SaaS Channel Compensation

Channel Compensation models

Channel Compensation modelsSaaS Channel compensation is one of the hardest things that software vendors are facing today. If you have a nice traditional software business model with good software maintenance revenue and mature channel, you are reluctant to change or touch it. Let’s dive into some of the difficulties that software vendors are experiencing.

I am currently running educational sessions in SaaS channel development where my audience is given the task to present the business case of a channel partner for a given software vendor. We are using Business Model Canvas to model the business. The task that I am giving to my students is to represent the software vendor leadership team that is trying to recruit a channel partner to become a reseller. The way this is done is to present a Business Model Canvas to the channel partner management team.  If the software vendor management team can’t convince the channel partner of the benefits, then the business model is broken.  I have done this exercise with many software vendors and it is one of the most powerful ways to get the software vendor to think about the partner, not about themselves.

I have bad news for you. There are no exact rules what kind of compensation models a software vendor should have for its channel, but what is known is how to calculate whether a business can be profitable for the channel partner using different compensation models. Why is this? The biggest issue that software vendors have is that many of the processes and tasks that the channel partner has taken care of in the past, have now moved back to the software vendor. One of them is the monitoring the cloud infrastructure, provisioning the solution, upgrading the software etc. In the end of the day, it is all about roles and responsibilities that the software vendor and the channel partner have to agree on. The more the software vendor moves responsibilities towards the channel partner, the more margin the channel partner expects to get and this is very typical in the traditional software channel model. The software vendor delivered the CD or download to the channel partner, but in the new SaaS world, the instance is provisioned by the software vendor and the channel partner becomes the “middle man” between the end user customer and the software vendor. Let’s review some of the industry “standard” commission models and some implications around them:

SaaS Channel Margins

If you look at the percentages, the one that is missing is the typical 10% which is really more of an opportunistic percentage that anybody will give out regardless of business model. If you call a software vendor and tell them that you have a lead, they will pay you at least 5%, but 10% is not uncommon.

When you add an additional 10% (now the total is 20%) it adds more interest to the channel partner. The software vendor can not expect any active sales with this percentage and can’t really ask the channel partner to do any serious account management. This is mainly lead generation activity and typically there are other products that the channel partner is reselling as well.

If we add an additional 10 % (now the total is 30%), this is still too small to be able to build an organization and requires the channel partner to have many different products that they are reselling. Larger reseller with deep pockets to build and maintain an organization, 30% is doable.

When the percentage is 40% or more, the software vendor can expect investments from the channel partner and reporting responsibilities on pipeline to the software vendor channel account manager. This type of percentage is also doable for smaller channel partners that want to build a business around the solution and build a dedicated team.

The biggest surprise that most software vendors are facing when we discuss about the roles and responsibilities is the amount of additional work that the software vendor has to take on. In a pure SaaS channel scenario, the border of responsibilities are blurred and the end user customer ends up in many cases in direct relationship with the software vendor. This has been a big no-no in the past for channel partners as they have wanted to “own the client”. However, the reality is that the cloud is changing the roles and channel partners have to make changes in their models as well. This is a behavioral change that is taking place and can be compared with the changes that are taking place how software sales people are compensated. Nobody wants to change the way things were in the past, but the market and competition is forcing the change and the ones that keep doing the same thing as before, will eventually be on the loosing side. We have already seen this in many organizations.

Before talking about channel margins, the software vendor has to decide what kind of role they expect the channel partner to play and then define how much they can afford to give a way of the margin. Some software vendors have even decided that a channel is not an option in their new business model and this is of course an option if the company has the resources to build its business with its own direct sales and internet marketing methods.

 

 

photo by: woody1778a

Complexity of Building a SaaS Software Channel Program

Complexity of SaaS Pricing

Complexity of SaaS PricingIn my previous blog entry, I discussed about the complexity of channel development and channel alignment. I recommended for SaaS software vendors to use Business Model Canvas to compare the business model with the assumed business model of its prospective channel partner.

During the past few months I have spent time building a SaaS channel development educational program, a program that I wanted to be not only actionable, but providing information of all of the needed drivers that SaaS software vendors should be thinking about when building its channel strategy.  Call me old fashioned, but my  philosophy is to educate people of things that I have personal experience in. There are lots of consultants that “help” their clients doing things such as channel development, consultants that have never sold anything, but have read about it in books.  My strategy is to build something that is concrete and actionable (not academic) that my audience can use when thinking about their SaaS channels.

