Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thoughts from the SAP Executive Partner Summit

by Matt Bramson, InPhonex CSO

I spent the day today at the SAP Executive Partner Summit in Mexico and three experiences stood out:
  1. Singh Mecker of SAP provided some worthwhile perspective. For perhaps thirty years businesses have been capturing and storing data. There are now 4.6 billion mobile devices in the hands of consumers and they are demanding fast, effective access to that data. SAP wants to "orchestrate" (their current buzzword) that interaction. In Latin America (the focus of this Partner Summit) SAP has a massive marketshare lead (four times the share of their next competitor). The SAP ecosystem of customers and partners seems to have tremendous momentum. Curiously voice applications seem to be largely overlooked -- good thing I am suffering at a luxurious beachside resort for a few days to be here.

  2. The keynote speaker was Simon Sinek, a Columbia professor and author. His presentation was very focused (which is a rare treat). He drew a target with three concentric circles and wrote "What" in the outer ring, "How" in the second ring, and "Why" in the center. His point was that most companies approach their customers with the What -- the products and services they provide -- then they go to the How -- that they have superior manufacturing processes or service quality -- and if they get to Why it is something like "to make money" or "to generate a high return on invested capital". But, Sinek argues, the Why is what connects emotionally with customers and this "outside-in" approach doesn't inspire anyone -- not customers nor employees. Great companies, on the other hand, “Start With Why” (the title of his book). Great companies make sure their customers and employees focus on the Why and then the How and What follow from that. He gave a few examples (like Apple -- of course) but I thought I'd try the exercise on InPhonex . . .

    1. Why? To provide consumers, businesses, and partners with the tools they need to create powerful, flexible, and profitable voice solutions without requiring them to invest significant capital, build and maintain infrastructure, or establish relationships with multiple telecom service providers.

    2. How? By building the InPhonex platform that has components to support the communication and collaboration needs of consumers, small businesses, enterprises, resellers, and service providers; that has online interfaces and payment tools for end users, administrators, entrepreneurs, and carriers; that has a scalable SOA architecture and complete APIs; and that is supported by an experienced, passionate team.

    3. What? Calling Plans, SIP Trunks, Hosted PBXs, worldwide DIDs/LNP, and many, many more products and services.

    So our goal, according to Sinek, is not to do business with everyone possible but rather to do business with the people who believe what we believe -- the people that connect with our Why. So the InPhonex customers we want are the ones that value our powerful, flexible platform and what we allow them to do with it. The consumers that don't connect to our Why may become our customer through manipulation (unbeatable pricing, fear, peer pressure, etc.) but not by inspiration. Some may even be repeat purchasers but they will never be loyal customers.

    Philosophically, I think he's right on. At first it seems counter-intuitive that the goal is not to have as many customers as possible. But if a majority of your customers are not on-board with your core mission and are only with you because you have successfully manipulated them, it is almost impossible not to lose your way (create and endless parade of products or promotions or other incentives to keep them). But if most of your customers believe in your vision and are loyal to it, how can you go wrong?

  3. Lastly I had a chance to spend almost an hour talking privately with Patricia Hume, SAP’s dynamic Senior Vice President of their Global SME Indirect Channel. Our conversation covered a wide range of topics but, given her background as a senior executive at Avaya (where we crossed paths when I was with XO – an Avaya Platinum Partner), I was particularly interested in hearing whether she would validate my observation that the SAP ecosystem seems to have a dearth of voice applications. I think it’s fair to say that she agreed that SAP-integrated voice applications could be a fit for the ecosystem – particularly with SMEs. So it seems as soon as I get back from the beach we may have some work to do.

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