are a few companies listening, the future of “Writable Intranet” is here. What I fear most? The whole story of Wikis, Blogs, etc. getting diluted by vendors like Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, InterWoven, etc. by claiming that “yeah, we also do Wikis, Blogs, RSS” and then locking that information down in their proprietary store (a la import all formats but export none!). Keeping a close tab on this one.
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