The way I initiated the development of the channel development alignment educational program in http://www.tellusacademy.com was to reflect on my own channel development experience (both as channel builder as well as reseller) and list the main things that I felt were crucial in getting channel partners to become excited. The way I started working on it was not from a traditional channel perspective. I asked myself a simple question: how is the channel partner going to make money? Once we identify this, we can worry about the software vendor (ISV) as without a profitable business model for the channel partner, there is no need to invest time and energy to plan something that will not work anyway.

If the financial success of the channel partner should be the foundation for the software vendor to evaluate the channel strategy, it is easy to assume that it is important for both the software vendor and the channel partner to understand how SaaS financial will change the business model and what kind of drivers each party needs to be thinking about. Therefore, I believe that every person working in the SaaS world needs to have a good and solid understanding in how the financial and operational model will change when running a SaaS business. I am sure that the CFO of the ISV and channel partner appreciates this.

I spent considerable time in reviewing the topics that both ISVs and channel partners should be thinking about. Besides having a solid understanding in SaaS financials, any vendor in today’s world has to be thinking about business model innovation and topics around that. How do we stay relevant today, tomorrow and next year? What is happening in our marketplace and what kind of actions do I have to take to ensure that my services or solutions are also appealing in the future? You would not believe how many organizations ignore this….it is amazing.

Another important factor to think about is to understand the expectations from the channel and ISV perspective. What can the ISV expect from the channel and what should the channel expect from the ISV? This is a also something that has changed in the last couple of years as channel partners have a tough time to adjust to the recurring revenue model from the traditional “one big lump sum model”. Besides this, traditional channel partners are not very good at account management and this is a huge issue for SaaS vendors as upselling and ensuring retention is a top priority to any SaaS vendor. The ones that have negative churn can say that they have been successful at least in the upsell to existing clients.

Channel roles and responsibilities is a topic that seems to be very unclear to both software vendors and channel partners. Basic questions such as “who is going to provision the cloud instance” is not clear and questions such as billing is also a question that many struggle with. Should the software vendor manage the billing or should it be the channel partner? What if the end customer does not pay the bills, should the software vendor still bill the channel partner and even take them to court for unpaid balances? In the traditional channel world we can argue that most of these types of questions could be easily sorted out due to known practices, but the SaaS/app world is still a bit unclear who does what.

Part of the channel profitability discussion should be a discussion of channel margins. In my course, I will give examples of a typical channel partner scenario where we will model one sales rep and his/her targets and what it means to the channel partner. This type of exercise is extremely health for any software vendor to see the reality of a channel partner and their desire to build a solid business. If you are a software vendor, have you modeled the channel partner business and how your solution might play in that space?

And finally, any software vendor will either become successful or fail and it is going to be based on the channel program that the organization is going to build and maintain. During my SaaS channel development course, I will also address the main drivers of channel management and key issues that an ISV need to be thinking about.

It was fun to create this course as everything is based on experience either from my own work or the teams that I have worked with for more than 20 years. As said, I do not believe in education of best practices if the person does not have any personal experience. This type of experience comes with blood, sweat and tears.

 

 

 

 

photo by: Sean MacEntee

Is the cloud killing your business?

Is the cloud kiling your business?

Is the cloud kiling your business?Cloud adoption is accelerating and it is also in the process killing many businesses. I read today an interesting blog entry “Are Cloud Vendors Cutting Out the Channel” and this article explains in great detail what is happening on the marketplace in respect to channel partners including value-added resellers (VARs) and MSPs. I remember vividly when Steve Ballmer suggested strongly a few years ago that Microsoft partners should really start adopting the cloud and a couple of years later, he stated that it might in fact soon be too late as the competition is already doing it. Pure channel partners with a business model to resell without adding any value will disappear from the markets.

I have recently talked to quite a few channel partners and the common message that I heard was that the markets are getting tougher and having a business without having a specialty or vertical experience might in fact kill the business sooner than later. I am seeing this also among software vendors that are refusing to adopt the cloud model. There are thousands of new pure SaaS entrants that want to be new market leaders in their domain and many end user organizations are refusing to go with the old-fashioned model where IT departments are the only part of organization that will be buying software and services. Based on the blog entry today, Tiffany Bova from Gartner concludes that many IT consumers are now “front-office buyers” from departments such as sales, marketing, finance, and human services. These departments are bypassing the centralized IT and this type of “uncontrolled” buying pattern will continue going forward in my opinion.

