Tag Archives: success

SAP: Partners are the key to customer success

Customer success was the main focus of the SAP Global Partner Summit Online, a virtual conference held this week.

SAP Global Partner Summit Online is a gathering of SAP executives, partners and customers who convene to discuss innovations and resources.

Partners are the key to customer success and happiness, said Karl Fahrbach, who was appointed SAP’s first chief partner officer about a year ago. Partners provide a variety of services for SAP customers, including consulting and implementing systems, as well developing and marketing applications built on platforms like SAP Cloud Platform, or extensions to systems like SAP SuccessFactors.

“Customer success means that we recognize that, in order to make our customers successful, we need to do it with our partners,” Fahrbach said. “The role of the partner has changed within SAP. It’s no longer about sales with our reselling partners or implementation with our services partners.”

He stressed that partners are key players in advancing SAP’s idea of the intelligent enterprise, a broad vision of advanced enterprise systems that allow companies to transform old business processes or develop new business models.

The initiative to rely on partners as the driving force for customer success comes from the top levels of SAP, a point SAP CEO Christian Klein emphasized in his streamed keynote address.

“Everyone at SAP has to understand that customer success is not about the point of sale,” Klein said. “It continues across the sales lifecycle, and partners play a vital role in that. So, we have to double down on that.”

Klein vowed that SAP would develop tools and programs to simplify and automate partner interactions.

“We owe our ecosystem a much better experience than in the past,” he said.

Focus on implementation quality

At the summit, SAP unveiled new initiatives and enhancements to existing programs that are designed to help partners better serve SAP customers.

For implementation partners, SAP debuted the new Partner Delivery Quality Framework (PDQF), an initiative designed to help partners implement higher-quality projects faster, Fahrbach said.

Karl Fahrbach, chief partner officer, SAPKarl Fahrbach

The PDQF consists of three components: project delivery, partner skills and post-sales management. The first component looks at project delivery quality and establishes feedback loops to ensure that an implementation is on track and adoption is successful.

“You can see in real time how the implementation is going, what’s being deployed, how the adoption is going, because this is key to see if this customer will be successful or not,” he said. “We’re going to share that information with the partner to make sure that we are transparent, and we support the partner in delivering that quality.”

The second component consists of investments in certifications and skills that partners can use to make sure the project quality is high. The third component focuses on the partner’s post-sales management. An SAP team of partner delivery managers will work with partners’ project managers to deliver quality standards and resolve escalations.

SAP partners will also now have free access to the same testing and demo systems that SAP uses internally to develop and demonstrate projects for customers.

This will enable partners to build applications that integrate various SAP platforms, like S/4HANA, SAP Ariba, SAP SuccessFactors, and SAP S/4HANA Cloud, in a test and demo environment that they previously had to pay for, Fahrbach said.

“They will be able to show end-to-end scenarios of the intelligent enterprise without having any additional costs,” he said. “The partners have been asking if they can get the same environments that SAP uses to do the demos, and now they have free access. This will improve the economics for the partners because it’s free, and the quality of the demos will improve as well.”

A quicker path to validated apps

For independent software vendor (ISV) partners that develop SAP-based applications and extensions, SAP unveiled the Partner Solution Progression framework. The initiative enables partners to quickly develop SAP validated products and make them available on the SAP App Center, an online marketplace for applications and SAP product extensions, according to SAP.

Having apps that are validated and well-supported by SAP can be vital to an ISV’s success, and the Partner Solution Progression framework allows ISVs to gradually advance the technical and business quality of their applications. Once a partner puts a validated app on the SAP App Center, it can grow into the Partner Spotlight program that includes more go-to-market support. If the partner’s strategy and app success continue to improve, the app is eligible to be invited to SAP Endorsed Apps, an SAP premium certification initiative.

Christian Klein, CEO, SAPChristian Klein

The idea is to make it much easier for partners to get applications on the SAP App Center and show that they are valuable innovative products, Klein said.

“Business on the SAP App Center has quadrupled, but it took way too long for partners to become a partner in the App Center and to onboard their solution until they make their first dollar in revenue,” Klein said. “We have significantly improved how you become a partner and how you publish in the App Center.”

COVID-19 concerns addressed

When the COVID-19 crisis began earlier in the year, SAP launched a virtual partner advisory council to examine how the crisis might affect the partners’ business and determine what they need to do to address it, Fahrbach said.

One result was a decision to help partners deal with cash-flow issues and credit access, he said. SAP postponed SAP PartnerEdge program fees until later in the year and will not raise annual maintenance fees. SAP PartnerEdge is a program for ISVs that provides resources to help design, develop and bring applications to market.

“We also launched credit service options to make sure that partners have access to credit and have revised commercial guidelines for the cloud,” Fahrbach said.

To that end, partners can now use a consumption-based pricing model that was previously available only for SAP’s direct salesforce with the Cloud Platform Enterprise Agreement (CPEA), which meters a customer’s use of SAP systems on the SAP Cloud Platform so that they’re charged only for what they use.

“This will provide our partners the ability to be flexible in the way customers consume our software, which is especially important these days with COVID-19, ” Fahrbach said.

