February 25, 2005

The Living Business Plan

"If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there."


People start software companies for lots of reasons. Many want to get rich. Some want to earn a comfortable living, doing work they enjoy -- with independence and control as significant sources of satisfaction. A few conceive of their ventures as means to serving higher purposes. Some fall into it, and just go with the flow.

People who sign on to help run these kinds of companies also have various motivations. Some have already been successful financially. They either enjoy building companies, or aren't terribly motivated but feel guilty at unabashed sloth. Some have experience but haven't made it big financially yet, and are looking for the Score -- and fast, if you please. Some want experience and would accept a modestly successful outcome that gives them accelerated opportunities for personal achievement and wide industry exposure. Some are even interested in the problem being solved. (Imagine that!)

Uniquely, the enterprise software business makes all of these things possible. Since it suits multiple (but not necessarily simultaneously achievable) purposes, it brings together an interesting collection of people. Charismatic visionaries, aggressive business people, and pain-staking craftsmen mix in ways that ordinary circumstances and inclinations wouldn't predict. The business is complex and moves fast, and allows relatively small groups of people to have outsized impact, so the "players" attracted to these businesses tend to be smarter than average, and more intense. Reconciling objectives creates constant strain. Unmanaged, or addressed only superficially, it's destructive.

And that's just at the emotional level. Even a collection of 100% homogenous types single-minded in, say, their greed, can fight like pit bulls if they disagree intellectually on exactly how they're going to get rich. Precisely because all this is so hard to reconcile, if you get it even roughly right, it can generate "virtuous cycles" of better attitudes and higher productivity because people understand it's hard.

So how do you achieve and keep this balance? In my experience, going to the sweat lodge to get in touch with your inner muse/cabinetmaker/would-be-plutocrat is a waste of money and time away from family and friends, even if the food is good and the setting is breathtaking. Trips like that, you take them when you've got a team executing to a plan but you need time together to reflect on whether the plan still makes sense in light of new data. To get there, you need to have a plan in the first place, a plan that's alive and based on lots of direct contact with customers and partners. And initial agreement around that plan is something that either gets done around late pizzas at the office, or gets done by a different set of players.

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February 25, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 17, 2005

Cesar Brea at Spring 2005 KM Cluster Panel: "Inside Social Networks"

Cesar Brea will participate as a panelist at the Spring 2005 Meeting of Boston's KM Cluster, to be held at IBM Research in Cambridge, MA on Friday, January 21.  The panel's topic: "Technology Context -- what is the role of technology in the social enterprise?"

January 17, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 20, 2004

Cesar Brea in Mass High Tech On Going Global With Open Source


Also in the December 20-26 print edition.

(Note:  MHT mistyped the savings MIT's Sloan School has achieved over alternatives.  The correct figure is 75%, not 25%.)

December 20, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

August 19, 2004

"Brain-Stem" Sales & Marketing Tactics

A common refrain: "Our marketing just isn't working. It's not generating enough qualified leads for the investment we're making. The person we've got running this is hard-working, but too 'tactical'..."

Of course the implication is that marketing needs to be more "strategic" -- and with it, the people running it. But this makes some people a little nervous too. They begin to have visions of (and a little nausea over) adding high-paid executives without direct quotas or ship dates, whose job fundamentally is to tell others what to do (build) and say (sell). It may well be that the problem is in fact "strategic": the wrong product, and / or the wrong market. But frequently there's a lot to be gained from a tactical tune-up.

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August 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

May 13, 2004

Cesar Brea to Speak at May 27, 2004 PRSA Boston Meeting

Cesar will present a talk titled, "Weblogs: Affectation of the Digerati or Mainstream Communications Tool?" at the May 27, 2004 meeting of the Public Relations Society of America's Boston Chapter. Click here for details.

May 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

April 28, 2004

Business Development: Sales By Other Means

"Business Development is the continuation of sales by other means..." --what von Clausewitz might have said had he worked in the software industry

Marketing, Engineering, and Sales define, promote, build, and sell the goods. But what do the "biz dev" guys do?

(This article was originally written in 2002.)

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April 28, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

March 10, 2004

Cesar Brea to speak at May 2004 AMA Boston Meeting

Cesar Brea will speak about Enterprise Social Networking solutions at the American Marketing Association's Boston Chapter Meeting on May 20, 2004.

March 10, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 09, 2004

2004's Solution Selling Challenge: Twice the Result at Half the Cost

In the post-bubble enterprise software market, customers are better-informed, demand is driven neither by fear nor greed, and the "tech-savvy" black turtleneck has been superceded by the "process-aware", "industry-experienced" suit as de rigeur for the sales team. Consequently, virtually every job description for open sales positions in the business today screams for "solution selling skills".

However, collapsing price points driven by three big "O's" -- operating discipline, offshore development, and open standards -- are constraining the typical technology firm's ability to spend on these skills. In response, many are trying to shoehorn what was $200k/year (total comp) sales talent and experience into $100k/ year jobs, relying on a surplus of supply to hold comp costs in check. However, in an improving market, people have alternatives, and loyalty's under pressure. So what's a technology firm to do?

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March 9, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 08, 2004

Jamie Schein and Zack Rinat on Customer Contract Compliance

From the November/ December Edition of MX Magazine

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Cesar Brea on Enterprise Social Networking

From the December 16, 2003 Edition of Line 56

March 8, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)