Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Product Managers: Make an emotional connection to your buyers

One of my long time favorite situations goes back to when I was a product manager. The mini-computer company already had a proprietary ring network that was decent, and sales knew how to sell this solution. Since I had the amazing new Ethernet solution, which included software support in the OS, a LAN controller in the system, and a terminal server for direct-to-network attached terminals. I gave presentations in the executive briefing center to large customers nearly every day.

Most customers were senior executives, CIOs and MIS directors who were decision makers and who did not usually physically handle equipment. I decided to create a bond between the customers and the new solution, so carried with me to each briefing a terminal server, transceiver and cable, and a controller with me. As I presented the solution and its value proposition, I passed the physical devices around the room, which was a “U-shaped” seating arrangement. For some human factor reason, the bond was created and at the end there was always further discussion and questions of intrigue.  We all know how Ethernet emerged some 25 years later!

                          (Photo: Hubspot) Make an Emotional Connection

Now, my favorite part – we were always asked to bid the new Ethernet solution as well as the proprietary ring solution, which was cheaper but did not have the network based terminal support which was a huge feature – the network based terminals. (I am sure many of you have never had this issue, but in the old days, remote logins required you to anonymously login through many “hosts” on the ring. If a system on the ring was down, you may not reach your destination system until it came back online even if it was just a pass through machine). I made lunch or dinner bets with the sales teams, that Ethernet would win the bid, regardless of a 20-30% higher cost and the potentials of the unknown.  I never lost once Ethernet was launched. I also never collected all my winnings because there were not enough days available to collect!

Over my professional career, I learned that creating the emotional connection and bond between buyer and the equipment or the solution being proposed and sold, could overcome many objections and obstacles. This translates today, to web-based demos/freemium types of software that allows an emotional connection to be made and the buyer can see themselves using or implementing the solution.

I was able to develop a sales guide for the Ethernet solution that achieved an excellence award from the Sales executives and my highest cash award prior to my executive days! I thrived on having the ability to help develop sales presentations and tools with emotional connections for sales and channel personnel.  I have educated my teams over the years to leverage these early career experiences. I have also always attempted to define and include “sexy” user interface or demo software package to make it easy for customers to connect with and understand the solution. The customers need to see themselves as users of the solution within their business.

What have you done and or seen to make this type of emotional connection to close the business?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Welcome to 2014! I'm back!

Over the past couple of years life has gone thru several changes for me, thus I have been away from blogging like I did when I started in 2007. I am changing this now, and will blog both here and on my TMCNet Enterprise 2025 blog ( where I will discuss technologies affecting the enterprise such as the Internet of Things (IoT), data centers, mobility and the consumerization and personalization of IT, unified communications, VoIP, video and perhaps a few surprises along the way.

On my personal blog here, I will write about my experiences and perspectives that will span my consulting and career experiences,  how marketing and product management have changed since my first product manager role back in the 80’s, and how baby boomers like myself have approached technology as it changes.  

My professional life revolves around technology as I have been involved in emerging technology since the 70’s when I was a real time operating system software developer and worked on unreleased products and custom software for various real time applications. I gained a love for being “in the know” on what was coming and I worked with and for experienced, smart and excellent managers who could not always deliver a roadmap on time or budget for any number of reasons (some could and did). I was fortunate to have great mentors along with way as well. My observations, participation and post-mortems taught me ways to predict, schedule, budget, and manage situations related to revenue connected deliverables for key customers.  I have heard just about every excuse in book for missing dates. 

Product management and marketing became my passion after I left software development and continues to be a prominent part of my professional life!

I feel blessed to have worked with great people, smart people, and all types of personalities from the “know-it-all” to the “avoid decisions at all costs” types. There is good and bad in each situation no matter how you look at it. I will share some experiences but put them into current perspectives 

Over the past couple of years I have taken on senior operations roles where I worked with each functional group and directly with CEOs and functional leaders to build strong foundational teams, culture codes, install repeatable optimized processes, and optimize communications amongst team members. The unfortunate part of my experiences is that some people lose their jobs along the way to “right the ship”. it is not always the persons fault, the roles change, scope changes, and personalities around people and process change. 

