Australia is losing out with diminishing innovation and increasing corruption. Is this the “lucky” country we want?

I like to describe myself as a recovering economist. That gives me the chance to avoid the worst of the baggage of being an economist, but still, dip back in when I see compelling economic behaviour (e.g. Stimulus to recover from COVID lockdowns) or some good economic and statistical analysis. 

No one needs to be told how important innovation is for an economy, at the same time, no one needs to be told how vital transparency is from an economic, business, political and cultural perspective. Fortunately, there are useful benchmarks and metrics available to measure performance on both of these measures. I have written about these before, most recently, the Global Innovation Index 2020 results, and previously I have looked at the Corruption Perception Index. 

As a refresher here are the source reports

At a global level, Australia ranks well. In the most recent Global Innovation Index, we ranked 23rd. From Transparency International’s latest ranking we came in 12th. So far, so good. Sadly we are in decline on both measures. We had the largest increase in corruption for our peer countries in the most recent survey. 2020 does not look like it will be an improvement, even allowing for COVID disruption, the behaviour of the federal government, impact of single-issue lobbyists, Westpac and Crown Casino for examples does not inspire confidence in institutions. We cannot rely on others to fall faster than us. Being less worse is not being right. We might not have the explicit corruption that other countries suffer through, but the intangible corruption is sadly more pervasive. As it rises, the citizenry increasingly accepts corruption until we have lowered expectations. 

From an innovation perspective, we do well in terms of education, political and regulatory environments. We fall badly in areas such as graduates in science and engineering, FDI outflows, minority investor treatment and creative goods exports. 

Capture Point

The decline in Australia from an innovation and transparency perspective is not good enough. Australia always has prided itself of being the clever country, thanks to Bob Hawke and the lucky country. If public and private sector policies continue on the current trajectory, we will be neither before too long. We have to take advantage of our proximity to Asia, our multi-cultural society and the high levels of skill that the average worker has in Australia. Complacency, a lack of transparency and policy will set us back, and we will no longer be lucky or clever.

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IBM Spins off GTS. The future is 100% Hybrid and AI

On October 8th, 2020, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna announced that IBM was spinning off the Infrastructure Management group of Global Technology Services or GTS.

This is no small spinoff; $19B in revenue, 90,000 employees, and nearly 5,000 clients and a truly global business. The working name is “NewCo”. The separation process is targeted to be finalised by the end of 2021.

The spinoff of GTS does not come as a major shock to anyone who watches IBM closely. For the past 20 years, from PC’s, Contact Centre BPO, Servers, LotusNotes and many other products, IBM is not afraid to dispose of those assets that have passed their fit into the rest of IBM. That does not make them bad businesses but just misaligned for the future as IBM sees it. I have learnt from the PC sell-off to Lenovo (which I initially thought was the wrong move, but hindsight proved me incorrect). In this case, I cannot disagree with IBM. The decision is the correct one, perhaps, a couple of years too late, but whilst there is still value and upside for the business.

What will NewCo look like? Where will it be headquartered? Will the logo be blue? Clearly, the branding will be important, distinct from IBM, but not completely. They have pledged to be strategic partners and work closely. This has to be the case given the entanglement of customers, partners and employers across both organisations. IBM has been so entwined in a lot of the largest enterprises in the world for a generation; the two parties will work together to migrate across each other’s capabilities and maintain service delivery standards for customers.

The challenge for NewCo is to stand alone and provide growth and annuity as an investment. It has to drive growth on the back of IT infrastructure modernisation. Independence will allow it to pursue more aggressively partnerships with companies not always on the IBM radar such as Dell, and Microsoft. The benchmark for this type of spinoff was HP when it divested HP Services and the legacy EDS business with CSC into DXC. NewCo can learn from this.

Whilst many may argue that Infrastructure Management is industry agnostic, with increasing regulatory environments, multi-industry approaches and globalisation, it is far from it. NewCo has to ensure that industries are front and centre from delivery and go to market perspectives.

