Apr 042017
 

With a range of tech companies floating as corporations lose their appetite for acquisitions, companies like Boomi which was bought by Dell in 2010 believe they have an advantage over competitors like Mulesoft which have to answer to the public markets at sky high valuations following their recent stock market listing.

If Chris McNabb, CEO of Dell Boomi, is concerned about his competitor’s successful IPO, he wasn’t showing it when he spoke with Decoding the New Economy at a restaurant in a Sydney office park last week. With Mulesoft’s stock popping 45% on the first day of trade, attention was on how his company would react to such a vote of confidence in his market rival.

“We continue to grow very rapidly, well north of market growth rates. I think you’ll see us consolidate our position at the top of most boards in terms of the number of customers. If you look at Mulesoft’s S1 (the company’s official stock offering document) it shows them with around 1,078 customers while we have 5,300 customers. We almost have an unfair competitive advantage.”

Part of that unfair advantage McNabb cites is the breadth of services now offered by Dell’s merger with EMC where he flagged an increased push across the organisation’s sales team starting in the second half of this year.

“For us to say six months ago that we’d sit here and say that the merger of two 25 billion dollar plus businesses could be bedded down is really saying something. I think it’s one of the best integrations that I’ve ever seen.”

“For Boomi it’s been terrific and continues to be terrific. We get unequivocal support from executives, Michael Dell and the ELT – Executive Leadership Team – has been nothing but a hundred percent supportive.”

“Now we’re looking at what we can do with the EMC Solutions sales team, what we can do with our brothers in the strategically aligned businesses, specifically Pivotal, Virtustream and VMWare. What are the opportunities to go to market more collaboratively with them?”

Boomi’s recent ManyWho acquisition fits into that range of offerings and McNabb believes the workflow platform’s role as a tool helping CIOs manage their organisations’ transitions to cloud services will be a compelling offering.

“Workflow automation – redoing business processes in a structured and an unstructured way – was always a key strategy of ours.”

“Hybrid IT is here for the next ten years, so how do we enable it so customers can buy all the best of breed software they want yet still have a suite like experience?”

“We believe hybrid IT is creating challenges for CIOs and as you  get all these different cloud applications from vendors you’re breaking apart your ERP and creating an integration problem and you’re creating a data management problem along with governance, API management and orchestration.”

“It’s our vision to give CIOs the unified platform the necessary fundamentals in cloud services to address these issues.”

With a solid market position in North America, McNabb sees the Asia-Pacific as the big growth driver for Boomi with channel partners leading the company’s expansion across the region.

“Worldwide EMEA is going through a ton of growth and this region (APAC) is going through a ton of growth. Our expectation is this region will have the highest growth rates – Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, these are key target areas.”

“If I look at things strategically and how important the channel is to us, is it’s a force multiplier as it allows you to get entire teams being certified and ready to go across regions. It also helps execute in a better way in local markets, you have to be in a region in a big way and if you can get really good certified partners you can do that much better and faster than if you’re hiring and building it yourself.”

Returning to the topic of Mulesoft, McNabb sees not being part of a publicly listed company as one of Boomi’s big advantages.

“We don’t operate on a ninety day ‘shock clock’, we know what the market’s growing at, we know what our platform is capable of, we know we’re going to raise our targets. There isn’t increased pressure to perform.”

“As it turns out, those in the public eye do have the ninety day shock clock to attend to and it will be interesting to see how those first, two, three or four quarterly reviews go. I’ll certainly be an eager listener to their investor calls.”

Ultimately though, McNabb thinks Mulesoft’s IPO and it’s 45% pop on listing vindicates Dell’s ongoing investment in Boomi and the potential of the cloud integration marketplace.

“I look at it as a terrific validation of the marketplace…. It’s good for everybody.”

Jan 282017
 

Earlier this decade it looked like Microsoft’s most profitable business line was doomed as Google Docs threatened to disrupt the Office franchise.

Yesterday Microsoft showed how they had seen off that threat when reporting their second-quarter results that beat Wall Street analysts’ estimates and saw the company’s stock market capitalisation topped $500bn, the first time since the year 2000.

Microsoft’s results were mainly due to its  cloud computing products with Azure growing at 93% year on year, Office 365 commercial at 47% and Office Consumer Products and Cloud Services at 22%.

Earlier in the week, cloud security company Okta released its Business at Work study that looked at trends in the commercial use of online services which showed how Microsoft’s products are dominating the market.

Microsoft’s advantage was underscored in a Gartner paper late last year. The Current State of Cloud Office and What to Do About It report found 10.7 percent of public listed companies surveyed were using Office 365 as opposed to 5.2% using Google. The rest had deployed hybrid or on-premise productivity suites.
So Microsoft seemed to have seen off the biggest threat to one of their most important products which for Alphabet/Google should be a worrying development as G-Suite (as it’s now called) has failed to become a meaningful revenue centre – advertising profits still made up 22 billion of the company’s $25 billion revenues in their last results.
Google’s failure to diversify should worry Alphabet investors, particularly given the headstart the company had over Microsoft Office in the early days of G-suite as then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer struggled to shift the company’s key product lines onto the cloud.
How much the initiatives of G-Suite’s new leader Diane Green can go in making Google’s product more attractive is a big question as Microsoft have shown they can match or beat their competitors’ offerings in areas like collaboration and artificial intelligence.

Despite Microsoft’s success in seeing off Google in the office productivity market the company still lags Alphabet market capitalisation of $570 billion but Microsoft have show they are far from a spent force in the software industry.

Oct 062016
 

What are the basic online tools for business? Here’s a quick list on what small and startup businesses can use to get online quickly and cheaply. This list will be updated regularly and please let us know if there’s anything we should add.

