Monday, February 25, 2013

Microsoft launches an update to the Cloud Security Readiness Tool (powered by Alinean)

Microsoft recently commissioned a study revealing that security and regulatory concerns are holding back cloud adoption, but that companies that have overcome these concerns and adopted a solid cloud strategy are realizing significant business and security benefits.

In the study, respondents revealed that their top barriers to cloud adoption were concerns about the ability to deal with industry standards (61%), transparency (59%) and security concerns (44%).

However, those that had overcome these concerns and implemented a cloud solution gained more time and money to focus on their core business (57%), and believed that cloud services provided better security than the company was capable of on its own (54%).

To help organizations better understand their current cloud readiness, assess potential risks and issues, and help build a solid strategy to overcome security fears, Microsoft leveraged content from the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and worked with Alinean to develop the Cloud Security Readiness Tool.

Based on the CSA’s Cloud Controls Matrix, Microsoft’s Cloud Security Readiness Tool is an online diagnostic assessment, consisting of almost 30 questions that are used to analyze a company’s cloud security practices, highlight issues, and make solution-agnostic recommendations for what improvements can be realized by moving to cloud computing. 

“Organizations are often at a loss when it comes to how to go about determining which cloud services may be of value and whether deploying cloud services are appropriate in their environment. We hope this tool becomes every organization’s first step into the cloud,” says John Howie, COO of the CSA in an announcement by the Cloud Security Alliance recommending use of this tool to its members, for self-evaluation and certification.

As a result of running the readiness tool, an IT / business executive receives a comprehensive assessment report on how cloud data security, privacy, and reliability factors, as well as support for key compliance and regulatory standards.

“The aim of the tool is to simplify the process and cut through the clutter to help organizations take a step-by-step look at cloud adoption based on their environment,” according to Adrienne Hall, general manager of Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft.

Originally developed and launched last Fall, the tool has been significantly updated by Microsoft and Alinean for debut at the RSA Conference in San Francisco this week.

Click here to run the Cloud Security Readiness Tool (powered by Alinean) for yourself.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Are Buyer Personas Dead?

A few articles have appeared recently touting the death of Buyer Personas, which prompted me to ask Jim Ninivaggi, Sales Enablement service lead from SiriusDecisions about whether this was really true.

According to Jim, applying B2C persona concepts, where you name each buyer - Mike, Zoe, Geoff, and then describe key aspects about their life – their marital status, how many kids they have, the house they own, cars they drive, - this is less than applicable to your B2B sales and marketing efforts.

However, when it comes to tuning your marketing messages and sales engagements to specific buyers – this is an absolute requirement, especially as decisions around whether to buy your solution or not have evolved. One-sized fits all messaging just doesn’t cut it any more. Why?

Over the past three years the number of stakeholders involved in a typical purchase decision has exploded by 40%. An average decision that might have had 5 decision makers involved in 2010, now has 7 people wrangling over the costs, risks and rewards of your proposal.

And not only has the number of stakeholders grown, their diversity has increased:
  • Business groups are prominent, defining the needs and requirements, and determining which solutions can best solve the challenges faced. They are more than ever footing the bill for the solutions, so a positive business case becomes vital.
  • As users expect more consumer-like ease-of-use and customization, B2B user groups are becoming more formally involved throughout the process - a committee of ever more demanding critics.
  • As most solutions involve technology, experts are involved in research and evaluations. With more “as a service” offerings, security and compliance reviews are a must. And as IT and technology enabled services become more mission critical, support is involved more, trying to assure that users have high availability and quick issue recovery.
  • As buyers have become more risk averse and frugal, Finance is now large and in charge of decision-making. More involved not just with back-end reviews and approvals, Finance is now involved much earlier in the process to help establish the buying agenda, assure corporate alignment, establish priorities, and of course assure financial due diligence.
  • Similarly, Procurement is playing a hard-nosed role, consolidating solution providers, pitting one against the other, and finding every way to squeeze, like a boa, every dollar from each contract negotiation.

Each of your decision-making stakeholders has distinctly different goals and challenges. Each has different risks and potential objections. And most of all, each of your prospects has what Jim calls a unique “Point of Value”.