The rest of IBM? Well, it is no shock that IBM is going to be positioned as a $59B Hybrid Cloud and AI powerhouse. Hybrid Cloud is all driven on the back of Red Hat. IBM has finally become a software company with a bit of hardware and services. IBM Research will be increasingly more significant as it drives the future, particularly from an AI, Quantum and emerging technology perspective. Whilst GTS is shifting to an independent model, GBS will remain pivotal to steer clients towards digital optimisation on the back of Hybrid Cloud investments. Expect more aggressive partnering activity in this space as it looks to build out capabilities with partners such as Workday, Salesforce and Slack amongst many others. Industry depth will remain central to the IBM play. IBM also needs to find a way to address more aggressively the non-Fortune 1000 market. Perhaps the freedom resulting from the split-off can be the impetus it needs to do so.

Another critical aspect of the new IBM is the coolness factor from a recruitment perspective. As a company focused on AI, Hybrid Cloud and Research-driven, IBM may well be able to increase the attractiveness for emerging workers populations and those looking for innovation. NewCo may have the opposite issue, with a realignment towards automation, and rep[eatability of migration and modernisation it will need to redefine employee attractiveness.

As a personal aside, when I first entered the workforce way too long ago, it was with Lend Lease who was the first major Strategic Outsourcing customer of IBM in Australia. The two created a joint venture, ISSC to expand the business. I was excited to get my first laptop, an IBM one, of course. It replaced my home desktop I shared with my brother that ran Lotus 123 and WordPerfect. The only technology company I knew at that point was IBM. Nothing stays still, and nor should it.

Capture Point
It was only the beginning of the week that I had discussions that IBM was perhaps risking becoming too reliant on the CIO role and technology selling as distinct from Digital engagement. This move has upended all that. It is aiming at being the Hybrid and AI leader for digital alignment. The road ahead will be difficult. Over 100 years of shared history is not unwound in a flash, but it does enable to different revenue, growth and outcomes of IBM and NewCo to be clearly defined. Just as with an acquisition, divestments are all about the execution and keeping close to the stakeholder perspective. This is what I will be looking closely at. How are the customers of IBM impacted? Is it smooth for them?

It is the last shot at the title for IBM to enjoy 100 more years of technology. If it succeeds, it will be a masterstroke, if not, it will fade into the history of technology. IBM will be throwing everything to ensure it is a masterstroke.

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capioIT turns 10 – Thanks for the support and trust

Firstly, I hope that you, your family and community are safe during these difficult times. For capioIT, this week is a time of positive reflection.




The world in 2010 was a very different place. A lot can happen in 10 years. 

  • AWS opened its first Asia Pacific Region in Singapore – it now has nine regions,
  • Salesforce had revenue of US$1.3B. Last quarter revenue was US$5.1B.
  • HP was a US$126Billion integrated company that sold everything from Printers to Processing Services.
  • Xero had 17,000 subscribers; it now has 2.4 million.
  • We were excited by the launch of the iPad, now consumers and businesses have the choice of 5 iPad form factors.
  • I didn’t have any kids under 10, and now I have two high schoolers and a uni student at home.
  • Game of Thrones had not launched on TV, and Netflix was almost two years away from releasing its own content.
  • And, perhaps most bitingly, for those who follow Rugby and the Wallabies, it was “only” 8 years since Australia had won the Bledisloe Cup. Now it is 18 years …..

capioIT was also born

September 23rd marks the 10th birthday of capioIT. A low key celebration given the times in which we live, but I am proud that not many small businesses, in the analyst world or otherwise have been blessed to achieve that. I had big dreams when I went out on my own to set up an analyst firm that was independent, close to the market and innovative in thought, approach and outcomes. I believe that we are still fulfilling those goals and ambitions; I have never lost sight of them, and cannot wait for the next ten years.

I have engaged with countless IT and business executives at all ends of the world. We have been able to help clients with issues that range from the expected such as cloud strategies, migration to digital accounting and government procurement of IT. Then there are the more unexpected projects such as shopping centre car parking technology, road toll billing systems automation and identifying a technology services provider for a resources company in Mozambique.

We have focused on what matters to the business and technology market. The shift towards real digital has accelerated, although not without difficulties. Data should lead everything,  Cloud is accepted as the future, the customer experience is central, and IT works more closely with the business and can deliver measured outcomes. These are all reasons to be optimistic about the next ten years, despite the difficulties faced at the moment resulting from the COVID pandemic.

