OpenWorld attendees, do you Bambhudda?

I might get in trouble for doing this, but if you’re a reader of this blog, AND you are going to OpenWorld this year in San Francisco, AND you’re a customer or other user of our Projects application (or at least interested in Projects), AND you want to attend our totally swank event on Tuesday night in the city, then all you have to do is join our OpenWorld Connect group (it’s totally free) and let me know about it! 

How easy is that?

Once you join our group on Connect, just send me a message to projectguru and you’ll be hooked up.

The ‘S’ in SaaS doesn’t stand for ‘sticky’

I attended an interesting conference yesterday called the Software Marketing Perspectives Conference here in Austin.  Although the focus of the conference was on Product Management and new trends or solving some common issues for product managers, the most interesting portion I found was a discussion we had about the growing emergence of SaaS (Software as a Service). 

I’m sure most everyone is familiar now with SaaS since the rise of certain companies like Salesforce.com have given legitimacy to the concept, so I certainly don’t want to expound on the virtues, many thought there may be.  I was definitely more interested in the challenges of creating a product that is SaaS focused and how to sustain and grow said product. 

Certainly one of the big benefits for SaaS is the low cost to get started when using an application.  I don’t know how much Salesforce.com costs, but I am focusing more on smaller applications anyway, such as an application like OpenProj from Projity.  They have an MS Project killer application on their hands that costs only $19.99/month per user.  Awesome!  Hereis a recent review of OpenProj.

Here’s the issue I thought of yesterday when I was discussing this with one of the conference attendees…what is there to stop anyone from switching products as often as they gas up their Prius?  As I mentioned in an earlier posting, there is no shortage of companies out there trying to sign you up as a customer for their next killer project management application.  Certainly given the low cost (or often free for a while) price tag companies can continually shop around trying new products and seeing who truly is the best of breed.

Here’s the bottom line – the challenge for SaaS vendors, especially smaller ones who may come late to a market, is how do you keep your customers coming back after you’ve given them the taste of your product?  What keeps your products sticky?  It’s much easier for big enterprise companies because the investment up front was already substantial and to switch to another large enterprise vendor will cost considerable dollars.  But in this new nimble world of smaller, on demand software what is going to be the catch that keeps the customers coming back when the barriers to switch are getting lowered all the time?

Shameless self promotion!

If you’re planning to go to Oracle OpenWorld this year in San Francisco (Nov 11-14th) be sure to make it to a session called Oracle Project Management for DoD Earned Value Compliance: ViaSat’s Perspective .

I will be introducing our customer ViaSat who have been doing some cool things with our Earned Value feature in Project Management.  Ryan Denner and Tim Cronin from ViaSat will be presenting the meat of the presentation and I’ll just be the wrapper for them.  We kick off on the Monday at 4.45 pm in Room 2016 – L2 (I have no idea where that is right now but I’m sure there will be maps).

If you come by and have read this blog please let me know if you like it or have any suggestions for topics!  Thanks.

Postcard from Hotlan….err…Atlanta!

Talk about an overused alias for a city.  I wonder how the residents of Atlanta feel when every conference that comes into town probably uses ‘Hotlanta’ to promote their events to out of towners.  It’s a great city to be sure, but they need to come up with something other than “Hot…” well, you know what.

I’ve been at the PMI conference over the weekend in Atlanta and it’s been a very excellent conference for us.  We tend to have an image issue at Oracle just because our database product is so well known.  A lot of companies know we have the database and are surprised when they find out we have applications such as Financials, HR, SCM, CRM and yes…PROJECTS!!

It was with mixed emotions I talked to several of our customers that knew of or were even using our Financials application but had no idea what our Projects application abilities were.  Hopefully we were able to shed some light on our capabilities to the masses and get the word out.  “Yes, Oracle has Projects and we’re damn good too!”

Just in case you missed speaking with us at the conference, here’s a link to some of the material we were showing off at our booth which illustrates the wide range of Projects applications we have.  We also give the love to both our Oracle AND PeopleSoft customers too.  See here for the information about our ESA (Enterprise Service Automation)product (aka PeopleSoft Projects).

It was very fun and I’ll be posting some more updates from the conference very soon.

Distractions and confidence? What do they have in common?

I said a little while back that I was going to review some of the Project Management software out there.  Funny how quickly things become a little while back, then turn into a longer while back, then it becomes too embarrassing to even bring it up again.

This is a good segue into one of the first products that I thought had some really interesting features.  A company called Devshop has focused their sights on planning for Software projects.  Even though they have a narrow focus, that doesn’t detract from the value of some of the features they built into their product.

The first one, which relates to why I’ve been remiss in updating this blog, is all about distractions.  Who doesn’t have distractions these days with the ability to be contacted by almost anyone in numerous ways throughout the day.  When you’re trying to focus on completing project tasks the amount of distractions that come your way directly affects productivity, your progress and then of course the on time delivery of your project.  This is handled in Devshop by allowing you to tag tasks as distractions.  These are non-project related tasks that pull your resources away from completing their project tasks.

I remember my days when implementing PeopleSoft at customer sites back in the later 90’s.  Using a mouse and Windows was often a new experience for some of our manufacturing customers.  They were used to the green screen systems.  So a large part of my time was spent teaching them how to use a mouse, how to open and utilize multiple windows, where to find the Solitaire game, etc etc.  Being able to show my PM all of the distractions that happened during the day would have been a great way to raise the visibility of those time sucking tasks.

Also, by being able to track the distracting tasks and make them visible to project executives, it makes it easier to get change control items approved.  Of course anyone could create new project tasks to track distracting activities, but I like how Devshop has considered this and built it right into their product.Another key feature I think they’ve built in is the confidence factor.  Anyone can create a plan with dates and say when they believe the project will be done.  That doesn’t do PM’s or executives any good though when dates keep shifting as the project moves along and tasks slip.  If decisions are made based on those dates, wouldn’t you want to know how sure the PM is that those dates are truly achievable, and how much of it is pie in the sky, best case scenario?The confidence factor in Devshop is directly tied to how many requirements, designs and time estimates are in approved or unapproved status.  The more that are approved, the higher the confidence level and therefore the more ‘confident’ you can be in your plan dates being hit. 

The simplistic beauty of this confidence index number is that when someone asks a PM for a finish date on a task or the project overall, the PM can give them an answer along with a caveat based on the confidence number.  Now you’re giving more information to the decision makers.  Do they want to go ahead and order some expensive new equipment when a dependency task has only a 10% confidence factor that it will be done on the current scheduled date?  If that confidence factor is 80% how would they feel?

The other important thing to remember is that these confidence scores come from actual work being done and approved.  They aren’t just a best guess of the task owners collectively so you can put some faith in the number.