Mobile BI – The Future is Here

By guest contributor, Anthony Schatz.  part 1 or 2 part series.  Tony is senior partner at RJSL Group, IT project management consultancy and staff augmentation outfit based in Chicago.

When a representative of your company goes out to call on a perspective customer and walks into the customer’s office, you, as a company, want your representatives to have the most current, accurate, and actionable data at their fingertips.  With the integration of smart phones, tablets, and iPADs used by field representatives, the need for and use of mobile BI is a reality.

Two examples come to mind: Pharmaceutical Sales Reps and Consumer Electronic Field Teams.  There is a distinct parallel between what these two groups do and the information they need to complete their jobs.  For the most part, both groups go into accounts, talk with decision makers and auxiliary staff, and attempt to increase the sell through of their product.

mobileBIThe major question that needs to be asked and answered for the pharma rep and the CE field rep is: What will make the them more successful in driving sales for the company?  The simple answer is information.  Here is the caveat to that answer; it is not just information, but real, up-to-date, actionable information.  This is where mobile BI comes into play.

Whether pharma reps or CE reps, resources in the field need data and information before they enter a business and it has to be timely and informative.  Mobile BI platforms, accessible through a web portal, allow a company to provide specific and actionable data to their field representatives through an on-going basis.  Now, with all the mobile technologies available to your mobile workforce, field representatives can go into a client armed with up to date such as:

  • Sales data for the product and the customer
  • % of the time the customer sells your product versus competitor products
  • Competitor information (promotions, sales comparisons, product comparisons…)

One of Mobile BI’s great benefits is to help drive sales through arming your sales force with information prior to making that sales call.  Your reps will be able to make informative, actionable plans to follow when interacting with the customer.

Mobile BI gives your sales force the flexibility it needs in the field to make decisions, but ensures those decisions are based on timely, actionable, and objective data.

Facebook & WhatsApp, The M&A Bubble, and Valuing B2B Companies With New Metrics

By Jason Busch, guest contributor.  Jason Busch and Richard Lee, the founders of Spend Matters Group, a Spend Matters affiliate, frequently lecture and advise on M&A strategy and valuation in the B2B sector.

Looking at Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp, I’m getting a sneaking feeling like it’s 1999 all over again. As with the last Internet bubble, consumer-centric tech companies with stratospheric valuations are leading the charge in buying smaller firms with, well, stratospheric valuations. And the metrics being used to gauge acquisition value – the number of users and user growth rates – seem eerily similar to non-financial valuation metrics from last time around (eyeballs, anyone?). That is, when Mary Meeker and Henry Blodget ushered in an era where discounted cash flow analysis was taught only to business school students and had no place in the bubble M&A world.

But how does this relate to WhatsApp? In a story from earlier this week, Reuters reported that “Facebook is paying $42 per user with the deal, dwarfing its own $33 per user cost of acquiring Instagram. By comparison, Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten just bought messaging service Viber for $3 per user, in a $900 million deal.” As an aside, for those who are curious, the multiple on employees (55 in total for WhatsApp) was $344 million per FTE.

So number of users is now the new “eyeballs” in B2C. But what will the metrics for valuation become in B2B if indeed this bubble migrates to such future IPO candidates as Fieldglass, Coupa, and IQNavigator, not to mention public companies in the sector including SciQuest – and the already atmosphere topping Tungsten/OB10?

Arguably, the metrics by which one will measure B2B procurement, supplier network and marketplace companies this time will be more grounded in financial upside than the somewhat nebulous number of “free users” favored by the B2C social and app companies on the deal side today. Outside of the usual financially centric metrics including but not limited to discounted cash flow (DCF) as well as earning and revenue multiples (and growth multiples of the same), I’d vote for the following if I were trying to understand the potential value of these organizations in a bubble scenario:

  • Dollar volume of “non-card” commerce flowing through the application or network (owing to the potential value of new means of trade financing inclusive of both receivables financing and payables financing). The potential upside from a trade financing perspective (a market that in our analysis is well less than 1 percent tapped today) on the B2B application and network side is as much as 200+ basis points per transaction (but even a more conservative 25-75 basis points could show huge revenue potential)
  • Volume growth rates in terms of both dollars and number of transactions – a more valuable proxy than “number of customers” or “number of suppliers” because it shows actual application or marketplace usage.
  • Rate of large buying organizations added and successfully transacting. Taulia, for example, is absolutely the reigning champion in terms of adding new customer names in the e-invoicing and dynamic discounting area in the past 18 months. And after all, you need large buyers to enable value-added services for suppliers (which can generate new sources of revenue longer-term)
  • Number of “active suppliers” or those vendors doing commerce with organizations through an application or network in the past month or quarter. Separating out active from passive suppliers is key. Some networks and application providers claim to have hundreds of thousands of suppliers, but in many cases, the number of truly active vendors is less than 10 percent of the number claimed.
  • The privacy and security restrictions that an application, network or marketplace has (or does not have). For example, OB10/Tungsten and Ariba are able to do more with either user specific or aggregate data in the marketplace / network based on a relatively loose user agreement compared with more restrictive covenants in other agreements that do not enable the same sharing of information with either network participants or third parties (all of which could potentially provide value-added services) around the core offerings available today.
  • The ongoing sustainability of business models. For example, Fieldglass and IQNavigator, along with their vendor management system (VMS) competitors, have proven out the sustainability of a relatively high supplier-paid volume-based fee model until now. There is industry validation for this model. There is not the same commonality of validation for the value-based fees in the Ariba/SAP network model for indirect spend by comparison; in contrast, Ariba’s competitors based their pricing on alternative models.

