Thursday, July 20, 2006

Full Transcript of Dana Gardner’s BriefingsDirect Podcast on the Impact of Eclipse on ISVs

Transcript of BriefingsDirect[TM] podcast with Dana Gardner, recorded July 6, 2006. Podcast sponsor: Eclipse Foundation.

Listen to the podcast here.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect. Today’s sponsored podcast is a discussion around the “Eclipse Effect” on small businesses, growing businesses, generally looking at the business benefits of Eclipse for those that are taking advantage of the open source approach. Joining us are Damion Heredia, director of product management at Lombardi Software. Welcome to the show, Damion.

Damion Heredia: Thank you.

Gardner: Also joining us is Maher Masri, the president and co-founder of Genuitec, a developer of Java- and Eclipse-based tools. Welcome, Maher.

Maher Masri: Thank you.

Gardner: First let’s go to Damion. Tell us a little bit about Lombardi. You are a business process management suite producer, and you also do support. You have developed a software product. What is it that you do with Eclipse and why?

Heredia: First, business process management, or what we'll call BPM, is focused on solving a problem that exists in the large- and medium-sized corporations, where a lot of applications are built by feature and function and siloed. In reality, the business runs in a process, and that process needs to be managed and have visibility into how well it’s doing -- where it needs to be improved, what are the bottlenecks, who is involved, etc.

So, Lombardi produces a software product that we call TeamWorks Enterprise Edition, which helps development shops and IT shops, along with business analysts, collaborate on the development and deployment of processes in the organization. This involves automation, managing business roles, developing user interfaces, and a lot of all-around capturing of metrics and displaying scoreboards of how well your business is doing around these processes.

Gardner: So you are a classic ISV: fast-growth, working into an area that’s fairly new and growing. So, go-to-market, and speed-to-market, and reducing cost of development are essential, I assume?

Heredia: Absolutely. In the last three or four years the BPM market has just exploded. We’ve done very well in having one of the top products in this space in about three years. To tell how we got into Eclipse, we have a strong engineering culture here that’s responsible for monitoring the new technologies that are emerging, seeing how we can apply those to business problems that we have among our customers.

Just as I am responsible for understanding the market needs, they are responsible for the technical needs. They had been using Eclipse for a little while as a development platform, and as soon as it was spun out of IBM, it became very appealing to us. We saw the community gathering around it and saw an opportunity for us to leverage it as our standard platform for delivering user interfaces to both developers and business analyst end-users.

Gardner: Okay. Let’s move over to Maher at Genuitec. You are also an ISV, but in a little different characterization. You are producing tools and development suites to then help other ISVs. Can you tell us more about your company? How you came about, and why Eclipse is so important to you?

Masri: Certainly, Dana. Genuitec, the parent company behind the product MyEclipse Enterprise Workbench, really has been involved in the Eclipse space for quite sometime -- since the very early days of Eclipse, in 2001. We used be a consulting company, and the genesis of the company was in 1997, consulting in the J2EE space, helping companies built enterprise applications, large-scale applications.

And necessity being the mother of all inventions, we found in Eclipse unique capabilities to allow our developers and consultants help our customers build solutions faster. We also realized that Eclipse did not have the capabilities to provide enterprise solutions at that time, so we began building small plug-ins that gave rise ultimately in 2003 to the genesis of MyEclipse Enterprise Workbench, which today has become the leading integrated development environment (IDEs) for building enterprise work applications.

It's a large-scale set of development tool for all purposes [and] is used by well over 9,000 enterprises … around the world. Our user population is right now growing 10 percent, month-to-month, and is roughly about 270,000 users around the globe. We owe a debt of gratitude, to be honest with you, to the Eclipse framework itself.

Genuitec, in that sense, is truly a Cinderella story in that we owe our ability to become the lead enterprise IDE today to our decision to adopt Eclipse as a base platform. Eclipse offered us an incredibly unique product platform geared for rapid and incremental delivery and allowed us to grow the product and features set over time, becoming probably the most comprehensive IDE you can find in the market. And we’re very glad and blessed to reach that point at this time.

