Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Help Us Get Direct Air Service to Israel -Brief Survey

As part of MassTLC's 2020 Challenge (to drive 100,000 jobs in the tech sector this decade), we have identified the lack of non-stop air service to certain major innovation regions around the globe as an inhibitor to growth here in Massachusetts. One such region is Israel. We believe that direct flights between Boston and Tel Aviv via El Al would be a catalyst for company formation and growth here in Massachusetts. But we need your help.

El Al has multiple expansion opportunities in the US and we need to demonstrate that Boston should top their list. We are working with the Massachusetts Port Authority, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, other key organizations that generate large amounts of travel to Israel, and a top consulting team, expert in aviation, with strong links to El Al, and are planning to make our case to El Al in the fall.

A local survey firm, Strategic Partners, has been retained by Massport to conduct a survey of businesses, organizations and individuals about their current and expected travel to Israel. In order to avoid duplicate entries and to avoid spamming you with multiple copies of the survey, we are asking those who are interested in taking the survey and supporting the strategic and business case to El Al about nonstop Boston-Tel Aviv service Opt-In here to receive the survey. This step will take less than a minute.

Those who have opted-in should expect to receive a survey to follow in the coming weeks. We appreciate your participation in this important initiative to help grow jobs here in Massachusetts.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mobile Leaders Convene on Growing MA Mobile Sector

MassTLC's mobile cluster welcomed Micah Adler, CEO, President and Founder, Fiksu, Raj Aggarwal, CEO, Localytics, Laura Fitton, Founder and CEO, oneforty.com, Brent Grinna, Founder & CEO, EverTrue, and Miha Mikek, CEO and Founder, Celtra, at a recent advisory board dinner focused on what we can do as a community to grow and retain high potential mobile companies in Massachusetts.

A lively discussion ensued about the virtues of the MA mobile ecosystem, including structural strengths like proximity to Europe, capital, and talent. There was a strong consensus that we need to develop strategies to address the high-end technical talent shortage and develop better communication/ media coverage for all that is happening in the MA mobile ecosystem.

We also conducted regular cluster business including updates on recent/future cluster programs, the Internship Network, Future Tech Leaders program, and welcoming of new Council members (who are in the mobile sector or are outside the sector but have mobile apps) since our March 28th meeting. These include: Aerva, Brass Monkey, Carbonite, GoodData, MobiFlex, Mobiquity, Modiv Media, Serena Software, Stratascope, and Verivue.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mobile Network Innovation & Evolution

MassTLC's Mobile cluster gathered for a Breakfast Seminar focused on Mobile Network Innovation and Evolution: Exploring Two Perspectives of Network Topologies. Pete Dawson from Sprint initiated the discussion with an analysis of how carrier ecosystems bridge applications and end users, as well as outlining the middle ground where innovation occurs.

The following image illustrates the different perspectives: The carrier ecosystem was defined as the infrastructure, network support systems, devices and respective operating systems. The group observed that there are a number of factors and different perspectives to be weighed in any innovation discussion:

- Application developers are able to take greater risks without regard to service level, privacy, security and other potential backlash hot spots;
- Carriers have to be focused on the value of what they are delivering to their installed base of millions of end users and therefore must be more risk averse; and
- The industry is restricted by bandwidth constraints.

Roundtable participants included Raj Aggarwal, CEO of Localytics, Tasos Tsolakis, CIO & EVP of Iron Mountain, as well as Asshu Virmani, Senior Director of Marketing, Sonus Networks. Each shared their viewpoints of the carrier ecosystem and how it is affects innovation in each of their respective domains: application development, enterprise management and network infrastructure.

As the seminar drew to a close, Pete invited the panelists to summarize key takeaways from the discussion. Raj pointed out that developers want carriers to provide a greater access to customer data so they can develop more useful applications. He noted that developers want data plans to remain unlimited so the carrier revenue model does not inhibit their ability to innovate and gain customers. Aashu agreed and noted that from a network perspective end user information should be readily available. Tasos, representing the enterprise perspective, focused on monetizing both 'ends of the pipe', referring to innovation on one end and the end user on the other.

Pete closed the seminar noting that whether we like it or not, the middle ground for innovation involves dollars. He noted that monetization is a substantial factor in determining where innovation comes from and how the ideas are cultivated. He wrapped up with one final question to the audience, "How do we monetize innovation and drive that home in a monetized world?"

