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December 2012

Google Trumps Apple at Christmas

What I Got My Kids (keep it a secret) and Why It's a Big Problem for Apple

Those who know me have accused me over the years of being an "Apple fan-boy". Although I would argue that I am really more of a technology geek and early adopter, it's hard to argue with the fan-boy moniker given that our home has been wall-to-wall Apple for well over a decade ‒‒ until now. Let us walk through the interesting chain of events (that I never saw coming).

My oldest daughter is in 5th grade and earlier this year my wife and I relented and allowed her to spend six months of hard-earned savings on an iPod Touch. This is a big moment in the life of any child these days ‒‒ their first "ianything." You would naturally assume that this event would represent the on-ramp to cementing her membership to the Apple nation, but I am not so sure.

Google Chrome vs AppleTwo things happened that set in motion a crack in our happy little Apple home.

First, her Touch necessitated the need for her first e-mail account. Without an e-mail account you are worthless in App-land, free or paid, and I was not ready to have my e-mail account associated with the onslaught of the latest children's games. So I got her a Gmail account of course ‒‒ never really considered Yahoo (sorry Marissa), Hotmail (or whatever it is called now), or Apple. It seemed like an innocent enough decision at the time.

The second event was her escalated need for a computer to do her school work. No problem here, except that although we have multiple iPads, we only have one true computer, an iMac. As the school year progressed, I have become increasingly accustomed to coming home from work and seeing my home desk littered with school papers, after-school snacks, and craft projects! Not ideal (conflicts with my OCD); something had to change.

It wasn't hard to see this day coming, and over the past year I had speculated about adding to our home computing footprint. Typically I would come to the conclusion that some flavor of Apple laptop was in the cards, most likely for the kids to use for their school machine. That said, I have been hesitant to spend $1500 on a beautiful machine that I knew would be subject to questionable care from two young children (and likely to suffer regularly from unintended technical challenges requiring me to play home help desk, ugh.)

And it happened, "a tremor in the Force" ‒‒ the $249 Chromebook from Samsung! I started researching and was more than intrigued. I use Google Docs for much of my personal work, and it makes perfect sense for students versus the overkill of Office. No complexity of a "full featured" OS. My daughter's highest anxiety part of the iMac and Office is act of saving ("what is a folder and where did my homework go?"). No worries; there's an auto save feature in Google Docs. My fear of some OS configuration, help desk nightmare was also gone (can't do much damage in a browser), and it was cheap (let them stick fruit wraps on it in the shape of turtles if that floats their boat!). Oh, and did I mention that I can outfit both kids with their own laptops for less than half the price of one Apple MacBook!

There's goes religion, and here comes a Chromebook under this year's Christmas tree (we will start with one), and the Apple zone will have been breached by Google. More important for Apple, my children will now be on-ramped to Google/Chrome as their platform for the next 10 years, not Apple. For the short-term Apple will no doubt be their mobile media and gaming platform, and they love it. But will my daughter someday ask for an Android phone or tablet because it works better with her schoolwork? And she already regularly listens to Spotify, will this move accelerate her migration away from iTunes? It would not shock me at all. Can you see the "platform cliff"?

One little iPod and an email account, and it is game over for Apple. What will they do? Good question? We love our iPads, but they are not going to replace workhorse computers for school and office for some time, if ever. And no offense, but iWork's Pages and Numbers don't cut it. Even without a Chromebook, my daughter is already sharing science fair documents with her project team and is asking to video conference while joint editing (all in Google). Wouldn't it be ironic if someday a low cost Apple laptop running Office365 ended up as Apple's response?

In short, I am starting to look at Apple as the better run, modern version of Microsoft (aghhh!). Albeit better on every front, but stuck with a bloated OS, heavy client side applications, an "own-first" media model, and more complex with higher cost to own. Google and ChromeOS felt exactly the opposite, embracing of all that makes the cloud attractive ‒‒ lightweight, low hassle, streaming centric, easy to use, and cheap. Billions of dollars and years of Google R&D have reached a point of critical mass that is compelling, and a structural threat to Apple.

My heart is still with Apple ‒‒ I love their design and products ‒‒ but the early adopter (and pragmatist) in me is seeing a Google future. Certainly Apple is not going away anytime soon, but they have some serious work to do to address a threat that has been engineered in a way that will be very hard for them to emulate (can you say Maps?). Maybe I will at least lose that annoying fan-boy tag.

Product Portfolio Management: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

How the Product Portfolio Management (PPM) Benchmark Study findings should inform 2013 planning

It's that wonderful time of year again -- planning, planning, and more planning. Where are you and your organization in the portfolio planning process at this point?

  • Patting ourselves on the back because we are done!
  • In the thick of it and taking ibuprofen regularly…
  • Oh my, just getting started, thanks for the reminder.

If you manage a product portfolio, it's likely you have some tough decisions to make for 2013. Given that nearly 70% of organizations reported that they had too many projects for their resources as their top pain point in the 3rd Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Survey (2012)*, it's vital to establish the right priorities and decisions about how resources will be used to support a product portfolio going into 2013.

But, that begs the question: how do you make the difficult tradeoffs, such as killing underperforming products and funding new ones, and do you have the data to make the decisions?