Thank you to everyone that has supported us, to friends, colleagues, partners, vendors and enterprises. I could not have done it without the support, and I look forward to the future.

The final word cannot ignore that capioIT was established on Bruce Springsteen’s birthday. That may not have been a coincidence; I guess you could say I was Born to Run capioIT.

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Global Innovation Index – Switzerland is the most innovative nation on earth, US and Nordic Countries worth noting.

The Global Innovation Index was released on the 2nd of September, 2020. As an analyst and recovering economist, I love these types of rankings. The Global Innovation Index carries credibility and weight. It is a venture bookended by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It ranks countries around the globe on 75 metrics, spread across seven key theme areas. These themes include Infrastructure, Human Capital and Research and Knowledge/Technology outputs. Most of the metrics are tangible, economic measurement and provide an excellent benchmark. The report can be found here –

Who is in the Top 10. Well, there is no major surprise. 

1 – Switzerland

2 – Sweden  

3 – United States of America 

4 – United Kingdom 

5 – Netherlands

6 – Denmark 

7 – Finland 

8 – Singapore  

9 – Germany 

10 – Republic of Korea 

A range of economic models, but Europe dominates with six countries ranked in the top 10, or seven if you include the UK as part of Europe.

Singapore and Korea as expected are the Asian countries in the Top 10, and of course, the US comes in at number 2. 

The USA is such a powerhouse for technology and has such a considerable economic footprint. Three Nordic countries are all represented in the top 10. The balance that these countries have between citizens, enterprise, education and innovation works consistently and across a range of measures. 

The US and UK have a different approach, of course, but again innovation is evident. 

It is essential to note that most of the measures in the study occurred before the COVID crisis that has engulfed our world. This means that the 2021 research, and increasingly the 2022 study are going to show a quantum shift in innovation across countries. Whilst it is difficult to have a crystal ball, the states that have handled COVID well are going to be able to maintain their innovation success, particularly focused on access to capital, knowledge and education. Korea, Singapore, for example, will benefit from this. The US may struggle, the tech will still be innovative, but with social and economic upheaval, the energy required for innovation may become more challenging to manage. 

Some fascinating insight for those countries outside the top 10. Hong Kong sits at 11. However, Hong Kong is now entering a period of political and social disruption, as well as facing the ongoing impacts of COVID. It will be challenging for Hong Kong to maintain innovation if it starts to suffer a brain drain. The winners from that may well be countries such as the UK, Taiwan, Australia, Singapore and others that are actively courting talent from Hong Kong to emigrate. 

Israel ranked 12th, China 13th and Japan 15th. Israel is, of course, a long term hub of innovation, particularly in sectors such as Technology and knowledge. China and Japan have always been powerhouses of creation, but it is imperative to note that Korea has overtaken them both. Korea is incredibly underrated from an innovation perspective, so the acknowledgement ahead of the other North Asia Powerhouses is of worthy attention. 

India is ranked outside the top 50 countries for innovation. If the success of India from technology and economic perspective accelerates, it has to make correct and strategic investments. Otherwise, it will continue to lag. It has much more ambition than that seen by such rankings. 

Capture Point

Innovation is the lifeblood of future growth for a country. Measures such as the Global Innovation Index highlight the importance of this using tangible metrics. Smaller markets are often more innovation orientated than larger states, and this is worth noting. It is also essential to understand that when there are 75 such measures of innovation, the path to being an innovative economy does not lie in investment in a single aspect of the economy. Instead, it needs to be integrated across government, education and private enterprise, will all elements working together in unison. Otherwise, innovation is lost, and citizens are the first to suffer. 

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Xero acquires Waddle – AccountingTech meets FinTech meets SmallBizTech.

On August 25th, 2020, SMB Accounting SaaS heavyweight Xero announced the acquisition of Waddle for a reported A$80M (including long term incentives). Waddle is an Australian based invoice lending cloud platform. For most small businesses, access to capital is consistently the most critical issue in supporting their long term financial viability. Waddle enables this by connecting financial institutions to small and emerging businesses. Of course, every acquisition is about execution and not announcements, but fundamentally it is a positive step forward.

