Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Online Experience Optimization: The Next "Big Idea" in the Cloud

Every modern business does business online. This means that every modern business decision maker needs the answers to five key questions.
  1. Do we know what customers, competitors and competitors' customers are saying about our company online?
  2. Do we know that every online interaction with our company is equally compelling, fluid, frictionless and fulfilling, regardless of the user's device or connection type?
  3. Do we know what colleagues, customers, partners and prospects really think about doing business with us online, especially compared with other companies?
  4. Do we have solid, defensible evidence for all that we know or think that we know?
  5. Can we act on what we know in ways that help our business to succeed and grow?
To be able to answer these questions with confidence, business decision makers must integrate multiple previously separate initiatives ranging from content management and social networking to analytics and infrastructure management. Here's a high-level look at just some of the elements involved in every user's online experience with a company – such as yours.
  • The user's access device – whether PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
  • The network connection – whether wireless or wired, dial-up or broadband, etc.
  • The company's Web site or sites (and the equivalent portal or portals for internal users).
  • The content displayed by the Web site and/or internal portal.
  • The tools used to create, edit, curate and manage that content.
  • The tools used to measure and analyze all aspects of the online experience, from the performance of the Web site to who's accessing which content how often – plus more.
A holistic view of these and other relevant elements is essential to achieving a critical goal of every modern business: online experience optimization (OEO), for both external and internal constituencies.

The perceptions of those "from without," including competitors, customers, influencers, partners, and prospects, directly affect multiple human factors that in turn directly affect revenues, profits and competitive positioning. The perceptions of those "from within" affect things like employee job satisfaction, loyalty, referrals of superior new employees and overall business agility and responsiveness.

OEO touches every aspect of every type and size of company that does business online or plans to do so. Business stakeholders include advertising, marketing, public relations, sales, internal and external support teams and business performance decision makers, among others.

Technologies involved range from Web site construction and management tools to content management systems, analytics tools and support for “the mobile, social cloud.” Example relevant vendors include IT stalwarts such as Adobe, IBM, Oracle and SAP, disruptive upstarts such as Consona, Medallia, Nimble and Zoho and even so-called "digital agencies" such as 311 Media and Surge.

OEO is clearly a "big idea" that demands immediate and sustained attention from business and technology decision makers – and from the vendors hoping to sell to them. And based on the initial findings of continuing OEO surveys, that attention is needed now.

When asked to rate their companies' abilities to know and respond to what's being said about those companies online, only 18.5 percent of respondents chose "Excellent." Some 44.4 percent chose "Good," while approximately one-third said their companies were "Fair" (22.2 percent) or "Unsatisfactory" (11.1 percent) at this critical OEO element.

Respondents were also asked when they believe that decision makers at their companies will start to collect and act upon what's being said about them online. Approximately one-third of respondents expect this to happen within the next six months. But a quarter of respondents don't expect it to happen within the next year, and 41.7 percent said they didn't know when it might happen.

I'll have lots more to say about OEO here and elsewhere, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, you can take those surveys I mentioned in approximately three minutes each, anonymously if you prefer, and request summary findings at and Thanks for your help – please tell everyone you know!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

SafePeak: Faster SQL Server Applications, On the Ground and In the Cloud

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." -- legendary U.S. baseball catcher and malapropism master Yogi Berra (who also reportedly said "I really didn't say everything I said.")

What happens when a business application is a victim of its own success?
To deliver maximum business value, applications need users. But too many users, and applications can slow down or stop altogether. Which can mean anything from non-productive workers to suddenly former customers, depending on the applications.

For the millions of Microsoft Windows applications (including Web sites and SharePoint collaboration tool deployments) that rely upon Microsoft's SQL Server database software, there are a few alternative ways to speed up and scale out. One is to acquire more processing and storage capacity, but that gets expensive and difficult to manage quickly.

Another is traditional application caching -- extracting smaller, faster subset copies of the most-used data from larger, slower databases. But traditional caching methods can be difficult to implement without requiring changes to applications, databases or both. And analyzing and determining precisely where to apply caching and where not to apply it can take months. Also, some caching solutions are vulnerable to creating out-of-synch copies of critical data, especially in response to a system failure or disruption.

