Poshly: a great practical example of Big Data in action

August 31, 2014 Comments Off

With any new innovation, hype can often outstrip results, especially in the early days. A few years back, we saw this with Service Oriented Architecture (SOA): it had lots of promise, but there were relatively few examples of successful implementations. Nowadays, SOAP and REST services – supported by the principles of service orientation – are the primary techniques that distributed applications use to communicate. This has led to all sorts of innovative solutions, especially when pairing these services with mobile devices.

The same things are happening in Big Data: you hear about it all the time, but it’s natural to wonder how it’s being used to add value. Unsurprisingly, new technologies are often viewed as solutions in search of problems, and this is particularly relevant for Big Data since it’s such an all-encompassing discipline.

For Big Data, it’s always useful to look for practical applications: first define the problem, and then use Big Data to supply the solution. Poshly is a textbook example of what I mean: Big Data technologies and practices are being applied to meaningful problems, thereby helping customers answer questions that were very difficult to resolve prior to these advances.

Disclosure: I’m an investor in Poshly through my participation in Astia Angels, an organization I encourage you to check out. Poshly recently closed a $1.5MM investment, which you can read about here at TechCrunch.

Poshly’s website offers a variety of beauty product giveaways which consumers can compete to win by answering personal questions about their beauty routines, habits, interests, and more. The data these questions generate is highly personalized, but only shared with Poshly’s brand customers after being anonymized – meaning users’ personally identifiable information is removed, like their name, email or address. This “hyper-personal data,” as CEO Doreen Bloch calls it, helps brands better understand their customer base in general, or influence larger decisions, like what retail channel to roll out to next, for example.

I’m increasingly learning about dynamic startups like Poshly that are finding realistic uses for Big Data. As time goes by, I suspect that eventually we’ll stop using the term Big Data, and depict it instead as just plain “data” as we portray the exciting ways that information is being put to work.

Last day to tell the FCC you support an open Internet

July 15, 2014 Comments Off

Eight hours to go. That’s how long we have to get pro-Net Neutrality comments submitted to the FCC in front of their first comment period deadline — and save the Internet.

Let’s make our power clear, by submitting more comments than the FCC’s ever seen before.

Click here to visit our brand new website and send the FCC a formal comment demanding support for Net Neutrality. It’ll only take a minute:

https://www.battleforthenet.com

We’re in a battle to for the Internet as we know it. Net Neutrality guarantees all websites — start-ups, blogs, independent media — an even playing field. It’s essentially the First Amendment of the Internet.

But the cable companies want to gut Net Neutrality to increase their profits: Without Net Neutrality, those corporations can kill websites by relegating them to slow lanes if they don’t pay fees — or if they just don’t like the content they contain.

Many of you have already signed petitions to the FCC or President Obama — and so have literally millions of others. That’s incredible — and it’s had a huge impact. But now we all need to go one step further and submit formal comments into the FCC’s Net Neutrality proceeding.

It’s really quick and easy, and carries way more weight than the usual petition signature does. You’ll be a formal part of the process.

Click here to submit a formal comment to the FCC before the end of this comment period — it’s over TOMORROW:

https://www.battleforthenet.com

Originally the FCC was poised to undermine Net Neutrality all together. Because we all pushed back, now they’re considering adopting rules that would save it.

But they’ll only do so if we speak out again, even louder.

We can make a huge statement: We have a chance of submitting more comments than the FCC has ever received on an issue before.

The cable companies have millions of dollars and armies of lobbyists and public relations firms — and since they own so much of the communications infrastructure, it’s especially easy for them to push their propaganda.

But we have millions of people on our side — and our only chance of beating the cable companies is if we all take a stand, together.

Click here to visit our brand new website and send the FCC a formal comment demanding support for Net Neutrality. It’ll only take a minute:

https://www.battleforthenet.com

Thanks!

SoapUI Pro On-Demand Training and Certification now available

June 10, 2014 § 1 Comment

I’m happy to announce the availability of on-demand training for SoapUI Pro, along with a comprehensive certification exam. This extensive, self-paced training course gives you all the tools you need to get the most from SoapUI Pro. After you’ve learned about SoapUI Pro’s far-reaching architecture, you’ll discover how to put SoapUI Pro’s features to work to build powerful unit, functional, and security tests.

The class is composed of 3 ½ hours of lectures along with dozens of straightforward, easy-to-understand examples and demonstrations. More than 150 questions will measure your comprehension of the materials, and thus prepare you for the optional SoapUI Pro certification exam.

Here’s a link to the class syllabus; below is a small class sample. 

If you’d like to learn more and register, click here.

Proof of concept best practice #5: Demand internal support

May 27, 2014 § 1 Comment

We’ve now reached the final installment of my suggestions to improve your proof of concept experience. As I’ve been pointing out through this entire series, for complex products or services, a POC is a critical milestone on the road to a sale. You don’t arrive at a POC by accident: your prospect thinks enough of your solution to dedicate time and resources to making a decision. Yet just when you think you’re going to win the deal, complacency or sluggishness during the POC will doom the sale.