My blogging will share many of my experiences with the hope that I can help others improve their situation regardless of their roles. It’s interesting when a fresh face who has been around the industry for many years in several companies of different sizes can quickly identify issues, recommendations for improvements, and bring a wide variety of experience to the company.  I encourage your comments, dialogue and would appreciate sharing on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+ when deserved and valuable.

Enough about me. My next blog post will explore how traditional product marketing, which is most company means creating outbound marketing collateral, sales tools and programs has evolved and now includes content and inbound marketing, marketing automation and social media! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reinventing the Network

It has been a while since I have written a blog post but this topic has been rattling my brain for two years - the network as we all knew it has been in the process of reinventing itself for some time now. What network you might ask? Well, that question leads me to this list of "networks" that have disrupted the world of technology as we know it:

- Data centers
- Enterprise networks
- Cell phone/smartphone/iPhone networks (yes, I separated iPhone from smartphones)
- PCs/Laptops/Tablets/iPad (at the moment I have separated iPad from all other wannabees)
- Social media (each is it's own network - Google+, Twitter, Quara, Tumblr, etc)
- "Anything" as as Service (AaaS) ......Cloud Computing
      - Software as a Service
      - Infrastructure as a Service
      - Hardware as a Service
      - .....and on and on Top-10-As-A-Service-Cloud-Solutions

There are others, but in my technology world these are most obvious and most interesting!

What I enjoy is changing of the guard. Market leaders rise and fall. People move and change companies and careers. Strategic movement has always drawn my interest. Startups always find a way to improve something or fill a gap. The "Hype Cycle" vs. the mainstream acceptance of new technology has always been of interest to me. As an early career engineer moved to the darkside of marketing and product management, I have been on the front end of new technology, new game changing technology, and hype cycles with Ethernet, ISDN, Fame Relay, ATM, VoIP, Unified Communications, and Open Source. Let's explore some of these in this post. The topics will not be in depth, but are intended to describe the basics.

Let's start with Data Centers and Enterprise networks. I have been involved in enterprise networking for more years than many I wish to admit. I was involved in launching the original Ethernet (DIX standard) in the field and again for IEE802.3 "Ethernet" products at Prime Computer as a product manager. What used to be called "Data Closets" - and in numerous cases still are in the enterprise, have become "data centers" and "data center racks" which are racks of servers, storage, and various networking gear from firewalls to switches and routers. As data centers evolve, this "market segment" has become one of the hottest areas for improvements due a number of reasons:
  • power
  • cooling
  • space management     
  • virtualization
  • evolution of fiber
  • cost of copper
  • management resources
  • many many others
Virtualization is the driver of server consolidation. Server consolidation typically means the combination of computing workloads from separate individual servers or applications onto a single server. You may hear the term "VMs" or the number of VMs a server can handle. These are virtual machines that become instances in a single server. As less physical servers can now handle more applications and computing workloads, power and cooling requirements change. Also, the network itself can not really manage (yet) the VM instances as they can be moved around various servers and optimization of server use, cooling, and space is difficult to do. There is a new term, DCIM - Data Center Infrastructure Management - that represents the goal of providing management and optimization of these emerging large data centers. new major players come from the power and cooling side of the data center business chain but nearly everyone has a DCIM oriented tool for their equipment. 451 Research has done some research in this area. Venture capitalists have funded a few start-ups in the DCIM market segment which indicates optimism for this market.

The structure and configurations of "racks" in data centers have emerged over recent years as well.  Network switches are taking on a different role. One of which is as a top of rack switch. A Top of the Rack or (TOR) switch is typically a less expensive and smaller port count switch that sits on the top or near the top of a rack you see in Data Centers or Co-location facilities. This in itself is a battlefield. Competitors are Cisco, IBM through it's acquisition of Blade Networking Technologies, Dell through it's acquisition of Force 10,  Juniper, Arista, and others. Not all data centers use this solution, however, it is trendy.