The acquisition supports the small business sector, which is, of course, core to the Xero customer base. It also helps support the future direction for accounting firms. Technology, like Xero, has dramatically evolved the role of the accountant. capioIT has followed the shift in the Accounting profession from Tax to an advisory role. This capability presented under the banner of Xero will help accelerate this; the time that automation provides clients can be used by accountants to support clients in their overall business requirements.

Xero has bought Waddle as both companies are maturing in their relative scale. Waddle is primarily Australian with limited UK presence. Having the ownership of Xero will help accelerate the Waddle presence in the UK in the first instance, where it already has some presence. New Zealand is, of course, the other immediate market to leverage for Xero alongside increasing penetration in Australia.

What Waddle will look like with Xero ownership is, of course, a fundamental issue. According to Xero, for the foreseeable future, there will be limited change. It is going to keep Waddle as an independent entity. Waddle has relationships with other accounting platforms such as Sage, so this is a sensible approach. It is a fine line with acquisitions, integrate or independence. Still, Waddle is the fifth acquisition for Xero, so it is getting the processes in place to optimise the value of the acquired company.

Finally, the blending of AccountingTech with FinTech and Small Business Tech is also worth consideration. It highlights that the role of the accountant is changing, that technology does not exist in isolation or narrow definitions. It also shows that the complexity of businesses large or small can not be eased by lumping applications as “Industry name here” tech. Instead, there has to be integration, cross-pollination and an open mind to solving customer issues and improving their business outcomes.

Capture Point

The Xero acquisition of Waddle is essential for both companies. It enables Xero users to have access to invoice capital, and to ensure that Xero is continuously evolving for its accountant and small business market focus. It also highlights the value of innovation in Australia, where FinTech, in particular, is strong. Finally, and assuming a positive integration, it works for customers who can gain access to capital that is increasingly difficult in an uncertain economic climate. That alone is enough to make it positive.

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Westfield Car Park Automation – Five years later is still fundamentally unsafe

Amid a COVID driven shopping downturn Westfield (ASX: SCG) has launched a new parking program. Become a member of Westfield Plus, and you get extra parking time at pay for parking centres as well as other “perks” from tenants, e.g. access to discounts.

One of the critical benefits driven by the extra parking time is the notification of the time that you entered the car park, thereby identifying when your free time expired. This capability might seem slightly familiar, as Westfield tried this in 2015 with some fanfare. However, this was a fiasco with significant security breaches.
capioIT was the one who discovered this major flaw in the solution and alerted Westfield. Westfield was caught entirely unaware and proved that it was not taking customer security at all seriously.

The original parking platform provided no security; anyone could register a car, and be notified that an individual vehicle had entered the carpark.

As a result, you would think that Version 2 would have resolved all these issues, and improved the safety perception and experience for the consumer at Westfield, especially for female shoppers.

Sadly, the answer is that with version 2020, change has been made, but it is not enough. Individuals can still be stalked, and their car registered to the Westfield Plus system by a third party without their knowledge. An individual can be at the shopping centre and be notified of the arrival of another individual. This is most alarming when consideration of people looking to avoid domestic violence, stalking, AVO’s or other situations where safety is at threat.

The new (old approach) was tested out at Westfield Eastgardens on the 26th of July, 2020. My son entered the car park, having previously registered my car on his device. He parked himself at the far end of the car park to where I would enter. When I entered, he was notified through the App that my car had entered the car park. He was not nearby, as he was parked about 100 metres away, and I could not see his car when I entered the car park.

This is a massive, and again as with the case in 2015, utterly unavoidable situation. What does it take for Westfield to understand the security needs of their customer? While it is an improvement on the first version, it is still a failure. The fact that you do not need proof of ownership to register a car, you can be notified from a distance that the person has entered the car park, puts the safety of vulnerable individuals at risk. There is no question of this.

In 2020, customers expect and welcome a digital experience. Even more than a digital experience, customers want to be able to be safe in any environment. If the digital experience cannot provide this, then it is a failure. Westfield should have done better. They should have done a basic test of the system by real people. They should have revisited the analysis I undertook in 2015 on their parking before making the same mistake again.

