Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hit Shappens

Having been in this business for a very long time I can safely say I have seen the best and the worst in customer service and support.  The best doesn't always come from the biggest or the smallest, nor does the worst.

Let me give you some historical examples from my own career.

The worst:

  • I bought a cell phone from a national provider at a Kiosk on an Air Force Base.  When I got home I tried to make a few calls and it didn't work very well, so I went back to the Kiosk where I bought it and they couldn't take returns, I had to go to one of their main stores...Air Force bases in general are not in major metropolitan areas so it was some drive to get to a "main store".  When I arrived they wouldn't give me a full refund because I had incurred some charges.  I said I had tried to use the phone but couldn't connect from my house, that I had called a few numbers and while it did ring on a couple of them I couldn't hear them or they me.  I then found out that although they had a Kiosk and sold phones on the base they "didn't have coverage on most of the base."  Two months of fighting with these bastards, who btw have since been acquired by someone else, I got my money back.  The "Charges" were roaming charges since they didn't have coverage.
  • As CTO of a company you would think if I called my own Tech Support I would get at least a reasonable response to a request.  Well at a former Corporation where I was CTO (been many so no guessing which one) I remember when the head of customer support implemented a system that provided the tech support people with call tracking and scripts to handle many if not most likely support calls.  The Tech Support person was polite and professional and absolutely no help....the "problem" I was experiencing wasn't in his scripts, and he had interpreted the "guidelines" as rigid limitations so the only answer he had was "not supported at this time."
The best:

  • We are building a very large SaaS application using one of our partner's technology WorkXpress and since we were stretching the limits of their tools (or usually our knowledge of the tools) we were making almost daily tech support calls.  The folks at WorkXpress were always very responsive and helpful and not dismissive with responses like "Read the *&%^% Documentation" that I have found even from some of the big boys.  But that wasn't enough and we were "escalating" occasionally.  Their CTO took over tech support and while we could still call their help desk with minor problems he was also on call (asynchronously due to time zones) and has even recorded videos on the tougher solutions.
  • Just recently we lost our demo server hosted on our Infrastructure as a Service partner ProfitBricks.  The loss was a combination of human errors on both our parts, a perfect storm of misunderstanding and perfectly logical actions on both sides...."Hit Shappens" What they did about it was the difference.  Instead of finger pointing and excuses and "live with it" because we were definitely partly to blame, they went the extra mile and their CEO called me and explained what happened which I had already drawn the same conclusion, and he volunteered for his staff to recreate the instances we needed and give us a credit double the cost of the lost service.  All we had to do was tell them what we had on the instances and they would do the work!
Now I have been in this business a long time (wrote my first program on punched paper tape in 1970) and I have seen the best and the worst tech support and customer relations and I am proud to say two of our partners are definitely in the "Best" category.  Thank you!



Monday, March 25, 2013

PaaS Lessons Learned

A few years ago there was an industry darling called Coghead. It was proclaimed by pundits as "the next wave".  It failed, and when it failed it took many partners that had invested millions in products based on the platform with it.  One of those partners wrote about the failure in his blog.  You can read it here.

Since O4BO and our partner WorkXpress offer a Platform as a Service similar on the surface to what Coghead offered, I think it worthwhile to go over the reasons for the failure and our measures to learn from and address those issues:

  1. The Economy - Coghead was depending on Investors for operating capital and as the economy went into recession, some of those investors backed out, stranding Coghead.  O4BO and WorkXpress are NOT leveraged as heavily and we do NOT depend on continuing investor dollars for our operations.
  2. A blurred line between development tool and platform - O4BO uses the IBM SmartCloud for a much more reliable Infrastructure and deployment platform.  The WorkXpress Platform as a Service is also mature and completely Cloud based.  O4BO also offers Integration as a Service such that any application can be deployed and integrated into our subscriber's solutions.
  3. He said, she said. Coghead’s messaging was schizophrenic - One thing that is constant is change and as things change the messaging changes as well.  All we can do is be aware and not to promise too much that is future based.
  4. Who is our Customer?  Coghead couldn't decide.  We know that our customer is first and foremost the Small to Medium sized Business that needs business oriented software at a n affordable price, plus the ability to customize that software easily.  
  5. Whatever happened with the Coghead Gallery? Coghead promised a Gallery of applications built by its partners but never delivered.  O4BO and WorkXpress already have that and since O4BO uses Liferay, our ISV partners will be able to list their applications for sale to our other subscribers easily.  
  6. The case of the mysterious disappearing employees - I think this is a symptom of the heavily leveraged operating capital.  The turn over of both O4BO and WorkXpress personnel is almost nil.
  7. Don’t volunteer your customers and partners to do your QA.  Simply put, both O4BO and WorkXpress have a mature product lifecycle process and you can count on getting tested solutions.
  8. Make Money With Coghead. This relates to #4 and knowing who the customer is makes all the difference.  Yes we welcome people that want to integrate and sell to our subscribers, but we are NOT depending on that to be our customer base.
  9. You hang me out to dry.  Here is where O4BO and WorkXpress will prove to shine.  O4BO offers Open Source software solutions that are completely portable.  If O4BO goes out of business all our subscribers will be able to take their software and data and leave and run someplace else, perhaps with fewer capabilities but certainly not completely gone like Coghead.  WorkXpress can also be deployed to any cloud and run independently in the case of WorkXpress demise.  Together your investment is secure.
Treff LaPlante, CEO or WorkXpress says, "Most all businesses need a mix of off the shelf and custom software to run efficiently.  One of the biggest drawbacks of PaaS as a standalone solution is that the off the shelf products built on most PaaS are less mature than SaaS competitors.  O4BO is bringing mature top quality pre-built solutions coupled with the best no-code PaaS on the planet for customization, and that is exactly what most businesses need to run efficiently".

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Small Business SaaS Scenario

A small Business Process Outsourcing company recently came to O4BO looking for solutions for their customers.  They were a small business without significant IT expertise and they outsourced all their IT work to a local company (BTW the same local company that incubated O4BO).

They needed CRM integrated with AWeber and the ability to manage the content of their web site and provide a portal to their customers.

We gave them that in a bundle that included 3 custom portlets for the Liferay portal, 3 custom workflows on our ESB and 8 hours of professional services time to get them setup and running.

Their ongoing monthly subscription fee was less than just a single user of and included all 15 of their employees as users.

The work we did, as part of that bundle, was to train them on how to create a landing page that captured email addresses for prospects that fed into AWeber for an auto-responder and into our CRM SaaS solution.

They used the Liferay portal private pages to give their customers a portal into reports and data entry and we created custom portlets for capturing the data entry.

We are also customizing our O4Books application to be better tailored to their customer needs while remaining customization will be with WorkXpress.

When deployed their customized accounting solution roughly equivalent to QuickBooks Premier or Online Plus, will cost $10/user/mo.

References available on request.

Mike Oliver Founder, Open 4 Business Online
Tel: +1(951)260-0793 | Mobile:*NEW 639479927462
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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

AWeber affiliate

We are now an AWeber affiliate...

password the usual

Mike Oliver Founder, Open 4 Business Online
Tel: +1(951)260-0793 | Mobile:*NEW 639479927462
Mas marunong akong umunawa ng salitang tagalog kaysa magkapagsalita nito
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn AngelList Blogger eBay YouTube Google Plus Page
Contact me: Google Talk Skype MikeOliverAZ