What is driving the new a architectures? The additional of millions of end user devices capable of video and heavy duty use. The demands on networks to be reliable, fast, low latency, no packet loss and the older architectures found today are driving these changes.

To go one step further, the demands are driving networks to become flatter eliminating bottlenecks that exist from routing tables tables, spanning tree and the exponential growth in these data centers. Newer Software Defined Network protocols are appearing such a OpenFlow and OpenStack which today are being considered by early adopters and start-ups as well as established companies have release 1.0 solutions. These technologies are well into the hype cycle. What excites me about these disruptive technologies are they are open source based. This will accelerate the market and adoption. I predict huge changes in network designs in the future from here on.

Again, this is just a high level view of what is happening in the disruption of data centers, in the enterprise, at cloud companies and co-location cages for enterprises of all sizes. Far more details are a available on the web.

My next blog post in the near future will be about cell phones/smartphones/iPhones/PCs/Laptops/Tablets/iPads.  These are a far cry from data centers, however, these are a major driver of demanding network changes! I look forward to seeing you upon your return.




Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rookie CEO vs. Seasoned Veteran CEO

Many of my closest friends know I have been working on a book for a while now. The topic is about this title more or less. I'd like to have an open discussion here since most of us in technology fields have experience with both types of newly hired/recruited CEOs of their company. In my case, I worked for 7 rookie CEOs in a row at the VP level so am quite qualified to write on this topic. Wait until you hear some of the stories as I bet many of you will recognize these rookies from somewhere in their past.

Not all rookie CEOs are created equal nor are seasoned CEOs. Let's look at some of the differences:


- Unproven at the CEO level, typically have been VP of Sales, VP of Marketing, or VP of Product Management, VP/GM of a business unit or COO
- Type 'A' personalities
- Will display their newly acquired power around the senior leadership table
- Many will eliminate or encourage direct reports to leave who are a threat to them or their vision rather than work at bringing them onto the team
- Look for lower level "talkers" in the company who tell all inside 'goings on' then spit them out once they get the inside landscape
- Often bring friends in to their new company at different levels
- Bring processes to their new company from their old company that might be proprietary as a short cut
- Usually extremely bright, often will make fast decisions without the facts to impress the board

Seasoned CEO

- There are at least two kinds: (1) moving targets: those who have totally screwed up a company and then left before being removed by the board - we call this category the "Teflon CEO" (2) Totally successful at team and company building who have successfully exited and have made money for investors and themselves.
- Typically will hire their most trusted VPs from previous lives (can be multiple companies). It matters little how they move incumbents out and move in their trusted team.
- Typically refer to their past and how successful their companies were because of their decisions

I have been involved in both types of organizational changes. I have been hired and separated by the new CEO/business unit leader. Sometimes it does not happen day one but it eventually may happen. Of course there are exceptions to the rule. I have remained friends with some of the more honest and trustworthy CEOs and can use them as references. Others not so much. The take-away is to be prepared to be replaced if your company gets a new CEO and they or their trusted new execs choose to replace you. Even if you have an employment contract, they will spend extra money to install their trusted team ASAP. I have seen from both types the previous cultures take over. Regions of the country are not exceptions. It works this way from Silicon Valley to the east coast. 

Have you seen some interesting scenarios? I might include your example in my book if your experience is really unique and falls under the mantra, "You can't make this stuff up!"!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Are Androids and new Smartphones and Tablets Disruptive?

It is clear now as we enter 2011 that Andoid-based products and iPhone/iPad products are here to stay for a long time. Android has become the core platform for many cell/smartphones and now many tablets. I had predicted desksets/desktop phones would begin to appear on Android and although there are some, they are mostly high volume consumer-oriented devices. Tablet computing has matured thanks to iPad and Kindle and knock-offs but we now see a path to the future.  Both will survive.