Proof will be in the pudding

It’s important that SAP’s messaging on the role of partners is coming directly from recently installed CEO Christian Klein, said Shaun Syvertsen, CEO and managing partner of ConvergentIS, an SAP partner based in Calgary, Alta.

“The idea that Klein has recognized and reinforced with his teams that partners should not feel like SAP services is directly competing with them is important,” Syvertsen said. “Certainly for few years that was a dramatic trend as SAP was really doubling down on services and growing the services teams and sales positioning, so that’s a remarkable shift, and I think it’s a really healthy one.”

SAP partners would often see similar and competing products coming from SAP product management, and it will be interesting to see if this changes, Syvertsen said.

“The idea that an ecosystem matters is something that we’ve heard from Klein over several years, and there has been a tone of being more open to that. So, now we’ll see if some of those behaviors change within the organization to honor some of the investments the partners have made,” he said. “For example, there’s Sodales Solutions [an SAP partner that develops extensions to SAP SuccessFactors]. If SAP comes out with a new module for SuccessFactors that does what Sodales does, that’s not a good sign for anybody. Those are the kinds of things I’m watching for.”

SAP can do more to boost innovative partners

The partner program initiatives are a welcome development for SAP, but they could do even more to highlight smaller niche players that build emerging technology or industry expertise into their applications, said Jon Reed, analyst and co-founder of Diginomica.com, an enterprise applications news and analysis site.

Jon Reed, co-founder, Diginomica.comJon Reed

“This is a time when companies are largely pausing on major software upgrades, but they are eager to extend their platforms with impactful apps and analytics that can get up and running quickly,” Reed said.

Many of SAP’s partners have offerings that fit this bill but do not get enough exposure. Some, like Sodales Solutions, have gained visibility this year, but there needs to be more like that, he said.

Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting, agreed that the proof will be in the pudding for SAP’s partner relations.

Joshua Greenbaum, principal, Enterprise Applications ConsultingJoshua Greenbaum

“The spirit is willing in SAP at the top, and we’ll have to wait to see how everything goes,” Greenbaum said. “They are truly dedicated to the proposition that SAP can’t compete without a healthy and vigorous ecosystem, and I think they really mean that, but unfortunately the best practices have not been best for the partners. They’ve been best for SAP in the past, so this is going to be a real wait and see.”

The trajectory path for partners with the Partner Solution Progression framework is perhaps the best development, he said.

“It took a while to articulate the value of having that trajectory to follow to the partners,” he said. “The key is that SAP has to do good by existing partners, but also make it an enticing ecosystem for new partners — and their reputation isn’t that good. With Fahrbach in charge and Klein’s vision, the pieces are there, but these are complicated, inbred cultural behaviors that need to be modified, and that takes time.”

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Gigster data suggests gig economy methods can benefit SIs

Systems integrators can cut staffing costs and boost project success rates if they take a cue from the gig economy.

A Constellation Research study published this week reported gig economy IT projects used 30% fewer FTEs over time compared with projects staffed the traditional way. In addition, gig economy projects experienced a 9% failure rate versus the IT industry average of 70% to 81%, according to market research firm. Large IT initiatives such as digital transformation projects are especially prone to encountering obstacles.

Gig economy staffing “lowers risk substantially by boosting IT success rates dramatically,” according to Constellation Research’s report, “How the Gig Economy Is Reshaping Tech Careers and IT Itself.” The report’s findings are based on Constellation Research’s analysis of project data from Gigster, a gig economy platform that focuses on IT staffing.

The research firm said it compared data from 190 Gigster projects with typical industry projects. Gigster helped fund the research.

From outsourcing to crowdsourcing

Gigster CEO Chris Keene said the gig approach — crowdsourcing IT personnel on demand — will “change the way systems integrators think about their talent.” The Constellation Research report, he added, suggests the application of gig economy best practices “could be as big for systems integrators as outsourcing was years ago.”

Outsourcing’s labor arbitrage made its mark in the systems integration field beginning in the 1990s. Today, crowdsourcing and what Keene refers to as “elastic staffing,” also aim to reduce personnel expenses on IT projects. He said Gigster’s Innovation Management Platform, a SaaS offering, lets organizations assess talent based on the quality of the work an IT staffer performed on previous projects. The tool provides sentiment analysis, polling an IT staffer’s teammates and customers to gauge their satisfaction. The tool’s elastic staffing capabilities, meanwhile, are used to identify on-demand peer experts who review a project’s key deliverables. As an integrator reaches a project milestone, it can use the Gigster platform to conduct sentiment analysis and an expert review before moving on to the next phase.

The increase in staffing efficiency stems from elastic versus static approaches. The Constellation Research report noted personnel assigned to a traditional project tend to remain on the team, even when their skills are not in high demand during particular project phases.

“Activity shifts among project team members over time, resulting in a relatively inefficient model because underutilized people continue to add to the project budget and overhead,” the report observed. For example, architects may play their biggest role at the onset of a project, while demand for developers and QA personnel grow over the course of a project.

Agile staffing

Keene said the gig economy approach avoids locking people into specialized projects for long periods of time, making the staffing process more agile. He said when organizations discuss agile approaches, they are typically referring to their delivery processes.

“Most agile projects are only agile in the way they drive their processes,” Keene said. “They are not agile in the way they resource those projects.”

