Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The web of Insecurity

Take a look at the following:

Some Phishing Data
$10 to $150Price range on the black market for a full set of identity information
50 cents to $5Price range per stolen credit card number
196860Unique phishing messages detected by Symantec for the first half of 2007, up 18% from last six months of 2006
52771Number of active bot-infected computers per day in the year's first half

Data: Symanted Internet Security Threat Report Trends [2007]

The report above is just an indication of the wild business of phishing flourishing out there. The most recent hit, a huge theft of credit card information, was felt by Vertical Web Media, Chicago Publisher of Internet Retailer magazine and millions of its customers.

This information came a week after TD Ameritrade Holding disclosed that attackers from half a dozen IP addresses worldwide made off with personal information, including credit card numbers and email addresses of about 6.3 million customers. The report, the incident all point to one vulnerability - the most widespread vulnerability of organizations from security threats.

Many organizations are realizing this and shielding themselves by putting in place a security team and a security infrastructure. But is that enough? I will write about some of the security initiatives that organizations should adopt to escape from the vulnerability in a future post. If your organization is not yet serious and proactive about the security threats, then the risks are very high!

Jim Motes (CISO of Perot Systems) puts it aptly:
"The sophistication of these attacks being used today, hasn't been offset by an equal sophistication of the tools we use to prevent them"

It's all about Attitude, Baby! Or not?

India recently won World Cup in cricket, by beating archrival Pakistan in a very closely played match.

The highlight of the entire series was a young, in-experienced but enthusiastic team. Led by 26 year old Dhoni, the team had mostly new players. After victory, when Dhoni was asked, how he made the decision to choose the last bowler - one who could have changed the fate of the game, Dhoni replied -

"I had asked Harbhajan (an experienced player). But, he did not sound confident. On the other hand, Joginder (a newbie) was very excited and wanted to take the responsibility. I gave the balls to Joginder. At that point it was very important to have a player, who was more excited and confident in taking the responsibility rather than experience."

This came from a cricketer, in the context of the game. But, I think this has profound similarity in the corporate world.

More often than not, we default most of the initiatives, major projects, big decision-making to the most experienced team member. And in the process, we overlook, some of those very enthusiastic, 'ready to take challenge', 'wanting to prove their worth' individuals and instead give them the 'follow the instruction' kind of tasks.

While, these decisions are never conclusive - they are often dependent on the context in which you work - I want to end with the thought that once in a while "just question your defaults!"
You will have the answers to make a conclusive decision.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Run... to be on the same spot - world is changing fast

Henry Ford has been reportedly quoted to say "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses".

As much as it is important to "listen" to the market and get the pulse of consumers, innovative products are more often than not, created as an outcome of internal brainstorming. It is the ability to identifying the cutting edge technology and more importantly making a business proposition with the technology that sets apart an innovative product from the most 'made-to-suit-market' products.

No, I am not denying the importance of products that are build to fulfill the market need. I am a firm believer that products should be build to fill a gap in the market, rather than a gap in a companies product line". In this space, however I am talking abut what leads to an innovative product.

Talking of which, think of it - if before making iPhone (or iPod or iMac) ... apple product manager had asked the users of smart-phones, mp3 players or desktops, what features they would like to have, I am sure it would not be any close to what the current form and shape of these products are.

The take-away from this is - as much as customers, consumers, analysts are important input sources - for innovation, build your own solid team of architects, engineers and product managers.

I leave you with last anecdote for today. The inventor of Medical Devices "Dean Kamen" once asked where you would put a third eye if you could have one?" Everyone in the audience said on the back of their head; without hesitation, generally, on the back of the head. But when Dean said, "what about on the tip of your finger?" everyone agreed, without hesitation, that that was much better!

Reserve your "Online Suite ... "

In my earlier post, I had said that it would be worth watching how the market for collaboration shapes up and most importantly what (if anything) would be Microsoft's reaction.