Gardner: Now, you had some other choices back then, and Eclipse wasn’t as prominent as it is now. So [choosing Eclipse] was a bit of a gamble for you. What made you go to Eclipse rather than some of the other environments?

Masri: You have asked the key question that we ask internally. When one of our developers came to us in 2000, and said, “Hey, look at this wonderful IDE that’s available now. It's great,” we asked why should we care -- yet another IDE, yet another framework, that’s available out there.

And, it dawned on us at that point that we are indeed looking at a truly disruptive concept, very analogous to the innovation that followed the PC market in the early '80s with the introduction of the open standard for the PC motherboard. In that sense it became very clear to us that Eclipse has a significant opportunity to become the motherboard for applications of all types. And, it can truly usher in innovations beyond our ability to comprehend. And so, yes, it was a gamble at that time, but was a strong selling point for us and an opportunity we could not miss.

Gardner: And is there anything beyond the technology, in terms of methodology and community, that you think is an accelerant here? What are the politics of it that seems to work?

Masri: We're back again to the key word: "community." The old joke is that if a tree falls in the forest, does any body hear it? And the point really is that it’s a moot point, because does anybody care? You have to have enough people around something for it to matter. And that’s why Eclipse matters, because it has a significant following; it has a significant community. They are willing to use it, support it, build around it. And over time, as we followed the Eclipse space, it became clear that other companies are willing to put significant amounts of investments in this platform, and we would be remiss not to do the same on our end.

Gardner: So, I suppose it's a real viral adoption pattern -- the chicken and the egg -- which comes first, and how do you get the volume that creates the power that then begets more volume. Is there anything about this Eclipse approach that you think was unique in getting that whole process jump-started, or was it really sort of luck?

Masri: Well you've got to rely on some luck, right? But not all the time. And again, I go back to the motherboard for the personal computer. If you look back to the '80s, it was very clear who was the market leader in the personal computer space -- and it wasn’t IBM or the personal computer itself.

It was necessary for a new disruption to be introduced in the market to create an entirely new market. No one could see what it would become today. And that’s really what we are talking about here in Eclipse, it’s much more than the technology, it’s much more than just a simple IDE. It’s much more than the underlying companies that are following it.

The future for Eclipse is probably 10 times what it is today, and the future for Eclipse is really in the application space -- in the rich-client application space. Genuitec was the company that was the author of the concept in 2001. We saw Eclipse going well beyond IDE.

Gardner: You mentioned the rich client, and we can refer to that as RCP, the Rich Client Platform, in our discussion. I want to take it back to Damion at Lombardi. What does this rich client aspect bring to the table for you as an ISV in terms of getting your product out to market? Is it cost saving? Is it the simplicity factor? What is it about RCP that’s appealing to you?

Heredia: For us it’s really about what it's going to add in terms of value to our end customers, as well as how fast we can get out to market. RCP itself is the primary platform for our customers in IT shops.

You walk into any IT shop and they will have Eclipse developers somewhere in that organization. As an ISV delivering software into those IT shops, we need to be a good fit into the tools that they use everyday. So it was a clear winner for us to build plug-ins for TeamWorks to be dropped in to the developer’s tools that they already have. You don’t have to learn yet another IDE or another development environment. The TeamWorks’ plug‑ins, the process modules, the simulator, the optimizer on it can be dropped into an existing Eclipse environment.

Now that’s a benefit to our customer as all-in-one environment to be focused on when developing applications. For us internally, we came from previously using Swing as our primary development platform. What Eclipse does for us is just allow us to focus on the things that actually add value to our customers. Rather than spending time on designing menus and custom controls and views, widgets, managing the undo and redo situations. Eclipse provides us the framework to build on top of.