Microsoft management has been vocal to its partner network that every partner should by now be looking at cloud transformation and Kevin Turner (Microsoft COO) expressed his concern during Microsoft Worldwide Conference in Houston (July 2013) that only 3 percent of the company’s channel network was actively selling cloud services and this included products such as Windows Azure and Office 365. These numbers will change with time and I am convinced that there will be many partners that will experience the pressure the hard way. If the channel partner starts too late with the transformation, it might become irrelevant and have the wrong type of personnel with skills that do not match what the market wants. I am sure that somebody reading this blog will not agree with me, but I have seen already now quite a few channel partners that do not know what to do going forward. There is a real need to reboot the business model and rethink how the company will be surviving in the future.

I forecasted a couple of years ago that Sony will not survive the competition of e-books and devices due to many factors, Amazon Kindle being one of them.  A few days ago, I read that Sony will be exiting the business. Sony had its own e-book format and I was one of the ones that spent hundreds of dollars in books, which now will be converted to Kobo Android devices. I have no intention to buy any new devices. The reason I am sharing this is that even large organizations are forced to change the business model every now and then and consumers make wrong bets on the horse that they should be riding.

When I look at the global markets and what is happening around us, the change has accelerated in software domain and it has taken many by surprise. I would not be surprised that we hear bad news from many large industry dominant players in the software space that the transformation into new generation solutions has failed and consumers and businesses have adopted technologies that are more nimble and easy to use. It is very dangerous to ignore the trends and even more dangerous to think that market leadership means anything without hard work to maintain it.

Are you renewing your your business model before it is too late?

Business Model Change will cause many organizations to loose market share
Business Model change will cause many organizations to loose market share

Business Model change will cause many organizations to loose market share

Many organizations are feeling the pain of spinning-out-of-control with their business model. I have spent the last few weeks contemplating on everything that I have learned the past two years in software technology and I have to say that it has even got me off guard how quickly things are changing for companies. Organizations that used to have a solid business model are running into huge difficulties, and mostly not because of bad products, but more or less of not having understood the market correctly. Dallas Morning News wrote about Nintendo’s surprise profit warning today where they say that the game console Wii U has sold 70% less than expected. That is a huge miscalculation from Nintendo, but the issue is not just the console, it is that the market has moved on to games on smart phones and Sony and Microsoft has taken the market with more innovative products that appeal the current gamers. Nintendo is not on their own, we have seen this with many other sectors/players. Who would have thought 3 years ago that BlackBerry market share would drop to be almost non-existent?

What I have also seen happening is the struggle among system integrators and the current business model that is starting to fail them. I have had the luxury to serve not only software vendors and system integrators, but also end user organizations and what I am seeing clearly is an acceleration of interest in providing more cost effective, flexible with full support for mobility with a reluctance to customized and tailored solutions. This has a tremendous impact on system integrators specifically. My guidance to end user organizations is to look at the ecosystem players to identify the best-of-breed solutions, ensure that these solution vendors have defined an API strategy that enables seamless integration between modules without having to do everything from scratch. This is of course not something that many system integrators want to see as many of them have based their survival on selling hours, and doing it with long-lasting projects. The problem with this approach is that many of these long-lasting projects fail as smaller system integrators do not have the skills to manage projects and if the end user organization has negotiated a good contract with penalties, the system integrators ends up “paying for the solution”. I have seen this many times and specifically and this does not have a good impact on any ecosystem in the long run. This is one of the reasons why smaller system integrators have been “swallowed” by the larger ones as system integrators need scale.

Another way to differentiate from the masses is to be very specialized in a given vertical domain (or functional domain) where  you can command the pricing for your delivery. This is something that larger SIs have difficulties with as their scalability comes from using offshore and in these scenarios it is not easy to maintain highly skilled vertical experts where the client is prepared to pay a higher price.

The problem that I see in the market does not apply only for system integrators, there is a huge pressure mounting for traditional software vendors that are still making good money, but with new and exciting entrants popping up from different areas such as Silicon Valley, it is evident that many software vendors will have the same path as Nintendo and BlackBerry. I do not want to sound pessimistic or doom organizations to fail, but I have seen the signs of radical transformation and this is based on my numerous hours each week tracking the market, studying software and working with clients. Just look at the valuation of Dropbox from last week where the investment was based on 10 Billion dollar valuation. It is amazing to even think about this, but I think it is logical. It is a sign from the marketplace that things are changing and valuations are based on what people want and see as being the next wave of things.

