Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mixing Excel versions

The last partner presentation I saw at the the Microstrategy was given by Microsoft's Donald Farmer on the subject of PowerPivot. The presentation didn’t seem terribly relevant to Microstrategy, but it was a solid gee-whiz run-through of PowerPivot's features accompanied by a distracting post-modern slide deck featuring grainy black-and-white photos and classic ads. Donald also mentioned one intriguing tidbit that surprisingly no one really seemed to pick up on.

Afterwards I had dinner with Donald and Neil Raden in an unobjectionable casino restaurant. Neil is a devoted dad and regaled us the entire evening with amusing with anecdotes about his family. And as usual on such occasions we spent a lot of time gossiping and reminiscing. It was good fun.

The tidbit was that Excel 2010 will be able to run on the same machine as Excel 2007. Am I the only one who missed this? I’ve been discussing Microsoft’s new Office version and how it fits Microsoft’s BI strategy with just about anyone who will listen for months and I don’t think I’ve heard anyone talk about this.

Microsoft’s BI strategy has always been platform oriented. By this I mean that Microsoft is really interested in pushing its platform and the BI tools have always been an appendix to this goal. When it comes to Excel, Microsoft’s main challenge is to get users to upgrade and BI features are offered as a gambit to drive upgrades.

The problem here is that Microsoft’s argument doesn’t quite add up. Customers are supposed to use Microsoft’s BI tools because they have them anyway, but they are supposed to upgrade to the newest Office version because then they get the BI tools. I have heard this called synergy, but it isn’t – it is circular logic.

Most large companies will reluctant to take advantage of the BI features built into Office 2010 if it requires upgrading the Excel version. Microsoft often competes on price in the BI space, but there are simply too few BI users as a percentage of total Office users to justify a costly Office upgrade to get free BI features.

But all this assumes the company will only run one version of Excel. But if I understood Donald Farmer correctly, you can now run two versions of Excel on the same machine, meaning Excel 2010 can be positioned as a “normal” BI tool that runs alongside Excel 2007. If Microsoft follows this strategy in the field it could bring a lot of clarity into its BI strategy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A better word for marketing is demarketization

The word market means different things to different people. Adam Smith's idea was that markets are about competition, and competition auomatically keeps tabs on vendors and consumers. So actually markets are about competition.

However, if you are in the marketing business, market is just another word for opportunity, and opportunities tend to arise in places where there is little or no competition.

Check out famed internet marketeer Seth Godin's blog entry on Groucho Marx.

Seth states "It's extremely difficult to repair the market." What is he actually saying?

He's saying get out of situations where you have to compete directly. So for him, a market is a place where there is no competition, and when competition comes, it's time to get out.

That is the point to vendor lock-in. When you lock in your customer, you lock out the competition. And that is why software vendors love it so much. It demarketizes the customer relationship.