Gardner: So, you are focusing on your business logic and your value-add to your customer?

Heredia: That’s right

Gardner: Is there any other benefit in terms of the size of the market that appeals to you? That is to say the community -- getting back to that chicken-and-egg thing?

Heredia: Sure. As a smaller company -- smaller than IBM, SAP, and BEA -- we have the opportunity to leverage the work of larger vendors and incorporate commoditized functionality, such as Web service integration. We have a WTP project, GMF [Graphical Modeling Project], the GEF projects, even BIRT for business intelligence. Leveraging and incorporating those pieces of functionality into our product, we don’t have to spend engineering resources to build them. So for us the community offers us a jump-start on commoditized functionality, and then allows us to focus on the innovative features and functions, and on solving the problems of our customers.

Gardner: And I suppose that also encourages you to give back to the community, so that this benefit keeps going.

Heredia: Absolutely! We were the first BPM vendor to join the Eclipse Foundation and big supporters of the process and business model. But the community aspect of contributing back to the community what we’ve learned, what we’ve changed, etc. betters the overall products at home.

Gardner: Let's bounce back to the Maher at Genuitec. What is it about some of the newer technologies in RCP that has a business benefit for your company? I am thinking about Eclipse 3.2.

Masri: Let me just step back for a moment and give you a little bit more context on what really gets us excited. What you see in the adoption level are the 130 to 140 companies that are member companies of the Eclipse Foundation today. They are building hundreds of solutions on top of the Eclipse platform, and as Lombardi mentioned, allowing companies to stand on the shoulders of giants to build, to innovate, and deliver more convenience to the end user.

But, what you don’t see are the thousands of companies that are building rich-client application and are out there realizing the same benefit that the Eclipse platform offers them from life-cycle management, from an ability to provide common framework tools, getting tools from somewhere else, and conveniences from somewhere else. Those thousands are truly turning into millions.

That’s what really excites all of us in terms of the potential growth for Eclipse itself. As we have developed the MyEclipse Enterprise Workbench we also offered consulting services around Eclipse as a platform. The revenue that we had in the early years predominantly came through the consulting services. We had the opportunity to see quite a bit of innovation in people applying the platform to building desktop applications, team applications, and applications that would have cost them an order -- multiple orders -- of magnitude [more money] to start from scratch.

They were able to do it in half the time at one-tenth the cost to build that solution. That kind of virus is going to catch on -- the features are available in Eclipse 3.2 right now -- and it is going to afford these customers and these companies the opportunity to do this faster and cheaper. So, you are going to see a rapid adoption.

The key here is going to be education, making sure that the population at-large, the people that are considering such solutions, have the opportunity to evaluate Eclipse in addition to, or in lieu of, other technologies. That would give them the right answer to the problems they are trying to solve.

Gardner: Let me ask you another question that comes up a lot, and that is: What about Microsoft? What about the power it has in the marketplace in all of those desktops, in all of those Microsoft shops, in all those enterprises that have developers who have been doing Visual Basic and Visual Studio activities? And what about the benefit of having many languages and then one runtime, and the monolithic power within that automation function?

Do you think that the Eclipse approach is separate and distinct, [compared] with what Microsoft has done in the market? And how do you view the large market presence that Microsoft has? Is it an opportunity, or it a threat?

Masri: Let me take a crack at the answer. The view of Microsoft environmental development tools or technologies versus Eclipse is often viewed as dimetrically polar opposites, which we don’t necessarily agree with.

Yes, Microsoft offers development tools; yes, they offer frameworks for building applications; but both could certainly benefit from a framework that allows the community at-large to build faster, better solutions and to benefit and to commercialize those capabilities. I suspect Microsoft is going to view it as a competitive solution. I think over time that view will change as the market grows to adopt more and more of the [Eclipse] framework. That view and the patterns of behavior will change over time to a more collaborative model rather than the competitive model.