How do they rectify this?
All people parking must provide proof of ownership of a vehicle. There is no safe way to do it otherwise. No evidence, no ability to sign up to the App. There is no alternative. If that destroys the digital experience, then bad luck. Customer safety has to be the number one priority for a shopping centre.

Capture Point

Westfield has unfortunately failed again with its car-parking platform. It has not addressed the problems that made it scrap the system in 2015 after capioIT bought it to attention. It is another digital failure that puts the wellbeing and safety of vulnerable individuals at significant risk. Digital done dumb is dangerous. This is yet another case of that, and Westfield yet again has made customers vulnerable.

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Your valuable and curated customer data. Throw it away and start again.

Coronavirus has taken too many lives, decimated global economies, removed the sense of place for all communities and reshaped almost all propositions in all corners of the world.

The way our world works from a social, economic, personal space and geographic perspective is now on hyper change. Simply it is the most significant upheaval that diverse and dispersed communities and individuals will hopefully experience.

Consumer behaviour is fundamentally changed. Employee behaviour has changed radically. How we view our health, government, even the neighbourhood store is not the same as it was. This means that what as individuals what we knew about the past, is no longer relevant for the future. And what we know about our history, isn’t going to help us with the future.

For enterprises, this creates a massive and frankly unprecedented problem. All the customer data that an enterprise or agency has gathered, optimised, curated and analysed in February 2020, or February 2000 now needs to be thrown out the window, and if you can be honest, has zero value.

Simple everyday processes that we have taken for granted have now changed, and the change is one-directional. I have elderly parents who were last year fitted with hearing aids. For them, this involved a trip to the audiologist to have a test done, the hearing aids fitted and optimised for their use. However, in a post Covid_19 world, I caught up with an audiology provider who was reeling at the changes to their everyday business.

The shift to no-touch, enabling one to purchase and use the hearing aid without close physical contact. Thereby no need for a large visible retail space, or a big team of face to face enablement and customer service staff. What they hew about their customers hearing hasn’t changed, but everything else has. (To be fair, six months of isolation may lead to situational deafness rising exponentially)

From an employee perspective, the way we work has changed. The transition to working from home was made in a day for millions of employees the globe over. What is possible, and what is required, how to communicate, evaluate and nurture employees all changed. What worked last year won’t work this year, so the data has to change.

Therefore what you knew is now what you need to know.

The good news is that while your data is out of date if you had a deep understanding of your data collection processes, analytics and how to make actionable outcomes you are in the fast lane for recovery from Covid_19 from a business perspective. If your processes are immature, beholden to organisational shortcomings or CFO budget constraints, then you are not going to recover.

Capture Point

It is hard to accept that your old data now has no value. Those with the best data management processes are the ones that will accelerate first in recovery. Every step you take to improve the data management processes now, and urgently will help you understand the new customer values.

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Will the CFO use the Corona Virus Black Swan Event to defund Customer Experience

Analysts, consulting firms, SaaS providers and business innovators all agree on one thing: Customer Experience has to be the number one priority for enterprise strategy as we enter 2020 and beyond. Enterprise boards and leadership teams have firstly, learnt the value of the investment in Customer Experience. Secondly, they are investing in extracting this value and providing positive customer-centric experiences for their customers.

Regardless of if it is called digital, Customer Experience, CRM or another buzzword, investment, focus and creation of strong Customer Experience success metrics is at the top of business priorities.

One of the critical challenges with enabling an enterprise-wide Customer Experience platform is that it costs money, takes time and has to be a complete transformation. Of course, something that has a vital benefit to the profitability of a company and substantial strategic shift rarely comes cheaply or at no cost. The benefits of a well-executed Customer Experience investment substantially outweigh the costs in the short term and long term. Sadly many see the price. Even well planned and executed Customer Experience investments can be bought undone with cost trimming, such as forgetting the all-important change management and training issues, or skimping on the SaaS budget.

