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Local Business Award Recognition

Thursday, April 1, 2010

As many of you follow the awards circuit that recognizes some of the top companies in this region, here are the finalists recently announced for the SECAF 2nd Annual Awards Gala.

SECAF (the organization for the small and emerging government contractor) announced its finalists last week; over 90 applications were received, so competition was tough. Finalist companies include:

SECAF Contractor of the Year (under $6 million):
·       Attotek, Inc.
·       Berico Tailored Systems
·       Credence Management Solutions
·       Foxhole Technology
·       Integrity Management Consulting, Inc.
·       Link Solutions, Inc.

SECAF Contractor of the Year ($6 to $12 million):
·       Culmen International
·       Dozier Technologies, Inc.
·       Edgesource Corporation
·       OGSystems, Inc.
·       SMSi

SECAF Contractor of the Year ($12 to $25 million):
·       Advanced Technology & Research Corp
·       Digital Management, Inc.
·       Morgan Borszcz Consulting
·       SENTECH, inc.
·       Technical & Project Engineering, LLC

Small Business Partner (Privately-owned greater than $25 million):
·        Development Alternatives, Inc.
·        Invizion, Inc.
·        LMI

Small Business Partner (Publicly-owned greater than $25M)
·       CACI International
·       Lockheed Martin
·       SAIC

If you want to attend the gala, you can purchase tickets via SECAF.  Please join me in congratulating these finalists!

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Social Media and B2B Tech Companies: The SAP Story

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I’m a big fan of the BrightTalk Webinar series, and yesterday I listened to a Webinar on “Enterprise Marketing with Communities and Social Media,” featuring Salim Ali, VP of Enterprise Solutions and Community Marketing at SAP.

He effectively illustrated how a B2B technology company like SAP is using social media in their marketing efforts by focusing on two significant assets – SAP Communities and SAP EcoHub, an app store for the enterprise software industry.

SAP didn’t just launch one community, they launched six discrete groups and an app store serving both technical and business professionals. SAP has been widely praised for their approach with accolades from BusinessWeek and Forrester. Charlene Li of the Altimeter Group says, SAP ranks in the top ten of “the world’s most valuable brands based on how they leverage social media to interact with customers.” These accolades seem justified. With more than two million community members and six thousand posts per day, clearly SAP is on to something.

SAP has a systematic process for leveraging this vast community for product feedback, demand creation, product launches, customer references and evangelism. One of many examples that he shared was a customer reference program where community members (from SAP communities and other social networks) were encouraged to “showcase your innovative SAP interactive form” and qualify to win a book ($60 value). This program alone generated 24 quality customer references that were then leveraged online as part of a demand generation program.

It’s refreshing to see a B2B company with such exciting social media and community engagement programs underway. Take a look and see what you think.

-- Katie Hanusik

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Cloud Computing: The Good, the Bad, the ROI

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Phil Horvitz, Apptis and Tim Silk, Cisco
Last Thursday, WIT’s Technology SIG held their third event in the Tech Talk series, this one on the topic of Cloud Computing. The speakers were Phil Horvitz, CTO of Apptis and Tim Silk, Engineering Sales Manager at Cisco Systems.

Both speakers were gracious enough to share their presentations here, but a few highlights are worth noting.

Tim Silk started the discussion by offering NIST’s definition of cloud computing; “Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

He also explained how cloud computing is deployed and discussed the difference between public, private and hybrid clouds.  Check out Tim’s full presentation here:

Phil Horvitz explained how government is leading the adoption of cloud computing – and has mandated that every agency conduct a cloud pilot in 2010. According to Phil, “The last time this happened? Never.”
Two other interesting data points in Phil’s presentation:
  • According to Gartner’s 2009 Technology Hype Cycle, cloud is at the absolute peak of inflated expectations (a position shared with e-book readers). This means, to use Gartner’s descriptive terminology, that cloud still has to go through the trough of disillusionment and the slope of enlightenment before it reaches the plateau of productivity (see page 4 of the PPT).
  • The ROI of cloud computing becomes apparent on page 5. Eli Lilly documented the server provisioning times for traditional IT compared to cloud. The differences are impressive.
Phil finished up by sharing a success story of his own. Apptis has a financial report that took 15 hours to run. By moving this application to the cloud, Phil’s team was able to produce the same report in under an hour.  This is a great example of what Phil calls "cloud bursting," a temporary need for additional computing power that is efficiently managed by cloud computing.

Phil's full presentation can be found below.

Let me know what you think about the speakers' presentations -- and hope to see you at the next Tech Talk.

- Katie Hanusik

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Spring is in the air: Market optimism in the Washington, DC tech community

Monday, March 15, 2010

As we spring our clocks forward, I look to the future. When I woke up this morning with the sun still not in sight, rather than bemoan the dark early hours, I think about how positive things have been for our clients lately, and reflect on how a new time is upon us.

Perhaps its the New Normal, a term coined and recoined every time the market corrects itself or we find ourselves in a new phase of reality.  Call it an awakening, or liken it to Spring. All of which I believe we are experiencing at this moment.  I find myself thinking about how 2010 has started out for many to be just what we hoped, a period of resettling and moving onward and upward as we inherently wish to do.