Keene, meanwhile, attributed the increase in project success rates to the peer review function. He said bringing in an on-demand expert to review a project milestone helps avoid the “groupthink” that can derail an IT initiative.

Gigster is based in San Francisco.

SAP elevates partner-developed apps

SAP has revamped SAP App Center, an online marketplace where customers can purchase SAP-based apps developed by partners.

The SAP App Center now features an updated user experience to make it easier for customers to search for offerings based on the underlying SAP product used, certification, publisher and solution type, the vendor said. SAP unveiled the updated SAP App Center alongside several other new partner initiatives at the company’s Global Partner Summit, held online on June 3.

“The [SAP App Center] should be the place to go for all the customers we have. … And it should be the place to go for all of our account executives. We are going to make it easy for our customers to go there, and we are going to run campaigns to enable our customers to find what they need in the app center,” SAP chief partner offer Karl Fahrbach said during the Global Partner Summit event.

The marketplace currently features more than 1,500 partner-created offerings, according to SAP.

On the partner-facing side of the SAP App Center, the company added tools to publish SAP-based offerings and manage and track sales. “We are working very hard on reducing the time that it takes to publish an app on the app center,” Fahrbach said.

SAP said a new initiative, SAP Endorsed Apps, aims to bolster SAP partners’ software businesses by spotlighting partner apps and matching them with potential customers. SAP Endorsed Apps is an invitation-only initiative.

In addition to updating the SAP App Center, the company said it is focused on improving how partners approach SAP implementation projects. To that end, SAP introduced a set of standard processes, tools and reporting aids designed to facilitate implementations. Benefits include grants for educating partners’ consultants, incentives for partners that invest in customer success, and increased investments in partner learning and enablement, SAP said.

Fahrbach also said SAP is opening its pre-sales software demonstration environment to qualifying partners for free. Additionally, on July 1, SAP will offer partners one year of free access to SAP S/4HANA Cloud and Business ByDesign.

Channel partners find allies in backup and DR market

Several channel companies this week disclosed partnerships and distribution deals in the backup and disaster recovery (DR) market.

OffsiteDataSync, a J2 Global company offering DR and backup as a service, rolled out an expanded partnership with Zerto. The Zerto relationships lets OffsiteDataSync provide DRaaS options to a “broad spectrum of businesses,” according to OffsiteDataSync, which also partners with Veeam.

In another move, Otava, a cloud services company based in Ann Arbor, Mich., launched Otava Cloud Backup for Microsoft 365, partnering with Veeam. The Microsoft 365 SaaS offering, available for channel partners, follows the November 2019 launch of Veeam-based backup offerings such as Otava Cloud Connect, Otava-Managed Cloud Backup and Self-Managed Cloud Backup.

Meanwhile, Pax8, a cloud distributor based in Denver, added Acronis Cyber Protect to its roster of offerings in North America. The Acronis Cyber Protect service includes backup, DR, antimalware, cybersecurity and endpoint management tools.

Other news

  • A survey of IT professionals found 24% of businesses adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic without downtime, with 56% reporting two or fewer weeks of downtime. The study from Insight Enterprises, an integrator based in Tempe, Ariz., noted 40% of respondents said they had to develop or retool business resiliency plans in response to COVID-19. Insight also found IT departments are planning to invest in a range of health-related technologies, including smart personal hygiene devices (58%), contactless sensors (36%), infrared thermometers (35%) and thermal cameras (25%). A third of the respondents are looking into an IoT ecosystem that would let them pull together and analyze data gathered from those devices.
  • Research from Advanced, an application modernization services provider, revealed that about three-quarters of organizations have launched a legacy system modernization project but failed to complete the task. The company pointed to a “a disconnect of priorities between technical and leadership teams” as an obstacle to getting projects over the finish line. Advanced’s 2020 mainframe modernization report also identified a broad push to the cloud: 98% of respondents cited plans to move legacy applications to the cloud this year.
  • IBM and solutions provider Persistent System are partnering to deploy IBM Cloud Pak offerings within the enterprise segment. Persistent Systems also launched a new IBM Cloud Pak deployment practice for migrating and modernizing IBM workloads within cloud environments.
  • Distributor Ingram Micro Cloud rolled out the Illuminate program for AWS Partner Network resellers. The Illuminate program provides partner enablement in the forms of coaching, marketing, sales and technical resources.
  • US Signal, a data center services provider based in Grand Rapids, Mich., said it will expand its cloud and data protection capabilities to include data centers in Oak Brook, Ill., and Indianapolis. The company already offers cloud and data protection in its Grand Rapids, Mich.; Southfield, Mich.; and Detroit data centers. The expanded services are scheduled for availability in July at the Oak Brook data center and in September at the Indianapolis facility.
  • ActivTrak Inc., a workforce productivity and analytics software company based in Austin, Texas, unveiled its Managed Service Provider Partner Program. The initial group of more than 25 partners, which span North America, South America, Europe and Asia, include Advanced Technology Group, Cloud Synergistics, Cyber Secure, EMD, NST, Nukke, Wahaya and Zinia. The three-tier program offers access to a single pane-of-glass management console, MSP Command Center. The console lets partners log into customer accounts through single sign-on, investigate and address alerts, configure the application and troubleshoot issues within individual accounts, according to the company.
  • Tanium, a unified endpoint management and security firm based in Emeryville, Calif., formally rolled out its Tanium Partner Advantage program. The program launch follows partnership announcements with NTT, Cloudflare, Okta and vArmour.
  • Nerdio, a Chicago-based company that provides deployment and management offerings for MSPs, expanded its EMEA presence. The company launched a partnership with Sepago, an IT management consultancy based in Germany. Nerdio also appointed Bas van Kaam as its field CTO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
  • DLT and its parent company, distributor Tech Data, launched an online forum, GovDevSecOpsHub, which focuses on cybersecurity and the application development process in the public sector.
  • Kimble Applications, a Boston-based professional services automation company, appointed Steve Sharp as its chief operations and finance officer.
  • High Wire Networks, a cybersecurity service provider based in Batavia, Ill., named Travis Ray as its director of channel sales. Ray will look to build alliances with MSPs around delivering High Wire’s Overwatch Managed Security Platform as a Service offering, the company said.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

