Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Selecting a Channel Partner

One of the challenges I face this year is selecting and managing channel partners. Although this is not entirely a new experience it is the first time that I have determined to actively manage the relationships. In the past, partnership arrangements have been created solely by expertise in a certain technology.  For example we became experienced with a specific microprocessor family and toolset and developed a solution partner relationship with the vendor.  The relationship was casual with few interactions. And as one might expect we had had mixed results; some referrals, some proposals, and minimal actual work.

I began to think whether having channel partner relationships are really helpful towards meeting our business development goals. I believe they can be. But I need to figure out how to make the partnership work.

So I began asking questions.

  • How can I know which company is the right one to establish a relationship?

  • What type of company should I be evaluating (i.e. service or product)?

  • How much time and money should I invest in the partnership?

  • How does our company add value?

  • How can I project a business return?

  • Are our business interests aligned?

I have many more questions with few answers so far. But it is a beginning. I will have more to say about channel partnerships as the year progresses.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I happen to be one of those people who are very organized. In fact, I don’t function very well when I’m not. My desk is neat, my files are organized, and when they are not, I am not as productive. I don’t consider my self compulsive, but I suppose some might.

I think this kind of mindset has made it very easy for me to adopt and appreciate a formal development process and good architectural standards. I’ve known a lot of people who have offices or workspaces in which every available surface is covered with piles of stuff. Similarly, I’ve know developers whose code is just as “messy” - inconsistent coding standards (even with themselves), poorly partitioned, intertwined spaghetti.

Do you think some people are just naturally predisposed to be “neat” in all areas of their life? Can developers that are not naturally predisposed to this find comfort and value in good development practices?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Can Customer Service be Dangerous?

What lengths have you gone to, to handle or avert a potential customer issue?

I had my doubts about whether or not to tell this story, but my partner convinced me Michael - you're paying my ticket, if I get one.

I was running some errands today at lunch, and while stuck at a light I checked my Blackberry. I suppose I could tell you that this was the only time I'd ever looked at my BBerry while driving, but would anyone really believe me?

Anyway, I had just gotten an email from a consultant that was not going to be able to make a 1:00 meeting with a client. This was about 12:30. I did not have the client's number on me, and I knew I would not be back in the office before 1, so I called my office (also illegal to do while driving in CT) and was able to get someone to call the client to let him know. Issue averted!

Believe me - I get how dangerous this is, but I'm sure glad I was able to let the client know in advance. Don't try this at home.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Don't Forget to Listen

Whether you’re in Consulting or in a Consultative Sales Role, it’s so important to REALLY, REALLY LISTEN! I know, this is Sales 101, but I’ve had so many experiences lately where people (consultants and sales people) were far more interested in pushing their own agenda – whether the customer wanted it or not. I know when it’s happened to me, it’s completely turned me off. Even if these people have wonderful services or products to offer, it’s not likely I’m going to be interested.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Peer Coaching - Improved

I recently read about an interesting company – The Alternative Board. They provide facilitated peer coaching for business owners and Presidents.

I think this is a great idea. I’ve have good experiences with peer coaching. A group of bright, experienced business people with diverse backgrounds can figure out anything. The only downside for me is that sometimes these groups can go off the tracks. The conversation gets high jacked by one person, or the topic of the day does not really get covered, or all the great contributions don’t get shared.

It seems to me that adding an experienced facilitator would not only maximize the contributions, it would also maximize the benefits to all the participants.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Full Process Review or Quick Fix?

Lately we seem to have so many consultants interviewing for so many opportunities it's hard to keep track of all the details. We do have some tools in place but they're not enough. When the "pain" gets to be too much we've been creating quick fixes to relive the particular difficulty we're having at the moment.

In a casual hallway conversation, we were just about to do this again, when it dawned on me that we had not really looked at our end-to-end process and inter-relationships between Sales and Consultant Services in a while. Certainly not since our business volume has picked up. My Software Development background kicked in and I suggested we take a step back and do just that.

I know that when we're moving so fast, it can be tempting to just address the immediate issue, but sometime a more holistic approach is the way to go. The trick is in knowing the difference. I think, just like in Software Development too many quick fixed can create a mess really quickly. In this case, we had been doing the quick fix thing for a while and it just seemed like time to look at the big picture.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Value of Business Planning

Today begins our fiscal year. We're just finishing up our third business plan as a team. Not only does it get easier each year, the business plans just keep getting better and better - more realistic, more detailed, and more actionable.

When I was running development projects, I never proceeded without a plan (ok, well almost never). The value was apparent, we needed to know what to do, what we could do by when, and how we were going to do it.

Our business plans have been much more challenging. Certainly, the scope is much broader than even the largest development projects. The subject area is much more diverse, and the external factors (i.e. will anyone buy what we're selling) play a much more critical role.

But the value is indisputable. We execute better and better each quarter. Having those specific objectives and initiatives really focuses us, and the three of us have been great at keeping each other on track. It's so easy to get lost in the day-to-day and forget that we want to move our business forward. The business plan (1 year and 5 year) is the best way we've found to keep moving towards our long range goals. I'd advise any leadership team of any size to develop some sort of plan to help them balance the short term and the long term.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Can the iPhone/iTouch platform be a next generation enterprise communication platform?