To increase the likelihood of a sale, POCs should always proceed with a sense of urgency. Naturally, you want your prospect to be energized about moving forward, but you also need support from your colleagues, too. Assistance can come from diverse channels like engineering, customer service, operations, and so on – in fact, everyone in your company should be available to help sales.

Yet far too often, your co-workers may have a lackadaisical approach towards ongoing sales efforts, particularly from those who are not customer facing. Meanwhile, the POC flounders and then fails due to this tranquil attitude, yet the blame always falls on the sales team.

To prevent these disheartening outcomes, don’t be shy about asking for help. In fact, you should be extremely vocal in your demands, as long as the other criteria for the POC have been met:

  1. The POC must always occur in the context of a sale
  2. The POC must have a client-side business and technical sponsor
  3. The POC must have a clearly defined set of goals
  4. The POC must have an agreed-upon timeline

Creating a project plan – just like for a post-sales implementation – is a great way to coordinate all of your colleagues on the POC. It should clearly delineate the roles and responsibilities for everyone on the team, and you should share it with your management. It’s your job to keep it updated and provide frequent progress reports.

Finally, if you see trouble on the horizon due to insufficient internal support, don’t stand idly by and watch it become insurmountable. It’s better to alert people to potential problems and take action than to wait and hope for the best: if you’re not getting what you need, your timeline for demanding help should be measured in minutes or hours, rather than days or weeks.

I’ve worked with quite a few technology companies to help optimize their technical sales processes. If you’d like to learn more, you can email me here.

Proof of concept best practice #4: Always set – and achieve – a schedule

April 21, 2014 § 2 Comments

In this next edition of my ongoing series on proof-of-concept (POC) best practices, I describe how important it is to create and then stick to a schedule for completing the POC.

For many vendors, the POC is the last step on the road to a deal. Hopefully, a contract has been placed in front of the customer, finances have been negotiated, and the implementation schedule has been set.

Over the course of my career, I’ve seen many deals derailed by an endless POC. Sometimes this was because of technical challenges or general prospect inefficiencies, but there were also numerous cases of deliberate sabotage and foot-dragging by the prospect’s employees who were likely to be impacted by our solution. Whatever the cause, it’s extremely easy to lose momentum and have the POC stall. And when the higher-ups at the prospect check in, they’ll be dismayed to see that nothing is happening. This plants seeds of doubt in their minds, even if it’s not your fault.

Luckily, there are some pretty straightforward things you can do to keep the POC  – and the sale itself – moving forward on time:

  1. Define and communicate a schedule. Earlier I described how important it is to have a statement of work (SOW) for the POC. The same holds true regarding a schedule. Don’t forget to broadcast the schedule to everyone.
  2. Make your schedule aggressive. Try to overcome your natural tendency to allow plenty of time to complete your tasks. Instead, your goal should be to inject a sense of urgency into the POC process, with an achievable schedule that will require a significant effort from everyone that’s involved: POCs should feel frenetic, never leisurely.
  3. Break a highly complex, lengthy POC into smaller, separate targets. As you achieve each of these milestones, be sure to report on your progress to as wide an audience as possible: don’t let the prospect’s lower-level staff act as gatekeepers – or roadblocks – for your good news.

I’ve worked with quite a few technology companies to help optimize their technical sales processes. If you’d like to learn more, you can email me here.

Mission-Critical Service Testing Fundamental #6: “Test Your Services Under Anticipated Load” Webinar is now available

March 23, 2014 § 1 Comment

Load testing is an essential, but often overlooked aspect of making sure your services are ready for prime time. If this topic interests you, be sure to check out the next installment of my ongoing series on service testing best practices. You’ll find the newest Webinar here.

If you’re interested in being notified of future editions, subscribe to the blog or follow me on Twitter: @RD_Schneider.

I’m hosting a prospective member virtual event for Astia Angels on March 24

March 9, 2014 Comments Off

How often do you get the chance to do the right thing, make great connections, and profit from the experience – all at the same time?

Astia Angels, launched in early 2013, is an international network of male and female accredited investors that puts capital to work in women-led, high-growth ventures. All Astia Angels members are highly involved throughout the investment process and make independent investment decisions. Astia Angels holds regular in-person pitch meetings in Silicon Valley, New York City, Boston and in London in 2015. Astia Angels also participate on virtual presentations and national phone calls. Astia Angels is a program of Astia.

Members of Astia Angels:

  • Get early exposure to community-screened, high potential companies
  • Participate in an organized process that ensures the wise and effective use of their time
  • Profit from Astia’s proven, proprietary process that produces high-quality deal flow
  • Engage in post-investment programs that contribute to the success of the portfolio companies
  • Network with the Global Astia Community, including invitation-only events and programs
  • Join a growing movement to increase the funding for women-led, high-growth companies

Want to learn more? Sign up for the Astia Angels virtual meeting that we’re holding on March 24 at 4 pm PT, 7 pm ET.

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