Vendor ecosystems are also making huge bets on the next wave of computing. Microsoft is adding data centers around the world like recent announcement of Azure data center in Brazil. IBM is betting their farm on IBM Watson that is in the cognitive computing space and IBM’s acquisition of SoftLayer will increase the competition in the cloud space especially now when IBM announced that they will invest 1.2 Billion in data centers around the globe. What this means to me is that the acceleration of software solutions to the marketplace using new modern ways. This means that it is not good enough to “repurpose” what you have, but  you have to think about how your solution is going to be consumed and how it will fit into other ecosystem players. Think about Dropbox for example. The concept is very simple what they do and there are a myriad other players doing the same thing. They have understood the role of ecosystem and their technology is embedded in every app that is relevant and that has to include document sharing/distribution of some sort.

photo by: PSParrot

Software Vendor – are you moving your SharePoint Solutions to the App World?

sharepoint content typesSharePoint and its market penetration in enterprises can’t be denied. It is used by a massive amount of organizations and there are hundreds of thousands of developers building solutions using SharePoint as foundation for developing solutions. According to AIIM, one in two corporations are using SharePoint.

SharePoint is a popular platform for system integrators (SI) as well as independent software vendors (ISV). The former category typically sells custom application development services based on time and material or fixed cost projects. These solutions are typically “one-offs” even if the SI accumulates software assets in their internal code repositories. Effective SIs try to reuse these assets as much as they can, but that is unfortunately not a common practice among many organizations.

ISVs want to create productized solutions where the software assets can be reused in many organizations. However, creating real packaged solutions that can be deployed “as is” requires different skills than implementing customized solutions for different companies. I have seen quite a few system integrators struggling with productizing their offerings even if there is a real pressure for SIs to sell solutions due to price pressure on projects based on time and material. Creating solutions with real intellectual property (IP) provides a springboard to better profitability as well as higher hourly prices if the business model is built in the right way.

I have been part of organizations using SharePoint 2007 and 2010 in solution development but the architectural model and delivery methods have not been very flexible specifically for ISVs. For an SI that wants to sell time and material, the platform is perfect as some things are labor intensive and just need time to get done. Both of these releases of SharePoint (2007 and 2010) are built on “full trust” model while the new SharePoint 2013 is based on a new “app model” that Microsoft introduced in this new SharePoint 2013 release. What makes this model exciting is that it opens up the world for ISVs to reuse existing codebase as the foundation of the architecture is not to build intelligence in the SharePoint Server, but outside SharePoint. Besides this, Windows Azure is a perfect companion that can be used to house some of the solution. I am convinced that there will be quite a few solutions that combine technology from both SharePoint as well as Windows Azure.

SharePoint in some scenarios becomes the user interface (UI) to information and the logic resides outside SharePoint. An example would be a calculation engine that resides outside SharePoint and provides an API (Application Programming Interface) for other applications to consume. Microsoft guidance for SharePoint developers is to develop an App for SharePoint rather than classic solution whenever that is possible. There are of course many scenarios where this is not possible.

Most of the current SharePoint 2010 solutions have been implemented by using the “full trust solution” approach and these solutions can’t run for example in current Office 365 environment (with SharePoint 2013 Online). Microsoft enabled a new model in SharePoint 2010 (Sandbox) where some of the code would live in a “Sandbox” environment. However, the current recommendation is not to use the “Sandbox” approach due to different restrictions.

When I read about this new SharePoint 2013 app model first time, I thought about ISVs that have existing code assets that can be reused in different scenarios. I also got excited about this model as it provides a better experience for end users and IT to provide upgrades of the app in the same way as you would upgrade any tablet app. The application logic and the heavy-duty lifting can in many cases live in Windows Azure or even existing private hosting environments where the ISV just services new types of user experience to end users in a form of an app.

There is going to be lots of users in on premise SharePoint environments for quite a while, but starting to learn and review the possibilities in SharePoint 2013 environment should be a top priority for any ISV and SI that want to stay on top of the game.

 

What is all this talk about enterprise app stores about?

