Software Marketing

From the foreword to Rick Chapman’s new book, In Search of Stupidity, written by Joel Spolsky:

If you want to be successful in the software business, you have to have a management team that thoroughly understands and loves programming, but they have to understand and love business, too. Finding a leader with strong aptitude in both dimensions is difficult, but its the only way to avoid making one of those fatal mistakes that Rick catalogs lovingly in this book.

Business Activity Monitoring

Line56 (an article by TIBCO’s Scott Fingerhut) writes:

BAM may in fact be one of the most important initiatives for the next 5 years. Why? Because not since the hype around “Executive Information Systems” (EIS) has their been an enterprise push toward bridging a dialogue between potential BAM users (business) and IT management and fundamentally improving managerial cycle times. The closest we’ve seen for the last 10 years has been through the business analyst that typically retains no decision-making authority and who oftentimes is an “IT specialist” that can leverage a data warehouse to run analytic queries. Frustration on both sides of the organization is at an all time high. Business reports are never quite what the business wants or delivered in a timely manner. It is analogous to asking a friend to buy a couch for you, not fully understanding your needs, your taste or your vision of the living room. Every time your friend returns with a new couch, you ask for slight changes and both of you begin to get frustrated. In the case of the couch, your living room suffers, for organizations, customers, partners and sales suffer.

Imagine the significant business improvements when two very important things happen: 1) Analysts are transformed back from middle-man reporters to true researchers questing to understand business performance and hidden indicators; and 2) Executive, line and operational business managers become entrenched in partnering and guiding new information systems around their key business performance indicators to take active roles to fundamentally improve business on a day-to-day basis. Business managers will access and interact with BAM systems that enable them to ask their questions and get answers back in “right-time.”

BAM will take on many shapes in the ultimate effort to improve the speed, agility and effectiveness of business operations. The most successful efforts will depend on three-way partnerships between the company’s business and IT units and vendors.

Buzz without Bucks

Fast Company writes about how “smart companies are discovering that you don’t need big budgets to deliver a big message. By cleverly cultivating buzz, small businesses with tiny budgets can level the playing field with established giants. Their motto: When it comes to building a brand, word of mouth is priceless.”

More important are people whom Marian Salzman calls “bees.” These folks aren’t satisfied just knowing the next cool thing. They live to spread the news — and others listen to them. “Bees are the critical link between the genesis of a trend and its ultimate incarnation in the world of the mainstream consumer,” Salzman explains. Harness their power, she says, and watch the news spread, from cell phone to email to Weblog to cash register.

t’s all about influencing the influencers. “Finding the superconnectors is the key to a targeted, successful buzz strategy. Go to the trend spreaders and plant yourself intelligently on their radar”, says Salzman.

Macromedia Central

An interview with Tim O’Reilly is always an interesting read. In this excerpt, he talks about Macromedia, having just joined their board.

I find Central fascinating, because I do think that we’re deconstructing the browser these days. Central is one of several attempts to take the web apart and put it together in new ways. On Mac OS X, Watson and Sherlock are analogous examples. And of course RSS and related syndication technologies are also deconstructing the web in new ways.

We’re entering a new world in which data may be more important than software. The frameworks that enable the manipulation and distribution of that data are yet to be defined. Flash does enable great cross-platform interfaces using a small client footprint (orders of magnitude smaller than Java), so if we can just open up the right kind of innovation and sharing on top of that platform, a lot of great stuff can happen.

It’s essential that we keep those new frameworks open and cooperative. I used David Weinberger’s wonderful phrase above: “small pieces loosely joined.” This is the current architecture of the internet. Tools like Flash and Central are really useful, but they don’t currently support that architecture. However, I believe there is an opportunity for them to play better on the Internet, and by doing so, to become even more successful than they already are.

Would be interesting to look at Macromedia Central for the rich web clients.

TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India 2: Education

Education plays a paramount role in the process of economic development. Besides being instrumental in development, it is also an end in itself because it helps people lead better lives. For broad-based sustainable economic development, primary education is critical. Neglect of primary education is endemic in developing nations.

Public support of education is often regressive. For instance, public spending on education for a set of selected developing countries by income quintile shows that the poorest income quintile receives around 14 percent of total spending, while the highest receives around 28 percent (Source: World Development Report 2000/2001: Attacking Poverty” Oxford University Press). Systematic discrimination against the poor regarding public spending in education is also found in India. As shown in the table below, public expenditure for elementary education is only 0.17% of GDP for India.

For 2003-04             (in US$ billion)  Percentage of GDP
GDP                          $ 581              100.00
Aggregate Govt Budget        $  93               16.08
All social services and
poverty alleviation          $  14                2.49
All education                $   6                1.05
Elementary education         $   1                0.17

The public support of higher education primarily benefits the urban rich and middle class. The policy choice of supporting higher education at the cost of the neglect of basic education is short-sighted. Policy makers must recognize the redressing of the imbalance as one of the most critical challenges facing them. This task is made more tractable by the wide availability of ICT tools. The leverage provided by these tools releases the severe resource constraints that bound the task of bringing primary education to the population.

Education can be categorized into primary, secondary, adult, and vocational. We will focus on primary education since the arguments can be easily extended to the other categories.

Primary Education

Primary education is a public good. Therefore, the level of primary education provided by the market can be expected to be lower than the socially optimal level. Therefore it is up to the government to step in and either provide primary education itself or subsidize its provision by the private sector.

The higher income groups living in urban areas have the willingness and the ability to pay for primary education. The low income groups in urban areas and most income groups in rural areas do not have the ability to pay for education

One way of solving the problem would be for the government to provide credit to the poor so that they could pay for primary education. However, given the small size of the budget allocated for primary education and the immense size of the relevant population, it is a challenge that cannot be addressed without resort to technology induced increase in productivity in the education sector.

To briefly review the broad scope of the problem of primary education , we note that literacy is only 80% in urban areas and 60% in rural India. (For urban areas, the male literacy level is 86% and for females it is 73%; the corresponding numbers for rural areas are 71% and 47%. Data from Census of India 2001 and from the Azim Premji Foundation.) About 36% of all 7-14 year old children are illiterate. That is, the total population in rural and urban areas that needs primary education is 340 million. The annual budget for primary education is only US$1 billion (See Table 1). Therefore per capita approximately $3 per year is available for primary education. This sum is clearly inadequate even if utilized most efficiently under the current method of delivering primary education. Thus if we consider that the budget constraint is hard, then the only way out is to innovate in the process of imparting primary education .

Just to provide primary education, India requires seven million teachers if one were to have a 1:50 teacher to student ratio. Not only is that number formidable, the problem is compounded by the fact that these teachers are mainly required in the rural areas where the current number of qualified teachers is extremely low.

Tomorrow: Distance Education

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