Saturday, June 18, 2011

MassTLC CEO Testifies Before Special Joint Committee on Redistricting

MassTLC CEO Tom Hopcroft testified before the special joint committee on redistricting at a hearing at Framingham State University. The Committee is charged with studying and proposing "a new division of the Commonwealth into 9 Congressional districts under the United States Constitution, 40 Senatorial and 8 Councillor districts under Section 2 of Article CI of the Amendments to the Constitution, as amended, and 160 Representative districts under section 1 of said Article CI." Based on population change data from the census, redistricting is done every ten years. For more on redistricting in MA, please see http://www.malegislature.gov/District. In the photo above, Congressman Markey is seen testifying on his record representing the Seventh Congressional District.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Turning up midmarket growth engines in Massachusetts

Guest Post by Ed Abrams, Vice President, Midmarket Strategy, IBM

Did you know that together, midsize and small companies are responsible for nearly 65 percent of the global GDP? They represent more than 90 percent of all businesses and employ over 90 percent of the world's workforce. In the United States, midsize businesses -- those with 100-1,000 employees -- are the engines of our economic growth, and innovative technology is the fuel.

Opportunity is knocking for Massachusetts-based midsize companies. More and more forwardlooking companies are investing in innovation and technology to transform their businesses, drive profitability, and expand into new areas. According to a new global study of chief information officers by IBM, 72 percent of CIOs at outperforming midsize organizations are focused on integrating business and technology to drive innovation.

The top technology priorities for these companies whose growth is outpacing the industry are business analytics, mobility solutions, and cloud. And the good news is that business analytics, cloud, and predictive technologies, once reserved for big companies with big budgets, are now more affordable and easier to use for midsize firms. The study shows that 83 percent of midmarket CIOs surveyed identified analytics -- the ability to extract actionable insights from "Big Data" -- as their top priority investment area, while their demand for cloud computing increased 50 percent since 2009.

With a business analytics solution, firms can use existing data to gain new insights and a deeper understanding of past business performance that can then help them make smarter decisions about their business and also help forecast future business trends.

For example Papa Gino’s Pizzeria, based in Boston, chose an analytics solution from a local IBM Business Partner, QueBit, to integrate and analyze the tons of retail and operational data the chain collects daily from numerous franchise stores. With timely access to trends through easy-to-use dashboards, district managers and regional vice presidents can anticipate staffing needs, increase the efficiency of product replenishment, improve accuracy of pizza-delivery-time estimates, and define long-term business strategies.

Massachusetts is an ecosystem rich with the people, connections, institutions, and collaborations that feed the innovation economy. The Mass Tech Hub is home to more than 10,000 technology companies, it has more venture capital available per capita than anywhere in the nation, and innovators file more patents per capita than anywhere in the world. IBM solutions developed right here in Massachusetts -- from retail to electronic banking -- are helping to advance the Commonwealth's economic prosperity and quality of life for citizens around the globe. We look forward to continuing to build a smarter planet together.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Improving Customer Satisfaction and the Customer Experience by Leveraging Operations

It was another great turnout this morning as the MassTLC SaaS/Cloud cluster wrapped up their SaaS business model series with a session on Improving Customer Satisfaction and the Customer Experience by Leveraging Operations. Skip Besthoff from Castile Ventures led off the session with an explanation on why we care about customer service and the impacts of poor customer service; lost revenue and high support costs. In order to on-board customers, the customer experience must be baked in from the very beginning. He also shared key principles for success:

- At minimum, responsiveness; at baseline, proactive; at best, can anticipate
- High ease of use, UI matters
- Efficient
- Multiple touch points

We next heard from four practitioners; Lou Guercia, CEO of Scribe, Joshua Herzig-Marx from IncentiveTargeting, who just announced they have teamed with Groupon to bring social buying to the grocery retail and Consumer Packaged Goods industry, Michael Monteiro, co-founder of Buildium and Joshua Porter, co-founder and VP of Customer Experience with Performable. Each shared their processes and the technologies they use to elevate customer service and the customer experience. Josh from Performable shared that everyone at Performable does support and the team rotates responsibility daily. He shared their core customer satisfaction principles:

- Customer service = personal relationships
- Under promise, over deliver
- Whatever happens, solver their problem
- The role of helper is best
- Embrace the evangelists
- Customer Satisfaction improves your product, period!

Presentations can be found on SlideShare. We look forward to working with our members on the programming for the fall. Please share any ideas and suggestions you have with Christine@masstlc.org.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ever wondered what sales enablement means?

Ever wondered what sales enablement means? At Friday's Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council's Sales and Marketing Summit entitled Increasing Volume and Velocity through Sales Enablement and Alignment, Brad Holmes, VP and Practice Leader at Forrester Research, told a room full of sales and marketing executives that sales enablement is:

"A strategic ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer's problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system."

Nevertheless, he informed us, this is still the Holy Grail for most companies. Instead, sales people continue to sell features and benefit to buyers who perceive their products as commodities.

The problem, Holmes says is that product, sales, and marketing teams, working in silos, produce a plethora of disparate sales and marketing programs. These initiatives cost a lot, overwhelm the sales force, and fail to address customer needs.