Iced tea at Georgia's, version 2We are moving into app economy and that is happening very fast. There are many predictions on the marketplace on this trend with Gartner forecasting that 25% of enterprises will have their own enterprise apps stores for managing corporate-sanctioned apps on PCs and mobile devices – all this within 4 years. Others are saying that this is already happening and it won’t take four years. Whatever the case is, ISVs needs to pay attention to this as CIOs in large organizations need to take control of the situation with deployed apps both in tablets as well as smart phones.

I think there is a big misconception in the word “app” when thinking about business models. Many relate an “app” to small apps used by smartphones with either free or almost free business model. These are mostly consumer-focused apps, but the trend is that consumers will be using their smartphones to conduct business using apps, but these apps will be connected to backend cloud solutions that bring the scalability and logic to the game. Look at an app as just the UI to full-blown solutions where end users can run their business with small devices or tablets and use the cloud infrastructure as foundation.

The forecast for App Economy is huge and according to APPNATION, App Economy is going to reach $151B by 2017. What it really means for ISVs and any software developers organization is that they need to really get a better understanding how app economy is going to impact them going forward. CIOs will be asking questions how an ISV will support enterprise app stores and how the ISVs will support these app stores with their solutions. I am a bit amazed how little there is discussion off apps in our workshops but I think this is going to change going forward. Based on the study by APPNATION, the majority of mobile device owners under 45 years are using video apps and this supports my previous blog entry of eLearning.

There will be a need for both consumer-oriented and enterprise-oriented apps stores and it will be a space that will bring new opportunities for many players. The competition in this space will be based on innovation of solutions that people want to use and the use is measured on how much content the apps consume from the cloud. It is not rocket science, but it is a new world that people need to get used to.

In the end of the day, apps will have to be monetized in one way or the other and that is where the subscription economy comes to play and organizations need to understand how to price their solutions and all this based on value pricing.

Pricing alone does not make your business model

Most software vendors (ISVs) struggle how to price their solution, specifically when moving the cloud. Many vendors are trying to “retrofit” the current model to the new cloud model, but this just does not work. You just can’t make your pricing to reflect your current business model where everything is based on higher cost structure such as Cost of Customer Acquisition (CAC), cost of having a different operational model in your organization such as support, marketing etc.

When I look back at all of the workshops that I have done in the cloud transformation field, each and every ISV has had to recognize that something has to change in the model and we use the Business Model Canvas to do a simple “sanity check” what kind of things the organization has to change to be able to make this transition. I am not talking about organizations that are “born in the cloud” but  organizations that typically have a successful traditional software business with good but declining maintenance and support revenue. Many of these organizations are now forced to rethink their current business model as smaller and nimbler organizations are “eating their lunch”.

This does not impact only ISVs, but also Systems Integrators (SI) that are used to the “big ticket” development projects and many end user organizations are tired to the ongoing and inflexible “platform” that has been created. This comes back to my previous blogs where I recommend organizations to go to the roots and identify what is “good enough” as a solution for people to be able to manage their business without having to deal with monster projects.

In the end of the day, pricing is just one small piece of the overall puzzle and therefore it is easy to say that without value, people are not willing to pay and if you do not bring value, your overall business model will never work. The Business Model Canvas has 9 building blocks and if one of these building blocks equal zero or is dysfunctional (some are not needed like channel), then the entire business will fail sooner or later. Check out the Business Model Canvas Structure that has been defined by Dr. Osterwalder:

Business Model Canvas

I am a believer in value-based pricing with the recognition that there are competition out there that will eventually force you to evaluate the pricing levels. Just look what is happening with Amazon and Microsoft on the cloud infrastructure front. It is a bloody battle but this is of course great for the consumers and businesses as the cloud becomes even more affordable and non-brainer as development platform.

 

It is no longer about the cloud only, it is about innovation of new generation solutions

I feel a bit ashamed of not  having blogged for a while, even if there has been so many different things that I should have shared along the way. The first 6 months of 2013 has been an amazing time for me professionally. I believe in life-long learning and I hope to keep up with all of the changes going forward and I really do not have a choice as I teach and educate people around the world in the topics I am passionate about. What could be better than that? I have also had a chance to educate top-of-the-breed software professionals in business modeling and this has included reviews of tens of companies and tens of different business models. Needless to say that it has been a great experience and I will now try to get at least some of my learning’s to blog entries.

