Monday, June 27, 2011

Does John Dvorak think Microsoft has jumped the shark too?

I came across this post on PC Magazine's website. Its an interesting take on what's happening at Microsoft and given my thoughts on what's happening there I thought I'd add the link here:

Wintel, Death by a Thousand Budget Cuts

Here's the link to my piece on this topic:

Has Microsoft Jumped the Shark?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Here we go down the Yellow Brick Road because there's a Pot of Gold at the end of the Rainbow

This is the first in a series of many posts on the changes that are happening at the site of one of my clients based in Brisbane.

They have been successfully running a mixed environment of UNIX (AIX and BSD), Linux (Red Hat), MacOS X, Windows XP and 7 for a few years. Kept their costs down while keeping the availability up.

The company has 10 sites on the eastern seaboard of Australia and about a hundred and fifty users.

Recently their Group Financial Controller convinced the company management to ignore the advice of their in house IT guys and move to a Windows mono-culture. The reason she did this was because in her extensive experience with IT this was the only environment that worked and would deliver huge benefits to the business, short and long term.

They asked me to get involved and help 'guide' the in-house IT guys with the change.

Now personally I don't think this is going to be a smart idea, or a cheap one or that it will deliver any of the huge benefits to the business that she's claiming. That being said I think its going to be an interesting journey for us to follow.

So lets saddle up and see where the yellow brick road is going to take us.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Where have all the good sales guys gone?

You know years ago I used to rue the cold calls I'd get from sales guys "out there" trying to sell me stuff, stitch me up for the latest boondoggle or otherwise trying to get their figurative foot in the door.

I know that cold calls are just a part of doing business but it used to piss me off no end.

Oh how I wish the good old days would come back.

Over the last four weeks I have been called at least once a day by third rate telcos telling me that they're going to save me 50% on my current rates while I strain to hear them make the pitch over a third rate VoIP system that's been installed by a fifth rate technician using gaffer tape and baling wire.

The amazing part is that these calls are all coming from Vodafone, so maybe its not a third rate VoIP system, maybe its the kind of quality you get from their prime grade mobile network?

The thing about this is that the caller isn't trying to sell me the product, they're trying to sell me the salesman. The call usually goes like this once they've given me the savings pitch; "One of our sales staff will be in your area next week. They'd like 10 minutes of your time to show you our offering. What time can I book you in for?"

Here's the thing. If they're such a good sales person why aren't they making their own cold calls? If they're not such a good sales person and you can't trust them to make their own cold calls why are you sending them to me?

With this sort of approach I'm being told that we aren't an individual customer, I'm a name on a mailing list and just part of the great sales chocolate wheel, round and round and round she goes where she stops nobody knows but when it does stop on your number we'll call you.

How can any organisation that tries to pitch customer service as a key differentiator take this approach...oh...sorry...we're talking about Vodafone...strike the customer service comment.

The caller usually doesn't know a thing about the company, our needs, requirements and so on so how can they offer us anything other than a standard pitch that will promise the world until you read the fine print that, translated from legalese, means "doesn't matter what we tell you because what you need might make this offer worthless and non-binding".

Here's a tip for all the companies that use this type of bottom feeding sales approach:

Either let your sales staff make their own calls, or, if you can't trust them to hit their numbers get new sales staff who can build a relationship with your potential customer.

Call centres making ten minute appointments for a "consultant" who will explain the latest greatest deal is no way to build a relationship with anyone, and here's the trick, no relationship equals no sale.

And one last note to Vodafone. If you can't tune your CRM system to make sure I don't get 5 calls a week from 5 different call centre operators then I can't trust your technology with something as critical as my phones.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Has Microsoft Jumped the Shark?

Not so long ago Microsoft wasn't the largest software company in the world. Lotus was. Now they're a footnote on IBM's financial statements.

Not so long ago Microsoft didn't own the corporate networking market. Novell did. Now they're a footnote to the accounts of a private equity firm, chunks of their business belongs to Attachmate and a whole bunch of companies are picking over the bones of their patent portfolio.

Is Microsoft next?

One thing that was common to the slow, painful decline of Lotus and Novell was their attempt to get into non-core space. They lost focus.

Lotus built Symphony, bought cc:Mail and got into 'something'-ware with Notes.

Novell bought Digital Research and got into the DOS business and then they bought WordPerfect and a couple of products from Borland and got into the Office business.

Now Microsoft has bought Skype, melted Bing and Yahoo, provided seed funding to a failing Nokia and had a Wall Street type call Ballmer 'the biggest overhang on Microsoft stock'.

Now Redmond is showing off Windows 8. An OS that can scale across phones, tablets and desktops, but, is it going to be enough?

The radical shift in interface is going to piss a lot of people off. Yeah, I know that you'll be able to make it look like Windows 7, but, you'll also find that like they've done in the past,  going to the old interface will involve compromises.

I just wonder if this is the onset of panic. Their phone OS isn't setting the world on fire, in fact the defenders are starting to sound like Apple fanbois did about 10 years ago. The less said about the Kin debacle the better. The Zune wasn't exactly a screaming success.

I don't know something has changed in Redmond. The juggernaut has stumbled.

This kind of reminds me of Lotus 123 V.3 - it was the dog that marked the start of the decline.

For Novell it was WordPerfect Office, UnixWare and DR-DOS.

What's it going to be for Microsoft?

Under attack from all sides they need to smack one out of the park. Linux is chewing into their server market. Apple has bitch slapped them in the tablet and phone market and IBM just leap-frogged them to be the second largest tech company by market cap.

Where will Microsoft be in 10 years from now?