Now that Apple has released the iPhone SDK will there be a rush to adoption by business? Apple is trying very hard not to repeat the past mistakes of creating a closed Mac platform. The addition of a $100M VC fund for application development will certainly help. But is it enough?

According to the announcement this week, Apple will still control the conduit. All applications must be downloaded via iTunes. No software will be permitted to allow the iPhone to work with phone carriers that are not approved by Apple. In the US, we have one phone carrier to choose from … AT&T.

It seems to me that Apple has taken a first step, but a baby step.  If Apple is serious about adoption of the iPhone as a ubiquitous handheld business communication device I believe much more needs to be done. Here are a few suggestions.

First and foremost Apple needs to open the connectivity choices to any wireless carrier. Address security issues such as data encryption and secure access. The iPhone software needs to allow managed updates via company IT department. And finally very tight, seamless integration with Enterprise systems such as Exchange is required.

Although this is not an exhaustive list, in my opinion it would propel the iPhone to becoming the device of choice for the Enterprise.

Interoperability, sometimes it just works!

I just took ownership of my first “green” car … Toyota Camry Hybrid. It is quite an impressive vehicle with excellent gas mileage for a midsized car. My research has shown it would be a very sophisticated, technological savvy vehicle. The computer control system enables real-time monitoring and control of energy consumption. Switching back and forth as needed between electric battery and gasoline engine within a fraction of a second. I was very happy with my purchase considering just energy savings, comfort and safety.

What I didn’t realize is the degree of sophistication with Voice Activation, NAV, Bluetooth and cell phone connectivity. Multiple vendors and industries are involved with the above technologies. Yet Toyota was able to interface them seamlessly? The ease of connecting my Blackberry Pearl with the car’s Bluetooth was a thing of beauty. But the most amazing part was that I was able to transfer my Blackberry address book contacts to the auto’s address book wirelessly via Bluetooth. It is one thing to have basic connectivity, another to agree on a data transport via Bluetooth to capture the phone’s information. I wonder if a contact's address can go right into the NAV system to set the destination point?  Maybe next model year.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The DVD war is over, Toshiba surrenders!

The long awaited resolution of which technology will be the High Definition DVD choice of the future is here and the winner is ... Blu-Ray.  The slow adoption of high definition DVD has been blamed on the competitive war between the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray DVD camps. Some think that without a clear standard, consumers have stayed out of the market. Others expected a dual system that supports both technologies. Some dual-format devices have already been produced.

I think another reason exists for the slow adoption. Better choices. Why rent or buy a DVD when you can easily stream it via your cable, satellite or an on-line supplier. The cost is about the same, don’t need to leave your couch and you can get at least 5.1 surround sound. What is missing, the out-takes, extras, and alternative endings. For the vast majority of movies you want to watch how important are these features?

I am not planning on buying a Blu-Ray DVD anytime soon.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Business Planning, where is the real value?

As we finish up this year’s business planning process for Advanced Decisions I look back at all the discussion and ideas debated. As with any practical plan, not everything desired could be included. There remain some pretty good thoughts sitting on the sidelines waiting for their moment.

We see many threats that can and will impact our business. Not the least of which are the current global economic turbulence and continuing tight labor market in certain areas.  However, having a plan that includes realistic threats and risk mitigation strategies allow us to approach the new fiscal year with a sense of optimism and confidence.

The value of our Business Plan is that we can visualize how to achieve our goals.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Did Apple Set The Standard Again?

Macworld 2008 is now in the books. Some stunning new products were announced. For a company that is no longer a "computer" company it does a pretty good job of disguising itself. Perhaps Microsoft/Dell should take notice.

For me, the new MacBook Air is a beautiful product.  It is a true portable that embraces wireless. Finally having the option of a full sized keyboard and reasonably sized screen in a remarkably thin and lightweight package will set a high bar for portable notebooks. A docking station is no longer needed; I only see the need for two cables in the office. One cable is for power and the second for an external monitor. WiFi and Bluetooth wireless connections for the network and mouse/keyboard eliminate the need for additional cables.

But for me the most significant product announcement is the new Airport/NAS or Time Capsule. The combination of software (Leopard’s built-in Time Machine) and wireless hardware make automated backup a reality.  There is simply no reason for us not to have our digital life stowed away safely and inexpensively. But best of all, instantly retrievable.

I am confident that the PC community will catch-up, but non-Apple users will have to wait until Windows 2009 . . . is released.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Happy New Year

After a prolonged absence, I am back.  Writing, for me, is difficult. I find myself doing almost anything to avoid it. This is not a good formula to become an active blogger. Something needs to change … me.

Effective communications is essential to most every job. And it is especially so for a consultant. Gathering and writing requirements for the next project is at least as important as the system architecture, design and code. I believe that regular writing in any venue will improve writing in all areas.

The blogosphere is full of serious writers, reporters, journalists and just plain ordinary folk who have something to say … hopefully something interesting. I plan to fit in the latter category.

I look forward to hearing from you. Please comment, criticize, question; let’s create a dialogue.