In Sep 24 2007 issue of Information Week, they have covered the same topic "Google, IBM take another run at Microsoft's Office Suite". The article has an inset on "How the Packages Compare", which I am copying in my today's post.

Microsoft Office: Feature-rich; incumbent has familiarity on its side.

Lotus Symphony: IBM brings clout to OpenOffice

Google Apps: Presentation software added to productivity suite

OpenOffice.org: Free, open source apps get updated

SUN Startoffice: Forerunner to OpenOffice, part of Google pack.

I am looking forward to Microsoft's online response!

The Cost-Cutting Conundrum

It is all about ROI.

Cost-cutting, increasing efficiency, keeping things simple... and at the end of it all meeting the ROI - is an ubiquitous corporate challenge. But in most cases the hidden-costs of 'cost-cutting' and complexities of the 'simple' business provide a skewed image of the reality.

Corporates that operate on a consistent theme (read pressure) to cut costs actually have their spending focussed on short-term, tactical projects. This potentially leads to a lack of a "strategic fit" and hence majority of such projects end up with higher costs, and potentially increased complexity.

Instead, Enterprises should identify the areas where cost cutting could be mortgaging their future as a consequence and block them from being "crunched". For example, if resources are budgeted for a next-gen product but not on migrating old customers to the next-gen, will eventually lead to a support nightmare and a serious implication of maintaining two different product cycles. Thus adding to the cost, eventually.

Another excuse for management to not allocate resources is on Projects that do not lead to Direct Revenue. Some executives, like to call it is "cost-centers". Examples of such could be - Security Infrastructure, Developing an Integration Platform etc. Not investing in such initiatives may in the near-term prove to be profitable. However, delaying improvements in these areas could cost far more in the long run.

Some of my key observations and thoughts about cost-cutting are:
- Save recurring costs. Maintaining an old system that is under-utilized and/or not adding value can be costlier than spending some more resources to revamp.
- Full-time vs Contract. There are some functions, which are critical, but required for a specific time frame. For example, for a non-UI based organization, having a UI designer full-time may be a recurring cost. Rather, companies should evaluate operating with a contract position.
- Reduce Redundancy. Many corporates work in islands of functional areas. If there is an information that can be consumed by more than one function, then all efforts should be achieved to minimize redundancy of the information source . Areas of reusable components - information, resource, system - all that can be re-used should be identified and allocated with a common budget.
- Having a common goal. All functional areas should be encouraged to work on a common operating principle. This will tremendously help organizations to streamline cost goals and work collaboratively to achieve them.

Caution - any such organization wide theme (be it cost-cutting, efficiency improvement, managing simplicity) involves change. If all functional areas are not aligned together to embrace the change, then this will lead to one more wasted effort!

Before you make any judgment, think of the cost-cutting conundrum - are you really saving company some money or is it the other way around. The later affirmation could be very dangerous!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

One Up for Collaboration!

There is a blood bath going on here in the collaborative enterprise suite. Well, almost !

It would be interesting to watch how some of these equations get formed and right now, I am waiting for Microsoft to play its cards...

Already taking the stride are:
- Google - Google Docs (includes docs and spreadsheet) and Google Presently presentation s/w)]

- Yahoo! - with Zimbra acquisition

- Lotus Symphony... (I think, Lotus is the pioneer in collaborative space!)

It will be a while before any of these get enterprise wide acceptance. Considering many issues related to compliance etc yet answered... Nevertheless, the way market is shaping up, it is worth the watch. I would like to see how MicroSoft responds ... and can they all co-exist or what will be the impact on market share. I can say for sure - these all players are very aggressive about this space!

My 2.0 cents :)

Lights, Camera and Action

Ever wonder, how do sales people react to lost deals? Broadly in two ways -
Type 1. Pessimists sales person will see this as a personal defeat and feel less confident in next case.
Type 2. Optimists sales person will immediately try to find an opportunity to turn the game around.