I have to say that I have been in a very fortunate position to be able to work with top-of-the-breed software organizations around the world. The work has been mainly in the cloud transformation and this of course has forced me to really dig in deep into different topics like channel alignment, pricing of solutions, sales compensation model for sales teams, app strategies and many other very interesting topics.  I also decided to build a Learning Management Solution (LMS) site that includes videos and content for our clients to learn and consume at their leisure. This site www.tellusacademy.com has become my passion as I really love to get people educated and when I see them becoming excited, that gives me this personal feeling of joy (I come from a teaching family…..).

When I look at the current global situation of cloud transformation, it is easy for me to say that we are no longer just about the cloud. It is more about transforming your solution to take advantage of different device form factors with the assumption that the cloud will be there. Looking back at our business design sessions, specifically then more non-traditional software vendors, I feel that it is more about solution innovation more than ever and the search of minimal viable product (MVP) that a software vendor is bringing to the marketplace.

I think the road to solution innovation will just continue going forward and this was very evident in the Microsoft Worldwide Conference 2013 (#WPC13) in Houston a week ago when I listened to Microsoft General Manager Barb Edson and Technical Sales Program Manager Jeff Wettlaufer (excellent speech) speak about “Intelligent Systems” which is really about how Windows can be embedded to different types of environments and the speech showed an example of how a retailer can use Microsoft technology in showrooms. I am really happy that Karen Roberts (partner strategy) asked me to join the session as it was a perfect fit where we see the market going and software development overall. I would encourage you to check this out what the Windows Embedded division has to offer for partners. There are quite a few amazing examples of what can be done in different verticals.

I will drill down into a few interesting topics in upcoming blog entries and what I would like you to remember is that it really isn’t about the cloud anymore, it is about how to deliver simple, user-friendly solution experiences for people to consume and this of course using different types of devices. If you are not on this road already, you might be too late in the game and you will soon have the competition to eat you lunch.

Stay tuned for more…

The App Economy – How should we view app monetization?

The blogosphere is all about apps and how different ecosystems compete for the eyeballs of these and the money of course. You might still remember the the news when a far app pulled as much as $10,000/day in revenue but since then there is tens of similar applications on the marketplace. This started a trend where people left their well-paid jobs to chase their dream of creating apps and living a life without pressures. The growth of app economy is one of the most promising trends, but people/organizations that want to make real money of it, need to include some risk management into it as well. The app industry has become similar to film industry where relatively few people make money and the ones that make, are hugely successful like Angry Birds phenomenon from Finland.

One might of course ask oneself is whether this is a shift in our society and how work is performed. according to Erik Brynjolfsson (director of the M.I.T. Center of digital business), “technology is always destroying jobs and always creating jobs, but in recent years the destruction has been happening faster than the creation”. There is no question that technology is creating new jobs and apps can be part of this opportunity as can be seen in many of the reports that have studied this trend towards “app economy”.

What I have not seen many discussions around is how the app economy is linked with the enterprise software business. I have researched around this and identified the “dimensions” that are typically linked to the app business, but not that much is said how established software vendors should view this space and how these vendors can make a entry to the app space in a way that makes sense and where there is also a sustainable economical model.

So, the question that we should ask ourselves is how much of the app business is truly geared towards the consumer business and how much of this will gradually move into enterprise business? Should software vendors keep the app business in their plans when building enterprise solutions specifically using the cloud? If they should keep this in mind, what kind of pricing should the ISV use? Maybe free as the real money comes from the enterprise solution and not the app that accesses it? As you can see, it is not that clear and my own experience when working with both small and large enterprises, the app business hardly ever comes up in discussions. I am convinced that this will change and it will change very quickly. One of the drivers will be Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 developers that will create solutions that will be based on app technology and not on traditional desktop app architectural model even if these will be able to run in Windows 8 Pro environment.

Another valid question that we need to ask ourselves is whether app economy should be see purely from mobile app development perspective or should we view it from a perspective where the device is just the means to get to what you want and the backend (typically the cloud) is the one that provides the services and brokers the interaction between different services. Shouldn’t we in fact be talking about services economy instead where organizations build apps to consume and combine information from different sources using different SOA interfaces that organizations/developers have exposed to the world. Isn’t this what we have always dreamt about?

NokiaExpressI downloaded today a Windows Phone 8 app (Nokia Xpress) to my shiny Nokia Lumia 920 and this app really demonstrates where things are going. After having installed the app, it asked me whether it can use location information (which most apps want to use), but what really made me to think about the future of apps is that developers really have to think “outside the box” on when developing apps. The thing with this Nokia Xpress app is that it enables users to store and read articles on your phone (locally) so when you travel, you do not have to use expensive data roaming. I know.. there are many of these apps from before, but what this app has specifically thought of is to really monitory and minimize data usage and provide a combination of technology such as Microsoft SkyDrive technology to store videos and images without having to use the data plan. Why is this relevant to me? Just this week, my son’s data plan was going over the limit and I found out that it was all about video streaming and 2 gig data plan does not cope well with this.