For example, take a typical phone / communications solution purchase. In determining whether such a solution is needed, each stakeholder group sees their challenges and potential value from your proposed solutions quite differently:
  • Sales executives are challenged with sales reps that need to work from anywhere as if they were in the office, customers that demand immediate responsiveness, a CRM system that needs to be better integrated with the phone system, and an ability to track activity for better coaching and forecasting. The value they can derive revolves around increasing selling time, improving customer experiences, reducing sales turnover, reducing ramp-up time, improved coaching and more accurate forecasting.
  • Marketing is challenged to have good leads responded to immediately by sales, currently delayed by days or weeks. Marketing’s point of value revolves around getting the response times down to minutes or hours, dramatically improving contact and conversion rates in the process.
  • The CFO is challenged to open new offices, merge and acquire in a cost effective and timely manner. Reducing the time and costs for expansion is vital to executing on growth goals.
  • IT sees their current legacy system as difficult to manage, requiring IT involvement to perform basic moves, adds and changes. IT sees the value in improving IT productivity, and reallocating valuable technical resources from keeping-the-lights on to more strategic projects.
  • Finance sees high conference call costs, growing mobile roaming charges and increasing support / service costs. Reducing communications costs is paramount.
  • Procurement sees the current system, provided by multiple solution providers, as a challenge. Consolidation and strategic purchase value can help reduce purchase, expansion and on-going support / service costs.

If you market or engage with a generic POV to each of these diverse groups of potential stakeholders, each with their own unique challenges and value proposition, how effective do you think that would be? 

How effective would messaging total cost of ownership (TCO) challenges and savings to the Sales executives be? And what competitive advantage are you losing by not having the ammunition to engage these different stakeholders in driving new opportunities?

The Bottom-Line

As Jim Ninivaggi indicates, because value is in the eye of the beholder, B2B Buyer Personas are definitely not dead. There is almost a guarantee that you now have more buyer personas at the table, each with their own Goals and Challenges, Point of Value, Risks and Objections.

Each persona could potentially initiate the buying journey. Great competitive advantage could be gained by going beyond one size fits all messaging to address each stakeholder’s unique challenges and value. And because any stakeholder can accelerate, or worse stall or torpedo your deal, it is vital that you have the value messaging, engagement tools and business case for each buyer persona.

Intelligently presenting the right value messaging and quantifying value based on each unique buyer personas is a requirement. Role in decision, Point of Value, Industry, location, size of company ... it all matters, and you should pivot / personalize your value messaging and quantification to precisely match each.

My interview with Jim can be found in the later part of our webinar: Are You Leveraging Tablets to Improve Sales Effectiveness. We challenge several proclamations of what’s “dead” in B2B sales & marketing, cutting through the hyperboles to get to the facts.

It should be noted that many articles about the Death of Buyer Personas come from service providers that deliver one-size fits all messaging or training. What is their motivation? One may surmise that the “death” articles are aimed to distract you from the fact that their services do not support a dramatically larger and diverse group of stakeholders now involved in deciding whether to purchase your solution or not. A decoy? You can decide that, but certainly the death of buyer personas is not a conclusion that is based on the research evidence or aligned with trusted independent experts insights.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Are ROI Calculators Dead? Not so Fast.

A recent article by Drew Zarges from Sales Benchmark Index opines, "Are ROI Calculators Dead?". With B2B sales teams generating hundreds of millions in incremental deals each year directly attributable to Alinean ROI Sales Tools, we clearly think not. 

However we do believe that ROI Sales Tools need to be developed and delivered appropriately in order to gain these incremental sales benefits.

First, the demand for financial justification has never been higher. According to IDC’s annual 2012 Buyer Experience Study published in November it was not Product Information, Peer/Customer References, Industry Trends, Competitive Comparisons and Case Studies, but by a large margin, Financial Justification / ROI.

Why has Financial Justification / ROI now become the most valued content?