Another performance improvement method is called "database tuning." There are applications that purport to ease and speed this process. But there's no avoiding that it takes time to analyze current application performance, and money to engage the expertise necessary to decide precisely what to tune and how to tune it.

SafePeak ( offers an alternative with some compelling differences. First of all, it's software that runs on exactly the same types of hardware on which SQL Server and many of those database applications are running. SafePeak can even run on cloud-based virtual server instances or hosted servers. And SafePeak is designed specifically to be "plug-and-play" with all Windows and SQL Server environments, including custom-built, hosted and cloud-based applications.

Once SafePeak is installed and running, it basically "watches" and "listens to" an application for a couple of hours, and begins to learn and map the queries and dependencies that govern how that application accesses and uses data. SafePeak uses this information to cache data dynamically, in ways that speed performance significantly while avoiding inaccurate or out-of-synch copies of data.

SafePeak was also designed specifically to support business-critical applications that simply cannot fall victim to incorrect data. The solution is being used to make Web sites, SharePoint deployments and financial services, health care management and hospital knowledge management applications run faster and support more users.

The SafePeak management interface is Web-based and straightforward. In addition, the software generates considerable information about how SQL Server databases and applications perform "in real life." This information can help application and database administrators and their teams to identify and pursue additional opportunities to improve application performance, reliability and scalability.

If your company uses SQL Server databases and applications, including Web sites, SharePoint or Microsoft Dynamics, you should look closely at SafePeak. You can download a free trial of the software at the company's Web site, and begin test-driving it with your own applications. And if you're running most or all of your critical applications in the cloud or some other company's hosting facility, talk with your provider(s) about test-driving SafePeak for themselves. It won't solve all application performance challenges. But it can do a lot to improve performance of those applications reliant upon Microsoft SQL Server, rapidly, affordably and transparently -- wherever those applications may run.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cloud Extend for Salesforce: Jedi Mind Tricks for More and Better Sales

In the very first "Star Wars" movie to be commercially released (as opposed to the first episode in the saga, which was the fourth movie to be released, I think -- but I digress), the first Jedi mind trick shown was Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi getting a security droid to replace what it was planning to say with what Obi-Wan wanted the droid to say. ("These are not the droids you're looking for.") No muss, no fuss -- the security droid just followed the script the Jedi wrote for him, word for word, with no objections, and the process of escape proceeded according to Obi-Wan's plan.

Would that salespeople were as easily manipulated. Once an Obi-Wan had been identified, he or she could write the script, then distribute it to all of their colleagues, who would follow it perfectly and generate more sales faster than ever before.

If this scenario appeals to you, you should take a look at Cloud Extend for Salesforce, introduced by Active Endpoints at the Dreamforce conference/revival meeting/festival in San Francisco last week.

Here's what Cloud Extend for Salesforce let you do. And by "you," I mean "almost any sales manager or other business-savvy decision maker unafraid to perform basic editing tasks on a typical modern networked computing device. You know, like with a Web browser." You can create guides -- step-by-step recipes for specific sales-related tasks, such as lead nurturing. Active Endpoints calls these "guidance trees," and that's an apt visual description. Remember flowcharts? They look a bit like those, only sideways. They result in scripts users can be instructed to follow explicitly or to treat as suggestions, depending on the sophistication of the user being guided.

You can then easily add specific actions to specific steps in each script. You can then publish the script, which each user can access and follow from within the already-comfortable interface. Without leaving the specific task that user is doing. And the scripts capture all kinds of useful information about how well the scripts and their users perform.

Sales managers can build customized scripts that automate and help to improve key business processes. Users get scripts to follow based on proven processes and practices. The adoption and business value of increases. And little to no IT involvement is required.

If your company uses or is considering using to support sales efforts, you must look closely at Cloud Extend for Salesforce. Active Endpoints boasts that the solution can "make every sales rep your best rep." If you add Cloud Extend for Salesforce to a well-working environment and use the information produced to improve and extend your sales processes, that boast will prove true. And likely encourage you to explore opportunities for similar successes beyond sales. As I'm sure Active Endpoints is doing even as you read this…