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Small business analytics success hinges on resources, skills

The inability to harness the power of data and turn it into fuel for growth hampers the success of many SMBs.

Unlike large enterprises with massive budgets, SMBs are often unable to employ data scientists to build and maintain analytics operations and interpret data to make fully informed decisions. Instead of investing in small business analytics strategies, they rely on instinct and experience, neither of which is foolproof.

Onepath, an IT services provider based in Kennesaw, Ga., sought to quantify the struggles of the SMBs it serves. It surveyed more than 100 managers and executives of organizations ranging in size from 100 to 500 employees to gauge their experience with analytics, and on Thursday released a report entitled “Onepath 2020 Trends in SMB Data Analytics Report.”

Key discoveries included that despite dedicating time and money to analytics, 86% felt they weren’t able to fully harness the power of data, 59% believed analytic capabilities would help them go to market faster and 54% felt that they risked making poor business decisions without the benefits of data analysis.

Phil Moore, Onepath’s director of applications management services, spoke with SearchBusinessAnalytics about the report as well as the difficulties involved in small business analytics efforts.

In Part I of this two-part Q&A, he discussed the findings of the report in detail. Here he talks about the perils SMBs face if they don’t develop a data-driven decision-making process.

As the technology in business intelligence platforms gets better and better, will SMBs be able to improve data utilization as well as large enterprises?

Phil MoorePhil Moore

Phil Moore: The Fortune 500s of the world have deep pockets and can hire their army of IT guys and go after it, but the small and medium-sized businesses tend to have far less volume of data unless they are in the unique position where they are a high-data business. But the core [of the SMB market] is around legal, construction, health care, doctor’s offices, and their data doesn’t get to the volume of larger organizations. They’re just looking for the metrics that help them run their business more efficiently, help them service their clients.

If you go to the other bookend and see an Amazon, of course they’re on a grand scale in terms of the size of their business. And they’re using analytics all up and down throughout their business, whether it be shipping, fulfillment, robotics, managing their warehouses. The SMB market won’t have the same types of complexities that the big guys have. The market is different.

Are there SMBs who are able to harness the power of data?

The survey shows that 86% of the companies that are taking a swing at analytics — that have some solution — say they’re underachieving, and they could be getting more out of their data.
Phil MooreDirector of applications management services, Onepath

Moore: The survey shows that 86% of the companies that are taking a swing at analytics — that have some solution — say they’re underachieving, and they could be getting more out of their data. That leaves 14% that are delighted with what they’re getting. There are always leading guys, the cutting edge, the folks that are more technology-centric or that appreciate and understand the value of technology and how it can help the business. Those guys are going to lead the way.

What will happen to companies that don’t figure out a way to use data, and is there a timetable for when they need to get with it?

Moore: If you break down the SMB market into the different disciplines — health care, legal, construction — the folks that get and use analytics, their first benefit over their competitors is a better line of sight to their business. They’re going to be able to make crisper decisions, which lead to either faster delivery of something to the market or better customer service, which indirectly will lead to higher profits. Right away they get a competitive advantage over their competitors that aren’t using analytics, that are running their business by shooting from the hip — which is running it with their intuition and their knowledge and their experience. That knowledge and experience may get proven wrong with data, because the eye in the sky doesn’t lie. At some point, things get revealed in the data that lead to transforming business decisions.

For example, in the IT space, one of the transforming business decisions is how to go to market, changing from charging by the hour for every hour worked when a ticket is opened to offering a fixed-price, all-you-can-eat model. The data shows a fixed price will still be profitable if they optimize internal processes. So, IT companies are shifting, and the companies that are now going to market with a fixed-price, all-you-can-eat support model are crushing the guys that are still out there charging by the hour. The guys charging by the hour either have to transform or die. Those transformations that get driven by the data will happen in an industry-vertical way.

Is it critical small business analytics expenditures to be part of the budget right off the bat?

Moore: Yes, but the challenge we see is that they know they want to have analytics but they don’t know how to budget for it. Therefore, it becomes unaffordable. One of the things we’re trying to do is make it affordable so people can bridge the mental gap from wanting analytics but not being able to get it by offering a monthly, low-entry, very affordable template set of [key performance indicators], so once they see the value they know how to put a dollar figure on the value and then adjust their budget for the next year. If you go to a small business and tell them they need analytics and need to budget for it, they struggle with how much to budget. They put a line item in the budget but they don’t know what they’re getting, so it often winds up getting cut from the budget.

Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Salesforce Trailhead to roll out live training videos

Salesforce is promoting customer success by rolling out two new Trailhead features that will be available by the end of this year.

Salesforce will introduce live video trainings on Trailhead Live and new features to Trailblazer.me, the online resume feature designed to help job-seekers show off their skills and accomplishments using Trailhead.

Trailblazer.me already features badges and certifications achieved using Trailhead. The new version will also highlight a person’s activity throughout the Salesforce ecosystem, such as contributions to user groups, what apps users download from the Salesforce AppExchange and reviews that users have posted.

Trailblazer.me should help employers that want to be able to quantify whether job applicants have the skills they say they have, said Maribel Lopez, founder and principal analyst at Lopez Research.

“People used to be able to just say, ‘I know Salesforce,’ on their resume,” Lopez said. “I think one of the hardest things for employers is to understand whether anyone they hire is actually qualified in the things they say they are qualified in.”

Trailhead Live brings video instruction

Trailhead Live offers a new way for Salesforce users to learn with additional elements of community. Like other Trailhead courses, Trailhead Live courses are free.

The initial set of courses will include live coding and Salesforce certification preparation for administrators and others. Within two months of launch later this year, Salesforce said it expects Trailhead Live to offer more than 100 live and on-demand training courses. This will also include courses in so-called “soft skills,” such as how to interview for a job and public speaking.

Salesforce Trailhead screenshot
Salesforce plans to roll out live video training on Trailhead Live by year’s end.

Salesforce plans to have a big Trailhead presence at Dreamforce in San Francisco from Nov. 19 to 22, where the new Trailhead features will be on display.

Salesforce is doing this an acknowledgment that people learn differently, Lopez said.

“There are multiple ways people like to engage,” Lopez said. “It used to be you had a whiteboard and people took notes, but now we’re in a much more visual era and you want to be sure you’re reaching everyone.”

Inspired by Peloton

Salesforce said the design of Trailhead Live was inspired in part by Peloton, the company that offers live on-demand fitness courses via an internet-connected bicycle.

Seeing how people can engage with others without having to go to a classroom was an inspiration.
Kris LandeVice president of marketing, Salesforce

“We definitely looked at consumer applications like Peloton,” said Kris Lande, vice president of marketing at Salesforce. “Seeing how people can engage with others without having to go to a classroom was an inspiration.”

There is a community aspect to Trailhead Live, as users will able to see who else is taking the class with them, Lande said. It’s also more personalized, as the instructor verbally welcomes each participant by name.

Like Peloton, which features certified trainers, Trailhead Live will feature experts in different topic areas from the Salesforce community. If you miss a class or need more time to complete different skills tests, each class will also be available online. If there are 15 people taking an hour-long course on how to create Lightning Web Components, the instructor will give a set period of time for users to complete tasks in their own virtual workspace. The user can return and learn in an on-demand review of the course if he or she needs to finish any parts of it for certification.

Earlier this year, there were 1.2 million people using the Trailhead platform, according to Salesforce. That number has grown to 1.7 million and is expected to grow to 1.8 million by Dreamforce, with a total of 17 million badges earned since its launch. Trailhead users earn badges each time they show mastery of specific skills.

New Salesforce Trailhead trainings introduced this past year include cybersecurity and Apple iOS.

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Innovation leaders must learn to ‘co-create’ the future

Conventional ideas about leadership no longer hold when business success depends on continual innovation, said Linda Hill, the Wallace Brett Donham professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School and co-author of the book Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation.

She cited as an example how her mentors, John Potter and Warren Bennis, scholars who helped pioneer the contemporary field of leadership studies, defined leadership. For them, leadership is largely about the ability to come up with a vision, communicate that vision and then get people to fulfill that vision. While that sort of top-down approach is effective for leading change, leading innovation is different, argued Hill, who has spent the last decade studying leaders of innovation around the globe.

“Innovation leaders see their primary role not as the visionary, but as the creator of a context in which others are willing and able to innovate,” said Hill during a keynote session at the recent LiveWorx event in Boston in which she offered up advice to IT professionals on leading innovation.

In other words, as a leader of innovation, you’re not necessarily the person who’s out in front telling everybody “this is where we’re going,” Hill said. Instead, you’re the “stage setter” — giving the players a shared purpose and letting them go from there.

“If you want to innovate and if you want to get at something new, you have to unleash the talents and the passions of individuals,” Hill said.

However, if innovation leaders want those individual sparks of innovation to be useful, they have to figure out how to harness all the diverse ideas, talents and passions of their teams to do something that actually meets the needs of the collective good. That’s one of the many tests leaders face: whether they can unleash and harness, Hill said.

Give them space

When it comes to unleashing innovation, a gentle push in the right direction is better than a forceful shove, according to Hill.

You cannot tell people to innovate. Formal authority has nothing to do with whether they’ll innovate.
Linda Hillprofessor of business administration, Harvard Business School

“You cannot tell people to innovate,” Hill said. “Formal authority has nothing to do with whether they’ll innovate. You have to get people to volunteer and want to do what is really emotionally and intellectually taxing work.”