The topic of “app economy” is very interesting to me as researcher, but also as practitioner. A recent paper written by Dr. Michael Mandel and Judith Scherer (commission by CTIA (The Wireless Association) and Application Developers Alliance provides an interesting view on the app economy. According to Mandel, the entire “App Economy” was coming to use in early 2009 and was popularized by a cover story run by BusinessWeek in November 2009.

The way that Dr. Michael Mandel describes App Economy in his February 2012 report resonates well with what I have educated my customers in respect to ecosystems:

“ App Economy is a collection of interlocking innovative ecosystems”. Each ecosystem consists of a core company, which creates and maintains a platform and an app marketplace, plus a small and large companies that produce apps and/or mobile devices  for that platform. Businesses can belong to multiple ecosystems and usually do”.

There is no question in my mind that this topic is relevant to anybody that works in the software industry and it is fascinating to see how this evolves with time and what kind of new companies will rise to take advantage of this.

If you work in the Microsoft ecosystem, I highly encourage you to read the article “Microsoft’s cloud vision: Why Azure is the linchpin of the firm’s new devices and services strategy”. Another great article from Information-Management.com that predicts Enterprise Apps to go mobile big time and that money apps will move to the cloud. The article lists quite a few things that are very interesting and I encourage you to read that article as well.

Stay tuned for more, there will be more to come on my research on different topics and this app economy being one of them!

Is Big Data going to replace Enterprise Data Warehousing?

In my blog entry yesterday I concluded that Big Data as an acronym is on the rise and ISVs need to pay attention to this. The next question that one needs to pose is how is Big Data different from the traditional enterprise data warehousing? I still remember vividly the arguments 15 years ago whether Bill Inmon (considered the father of data warehousing) Top Down approach should be replaced by Ralph Kimball’s approach (Bottom Up) where the Enterprise Data Warehouse is built as collection of data marts that then together conform the enterprise data warehouse. There are also concepts such as operational data store, master data etc. Following link shows a couple of pictures that explains the difference in these approaches and a blog entry that explains pretty well the differences in these two approaches.

During my career, I have personally been involved with all and above and the latest implementation was based on SQL Server 2008 R2 with not only ETL logic to the ERP applications, but also a staging area, relational data warehouse and then the multi-dimensional OLAP cubes with SharePoint 2010. Needless to say, you need to have an understanding of multi-layer architecture and how all of this work together.

The question is how Big Data relates to all of this? One view of this is that different market segments sees it in a different way. Start-ups will see this more of a web-based approach with cloud solutions supporting Big Data. The SMB market has invested in Business Intelligence solutions and to get scale, they are going to look at cloud solutions that can take their analytics to the next stage. An then the larger enterprises that have invested huge amounts in enterprise data warehousing, data marts, ETL processes etc. will probably keep these solutions but might amend to cloud-based solutions when it is appropriate.

The competition in the Big Data space will increase during 2013 and we have already seen this by new solutions being introduced to the market like Amazon Redshift and Windows Azure Big Data. The distinction in the Big Data solutions is that many of them are typically based on NoSQL technology and data is dumped into computer memory (In-memory) and these solutions are specifically good for non-structured data. It is important to understand that there isn’t one “turn-key” solution as these types of Big Data implementations are both complex and require very distinctive skills to maneuver like “programming, statistics and how to visualize and communicate data”.

What we also need to remember is that the need to integrate data from different sources still exist, the data will be typically very different to what we are used to (like digital sensor and cameras) and when you add social media to all of this, you will have a mixture of data that never existed.

And finally, if you have been involved in Business Intelligence or Data Warehousing projects, the data/information still has to be presented in a format that makes sense for your audience, whether it be your management or other information junkies. What I do know is that analyzing the data won’t be easier than before given the fact that there is so much statistical swing into it, but the results of that data could take you and your company to the next level if information is used in proper manner.

To answer to the question I posed in my heading. No, I do not think one thing replaces another, but I would say is that you can expect to see multiple different variations on implementations and you can call them what you like and cloud will definitely be part of that implementation.