Gardner: Damion, over at Lombardi, you must have faced this thought process. All that Microsoft brings to table for an ISV -- and then this other approach. Do you think that they are diametrically opposed? Or is there some way of having the best of both?

Heredia: We are pretty pragmatic about it. We are a Java shop in the back-end. So, our engines are a platform for delivering authoring interfaces through Eclipse, all based on Java. Our front-end is based on Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, etc., so it is .NET on the front-end, if you will.

But, to be pragmatic about it, when we walk into a customer, I rarely now see a customer that is 100 percent .NET-Visual Studio. In large enterprises, there are heterogenous environments. They have an Java app server farm purchased from an app vendor or ERP vendor, or they have some applications that have been brought up onto a JBoss application server they have apps on. Their skill sets are hybrid: both .NET and Java.

And for us, the Eclipse platform is the delivery mechanism into this. That makes it feel like a Windows environment, in the sense of it’s not Swing, and it feels natural. But, ultimately for the short-term, I do see some developers going between Visual Studio and their Eclipse environments. What I have seen a little more of is the .NET-Visual Studio, which is focused on building services and is a Service Oriented Architecture. You know, it exposes some back-end functionality as a service, exposes a Web service, and then [you] come into the Lombardi TeamWorks and it builds the process and integrates with those services. So, you can segment off the functionality within IT.

Masri: Just to add to that, we maintain a fairly thorough understanding of our customer base and population use. The majority of our customers still use the Windows environment for their design side, as most tools -- 90 percent of tools are run on the Windows platform. We are seeing about five percent using Linux, and a growing minority of Apple users that are two to three percent grown over time.

So, I re-emphasize it: There are synergies and it is a heterogenous environment, and it is going to continue to be such. Things don’t really change overnight, and we've got a way to benefit, from our perspective as a tools provider, because our customers are asking us to provide both Java and .NET solutions at the same time.

Gardner: In terms of cost benefits, have either of you have been able to put dollars-and-cents value on what Eclipse means? And this might be more relevant for Damion of Lombardi.

Heredia: Let me talk about a few areas that we really take advantage of. One is in prototyping. Some of the challenges around innovation always lead to how you get the idea from the white board to what we put in the hands of the users in the market. With Swing, in our previous development environments, it would take two to three weeks to develop a prototype of that innovation. Whereas with Eclipse it would take me two or three days, especially with Eclipse 3.2 and the GMF project.

With the Graphical Modeling Project we've been able to have tools at our disposal that we can extend and build around. Getting the function out of these graphical modeling tools is greatly increasing our ability to deliver something to market. Like you said, it's just a substantial reduction of time to the prototype phase, which ultimately means that I am going to deliver the right solution faster. At the same time, we then take that extra time to put it in the hands of the users and iterate with them more quickly, especially with our beta sponsors and other design sponsors. So, the idea is fresh, and we come with the best solution possible.

Gardner: I want to poke at that modeling issue a little bit. A lot of organizations recognized in the long-term that modeling makes a lot of sense. It's sort of like for your own health, you've got to eat well and exercise a lot, but sometimes you just never get to it. Is there any thing about Eclipse that helps you move toward modeling? Is there an Eclipse accelerant to modeling that is somehow part-and-parcel with the adoption of it, or is it just a path you were going to take anyway?

Heredia: Eclipse, both the EMF framework and now with GMF, which came down with Eclipse 3.2, played very well with our internal approach to TeamWorks as a whole. We’ve taken a shared model approach.

So, we want our customers to model the process, the business process and not to write code or scripts or worry about maintaining assets of code, but to worry [instead] about the model itself, and then during runtime interpret that for the actual business process. So, when we moved to Eclipse, that paradigm holds well.

Now, with Eclipse 3.2 we’re taking that to a whole new level -- 3.2 with the GMF is going to allow us to have our customers extend a meta model in a way that it’s scalable, it’s maintainable, and it fits well with the developers’ skill sets. So, it allows them to add attributes and new components and extend the meta model, using graphical tools that are delivered from Eclipse projects.