A piece of that puzzle is understanding that these people “don’t want to follow you to the future, they want to co-create that future with you,” Hill said. Innovation leaders need to create the space where that co-creation can happen — where a leader’s vision serves as a starting point rather than an ending point.

Steve Jobs understood that innovation comes from collective genius, not solo genius,” Hill said. “Innovation is a team sport. [Successful innovation leaders like Jobs] really think you need to be a part of a community if you’re going to be able to innovate.”

Hill also relayed some interesting advice from her friend and study subject Bill Coughran, former senior vice president of engineering at Google. Coughran’s advice to innovation leaders when people come to them looking for guidance: “Keep it fuzzy.”

“They’re going to get nervous, depressed and frustrated and they’re going to come to you and want you to tell them what to do,” Hill said. “But the first time you tell them, that’s it. They’ll rely on you too much, they’ll delegate back to you and they won’t do the collaborative work that needs to be done.”

Hill said it’s the innovation leader’s job to coach everyone in the organization, no matter their position, how to be not only a “value creator,” but also a “game-changer.” A value creator is someone who knows how to identify and close the performance gap — the gap between where the organization is now and where it should be. A game-changer is someone who knows how to identify and close the “opportunity gap” — a gap between where the organization is now and where it could be.

In fact, if innovation leaders want to hold onto talent, they need to give the talent the chance to work on opportunity gaps, Hill said. That usually means letting the talent work on cutting-edge projects. If innovation leaders don’t do that, the talent is more likely to defect because they’re not going learn the expertise required to make new things happen and therefore they’re not going to be as marketable.

Innovation leaders, it seems, can’t be without vision themselves. To create an environment where new things happen — and where the talent is excited to innovate — leaders need to have a clear “point of view” on technology and innovation, as Hill put it. “If you don’t have a point of view, they don’t want to play with you,” she said.

Google’s partner ecosystem remains a work in progress

To gauge the success of a cloud vendor, look no further than the company it keeps.

Public cloud providers have a symbiotic relationship with their partner ecosystems — a marriage of marketing and technological convenience that links these massive platforms to thousands of ancillary products. These arrangements helped propel AWS deeper into the enterprise market and helped Microsoft parlay its precloud partnerships into more revenue from its cloud.

For Google, however, these relationships remain a work in progress.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) lags behind AWS and Azure in a number of areas, and its partner ecosystem’s relative lack of depth and breadth is no exception. This is a particularly acute shortcoming for a company known more for its technology than its rapport with traditional corporate IT, but there are signs that Google has addressed the problem.

The turning point for GCP, according to industry observers, was the late-2015 hiring of VMware co-founder Diane Greene, who has emphasized success in the enterprise market. Partners and other vendors said it was difficult to coordinate any collaborative efforts with GCP in the past, but that process has slowly improved since Greene took over.

CenturyLink has worked with Google for more than two years to provide networking and application migration services that link to GCP. In the early stages of that relationship, discussions centered on how many petabytes of data GCP could ingest or the size of a Hadoop cluster.

“That would resonate maybe with data scientists working on big data analytics or cutting-edge app developers, but it didn’t resonate with the broader IT department,” said Chris McReynolds, vice president of core network services at CenturyLink.

Google has made great strides in this area, but it must continue to translate its broad set of technologies into products and services that meet customers’ specific needs, he added.

“I don’t think Google can do that alone,” McReynolds said.

Google’s scored some victories in this space in the past 18 months, such as prominent deals with Cisco, SAP and Salesforce. It also streamlined its partner application process, added incentives for partners and provided categories for customers to find particular types of partners. But some notable gaps remain in its partner ecosystem, including Oracle and VMware. And its 13,000 partners are far short of those for AWS, which added more than 10,000 partners in 2017 alone.

Google also has increased its financial commitment to this effort. The company’s channel and partner team is as much as 10 times the size it was 18 months ago, said Nan Boden, head of global alliances for Google Cloud. That’s a significant leap, but it’s hard to gauge the exact impact, because Google wouldn’t provide details about the actual size of the organization.

Part of that extended outlay is proactive outreach to partners to speed up adoption. Rather than wait for third parties to come to them, Google has invested to train channel providers, so they can get certified and well-versed in the platform. That avoids a scenario where independent software vendors and enterprises wait for the other to jump first.

Clouds and their partners: Can’t have one without the other

We watched the early interest in Google, and there wasn’t enough momentum for us to spend time and effort … but there’s been a lot of fast-growing momentum lately.
Joe KinsellaCTO and founder, CloudHealth Technologies

By some estimates, a public cloud partner ecosystem will generate as much revenue as the clouds themselves in the coming years, mainly driven by technology or consulting companies. The vibrancy of a given cloud’s marketplace is particularly important to enterprise clients. Corporations want assurances that their third-party software licenses are supported on the platform, or they require assistance to architect and manage their cloud assets. If a cloud lacks the appropriate scaffolding to support either scenario, IT shops may look elsewhere.