The world is in the grip of a Black Swan event with the rise of the Corona Virus. From toilet paper hoarding to political decisions, history is not going to judge that well some of the behaviours seen to date as a result of the severe threat of the virus.

Every day brings reactions and responses from consumers, governments and enterprises. As highlighted, some rational and measured, far too many hysterical and, well frankly, hindsight will not be friendly.

We have seen enterprises slash travel due to health concerns. Every day another major event is cancelled. This reflects concerns of employees and stakeholders. We have seen enterprises slash new spending and delay investment, again, not an illogical short term consideration.

In some discussions with companies, large and small, public and private, there is a growing concern that the CFO is using the Corona Virus event as a cover for more dramatic cost-cutting. Please note, I have friends who are CFO’s, nor do I bear the role any grudges. They are not all group thinkers with a plan to slash costs for employees. Just some of them.

What is high on the list for the budget chop? Investment in technology and investment in customer experience. Even 5% cuts to a budget can have a profound impact on the execution of the initiative, particularly if it is relating to training, or selecting the best approach forward for theist business outcome. Let’s face it, for something as fundamental as Customer Experience; there is no right place to cut a lean well-considered program. The risk of budget cuts for Customer Experience investments and applications must be fought on facts and supported business plans. Enterprises and agencies must be able to quantify the return on investment, the increased stakeholder value and other measurable benefits of an investment in Customer Experience. Provide specific proof points. Benchmark the benefits of investment vs the costs of failing to invest. It is not easy to do, but unfortunately, it is essential to roll against the natural tendency of many CFO’s to cut at the first sign of trouble. I have always been a great believer in spending money to make money, not reducing costs to make money. Customer Experience has to ensure that it is in the former position within the enterprise, not the latter.

The impact of the changes wrought on the economy and how we used to do business just a few short days ago means that in fact investments in reaching, engaging and satisfying customers today are even more critical now than they have ever been. No excuse, no shortcuts in a world where foot traffic for retail is significantly reduced, people are not willing to travel, or changing consumption of communication tools is happening every day. Again, no shortcuts and measurable business outcomes.

Capture Share
While Customer Experience remains a major investment priority for virtually every enterprise and government agency, an event like the Corona Virus is a significant shift in business dynamics. It is not just impacting the travel industry, it is now touching virtually every industry, and some predictions may be overly dire, it is still a massive task to return to business as usual. A risk of this seismic change is that crucial projects and budgets will be cut. Business and IT alike have to work together to ensure that Customer Experience investments are not only made as planned but potentially fast-tracked. Do not allow for your organisations to take short cuts, remove programs or otherwise diminish the opportunity to raise the Customer Experience during the current crisis (or any future issues for that matter).

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More evidence – Tough times for legacy tech vendors, and golden time for the Cloud

Software Asset Management and Licensing app provider Flexera recently published a report on technology investments that makes fascinating, scary or reassuring reading depending upon your perspective.

The Flexera™ State of Technology Spend Report was based on over 300 interviews with enterprise IT executives. Minimum enterprise employee size was 2,000, 62% of surveys were in the US, 36% in Europe. So clearly there is some geographic bias and no representation of the views of Asia Pacific enterprises. However, the research outcomes do pass a cognitive test of analysis (without access to the data). Enterprises spend approximately 8% of revenue on IT, and the trajectory is one of growth with enterprises overwhelmingly looking to spend more on technology.

There is a lot to unpick in the document, more than a single blog post could do justice.

Cloud usage is accelerating across customer size, and workload, with PaaS, SaaS, IaaS all experiencing strong growth at the expense of on-premise. Some of the numbers of cloud adoption may seem a little hotter than the market, but not exponentially so.

The overall state of IT in the organisation is healthy, with the key focus areas being Digital Transformation, Cyber Security and the cloud. Again, no surprise here, these will be a top 3, alongside enterprise resilience for a while to come.

For me, the most interest in the report came from the perspective of investment with various enterprise platforms. The relative health of legacy and cloud providers is highlighted in the figure below. If you are a cloud-native or Microsoft, it is excellent reading. If you are a legacy IT provider, it is a challenging read.


