Yesterday was Day
One of the AIIM Expo, and I had the good fortune to attend John Newton’s talk
on Web 2.0. Having attended several of these, they’re usually a thinly
disguised rehash of Tim O’Reilly’s definition. In this case, while John made
the obligatory nod to Tim, he had an interesting twist that I’d never heard of
or thought of. He said, “Look, it’s simple—Web 2.0 is all right-brain stuff
[people, connections, spatial, artistic, future, conceptual]. It’s a viewpoint
that differs markedly from the left-brained [objects, analysis, linear,
logical, past, factual] programming viewpoint that has reigned for most of
ECM’s history.” He noted that one of Documentum’s design goals (John was co-founder of
Documentum) was that it should be fun to use. “We were never able to figure out
how to do that,” he lamented.
He attributed one of the drivers of this insight to going to the Davos Conference this year and attending “The Geek Dinner.” [The statesmen and power brokers are invited to the official dinner but the geeks – because their world view is so different and consequently make the movers and shakers uncomfortable – aren’t. In retaliation, the geeks have their own dinner, and as John notes, “It’s now quite an honor to be invited.”
I had a
briefing with John immediately after the talk, and he pointed out another interesting pattern. For example, he said one of the benefits of being head of an open source company (Alfresco) was that prospects get to kick the tires on their own time, and hence are much more ready to buy when they contact Alfresco. "For example," he said, "we've had around 15,000 downloads of Alfresco. If a customer is interested in buying the commercial version (to get support), we typically don't hear from the company until at least four months after their initial download. However, because they now know the software, they've already answered many of their initial questions. Accordingly, it takes us 45-60 days to close the sale, rather than the more typical 9 months cycle." In other words, the customer has sold itself on the thought, and Alfresco isn't burning money prospecting: the customers come to it.
I thought it was an interesting observation because most of the commentary about open source has talked about the different programming model, but not about the different sales model.