In our recent ValueStory™ roadshows, this has been a great discussion topic, and the reasons discussed seem to be focused on:

  The Rise of the Economic Buyer – CFOs and financial executives are “large and in charge” of more groups and more purchase decisions, putting in place more financial scrutiny and hurdles to any purchase decision. With economic diligence front and center, even non-financial executives now are more focused on the business metrics and bottom-line impact of purchase decisions.
  More Stakeholders – the average number of stakeholders involved in purchase decisions has risen a hefty 40% over just the past 3 years according to IDC.  And each stakeholder sees value differently – value is truly in the eye of the beholder. With more stakeholders, demand has been boosted for Financial Justification / ROI, in particular aligned to individual stakeholder’s perspectives.
  The Value Gap – Sales and marketing often falls way short in providing the key financial justification content buyers need to make timely and favorable purchase decisions. In sales, this is such a big issue that SiriusDecisions indicates the “Inability to Communicate Value” is the #1 issue why sales has failed to meet quota, this for the second year running.

The evidence is clear that your buyers value and need ROI / Financial Justification to help facilitate their purchase decisions, with more than 90% of purchases requiring formal ROI justification according to IDC.

As well, we know from IDC that two-thirds of buyers indicate that they do not have the time, knowledge or tools needed to do business value assessments and calculations and that 81% of buyers expect vendors to quantify business value of proposed solutions.

Failure to provide ROI / Financial justification content has a real cost, with IDC reporting:

  • More stalled deals as buyers fail to properly prioritize the “cost of do nothing” and value of your proposal amongst all the other potential investments
  • Significant delays in decision cycles as buyers struggle to put together their own internal business cases
  • More competitive losses, as buyers fail to see the differentiating value unique to your solutions.
For companies not providing ROI sales tools, we have seen sales professionals waste many hours building their own business cases, or developing custom ROI tools to meet this pressing content need. With only 2 out of every 5 days spent on customer engagement according to CSO Insights, this additional business case overhead produces even less real selling time.

But just because ROI / Financial Justification is required, are ROI Calculators the answer? Here is where we agree with Zarges in that many ROI Calculators fall short.

The Black-Box
Many ROI Calculators are too simple, collecting some basic profile data from the customer, and with a press of a button magically generating positive ROI results.

Although easy to use, this black-box design of these simplified ROI Calculators:
a.   Do not provide customization of the results to match the unique challenges and “point of value” important to the specific customer and their role in the decision process
b.   Don’t let sales teams and the customers review and edit key assumptions
c.    Don’t deliver needed calculation details, so important to help sales understand how the value is being calculated, and so needed to gain skeptical customer buy-in

Solution: Good ROI Sales Tools provide the ability for Sales teams and customers to collaborate on the analysis, providing customization of the case to match the specific customer profile, buyer roles and challenges. These ROI Sales Tools the ability to review and edit all assumptions and review details of all calculations to gain buy-in. As well, 3rd party development and delivery can help provide the credibility, so that it’s not your numbers and calculations, but those of a trusted 3rd party.

Solution Agnostic?
These ROI Calculators are often simplified so much that the unique differentiators of the Solution are not reflected, making the ROI solution agnostic.

Solution: Good ROI Sales Tools are developed using a methodology to identify the unique differentiators and tie them to value realization. The tools should be delivered with unique value calculations and documented impacts, providing 3rd party research and success stories to prove that the savings are achievable.

Pain vs. Gain?
Many ROI Calculators jump too quickly to “justify the gain”, when the tools should focus first on helping the sales professional “quantify the pain” and get alignment and agreement on the cost and priority of the challenges before demonstrating that the solution can deliver savings and ROI.

Solution: Good ROI Sales Tools provide diagnostic assessments to help Sales teams and customers uncover issues and quantify the current costs of “do nothing” BEFORE discussing potential solutions or quantifying potential benefits.

All About the Benjamins?
Many ROI Calculators focus too much on the numbers and too little on the value storytelling.

Solution: A good ROI Sales Tool uses the numbers to cement the value messaging, combining emotional storytelling with rational justification. We believe that this is the best approach earlier in the engagement process, and our new ValueStory tool is specifically designed to leverage Tablets to help accomplish this.