The split in the market to AWS, ServiceNow, Salesforce, Google, Workday and Microsoft vs the rest is clear and distinct, but this research reinforces the shift. Not only are enterprises spending more with cloud providers, but there is a net decline for IBM and Oracle. Red Hat is more positive, but clearly, nowhere near enough to compensate for the overall decrease in IBM investment predicted by the research. For IBM and Oracle, who have always been Enterprise reliant, this is a significantly challenging outcome.

On the positive side, the research highlights that AWS, ServiceNow, Salesforce, Google, Workday and Microsoft, in particular, can be very bullish in their revenue growth. These vendors also cover a significant range of Enterprise IT requirements, particularly in innovation-driven markets such as Customer Experience, AI, and process automation. Of course, they are also 100% Cloud Based.

SAP fare better than expected; it highlights the pressure on Oracle, as well as the positive outcomes of their considerable efforts to be available, ready and waiting on Google, AWS and Microsoft Azure. Oracle has primarily taken a different approach seeking to protect its database business.


Everyone who pays even cursory attention to the tech machinations understands the old vendors are increasingly disrupted, and only a small few have made the leap to leadership, Microsoft at the top of that list. AWS, Salesforce, Google, ServiceNow all are leading for the enterprise from the perspective of anticipated investments. They are the future for the enterprise and also for many smaller organisations. The legacies are running out of time to break this down.

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All Go for Zoho

SaaS provider Zoho held their 2020 Analyst Day at their new US hometown of Austin, Texas January 29-31st. If you don’t know Zoho, think of them as an Austin, Texas for the tech industry. It is definitely not weird, but the culture is unique, and in several respects out of the mainstream of most significant technology firms. It is no surprise that Zoho has chosen Austin as the site of the largest US campus for the firm.

What makes Zoho unique? It is privately held, and resolutely so. It is based in Chennai, operates on all continents without a direct presence in more than just a few countries. Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu is also profoundly committed to firstly, improving the Southern Indian community that he has made his home, and then loftier goals. He seeks to empower local communities furthermore through innovation, such as the cloud, carries a lot of different tools to build and support a community.

The employees at Zoho love it and know they work at an Austin in the tech world. When I asked CEO Sridhar Vembu what the one single aspect of the culture that he would never give up, he mentioned how managers treat their employees. That approach is much more realistic in a privately held company than one tied to the whims of the listed capital markets. The ambition stretches beyond the current position as a challenger to larger vendors and a key player in the small to mid-sized market.

It is also easy to forget that Zoho also has some products, in fact, a lot. From payroll to customer experience and AI and accounting. Customers can acquire Zoho products individually, with CRM being the mainstay, or packaged up as Zoho One; a single portal to all that Zoho has to offer. The growth in both customers and product depth in Zoho One has been exceptional. Soho One has over 40 products within the umbrella suite.

From the perspective of data centres and data privacy, Zoho has a unique take. It doesn’t locate with the global cloud providers, e.g. AWS and Google. Instead, it operates 10 data centres of its own, with Australia’s pair the two most recently announced. It is differentiating on this point with the perspective that the client’s data is their own. It cannot and will not sell that data or sell access to it. This is incredibly important, particularly in light of the Google et al. approach to data privacy. Given the track record of consistency of the overall Zoho approach, it is one that would be anticipated to be maintained without fear or favour as core to the culture.

Zoho is a great success story but not perfect. No vendor is. It has been slow to move to the mid-market. It needs to both accelerate a presence in the market as well as to build out a more partner orientated integration ecosystem to enable the growth and the integration of the Zoho product set for the mid-market, before any consideration for larger enterprises. It can learn from the foe that is Salesforce to an extent for this. It has made a few growth missteps in some key markets but has an awareness of this, so can act upon it. The product suite is robust and deep, but losing focus on breadth and depth would make it a thin veneer, again, something that it is looking to avoid.

Capture Point
Zoho is a fascinating and capable provider, and part of an increasingly strong Chennai SaaS ecosystem. It’s most substantial differentiation is arguably the culture that it exudes for both customers and employees. It is building out and undeniably strong portfolio for the mid-market, with longer-term aspiration and capability. Work is needed here, and it will not fly below the radar forever if it is to succeed.

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