Gardner: So, better requirements process, reuse of modeling, faster time to market, and more agility to react to markets. How about back to that question about money or at least a percentage of effort. Do you have any kind of metric that you would say Eclipse is doing "blank" for us?

Heredia: I wouldn’t disclose any monetary amounts, but I think the example I gave holds pretty well, in the sense of something that will take two three weeks in Swing takes me two to three days in Eclipse. That's powerful, especially for developers who do not like doing the monotonous, tedious work of designing the infrastructure of a user interface. They want to focus on the function that’s going to add value.

Gardner: How about you, Maher? Do you have any sense of a return on investment here; do you have any metrics you can apply to what Eclipse allows for you and your customers?

Masri: I can give you a very simple metric from our perspective. When MyEclipse was launched in January 2003, we had less then 10 developers allocated to the project. And then, in less than three years, we emerged to be one of the leaders in the tools space, competing on features with companies an order or two orders of magnitude larger than we are.

You could not find a better metric than that. The platform allowed us the ability to, as I said, innovate and incrementally build solutions and add features over time in a rapid manner. We rely on the reliability and the quality of the underlying platforms, such that we exude confidence that the end users are adopting solutions of equal, if not better, value than what they can find somewhere else.

Gardner: I suppose the bottom line here is just far better developer productivity.

Masri: Absolutely. And again, it’s much more than the technology itself. It’s the ability to incrementally deliver solutions over time without having to wait the traditional two years that are required in a soup-to-nuts implementation of a new solution.

In the past, for every solution that you delivered, you had to wait anywhere between 12 and 24 months to deliver a new IDE and new product, because you had to reinvent everything inside that framework. Contrast to that to a breadboard that allows you to add functionalities and features without modifying that breadboard over time. Or better yet, let somebody else worry about that over time. It gives you a leg up on the competition that don’t choose that path.

Gardner: And so, I suppose, there's benefit of adoption, a benefit over time, and then sort of a tax or penalty for those who don’t get that community benefit and reduced time-to-market that will accelerate and keep building.

Masri: Add to that the gravity of the critical mass on the commerce side. As this was described by us at Lombardi: The more people that use it, they find it more convenient to adopt the same technology. The pull that happens as a part of the larger community of users is dragging everybody in this direction. It certainly helps people like us all who want faster adoption from the commerce side.

Gardner: It’s almost like there is, in effect, here -- where Eclipse is making you an offer you can’t refuse -- but it’s doing it in a way that’s a community-based way, rather than a top-down or lock-in way.

Masri: That's a lesson we learned early on in delivering our business solution, and that’s how we were able to innovate -- by removing any friction from the end user adoption, and allowing them to adopt the solution, because it was literally a no brainier at that point in time.

Gardner: I know you are both active in the Eclipse community, and you probably make your wish list known that way. But for the benefit of our audience: Looking forward, what would you like to see brought to the Eclipse community that would help you in your business -- that is to say, have a direct business benefit to you? Why don’t we start with Damion, what’s on your wish list for the future?

Heredia: Yeah, one of the things is what came in Eclipse 3.2 is the GMF, but I think what we are looking to see in the market going forward with Eclipse is commoditization of other technologies. I think integration is a big area that Eclipse can take advantage of and commoditize; a lot of integration work done in IT organizations, especially around Web services with the WTP project, and possibly even legacy integration.

Each vendor has its own flavor of doing it, but in reality it’s a pretty standard thing to do and straight-forward if you have the right tools. In addition to what Eclipse 3.2 brought to the table -- and we’ll see more of the tools that allow developers to model their logic, their business logic, their intent of what the application should do graphically -- I think we’ll see a move away from just writing code and more about maintaining the model. It represents what your application is supposed to do, and then whether it's interpreting or generating code at the back end, letting that model derive the functionality of the app.