The Bottom-Line
The need for ROI / Financial Justification remains very high, and will continue as Frugalnomics remains in full effect. And leaving the business case in the hands of the buyer or sales person has proven to be less than efficient of effective.

As a result, developing and delivering good ROI Sales Tools remains important providing tools like:
  • ValueStory
  • for use earlier in the sales process to help address the #1 sales issue – improving the ability to communicate value messaging, providing both value storytelling and justification to deliver more provocative, data driven engagements
  • ROI Analysis Tools
  • used later in the sales process to collaboratively and credibly create a CFO ready business case for proposal justification and approval.
Are ROI Calculators Dead? I think this question needs to go into the nearest bucket along with “Is Solution Selling Dead?” and “Are Personas Dead?”. As Jim Ninivaggi, Sales Enablement Services Director for Sirius Decisions so aptly said in our last webinar, “I think what is dead is calling something dead.”

And, here's the best ... this same company, SBI, that claims ROI Calculators are dead, just published their own on Sales ROI ...gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

On Demand: Leveraging Tablets to Increase Selling Effectiveness

How to leverage tablets to increase selling effectiveness and enhance conversations your sales reps have with your buyers?

A Q&A session with Jim Ninivaggi, Sales Enablement Services Director from SiriusDecisions.

Great content and poignant advice on Tablet adoption, best practices and challenges.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Gartner: Out with the Old, In with the New

An alarming 43% of today’s enterprise IT investments are not delivering on their business potential, this according to Gartner’s Executive Programs latest research.

With 2,053 worldwide CIOs surveyed in the study, managing more than $230 billion in IT budgets, this means that almost $100 billion of IT enterprise spending is currently not generating the expected business value - a colossal squandering of key business savings, process improvements, growth and competitive opportunities.

Perhaps as a result of the poor ROI, the Gartner study indicates that enterprise IT budgets have been flat to negative ever since the dot-com bust of 2002. For this year, 2013 these IT budgets are continuing the downward trend, with an anticipated weighted global average decline of an additional 0.5%.

Failing to deliver on ROI promises is taking its toll on CIO credibility, and making it harder for IT to grab its fair share of future budgets.

So much so that Mark McDonald, group vice president and Gartner Fellow indicates that, “Without change, CIOs and IT consign themselves to tending a garden of legacy assets and responsibilities."

With mainstream emerging mobile, big data, social and cloud technologies coming on-line, there is a great opportunity for CIOs to:

  • Shift from a “keeping the lights on” legacy systems management and IT cost savings focus to business impact,
  • Track value realization to start maximizing the technology ROI on all investments.

But the window for action is shrinking. With waning CIO credibility, Gartner is predicting that the percentage of technology spending controlled by the business -- outside of the control of IT -- will reach 35 percent in 2014, and that by the end of this decade with cloud technology, BYOD and the consumerization of IT, Gartner is predicting that businesses may control a whopping 90 percent of enterprise technology spend.

The Bottom-Line: What is an IT Solution Provider to Do?
Our take? IT sales and marketing must realize that IT spending decisions are quickly changing from:
  • Being controlled by CIO and IT executives to instead, shared or the majority of decision making between IT and key businesses stakeholders,
  • A focus on IT consolidation, productivity improvements and cost savings to instead, how IT can deliver tangible business benefits,
  • Using ROI as a gateway to project approval, to instead using financial analysis to assure that proposed benefits are realized post deployment.

As a result of these changing buyer profiles, we recommend that IT sales and marketing revisit their strategic investments to:
  • Address a world where the business garners majority control of technology spending decisions,
  • Shift value messaging and quantification from being IT centric (like IT TCO savings), to being business benefit focused (like how IT can help improve Marketing Effectiveness),
  • Help CIOs prove the return on prior investments to once again garner a larger share of the budget. 

Gartner Executive Program Survey of More Than 2,000 CIOs Shows Digital Technologies Are Top Priorities in 2013 - Survey Highlights the Need for CIOs to Set Aside Old Rules and Adopt New Tools, Jan 16, 2013 -

More technology spending in the hands of the business instead of IT