Instead, Holmes says, sales and marketing teams need to collaborate to identify customer problems, and the paths these customers take to resolve them. Only then, will these teams succeed in developing the content it takes to have the meaningful conversations that customers demand from their vendors of choice.

Next, Cynthia Stephens, VP Marketing, and Joseph Murphy, EVP Sales, from ByAllAccounts described how they've collaborated to do just that.
Their process included reorganizing Sales and Marketing to narrow the focus of individual roles, training, and changing the compensation system.
Stephens and Murphy attribute their success to:

- aligning customer sales, marketing, and partner goals,
- Identifying their customers' journeys
- Taking prospects down the conversion path

Major steps include attracting prospects with webinars that offered thought leadership, entering the leads into their marketing automation system, and then nurturing them until prospects accept an invitation for a conversation with Sales. These efforts have resulted in a 250% increase in sales generated from marketing leads. Moreover, 20% of these opportunities close within 30 days.

Kathie Johnson, VP Marketing, and Mike Segal, SVP Enterprise PLM Business Transformation from Dassault Systemes Americas also attribute their success to collaboration between Sales and Marketing. In their case, they paired individuals on the Sales and Marketing teams with each other.

Johnson outlined the four elements of the collaboration: mission, communications, process, and tools. Because her organization is much larger, and the sales cycle is much longer, Johnson noted that Dassault Systemes relies heavily on processes and tools to remove ambiguity and replicate success.

Examples of interesting tools that the Dasssault systems team mentioned include:
- an internal social community platform for building networks and sharing information
- a customer conference that exists purely to close business
- microsites at OEMS that these organizations use to promote Dassault solutions to their own divisions

Their presentation was a great lead in to the final panel on "Tools, Technologies, & Processes that Drive Sales Efficiency. Speakers included executives from Brainshark, Constant Contact, Hubspot, and Oracle.

Dave Fitzgerald, EVP Brainshark, noted that the existence of technology has changed the sales process from one of control to one of facilitation. Nevertheless, he said technology is rarely at issue when problems crop up. It's easy to install, easy to learn, and easy to use.

All of the technologies that Brainshark uses to enable Sales are in the cloud. At $3500/user, he considers technology a bargain.

The rest of his presentation focused on his company's sales process and the metrics he needs to achieve at each stage. Like the speakers before him, he stressed the importance of constant communications. Fitzgerald also emphasized that it's essential to establish the metrics upfront so that you can identify where problems occur if the system breaks down.

Jean-Paul Guilbault, VP of Sales, Constant Contact, explained that his company's average prospect has fewer than 10 employees. Therefore, they rely heavily on mass communications to generate leads and technology to accelerate conversions. Examples include software that prospects can try before they buy and self-directed education through video. Like Fitzgerald, he has a system for identifying who is stuck. This enables him to direct sales people where they will have the greatest impact.

Andy Mitchell, Senior Director, at Oracle also starts with metrics. In his case, the goal is to surface opportunities.

At a macro level, Oracle's business analytics tell the company where to focus the sales force. For example, if a particular geographic territory has a poor economy, Oracle can ratchet down the sales people there, and shift resources to areas that are more prosperous. At a micro level, Oracle uses business analytics to determine on which products to focus--using past purchases by like companies as a guide.

Like others, Mitchell stressed the importance of listening to customers to tailor solutions to their needs. He noted that technology facilitates listening. Because prospects have easy access to product information, online, sales people no longer need to spend time describing or demoing the company's solutions.

Andrew Quinn, "The Sales Doctor", at Hubspot described steps that his company is taking to automate sales data entry. Now, sales people can choose from a menu to indicate why they are disqualifying a lead, or to note what action they took to follow up. Then the system automatically schedules the next event on their calendars.

Similarly, sales people press a button when they close a sale. This then automatically routes appropriate information to an account manager, an implementation consultant, finance, and in some cases a migration team to ensure rapid follow up and billing.

As Quinn notes any customer relationship management system is only as good as the information that Sales puts in it. Perhaps most important, this system gives management an easy way to track sales performance at every stage of the sales cycle.

All in all, it was an informative morning. Thanks to the speakers and panels, the audience got lots of great ideas for leveraging technology to increase revenues. Nevertheless, a key takeaway was that people are more important than ever.

Winning still depends on understanding what customers want--and doing it their way. What's changed is who controls the conversation--and when, where, and how customers get the information they need.

Technology can accelerate that process. It helps identify opportunities; it enables Sales and Marketing to better coordinate their activities; and it frees sales people listen and sell, rather than prospect and present.

Presentations from the event can be accessed on SlideShare. A full recording of the sessions, made available by KnowledgeVision is available here.

Guest post contributed by Barbara Bix, BB Marketing Plus