Posts Tagged ‘Powersoft’

Is WaveMaker the Web 2.0 version of PowerBuilder?

November 30, 2007 3 comments

Some meetings are just fun (I can’t always say that..sometimes I just want to run away and hide under my desk). But my meeting today with WaveMaker reminded me of the type of meetings I had in the .com days. I admit I was excited about what I heard. Now a disclaimer — I haven’t taken a look at the technology itself. I haven’t reviewed their architecture. But I tell you about what I heard and what I liked.

This is not a brand new company. It just changed its name from ActiveGrid (a great name if you are running a data grid company but awful if you are a development environment for web 2.0 for the enterprise).

A lot of the corporations I have worked with and talked to about their SOA strategies are frustrated by the show development groups that bring in cool tools without any knowledge or approval of IT. This problem is as old as IT itself. I remember when I worked at John Hancock in the 1980s, it was common for the actuaries to sneak PCs into their department so they could get something done because IT was backlogged.

The problem has gotten a lot worse since those days. Now, when a department brings in its own development tools and technology, it can cause massive security breaches because these innocent projects happen to touch corporate data and cause decisions to be made out of context. Yet, it continues to happen. It got worse in the Internet days and it is getting worse in the Web 2.0 days — we are all developers and we can use the web to do anything we need for our businesses.

So, what does the newly named WaveMaker do? They provide what they are calling the WaveMaker Visual Assembly Studio. It is a service based approach to development. Everything within the environment is a service. It has web services interfaces so that an organization can default to the corporate authentication and authorization model. The studio generates a pure Java application.

While the company is of the Open Source world — it offers a free version of its development studio to be used for testing purposes. It supports a open source developer community called However, it also sells its framework.

The company is really just getting off the group but has about six customers including, Brunswick Bowling, National Citibank in Cincinnati, Pioneer Energy, and American Express. Not a bad start. CEO, Chris Keene told me that the reason the company was able to sell to those companies is that the development environment gives the business user Web 2.0 type interactivity and graphical development while keeping control of the computing infrastructure.

What was most interesting to me is the connection that WaveMaker is making with PowerSoft and its PowerBuilder platform — the company that transformed the graphical development process. This was a company that I knew quite well. I tortured the management team when I labeled PowerBuilder the poster child of the Fat Client Syndrome — a term I coined in the early 90s. It is interesting to note that Mitch Kertzman, one of the founders of PowerSoft is an investor in WaveMaker. If the company follows Kertzman’s lead of creating graphical development for the masses of Cobol developers, the company might be on to a good thing.

But, of course, WaveMaker isn’t alone. Companies like Microsoft with Silverlight, Adobe with Flex, and a host of new players such as Nexaweb, Jackbe, and Kapow — I wrote about these companies in my January 20th entry.

What may be different about WaveMaker is the focus on a the connection between the free wheeling Web 2.0 world and the structured world of enterprise IT.

Acronyms, clichés, jargon, and othe stupid vendor tricks

July 18, 2007 Leave a comment

Now, I have been in the technology space for a long time and I have witnessed what seems like every vendor who has passed through the market, hawking their wares and positioning their technology.  More and more I am convinced that marketers simply don’t get it.  I recently was helping a vendor (who shall remain nameless) position a new product.  They started by going through their existing pitch.  About half way through I couldn’t stand it any more. “Please stop,” I said. “Have you used this pitch with prospects?” “Of course,” the marketing maven said.  “Let me guess, the CIO and his team didn’t ask many questions. They listened politely.”  The marketing VP seemed surprised – he nodded in agreement; yes, that is exactly how the scenario progressed.  “Did you make the sale?” I already knew the answer – well, no. 


Without being in the room or knowing the customer, it was obvious what was wrong. The vendor was using so many acronyms, jargon, and platitudes that the customer had no idea what the vendor were trying to sell.  Our poor marketing VP thought he said, “Our new improved product will solve all of your problems because we are a better solution than anyone else in the market. It is easier to implement, and easier to use. The product will enable your business people to be better able to compete in the market and save money.  Therefore if we work together your company will have a competitive advantage in the market.  We will make you strong and better!”


In reality, this is what the customer heard: “Our XML Performance Mapper BCL is the top accelerator of the massive BFD that protects your CMBL against incursion of BRI.  Unlike other BCL solutions, our offerings will stop the massive inability of your company to achieve consistent DXL capabilities.  This offering will help you link people, process and technology to its fullest capacity!”


I don’t know about you, but the previous paragraph makes absolutely no sense – and you will be relieved to hear that it was not meant to mean anything. But think about it. If you are selling complicated technology to a high level audience, throwing around jargon like this is like speaking a foreign language that no one will understand.  And you know the first principle of good marketing is that no one will buy what they don’t understand.


What’s more, prospective customers will not ask you to explain the jargon you are feeling so cleaver about.  For example, when you say EM instead of Enterprise Management, it doesn’t help your prospect understand what you are selling.  When you use AD instead of applications development, your prospect might think you are talking about Animal Diseases.  Your prospects are not necessarily going to tell you how stupid they are feeling. They simply will show you the door and look for a solution from someone else who can speak plainly. 


So, here is my prescription for good marketing of complex technologies:


  1. Never, never reduce your product category or your product names into a set of acronyms. Use your time to explain your value without resorting to short cuts.
  2. Focus on customer benefit.  I can’t tell you how many times I have to ask vendors what problems a technology solves for its customers.  What is the benefit?  Once a customer implements a technology how does the organization change? Is the company better able to serve its own customers?
  3. Stay away from clichés.  While you may be very sincere in talking about your focus on people, process, and technology – the phrase is so over-used that it loses it meaning. 
  4. Find a way to make your customer a hero.  The best marketing programs I have seen have a hidden agenda.  If your product can be designed and marketed to ensure that your customer gets a promotion because of the success of your technology, they will follow you to the end of the earth and tell everyone they meet that they must use your technology. PowerSoft is the best example from the distant pass that I remember.  The PowerSoft graphical user environment was not the most sophisticated product in terms of architecture but it was able to turn a COBOL programmer with no future into a client/server guru.  Now, that’s successful marketing!


My bottom line is that marketing is an undervalued skill. Companies mistake good acronyms for good marketing.  I challenge the marketers out there to start talking to your customers and prospects differently.  Lose the jargon!  Remember, it’s about customer benefit and value.  How will your technology help these human beings who are just trying to make a living and justify their value to their bosses for another day?   Let’s start a dialog here. Send me your acronyms, your jargon, and your clichés!  Maybe we can launch a startling new trend!