Six Signs that It’s Time to Bring Your Cloud Speak Down to Earth

I know its hard to believe, but industry insiders often make and drink too much of their own Kool-Aid! Unfortunately, this seems to be happening all too frequently with cloud computing, the latest in a long line of our industry’s over-hyped buzzwords. Here’s how to tell if you need to come back down earth when communicating about “the cloud” with the rest of the universe.

1. You are incapable of providing a clear definition, in plain English (or whatever your primary language is) of what cloud computing is.  Even for the most introductory purposes, you are constitutionally unable to sum up cloud computing simply, such as “a scalable computing model that lets people access and use software, server and storage resources over the Internet”. 

2. You have become fanatical about “the cloud”. You’ve lost the ability to even-handedly assess the pros and cons,  or let any doubts about security, privacy or performance temper your zeal (even as Google argues that technology has ensured that “complete privacy does not exist”). You’ve decided that “the cloud” way is the only way.

3. You spend a disturbing amount of time pondering and debating questions such as, “is a private cloud (a private cloud being a cloud architecture and services that an organization builds for its own use) really a cloud?”—even as you acknowledge the existence of private clouds.

4. You feel compelled to make nuanced distinctions between cloud computing and software-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, and anything-else-as-a-service—even though hardly anyone else cares.

5. You feel more at home marketing the benefits of “the cloud” than marketing the benefits of your solution—whether its CRM, collaboration, financials or flying monkeys.

6. Software and computer appliances annoy you. After all, appliances offer customers many of the cost, time, management and ease of use benefits as solutions offered via the cloud. But appliances—and customer data–sit on customer premises, and vendors provide service, maintenance and upgrades over the Web—kind of reverse cloud. If appliances take off, wouldn’t that slow down “the cloud” as you currently define it?

If you answered “yes” to three or more of the above questions, it’s time to put down the Kool-Aid and remember that the vast majority of business decision makers “really don’t know clouds at all” (thanks, Joni Mitchell). They are just trying to figure out how run payroll more cheaply, collaborate more productively on new widget design, or sell more widgets. Meanwhile, many IT people believe the cloud was invented to take their jobs away. So please bring your cloud conversations down to earth, before “the cloud” is vaporized.


Tweeting Practices that Drive Me Crazy (in no particular order)

Don’t get me wrong. I think Twitter can be extremely effective as a business social networking tool.  Tweets that raise a thought-provoking question, point to useful information, rally for a cause or introduce a new idea or issue are all good! And it’s fine when people share interesting or funny things that happen to them throughout the day.

BUT…in the spirit of honesty, here are some tweeting practices that just drive me crazy. 

1. Cold calling. True, everyone is  selling something. But it’s awful when you start following someone who looks legit, but suddenly starts tweeting you incessantly to go to their site and buy whatever they are selling? Do not pass Go, go directly to Remove. 

2. Shameless self-promotion. What is up with the self-important people that tweet 15 or 20 times a day to drop names about the companies that they had meetings with and tell you how busy they are. This just doesn’t impress me. 

3. Four letter words and X-rated tweets. Why would anyone that uses Twitter as a business professional (unless they are in the porn industry) do this? I would love to know what drives them to this seemingly self-destructive behavior. 

4. Following a gazillion people. Can a mere mortal really follow thousands of people in any meaningful way? Even with TweetDeck? I don’t think so, and probably no one else does either. It’s just a numbers game at this point. 

5. Hyper tweeting. I really worry about the people that send out 20 or 30 tweets a day (except if you are an analyst being held hostage at a vendor event). Get out and run, walk the dog, go for a bike ride, play tennis, watch the birds!

Interestingly enough, these behaviors would also be aggravating in the physical world. So  why would people that would never engage in them in “real life” behave this way on Twitter?

 I’m sure that there are other aggravating Twitter practices that haven’t popped into my mind.  Let me know what you think–what drives you crazy about the way some people use Twitter in the poll below.