IT vendors tend to follow their customers’ lead with public clouds and extend to other platforms only when it becomes worth the investment in software and staff. Most third parties started with AWS and later expanded their support to Microsoft Azure. That shift to Azure several years ago was an early indicator that Azure was firmly established as the No. 2 public cloud on the market.

By contrast, Google’s mantra, “if you build it, they will come,” in the early years of GCP emphasized the company’s technical prowess and spoke directly to developers and data scientists with the message that they could operate just like Google. That grassroots momentum ultimately stalled, and Google remained an afterthought for most large enterprises.

“We watched the early interest in Google, and there wasn’t enough momentum for us to spend time and effort developing a value proposition there,” said Joe Kinsella, CTO and founder at CloudHealth Technologies. “But there’s been a lot of fast-growing momentum lately. We’re kind of being pulled into Google [by our customers].”

CloudHealth, based in Boston, provides cloud management and optimization and has worked with Google for two years. It already has support for AWS and Azure and plans to roll out a GCP service in the coming months. In conversations with corporate executives this past year, Kinsella noticed a curious trend in how the three hyperscale platforms crossed paths within an enterprise.

A given company likely deploys AWS and Azure, but the usage is often disconnected, as different teams work independently. However, a company typically operates with Google’s cloud in concert with AWS, which could give GCP an edge going forward, Kinsella said.

“What most enterprises are realizing is there is a lot more compatibility across stacks, from the migration services that Google offers to compute, database, storage and even their developer tools,” he said. “They’re more apples-to-apples compatible.”

AWS clearly has a broader, more mature set of tools available to its users, but Google has checked off equivalents for the top 10 or so features, which account for 95% of the revenue for these vendors anyway, Kinsella said. He said he sees GCP in the same position AWS was in 2015, when it started to turn the corner with partners and enterprise clients.

Versa SD-WAN counts progress in customer wins, not ‘dollars’

Success in the software-defined WAN market means more than revenue, at least according to one SD-WAN exec, who backs his claim by touting the number of licenses his firm has obtained since 2012.

“While others are talking about their progress in dollars, we’ve been quietly progressing in winning service providers and enterprises and getting them under contract,” said Kelly Ahuja, CEO and president of Versa Networks, based in San Jose, Calif.

Versa counts more than 150,000 global contract licenses since the firm was founded six years ago. Versa SD-WAN customers include enterprises, as well as more than 50 service providers, including Verizon, Comcast Business, CenturyLink and China Telecom.

Yet “progress in dollars” remains a key metric, according to market watcher IHS Markit, which reported 2018 second quarter SD-WAN revenues reaching $162 million, a 12% jump from over a year ago.

The IHS Markit report ranked VeloCloud — acquired by VMware in 2017 — as segment leader, with 19% market share. Aryaka and Silver Peak trailed, recording shares of 18% and 12%, respectively.

Kelly Ahuja, CEO of Versa NetworksKelly Ahuja

Versa SD-WAN wasn’t listed in the IHS report, which included appliances and control and management software as part of the revenue numbers. But Ahuja said revenue is just one dimension of market traction, as vendor products and offerings widely vary. Versa numbers and revenue, for example, don’t include hardware, as the company is subscription only, he added.

“Our traction in terms of the number of licenses [we have] should speak for itself about how well we’re doing in the market,” Ahuja said.

Our traction in terms of the number of licenses [we have] should speak for itself about how well we’re doing in the market.
Kelly Ahujapresident and CEO of Versa Networks

Versa Networks offers three types of license tiers: standard, advanced and secure SD-WAN. The secure SD-WAN service comes with a next-generation firewall and unified threat management and accounted for about 70% of the 150,000 licenses, Ahuja added. Further, customers can purchase Versa SD-WAN licenses based on throughput requirements, which ranges depending on customer type.

“A lot of our business is business to business — to service providers that then sell to enterprises,” he said. “Their customers are typically financial, transportation, retail, hospitality and healthcare.”

Ahuja said the majority of enterprises Versa serves consists of organizations with large internal IT teams that can deploy and manage the service themselves. These include global oil and gas companies, brand-name technology vendors, retailers, and banks and financial firms such as Capital One.

New Dynamics 365 integrations across Adobe Experience Cloud advance sales and marketing capabilities

We know that your business success is directly tied to how well you are equipped to respond to your customers in a digital environment. That’s why we’re pleased to continue delivering progress on our strategic partnership with Adobe. Our joint efforts are helping enterprises transform their customer experiences, and drive more efficient business processes.

Together with Adobe, we are announcing today that Dynamics 365 is now integrated with Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe’s industry leading content management solution in Adobe Marketing Cloud. Now available to our joint customers, this integration will help organizations optimize enterprise sales and lead management.

The value of this integration really extends from the data that underpins both solutions. Enterprise organizations can now design and connect rich marketing content with CRM data in Microsoft Dynamics 365 to transform how their sales and marketing organizations can collaborate and ultimately personalize brand experiences for their customers.

By connecting our solutions, we are helping companies to solve complex challenges and ultimately grow efficiently. Examples of improvement areas include:

  • Audience: Helping organizations move from disparate view of customers and poor segmentation, to a more holistic view with intelligent segmentation.
  • Workflow: Shifting from teams using multiple systems and processes for customer engagement, to integrated systems and a unified view that empowers actions, collaboration and productivity.
  • Personalization: Transitioning from manual process for defining and delivering customer experiences to data driven and automated content personalization.

