Every year-end I write two columns. One looks back on the prior year’s forecast; the other looks ahead. This is the first of the two, and it’s time to compare my projections for the year with what actually happened.
Last year I took an optimistic approach by saying that it was a great time for innovation. You might recall there was plenty to worry about back then. We had a new president not quite in office, and the scuttlebutt was of spending upwards of US$1 trillion in borrowed money to fix the meltdown. Some people said it wasn’t enough. A year later, we see they were right, and the administration is developing a jobs program to spend more billions.
I am not averse to deficit spending when the occasion requires it, and this is certainly the time. But to get more fine-grained, let’s consider my projections for individual companies.
I said, “The team to beat, they’ll keep the pedal to the metal in 2009 and they will be amply rewarded for it.”
No need to spend a lot of time here.
I said, “I expect they will become more platform-like in the year ahead and offer some competition to the leaders.”
Sugar did this, but they seem to be more mired in the recession and the freeware business model, so they didn’t impress me with their execution. Still, they have some good ideas.
I said, “I expect that 2009 might see more of a clash of definitions as on-demand, SaaS, etc., become even more popular and companies like this try to blur or expand the definition.”
I was talking about the blurring of the line between multi-tenant SaaS and other on-demand strategies, and it appears that the blurring has happened and not just at Oracle. As I recently wrote, that blur will be with us for a while as SAP, Microsoft and Sage all have their own strategies to take some of the nicer features from SaaS to support the on-premise based solution sets. But definitions were a side-show, Oracle introduced its Fusion products this year, and they have the ability to be game changers for the company by making all the acquisitions make sense.
I said, “In 2009, Microsoft could benefit from a bit more focus on the market and committing to real on-demand.”
Well, they provided focus, and they provided a product set that, like other solution sets, runs in a variety of configurations, both on-demand and on-premise. The company appears to be executing well, and although I question some of their strategies, it all seems to be working for them. Only proves I am not the smartest guy in the room.
I said, “… they haven’t helped themselves with their false starts, and I wish them well trying to put a big idea together and deliver it, hopefully in 2009.”
The big idea was their hybrid approach, and it appears to make more sense for them than most. The company still needs a big idea and an out-of-the-box thinker to promote it.
I said, “… the company, in my humble opinion, aims at a corner of the market that might be too small to take on everything they offer. A little up-market repositioning might be smart …”
I think NetSuite did this, and the results are good for them. Not a week goes by when I don’t see a press release from Mei Li detailing a new deal with a good-size company. More than most, NetSuite has some mojo.
I said, “In 2009 Sage will be in the process of changing its products to meet some of the challenges of the on-demand world and to adapt to the special needs of its partners.”
The guys at Sage kept to their knitting this year and made good progress, but more needs to be done. Sage made great efforts in CRM and on-demand strategies delivering on their 2010 CRM strategy. They’re also one of the more effective users of social media in CRM today. Keep an eye on them.
Word of the Year: Sustainability
No one could have predicted 2009 would be such an awful year, but as we end it, the economy appears to be rebounding — though unemployment is still way too high.
The big lesson of 2009 is that we were doing a lot of unsustainable things. The environment naturally comes to mind when we hear the “unsustainable” word, but it goes for business practices like selling loans to people with no assets and no means of repaying and a lot more.
In 2010 — post-Copenhagen — look for a lot of discussion about making everything sustainable. That will be the big incentive we need for a whole lot of innovation in business processes and the software to support them.
Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant’s research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and Web site. He is working on a book and can be reached at email@example.com.