There’s no question that B2C valuations are once again silly. And my guess is B2B is next. But the question remains: how we will value organizations when all the tried-and-true methods taught for decades in finance 101 courses goes the way of bad eighties music being played – this time through Pandora, iTunes and Spotify – on the 101 between San Francisco and San Jose.

Wait a minute … the 80s music is back and more alive than ever. In fact, the drivers for last two UberX rides that I took both had XM radio blasting Tears for Fears and INXS from the “80s” station.

Which of course can only mean one thing – the bubble is back.

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Allegiance for Hire

10ahn-master675Hyun-soo Ahn was one of South Korea’s most decorated short-track speed skaters (5 World Championships and 3 golds at 2006 Olympics), so why did he change his name to Viktor Ahn and is now skating for Russia?

What NY Times failed to understand…  Sports federations in South Korea are like mini-mobs (maybe even worse).  There have been allegations of abuse of power, misappropriation of funds, physical mistreatment of athletes, etc.  I heard rumors that Ahn wasn’t supposed to win his 3rd gold at ’06 Olympics, rather it was supposed to go to one of his teammates so that he too could be exempt from mandatory military service (with mandatory military conscription, you are exempt if you win an Olympic gold).  Instead, Ahn competed like any athlete should, whether Pop Warner or world-class…  For that South Korean Skating Federation full of bureaucrats and fat cats, made Ahn’s life hell and disowned him when he was seriously injured ’08 and missed 2010 winter games.  Now Viktor Ahn is winning medals for Russia at Sochi and could become one of the most decorated short-track speed skaters of all time.  Talk about karma…  Good for Viktor (and 61% of South Koreans surveyed agree)…

Customer Service and Manners

CaptureGreetings from SFO Red Carpet Club.  There were days, pre-marriage and definitely pre-kids, when I enjoyed flying, whether for work or for leisure…   And the Star Alliance network, led by United Airline (now United Continental Holdings) provided the widest reach.  Fast forward a few years (after a couple of 200K+ annual air mile years and joining million miler club) and marriage and kids, I now fly only when needed and necessary.  So when I logged on almost 50K miles in the last 60 days (no I am not trying to reach 2MM miler club), it was like learning a new trick all over again.  Here’s what I’ve learned…

  • Automatic Premier Gold status for million-miler does not get you whole lot, except for premier check-in line.  No wonder while back, a United million-miler sued the airline for breach of contract (before the merger, million lifetime miles got you premier executive, not premier gold status).  I feel like I’m treated better by Star Alliance member airlines when I am traveling abroad that United, which I have most loyalty to.
  • US flight attendants really do need a lesson in customer service.  Just because you start the sentence with either sir or ma’am that does not excuse rest of the sentence / paragraph that comes out of your mouth.  Specifically, a couple of flight attendants in my recent flight from ORD to SFO were behaving like two frat boys at division II schools.  It was embarrassing…
  • My recent flights on KAL, Singapore and Asiana served to only affirm my view.  Of particular note, I caught an Asiana flight attendant cleaning the lavatories during downtime so that the customers can have more pleasant flying experience.  25+ years of flying domestic airlines, I’ve never seen any domestic flight attendant do the same.

I can certainly empathize with tight margins and cut-throat environment that depicts the airline industry (I was an early guy at Orbitz so I do have some insight).  But it just seems like many US flight attendants, especially those with senority, have given up and are just going through the motions and are waiting for retirement (with apologies to those flight attendants who care and bust their butts to do their job right)…  Much like networking, customer service is just good humanity.  It has to be something you want to do and take pride in.  So what’s my solution?  Depressed million miler benefit combined with poor customer service, I don’t have much choice except to fly Star Alliance network airlines instead of United on international flights.  Then again I do have 500K miles on American…  Perhaps time to try a different domestic airline?

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