SaaS product discontinuation, a growing risk

While there are clear benefits in using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products one of the key risks relates to service discontinuation i.e. when a SaaS vendor stops providing the online software service.

This happens occasionally and not even the large vendors are immune. After reportedly paying around $30m for is discontinuing the task management software offering. Even Google has discontinued a number of products albeit mostly of the free to consumer market variety.

This is not altogether unexpected, especially when the software is acquired; as strategies change, financial viability is not achieved, integration into the core product suite is not clear-cut, the value proposition is no longer compelling or there is company culture mismatch to name a few. This is, of course, of little consolation to customers.

In most cases there is either a data export function or one will be made available to ease the transition to an alternative service. The time and effort of identifying an alternative, mapping and migrating the data, re-training, etc still remains.

Migrating from one software product to another, SaaS or on-premise, has always been challenging. As the SaaS market matures and larger investments are made in SaaS offerings, how will vendors, and the industry, react to allaying these fears?

Or does it remain a case of caveat emptor?

Zaheer Ismail

Evernote and

Evernote’s recent announcement on the integration between Evernote for Business and is undoubtedly good news for users of both apps. In the context of large and small enterprises, however, it raises some interesting questions. These come immediately to mind.

1. Until recently Evernote was staunchly consumer-focused. With the release of Evernote for Business (at USD10 / month) has Evernote delivered a solid business-friendly edition? Is it robust enough to satisfy the security, high availability and general governance requirements? Especially so in large enterprises.

2. Given the integration between a structured-data application and an unstructured-data app how good is user experience and how well does it translate to tablets?

3. Can Evernote items be linked to all Salesforce record entities or only standard entities?

Any thoughts or first-hand experiences to share?

Zaheer Ismail


CRM Highlights: August 19, 2013

Gamification gaining traction in Banking. Banks in Singapore and Malaysia leading the way.  Includes Absa’s Springboks-related game on Facebook.

Social CRM: What does it look like? Serious plug for Nimble but informative overview.

CRM Implementation gotchas. Good insight into complexities of moving from out-of-the box programming features to more complex builds with

Is your sales force being sabotaged by your CRM? Let’s remember that CRM is about the customer (sales target are important but focus on customer needs before organisational sales goals)



CRM Showdown

CRM platforms are notoriously difficult to compare. Each has the core marketing, sales and service functionality but there are many other differences to consider. These include delivery method (cloud or on-premise), ease of customisation and configuration, reporting and analytics capability, integration methods, mobility solutions, social CRM capabilities including collaboration and social media integration (a current hot topic), pricing and enterprise size suitability.

I came across this (part one / part two) entertaining two part comparison of the most popular CRM platforms: SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Oracle CRM, CRM and SAP CRM. The comparison is styled on the characteristics of former WWF wrestlers. Here are some of the highlights.


“SugarCRM provides an open source platform that is available both in on-premise and cloud variations. Though Sugar places the most emphasis on their cloud based offerings, they offer on premise versions of their solution as well.

“From a pricing perspective, SugarCRM prices are on par with Microsoft Dynamics and less expensive than Salesforce for similar functionality.  SugarCRM’s ‘Corporate’ package is priced at $540/user/year which equates to $45/user/month. I’ll also note that right now SugarCRM is aggressively targeting customers by guaranteeing a 50% cost savings for switching to Sugar.

Microsoft Dynamics

“Microsoft Dynamic’s is seamlessly integrated in one of the most widely adopted enterprise solutions in the globe, Microsoft Outlook.  This feature alone makes it a great fit for many small and midsized businesses that are already using Microsoft Exchange.  One of the primary complaints we often hear from sales and marketing executives about CRM is that it is more of a workforce management tool that adds to their workload rather than something to make their job easier.  Microsoft Dynamic’s addresses this concern by ensuring that sales and marketing executives who already use Outlook will be able to access the CRM system from within Outlook.

Oracle CRM

“Oracle provides a robust, highly customizable and scalable solution.  With their longstanding experience across multiple industry verticals, they have a set of industry specific configurations that leverage the best practices amongst many of the globe’s most successful companies.  Particularly for organizations that utilize Oracle ERP, an Oracle CRM solution makes for an easy integration.

Oracle’s offering is evolving and offers several choices which can be considered as different options. They are Oracle Siebel, Oracle CRM on Demand and Oracle Fusion CRM. Oracle also offers on-premise and private, hybrid or public cloud options for most of their different options. CRM

“Salesforce only offers a cloud based offering.  This makes it less customizable than some of the on-premise offerings and also could raise data security concerns depending upon a particular company’s industry.  As organizations become more and more savvy, I think the data security concerns should fade away, but realistically, they are not gone yet.

Salesforce is also a leader in social enterprise and mobility solutions in that it has a great offering in both these areas


“If SAP has one weakness it could be its slow response to changing technology and consumer demands.  This is most evident in SAP’s initial response to the cloud.  While SAP now offers both on-premise and cloud based solutions, SAP’s dominance in the enterprise space, initially translated to a somewhat slow transition to the cloud.

When deciding on a CRM platform it’s important to consider your specific needs and match them with the relative strengths and weaknesses of the different offerings. For instance if you’re avoiding capex and don’t have in-house resources then consider a cloud offering. If you have specific industry vertical needs and have a large user base then first consider Oracle or other large enterprise players.