Meet MrTed

Those of you that follow me on Twitter and read some of the reports I’ve written over the years know I’m very interested free software-as-service (SaaS) offerings, and how companies that take this approach plan to monetize their free services.

Last week, I had a briefing with Jerome Ternynck, the CEO of MrTed, which has been providing MrTed TalentLink solutions for enterprise applicant tracking system (ATS) since 1999. In October 2008, MrTed launched a new, free ATS called SmartRecruiters (still in beta) for small and medium business (SMB) recruiters and hiring managers. SmartRecruiters streamlines the hiring process with an integrated, collaborative solution to help recruiters and hiring managers create postings, broadcast openings, enable candidates to apply online, view, screen and organize applicants, scheduled interview, provide feedback and make job offers.

And, when Ternynck says free, he means it. There are no catches for the SmartRecruiters ATS—no user fees, contracts, hosting or installation fees, upgrade fees, and no limits on the number of users, storage or time. And, SmartRecruiters connects to popular job search sites such as Yahoo! HotJobs, SimplyHired, and Career Builder.

MrTed’s initial target for SmartRecruiters is the 220,000 U.S. businesses with 50 to 2,500 employees. This market has been underserved by traditional, enterprise-oriented ATS vendors, whose solutions have typically been too costly and complicated for the average SMB to use. However, MrTed doesn’t exclude others from using SmartRecruiters–there are no technical or other of limitations to prevent companies of any size from accessing and using the solution. With little marketing fanfare, 600 businesses have registered for SmartRecruiters since the company launched the beta.

Launching a recruitment solution during an economic meltdown seems somewhat counter-intuitive, but when you think about, even if overall hiring is down, the number of applicants for any given position is most likely up. So companies that are hiring must exert just as much or greater effort and expense to hire the best people. As the economy recovers, and more SMBs start hiring again, Ternynck believes that its SmartRecruiters business model will disrupt the ATS market in the same way that Google has done in many areas.

But unlike Google, which relies on advertising revenues to support many of its services, Ternynck plans to monetize SmartRecruiters with integrated fee-based services, such as job posting, background screening, compensation analysis, relocation and assessment. In effect, SmartRecruiters wants to become a resale distribution channel for the providers of these services, helping them cut sales costs and increase SMB market penetration. According to Ternynck, SmartRecruiters will need to convert just under 20% of SmartRecruiters users to one or more of these fee-based services to become profitable over time.

Can MrTed do this, and do it profitably? Ternynck believes that it can. Some of the key factors in its formula include:

·      Using MrTed’s healthy profitable high-end business to subsidize SmartRecruiters for a few years. MrTed’s TalentLink solution has 200 enterprise users, and has been profitable for 20 quarters. Ternynck doesn’t see cannibalization will be an issue; he believes that enterprise customers are used to paying for technology, consulting and support and will continue to spend for higher levels of service and attention.

·      A low cost technology platform. SmartRecruiters is built on single code-base multi-tenant open architecture. Ternynck estimates that technology costs will account for about 10-15% of the total cost of delivering the solution to customers.

·      Viral marketing model. Sales and marketing will be SmartRecruiters’ largest expense, but Ternynck believes that viral marketing—on it own and with its partners—along with a self-service access and delivery model will keep these expenses low as well.

·      Community features. The SmartRecruiters community will rate providers, and supply input about functionality they want and additional services they’d like offered.

·      Under-penetrated market. According to MrTed, less than 10% of its target market uses an ATS system today—it doesn’t need to unseat an incumbent.

Of course, SmartRecruiters must exponentially grow its user community to gain the scale it needs to monetize its free service—at a time when many SMBs just aren’t hiring. But MrTed seems to have enough patience and resources to get through this period. As the economy ticks back up, and companies transition from a cost-cutting mindset to growth, the talent war will heat up again. If SmartRecruiters can broadly educate SMBs about the benefits of ATS, and get the right partners on board, I think that it will be in a good position to make the headway it needs to monetize its free service in this as yet under-penetrated market. 

Let me know what you think about free SaaS services monetized with ancillary services in the following poll!