Email

Gmail

Documents

Google Docs

Microsoft Office 365

Open Office

Storage

Google Drive

Dropbox

Box

Websites

Blogger

Wix

WordPress

Accounting

Xero

Saasu

MYOB

Social media

Google My Business

Facebook

LinkedIn

Collaboration

Slack

Trello

Jira

Basecamp

Messaging

What’s App

Workplaces @ Facebook

Google Hangouts (being depreciated)

Analytics

Google Analytics

KissMetrics

Tableau

Customer support

Zendesk

Desk.com

Payments

PayPal

Stripe

 

 

 

 

Sep 212016
 

Oracle CEO Mark Hurd’s keynote at the company’s Open World conference in San Francisco yesterday illustrated a problem facing businesses around the world and its effects on enterprise software vendors like the one he heads.

“Standard and Poor’s top five hundred companies’ revenue growth is at one percent, their earnings growth is five percent.” “It means what? Expenses are going down.”

“This is the problem that the CEO has,” he says. “Why is it hard to grow revenue. All your investors want you to grow earnings and deliver growth. They have little patience for any long story about why it’s so hard.”

“They don’t care about any issues you may have. Grow earnings, grow cash flow, grow stock price. That’s it.”

Growing in a slow market

As a result of that the easiest way to grow earnings is to grow revenues but when global GDP and markets are flat, the only way to grow is to gain market share, Hurd says. “We have to know the customer better, we have to do a better job of marketing and we have to do a better job of aligning our goods and services to what our customers want. We have to improve our products and processes.”

That imperative for companies to cut their operating costs has had a brutal effect on enterprise IT budgets, “over the past five years, the growth in enterprise IT has been flat.” Hurd says, “the growth in spending has been basically zero.”

Customers drive the market

Like many things in the tech industry, the sector’s growth focus has shifted to consumers, “consumer spending on IT has almost quadrupled in the past decade. So while companies are sort of flat, consumers have been spending like crazy.” Hurd observes, “consumers are more sophisticated, more capable, more knowledgeable and expect better services than ever before.”

“Your customer experience is not being defined by your competitors but by technology fuelled consumers. For instance, AirBnB may be defining customer experience for the hospitality industry.”

“People are using a lot of social technologies in their personal lives,” “we expect ease of use, simplicity, clean interfaces are now things we expect in the enterprise side.”

Crimping innovation

In the enterprise IT sector, Hurd believes the flat market means many companies catering to the corporate market are skimping on Research and Development which in turn is crimping innovation, a factor compounded by cloud providers taking an increasingly larger share of the market.

This is underscored by cloud leader Amazon Web Services spending over ten billion dollars a year on R&D. Hurd’s boast that Oracle is spending half of that shows how the legacy players are struggling.

What stands out in Hurd’s keynote is how legacy providers see cloud computing as their salvation. However Amazon’s dominance in that space is a major obstacle for them.

For consumers, big and small, the shift to the cloud has been a good thing in shaking up the existing industry and making new technologies more accessible to smaller customers. For existing businesses like Oracle, there’s a challenge in adapting to a lower margin, commoditized and quickly changing market.

A bigger question though facing all large corporations, not just software companies, is this new normal of low economic growth. Succeeding in that environment is going require a completely different management and investor mind set to that of the last seventy years.

Sep 202016
 

One of the things that cloud computing has changed for the software industry are the fat profits – the shift to Software as a Service (SaaS) has seen the margins collapse as the rental model doesn’t offer the same big lumps of cash that the old way of doing business offered.

That has had terrible consequences for a generation of enterprise IT salespeople who lived well on fat commissions as they sold million dollar packages to large corporations and government agencies.

So it was interesting today to hear Oracle’s CEO, Mark Hurd – a master IT salesman himself – claim at the company’s Open World press conference today that operating margins on cloud services are quite good.

Certainly Oracle’s results show that with a claimed 61% profit margin there is money to be made in cloud services however their experience is not typical of the industry. For example, Microsoft’s online products only deliver a third of the profits as the company’s more traditional software lines.

Even with the still fat profit margins, it’s hard to see how a company like Oracle can maintain its old salesman driven model as deals based more on long term service contracts rather than big deals mean there aren’t the lumps of cash for salespeople to grab a slice of.

Older companies struggle with shifting mindsets in their industries and some, such as the taxi business in the face of Uber, take too long to change. Whether software companies like Oracle are navigating the change is something I’ll look at in tomorrow’s post.

Sep 162016
 

Ahead of next week’s Oracle Open World, which I’m attending, the software giant has announced its quarterly results which illustrate how software has shifted to the cloud.

The company’s cloud revenues jumped 77% on the previous year which is impressive but represents less than a tenth of the company’s sales.

What would concern Oracle’s shareholders is the stagnation of sales in their main product lines – on premise software makes up 69% of the firm’s revenue but it didn’t grow for the quarter and new license sales dropped eleven percent, which doesn’t bode well for the future.

Oracle’s big announcement in the last quarter though was the acquisition of cloud ERP provider Netsuite for $9.3 billion.

That acquisition will test how Oracle pivots into the cloud, it may well be the Netsuite management teach the parent company some tricks.

 

Jun 102016
 
business return on assets is falling away

Ride service Uber has raised the game for logistics and delivery services in opening a group of Application Program Interfaces for third party developers.

The four functions available in the Uber Rush package cover delivery tracking, quotes and history. They make starting a logistics service or adding functions to a business far easier.

While there is a downside in the risk of being locked into Uber’s service this move will give a lot of developers the opportunity to develop delivery tracking products, for incumbent postal and courier services, this API is bad news on a number of levels.