What is interesting is that businesses and enterprises of all sizes are adopting these devices globally. Many larger companies allow users to bring their own mobile device and allow it onto the corporate network. This was a huge roadblock before for smart devices.

CES 2011 is a good indicator of the opportunities we all see : Apple will be joined by Google and Motorola, tablet makers globally are looking for weakness in iPad's armor and smartphones will continue to innovate in size and scope. Applications are key and will continue to evolve as both Apple's App Store and Andoid's App Stores continue to grow and impress users.

I can't emphasize enough the innovation and creativity making these adjoining markets exciting far beyond my the expectations of last 2010 blog post. I had a feeling this would be good, but it is more disruptive than I had expected. Maybe I felt that way as I already was a convert iPhone user in 2008 (I have two now, one business and one personal) but my Technical Marketing team at Tyco Electronics have mostly moved to Android smartphones as well as many friends and colleagues.

I will not re-write anything here that is already out there today - do a simple search for each product/device/term, etc. and you'll get more pages of information than the average person can comprehend. But I will predict a few things:

Prediction 1: Apple will stay ahead in innovation

Prediction 2: One (no more than two) tablets will be market winning alternatives to iPads for non-Apple fans

Prediction 3: Android will become the largest open source community in the world in the foreseeable future

Prediction 4: LTE/4G will take another 24-36 months to be cost efficient and ubiquitous due to network deployment costs and alternatives available

I look forward to reading more on CES each day I can't be there but I feel like I am there with all the social media reports and Tweets and Blogs and Videos. Thanks to all who are contributing!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

iPad momentum and Android Threat

I am sifting through more information than ever bargained for written on iPad and the in-process threat from Android. It will take me some time to process this info in order to write what might interest the readers that is not covered elsewhere, but  I am working on it.  This is shaping up to be a terrific battle of the tablets/mobile applications!

Stay tuned.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Will the iPad be a business or enterprise device?

Apple has the history to be a major disruptor of markets. Lisa. Apple II. MAC. iPod. iPhone. Now iPad.

I have been following different perspectives of the iPad and iPhone, Netbooks, and changes in the enterprise and various business scenarios regarding mobility. The iPad has received many reviews both positive and negative but once we get by the early adopters who just have to have every new electronic gadget - especially when it's an Apple i-anything, it will find its way into the hearts and briefcases of many! I do love my iPhone as many of you who know me already know, but the iPad is a different beast even if some call it an over sized iPhone!

iPad: Apple's Web Site

So lets explore why it will be a huge success:

  • Price: $499 (small premium for an Apple Device of such capability)
  • Screen Size: 9.7 inch diagonal
  • Weight: 1.5-1.6 pounds
  • Capabilities:
    • Web, 
    • Email, 
    • Digital Photo Box, 
    • Video, 
    • iTunes, 
    • App Store, 
    • eBooks,
    •  Calendaring
    • Contacts
    • Slides (Keynote)
  • Accessories:
    •  Keyboard
    • Wireless
    • Projector Connection
    • Camera
Most important of all: enterprises are starting to let employees "bring your own" mobile phones/devices and this opens the door for both iPhone and iPad to penetrate the masses. With the success of the iPhone and it's Apps, the iPad will follow suit and be equally attacked by apps. VoIP calls without a cell phone provider to save costs. Powerful. Flexible.

Businesses and Enterprises: are you buying an iPad? What other electronic devices do you use daily? I'd like to her success stories and maybe some challenges IT folks have managing all the disparate devices appearing under BYOP (Bring your own Phone) policies taking hold in many enterprises.

Marketing and Sales folks will use the iPads for presentations, contact management, calendaring, reading eBooks; while traveling will use their Slingo to watch TV through their home cable system - it's a nice sized screen! 

We'll explore more next week as I will be at VoiceCon and will hear more about this device and it's enterprise emergence!