I'm not one to pontificate, but I have found myself in several conversations in the past few weeks with clients and business partners reflecting on the start of the year and what we have seen. They ask with cautious optimism if our other clients are experiencing the same things? Are businesses investing again? Could we be out of the woods? Are other clients really hiring too? No one wants to have their head in the clouds, but they don't want to miss a growth opportunity as it awaits. There is comfort in knowing what other B2B tech companies see.

The last couple of years have taken their toll on our clients, our vendors, our employees and our families. Our anectdotal conversations could go something like this: "Small businesses still don't have access to the credit they need, the unemployment rate is still higher than anyone likes, and clients all want us to slash our fees."

But what I find most encouraging, is that CEOs in our technology community are quick to say: "We're hiring again!" Or, "This region has been good to us with some of the best talent in the industry." Or, "We just had our second best quarter in a row!" We're not quoting statistics or trends, but what we are experiencing in the field, where it really happens.

In just the past months, some of our clients and friends have exited successfully, and some have made strategic acquisitions. A few are raising money...yes, in this market. All are experiencing growth in various forms.

So, I'm here to be a dose of optimism. Things may not be the same for a while, but there is a general fervor and excitement that comes with getting back to business, and the "New Normal" that we embrace with pride.

--- Elizabeth Shea

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Engaging with Social Technologies - Part II

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

As a follow-up to my earlier post about the TMA webinar with Charlene Li, I wanted to highlight a couple of her recommendations that really resonated with me.

1. Start Small. Many people I speak to are overwhelmed by all that they can (and feel should) do with Social Media. Li advises clients in much the same way we do – start small and tie it to a business goal. The easiest way to step in is by listening, see what others are saying about you or your market and start joining the conversation. Regularly watching and commenting on blogs will give you a sense of the time required to start your own. Plus you start to build relationships with communities that someone else has already built. When it comes time to launch your own blog or Facebook page, you’ll have some credibility and a built-in audience.
    When considering how to approach social media, look at your annual goals. Be it a new sales goal, improving customer service, or recruiting top talent – pick one area and focus on that.

    2. Think beyond your customers. I’ve heard many people say “but our customers are not on Facebook/Linkedin/Twittter.” Even if that were true, look at who influences your customers’ buying decisions? Are they getting their information from social sites?

        3. Defining ROI. Look beyond number of followers or fans. Coca-Cola has 4 million fans on Facebook, a pretty impressive number, but when you think about the market for Coke, they should have close to 200 million fans. Does that mean their Facebook page is a failure? No. They just need to consider the influence as well as the quantity of their fans. How can they give those 4 million fans the information and experience they are looking for so they will go out and evangelize the brand.  She presented an equation for determining value (stay with me here, I know we communicators shy away from heavy math…)

        Value of purchase – cost of acquisition + value of new customers from referrals + value of  insights + value of support + value of ideas = customer lifetime value. 

        This complicated equation reminds us that our customers aren’t just valuable because they purchase our products – but also because they influence their friends, provide customer service, and share insights and ideas with the brands they love (or don’t).  Brands can tap into all this collective wisdom by listening, sharing and engaging with customers using the many social media tools that are available. 

        These were just the top three thoughts I took away from the session. Anyone else that listened in have thoughts to add?
        - Piper Conrad

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        Engaging with Social Technologies

        Friday, March 5, 2010

        This week the SpeakerBox team huddled up in our lounge and sat in on a webinar given by Charlene Li, author of Groundswell and the forthcoming Open Leadership. She started the session by stating that social media is no longer the “bright shiny object” and that companies need to get serious about how to use the technology to create relationships. As she said, Social Media is not about technology, it’s about relationships.

        In defining strategy, organizations should plan against the following tenants --  Learn, Dialog, Support, and Innovate.

        In learning mode, companies monitor what is being said about them online and use that information to make change. Evaluating what information is credible or worth listening to is always a challenge. She suggested that once you do a google search on blog mentions, then look up those posts on to see how many people have bookmarked it, how they’ve tagged it, and what they are saying about it. This gives a sense of how many people are paying attention to the blogger which informs how seriously you should take it. The tagging shows how people categorize the information being written about which can inform your search marketing.

        In a dialog, she presented the engagement pyramid which from bottom to top includes watching, sharing, commenting, producing, curating. She said that most organizations want to focus their efforts directly on creating the curators --people who organize and disseminate your information for you. Her advice was to start at the bottom, doing those elements well will naturally build an influential group of curators.

        Many companies are using social media, specifically Twitter, as a new vein of customer support. Li advised that you do not need to change your support model to use social media. The Wells Fargo Customer Support Twitter handle states up front that they keep bankers hours and will respond within those defined times.

        Organizations that are truly reaping the benefits of social media are those that are able to use it for Innovation. Procter and Gamble solicits comments on products as seemingly mundane as soap and receives incredibly thoughtful and innovative ideas on how to improve the product.

        Stay tuned for another post on her recommendations for getting started and making the most out of a social media strategy.

        Thank you to the Technology Marketing Alliance for hosting the event!

        -Piper Conrad

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