For example, say a competitor snatched the contract right under your nose. Type 1 sales person will feel the efforts wasted and drink it over with a dozen glass of beers. Type 2 sales person, will still go to the beer bar, but focus on the fact that the contract is just for 1 year. He will try to bring acts together and build a case, again to reach up to the prospect to displace the competitor.

Even in a lost opportunity, a sales person who is optimistic, will see a ray of hope. Armed with just a ray of hope, the type 2 sales person will keep acting. Action will take this sales person reach places. He or she may not reach the destination, but in the process will find several open / hidden routes to many different paths. This will keep him / her active again for a long time.

For a Type 2 Sales person - there is no STOP time. If you have a story - all you need is some action. This is true always - somethings don't change. Even the silent movies of yesteryears needed "Light, Camera and Action!"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Dylan Viral

There is a "You". There is your "Social Network".
And there is a "Channel".

This is all it takes to spread the message fast, in marketing parlance, virally. Almost all!

The Dylan Viral
[get infected and more]

The edge of the Dylan Viral is that it appeals you to indulge. It shows you a flick and challenges your creativity. I chance landed on a very interesting blog - with a lot of stickiness factor. The writer keeps the 'goal simple' and effectively touches upon 7 tricks for successful viral marketing. I thought, why not analyze Dylan Viral using the borrowed tricks*.

1. Make People Feel Something
Like I said earlier, the Dylan Viral challenges my creativity. I applaud at my own creation and want to share it within my close network. Sometimes, just to share. Otherwise, just to show-off. In any case, the objective is very clear. It makes people think and keeps them engaged through out.

2. Do Something Un-expected
When I first saw the Dylan Viral, I did not think it was a viral. I felt, it was a cool medium to quickly create your advertisements. I was surprised at the thought, that you could have a template for marketing your products. Isn't marketing all about differentiation? Could there be a possibility to have a template for Advertisements? Well, seeing this in action, made me think for a while - "this might work". And yet, this was not what I first thought.

3. Do not try to make Advertisements, It sucks
Well, yes! The Dylan Viral is anything, but an advertisement. It just lets you be in charge. You drive the show here - not the singer, neither his songs. No product involved (yet, it sells).

4. Make Sequels
Well, the sequel of this message is in-built in the design. This is a creative master-piece. It again lets you be in charge. Create as many sequels as you want. It is you who is driving the campaign. Exhaust only when you have no more willingness or creativity left. Or you reconsider your social network. You might be lacking one.

5. Allow Sharing, Downloading and Embedding
Now, this is where, I don't think I can eulogize the Dylan Viral. For some reasons, the thing about incompatible Flash Version, its availability only via Email, the fact that it cannot be embedded etc makes it difficult to share easily. Why??? I wonder why this was neglected. Or if there was a purpose (read exclusive sharing) , I fail to understand what.

6. Connect with Comments
Allowing users to comment not only gives you the feedback, but also serves as a pull strategy to have users stop by a little longer and interact in a more direct way. The Dylan Viral provides the option to add comments. But the entire interface looks deterring to me. I think, the creative and implementation team don't get along well.

7. Never Restrict Access
The incongruous interface and imposing the need to have right version of Flash breaks the fluidity of the process. Nevertheless, if someone has driven all the way to Yesomite, the fear of bears will not stop him from camping. It takes learning only once. After that you know that you must keep all edibles (including lipsticks) in the food stations. And yes, in the Dylan Viral, which link to click.

Will Dylan Viral do its Job?
I do not know the future of Dylan Viral. It may fail, or it may succeed. That is the challenge of marketing. There is nothing as "tried and tested" formula. Its unpredictability keeps the game interesting. Net savvy people: If you are Dylan Fans, you may want to show it now.

For now, all I can say is - watch out for the new Dylan Release on October 1st. Acknowledging my limited creative talents, I infect you with my two Dylan Virals:


* Thanks to Thomas Baekdal for his excellent articles that inspired me to write this one.

Dylan Viral can be embedded. Not so straightforward, but it can be. See here for an example.