Originally published:  Published on: 1 Jun 2012 @ 06:57

Protection of personal information and cloud computing

The promulgation of the Protection of Personal Information Bill (PPI) is imminent. The PPI Act aims to bring SA in line with the privacy legislation of key trading partners. The Bill has been a long time in the making but the core principles remain the same:

  • Process personal information in a legal and reasonable manner.
  • Only process personal information for a specific, explicitly defined and lawful purpose.
  • Take steps to ensure that the data subject is aware of that purpose.
  • Ensure that any further processing of personal information is compatible with the stated purpose of collection.
  • Ensure that personal information remains complete and accurate.
  • Notify the data subject and the regulator that you are collecting personal information, and record the purpose of collection.
  • Protect the security and integrity of personal information.
  • Provide for data subject participation in the collection of personal information to ensure purpose, accuracy and relevance.

South African companies which provide onshore cloud computing services or via offshore third parties will be responsible for upholding these principles when processing and storing personal information. This responsibility extends to and must be managed when using offshore or onshore outsourcing partners.

The process to ensure compliance should start now.

Zaheer Ismail

Gartner: cutting through the cloud hype

Great overview on making sense of your cloud strategy. Here are some notable sound bites:

Gartner’s definition of cloud computing: A style of computing where scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities are provided ‘as a service’ to external customers using Internet technologies. (No matter whose definition is used it’s always full of jargon)

“If someone is selling you a product, it is not a cloud solution.

“Cloud computing isn’t particularly secure or insecure. Rather, you should look at more specific concerns like where the data is stored and the policies of each provider.

“Beware of ‘cloud washing’, where vendors put a cloud name on their products or services without really changing the products.

“List of recommendations: understand the goals your organization wants to get out of cloud computing, look at public cloud solutions first, work with your users, and see how bookkeeping practices with cloud services will affect your business. Check your contract rights and responsibility, and seek cloud brokerages.

“The value of a cloud computing service is in the outcomes it enables, just as the value of a treadmill is in building heart health or losing weight.

Read the full commentary here.

Top 10 benefits of CRM for salespeople

CRM solutions often suffer from resistance to adoption. There are many reasons for this. This blog post from Lee Novak covers the top 10 benefits of CRM for Salespeople.

He compares a CRM solution to a navigation system which is apt.

“Would you board a commercial airline if you knew, 1) the plane was lacking a navigational system, 2) you would be flying to the busiest airport in the world without the aid of an air traffic controller or radar, and 3) the pilots would not have any radio contact to direct their take off or landing approach? Most likely not. CRM is not a fad nor is it a way for your company to act as BIG BROTHER! CRM is a navigational tool that, when used properly it will increase your profitability, productivity and enhance your customers buying experience. I believe that what you are really asking is, what is in it for you, the individual sales rep.”

He goes on to describe the top 10 benefits which can be achieved when a CRM solution is properly implemented:

  • Branding and marketing
  • Determining marketing and advertising effectiveness
  • Understanding customer buying trends
  • Insights into customer buying cycles
  • A 360 degree view of customers leading to better total customer value management
  • Telephony integration for an instant view of customer information
  • Management of customer retention and loyalty programs
  • Develop effective customer business plans
  • Salesperson performance and productivity
  • Instant reports and analytics

Read the full post. NGO case study

Many not-for-profit organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have benefitted from implementing To get an idea on what can be achieved we’ve highlighed key points from a case study from on the Family Service Agency (FSA) of San Francisco. The FSA, the city’s oldest non-sectarian, non-profit charitable social-services provider, needed a system to help program managers and clinicians manage data on 12,000 clients.

Amongst other objectives, management sought to reduce the agency’s paper usage, get easy access to data on key metrics, and address the requirements of more than 66 funders, such as ensuring that its records met the auditing requirements of its many funding sources.

The solution was centered around the development of a custom application which automated client and case management. The solution was rolled out to 215 users across the organisation and included extensive training for administrators and key users.

Benefits included streamlined and consistent reporting reducing time spent on report writing and report errors. Drill-down reports provide easy access to client and operational data at an individual or organisational level leading to quicker management awareness and intervention times. Reports can easily be generated for billing and reporting purposes. Productivity reports, which used to take two months to compile, can now be compiled in minutes. Printed materials can be produced with just a few clicks.

One of the largest transformations has been the benefits of the on-demand model for the agency’s case workers working in the field with clients. Previously, case workers spent nearly 50 per cent of their time on paperwork and reporting. Now, using Salesforce, they can access client records remotely, make case notes more quickly and easily, and track client progress over time. They have been able to increase their time spent directly with clients by over 30 percent, while also improving the quality of their work and enhance client recovery.

Here’s a look at the salesforce CRM features for nonprofits for nonprofits / ngos

Cloudforce 2011 Keynote

The Social Enterprise conversation continued with a packed audience at Cloudforce 2011 in London.

Day 1 Keynote at Cloudforce: Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff delivers the day one keynote at Cloudforce London to an audience of cloud computing professionals at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Featured in the Day One keynote are demos of,,,, the Service Cloud, Radian6, and Heroku. The keynote also features special guests Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, and Michael Dell, Chairman and CEO of Dell.

Click here to view the Day 1 playlist

Day 2 Keynote at Cloudforce:

This keynote from September 15 in London featured Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO, with special guests Jane Moran, CIO of Thomson Reuters, and John Douglas, CIO of Burberry.

Click here to view the Day 2 playlist