3rd Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study Infographic

Taking a look back, we can gain some insight from the Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study and related recommendations. More than 1,000 product development executives and managers have participated in three surveys (conducted in 2009, 2010 and 2012). To refresh your memory on the study, its parameters, findings and recommendations, check out the infographic and download the study today.

Here are some perspectives and recommendations offered in response to the study findings:

Kill Underperformers

First off, you are not alone if your company has a hard time killing underperforming products. Forty-five percent of companies reported that they only kill underperformers "some of the time" and 15% simply don't stop them once they've gone to market. Can companies afford to continue this approach given the top pain point was managing too many projects for their limited resources?

Recommendation 1: Stop underperformers; the planning process is precisely the time to address the process for dealing with underperformers by establishing a centralized location for analytical decision making and visibility, gathering consistent metrics for measurement, and evaluating the entire portfolio with the ultimate goal of directing more resources towards innovation and growth.

Turn on the Lights

The next question is: do you have available and accurate data to make these decisions? All too often, killing a product can be an emotional one or a challenge in certain company cultures. The PPM benchmark studies indicate that many companies either don't have on-demand access to data or don't feel the data is accurate. As an example, in the 2012 study, 55% of companies reported that they are unable to measure the cost of a product launch delay. In terms of accuracy, 40% indicated that their expected revenue forecasts were mostly inaccurate and nearly 45% said their schedule forecasts were mostly inaccurate.

Recommendation 2: Turn on the lights and scrub your data to make sure it's trustworthy. Make sure your dashboard is more than just a pretty picture it needs to have sufficient data integrity to support decision-making. This will serve your company far beyond annual planning because change is constant. The ability to have on-demand access to accurate data to evaluate different scenarios is needed throughout the year.

Get Started

If you have the data, it's easy to access on-demand and you can run various scenarios for your portfolio -- our prediction for you is that you have a bright year ahead. If you are not there yet, there is no better time than the present to get started and consider what your competition is doing. More than 75% of the PPM study participants in 2012 were planning to acquire or implement an automated PPM solution in the next 12 months.

Recommendation 3: Get started -- piecemeal or holistically. Find the most painful part and start to address it. Identify the technology needed, the processes that need updating, and how to go from data in silos to one system to access the truth. Budget for the tools and technology solutions you identify and make it happen.

Drill in on a Microcast about 2013 Planning

I drill further into these recommendations for planning and for 2013 in a new microcast with Carrie Nauyalis. Join us for a frank discussion on planning and portfolio management.

Good luck with your planning efforts and we'll be back to conduct the 4th benchmark study in Spring, 2013. We want to hear from all of you about the latest trends in PPM.

*All statistics from the 3rd Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study, conducted by Appleseed Partners and OpenSky Research and sponsored by Planview.

Going Hybrid, and I’m Not Talking about Cars (it’s about the Cloud) - The Cloud: Not Just for Startups AnymoreThe word "hybrid" typically conjures images of the Toyota Prius (only for now if Ford has anything to say about it), but in the world of enterprise software it is about evolving business models. Actually, and more importantly, going hybrid is about bringing more value to customers by providing them with choice -- the choice of cloud-based or on-premise software deployment models. Over the past several years we at Planview have put this hybrid approach at the core of our business. We have embraced SaaS as a transformational business initiative, but at the same time continue to embrace the on-premise model as well. Providing choice is ultimately about being customer-driven versus fighting industry-centric religious wars about business models and technologies. Without question, going hybrid has brought more value to our customers, partners, and shareholders. For more on this transition and how a cloud-hosted approach made it happen, see my recent article on WIRED.

The Cloud: Not Just for Startups Anymore

"Clearly cloud-based software solutions are here to stay. Whether in consumer or enterprise markets, the cloud has transformed the way we deploy and consume software applications. For enterprise customers, cloud-based software radically…" Read the full article.

Whose Job is Innovation?

Coffee Talk: The Product Portfolio Mavens Live from University of Texas in Austin, Texas

Howdy! We continue our "Coffee Talk" video series on the Planview YouTube Channel -- all about the latest news and trends taking place in innovation and Product Portfolio Management (PPM). This month's "Talk" comes to you from the University of Texas Campus in Austin where the Product Portfolio Mavens share insights discussed during the innovation workshop offered at Planview's user conference and from the recent PDMA PIM conference.

The "Integrated Innovation: Making Innovation Everyone's Job" workshop, generated a lot of dialogue. In the "Talk" the Mavens offer key takeaways presented in their own unique way. Some comments they share:

Coffee Talk: The Product Portfolio Mavens Live from University of Texas in Austin, Texas
Pamela Soin and Carrie Nauyalis

"You gotta have executive support to run your innovation program."

"Closed-loop learning is so important."

"Process is not just for process sake."

View the "Talk" to learn the outcome of the resource management discussion. You'll also find out more about Carrie's time at PDMA's PIM Conference and what inspired her about comparisons between companies that are the best versus the rest!

Check out these quick links to learn more on the topics the Mavens cover this month:

Have suggestions for future Coffee Talk locations? Know a hot topic you'd like the Mavens to weigh in on? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.