Ultimately, customer experiences are the heart of succeeding in business today. Together with Adobe, we’re looking forward to partnering with organizations to help them better understand customer intent, and even predict where those intentions will move, providing intelligent personalization for customers and offering seamless integration for business users.

More details on today’s announcement are available here, and for more information about our partnership with Adobe and the range of joint solutions we offer, please visit our new Dynamics 365 solutions page.

Adding LinkedIn’s Profile Card on Office 365 Offers a Simple Way to Build a Professional Relationship

Over my career, I’ve learned that the success of a project is often determined by the strength of the team. That’s why it’s important to take time to know the people you work with, and it’s why I’m excited to share LinkedIn’s integration into the Office Profile Card, bringing personalized LinkedIn insights directly into your Microsoft Office 365 experience. This makes it easier to develop authentic relationships with your colleagues, your customers, and your partners, and is part of our efforts to help you be more productive and successful.

The latest about people you work with

How often do you get an email or walk into a meeting not knowing much about the people you’re about to collaborate with? According to Microsoft more than half of the emails its users receive are from people outside their organization. We know how much relationships matter, and now with Profile Card in Microsoft Office 365, you’ll have a quick and easy way to find more information about the people you work with, all without having to leave your workflow.

After you connect your LinkedIn account to your Microsoft account, you’ll seamlessly discover more insights within the Profile Card in your Inbox, your calendar and contacts lists. Simply hover over a contact’s name to see information from their LinkedIn Profile, such as where they work, what they do, and where they went to school. For example, when you receive an email from someone you haven’t met, you can instantly identify them and make a more meaningful start to the conversation. Or, if you’re not already connected with someone you collaborate with in Office 365, you can send a LinkedIn connection invite directly from Profile Card.

Google Chrome Enterprise adds management options

Chromebooks have found success in the education market and now Google is aiming to bring the Chrome OS to the enterprise with a suite of new features and security options.

Google Chrome Enterprise offers many of the same benefits as consumer Chrome OS, like automatic updates, but adds options such as 24/7 support from Google, management tools for the Google Play Store and Chrome extensions, and a new partnership with VMware allowing the use of VMware Workspace ONE as “the first third-party solution provider to manage Chrome devices.”

Sharon Vardi, CMO at Prevoty, the application security company based in Los Angeles, said Google Chrome Enterprise opening up to enterprise mobility management (EMM) partners was a big step.

“Up until now, only Google and a few other cloud services were able to design, implement and apply configuration and security policies for these devices and none were really enterprise ready,” Vardi told SearchSecurity. “Now with both the Active Directory integration and VMware integration, policing these devices becomes a much easier task whether they are owned by the enterprise or if they are personal devices that employees bring to the office and add to the network.”

Craig Young, computer security researcher for Tripwire’s Vulnerability and Exposures Research Team, said Google Chrome Enterprise could be a good option for “certain organizations looking for a locked down yet enterprise friendly computing platform.” 

“Chrome OS itself is based around Gentoo Linux and benefits heavily from Google’s heavy investments in security. Google has generally been on the cutting edge of vulnerability research particularly related to identifying memory safety issues, and I think they have done a lot of work to harden all components of Chrome OS,” Young told SearchSecurity. “Chrome OS is also backed by a standing bounty of $100K for anyone who can demonstrate an exploit chain yielding a persistent device compromise. Google also enables researchers with grants to perform security research as well as provides Google scale computing resources.”

In addition to the security of Google Chrome Enterprise, Vardi said the Active Directory integration should sway some IT staff.

“The one big problem this does solve that also ties into security is IT fragmentation in the enterprise with devices on the network that the enterprise has no control over and cannot be controlled via traditional CMDBs [configuration management databases] or EDR [enterprise data replication] solutions,” Vardi said. “With the announcement of their Active Directory integration for identity and access management of Chrome OS devices [this] is a big step forward to allowing these types of devices to be accepted on enterprise networks.”

Google Chrome Enterprise with Android apps

Although Google said not all Chromebooks will support the Play Store, even with a Chrome Enterprise license, the addition of Android apps to Chrome OS has been somewhat controversial. Some have said the addition of Android apps extends the functionality of Chrome OS, while others claim it could hurt Chrome’s appeal as a “thin client”.

Young said Chrome OS had also suffered from risks of “abuse from third-party content,” especially given security issues surrounding Chrome extensions, which Young said “can be extremely dangerous given their ability to read from and inject content into arbitrary web sessions.” 

“It looks like Chrome Enterprise could make strides to alleviate this concern for network administrators by providing managed Play Store and extensions,” Young said. “I’m not sure exactly what this will look like in practice, but my hope would be that an organization could configure their Chrome Enterprise stores to automatically install certain apps and deploy specific settings as well as also give users the ability to select and install pre-approved third-party content.”

Ultimately, Young said, Google Chrome Enterprise “could be a really ideal environment for an organization like a hospital where staff members currently use laptops, ultrabooks, or tablets to input data into clinical web or desktop applications. In addition to security benefits, Chromebooks can provide benefits in terms of operating expense and mobility.”