The Bull and the Honeybee

Phil Wainwright over at ZDnet posted a “SaaS sales myth debunking” post which caught my attention, mostly because it illustrates an fundamental learning in the Enterprise 2.0 and Eneterprise Social Software market. Phil’s point is that the need for a regional team is a myth and that companies are successfully sellign and implementing solely on the web. My take is that Phil’s mostly correct, although he hasn’t addressed the boogey man of enterprise 2.0 and enterprise social software – integration with proprietary systems.

So what does this have to do with cattle and honeybees? While living in New York, I got to know a few local organic providers in upstate New York who took it upon themselves to educate this city boy. The folks I got to know were involved in a diverse number of activities – organic flowers, organic ranching, etc. One of the conversations we drummed up over a beer involved honey cultivation. I was told point blank “100% organic honey” is just a meaningless marketing term. The reason is that bees require a foraging range of several miles to have access to the materials they need. Despite quality control efforts by ranchers, some bees invariably fly out and back into the hive with pesticides and fertilizers in tow. Contrast that with cows, chickens, and other such animals where simply building a fence and sourcing the right food and water will produce the desired result. In other words, Cattle ranchers can completely operate in a self-contained and controlled environment while Honeybee ranchers can’t fully operate without integrating the outside world.

You probably see where I’m headed here – the Enterprise 2.0 and Enterprise Social Software world contains both “cattle” and “honeybee” applications. Facebook and Salesforce.com are classic consumer and enterprise examples of “cattle solutions” – users key in information, and for the most part, the application can function fully without the need for outside services. You can of course link to Flickr, for example to share your online photos with friends through plug-ins in Facebook, but the point here is you don’t need to loop in outside resources like Flickr to use Facebook. Same goes for salesforce. On the other end is Netvibes and Aria Systems, both of which I would call respectively consumer and enterprise “honeybee solutions”. Both services require data exchange with outside data stores to provide a fully user experience.  Based on my own experience at both Aria Systems and NetSuite, I find that “cattle” solutions can be sold effectively over the web for the most part, because customers can mostly set up these applications themselves and are ultimately responsible for the content. On the other hand, “honeybee” solutions require a web/regional hybrid sales model to fully leverage the benefits, since at the very least humans setting preferences and making design choices is required.

So for those of you launching a new Web 2.0 or Saas offering who want to know how to manage client expectations: are you a bull or a honeybee rancher?

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This entry was published on January 5, 2009 at 6:41 PM. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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