Gardner: How about Maher? With you at Genuitec, what’s on your wish list for Eclipse?

Masri: It’s truly a simple wish -- and we’re seeing traction toward that end. It’s simply to see the visible adoption for industry protocols of the platform. We’re certainly well subscribed in terms of the tools market, well represented in terms of the commoditization or normalization is taking place around the technology itself. There is quite a quite a bit of need out there in the manufacturing world -- pharmaceuticals, for example -- that would greatly benefit from adopting the rich-client platform as part of their desktop or their application delivery life-cycle that will benefit everyone in the long term.

I suppose there is also an opportunity for community to develop right within that vertical industry for specifics that have to do with logic and issues and taxonomy and schema and all these other things that are very granular and specific but that again can benefit from a community process.

Gardner: Well, I want to thank you both for sharing. I think it’s been a good discussion. It really helped me better understand why Eclipse has taken off so quickly. It’s clear from you folks who are benefiting from it that you see some passion and a long-term process here.

Well, joining us for this discussion on some of the business benefits of Eclipse, an ISV, Lombardi Software, and representing the company is Damion Heredia, the director of product management. Thanks very much, Damion.

Heredia: Thank you for having me.

Gardner: And also on a tools side, an Eclipse-based tools maker, Genuitec. And representing that is the CEO Maher Masri. Thanks for joining.

Masri: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. You’ve been listening to BriefingsDirect and an Eclipse Foundation-sponsored discussion about the business benefits of Eclipse. Thanks for listening.

Podcast sponsor: Eclipse Foundation. Listen to the podcast here.

Transcript of Dana Gardner’s BriefingsDirect podcast on the impact of Eclipse on ISVs. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2006. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Full Transcript of Dana Gardner’s BriefingsDirect Podcast on the 20th Anniversary of High-Tech PR Firm Lois Paul & Partners

The following is a transcript of BriefingsDirect[TM] podcast with Dana Gardner, recorded June 26, 2006. Podcast sponsor: Interarbor Solutions.

Listen to the podcast here.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect. Today a bit of an anniversary party; we're looking back on the technology PR industry over the past 20 years, and using the 20th anniversary of Lois Paul & Partners as our milestone. Joining us on the call are the founder and president of Lois Paul & Partners, Lois Paul. Hi, Lois!

Lois Paul: Hi, Dana, how are you?

I’m great. Thanks for coming along. Also joining us today is Chris Shipley, she is the co-founder of Guidewire Group and the executive producer of the DEMO Conferences. Welcome to the show, Chris.

Chris Shipley:
I'm very glad to be here.

Our trip down memory lane also includes Dean Goodermote, the CEO of Double-Take Software, welcome to the show, Dean.

Dean Goodermote:
Hi, Dana, thanks.

Gardner: We're here to discuss how the IT PR industry has changed. We're in such a dynamic period here, 20 years in. I don't think we can consider this a mature industry by any stretch. Lois, why don't you tell us a little bit about what it was like 20 years ago, and what prompted you to get into this business and to go out on your own?

Sure, Dana. It was kind of an interesting and difficult decision for me way back in 1986. I was still at PCWeek then, it hadn’t changed to eWeek, and I wasn't that crazy about public relations. But some of the good ones that I had worked with, good PR people, included Dick McGlinchy, who is a really, really good PR person. He was forming his own agency, and there wasn't a lot of expertise in terms of high-tech PR. There weren’t very many specialists. So, we decided to try to put something together so that it could be the kind of agency we might want to hire. I could bring in elements that would [make it the] type of agency I would like to get the phone calls from as a reporter. That was sort of the genesis of it.

Gardner: And this would have been the summer of 1986.

Paul: Yes.

That was the time when the PC revolution was well under way, and you decided it was time to splinter off and make a high-tech-focused PR agency, because, I suppose, being knowledgeable about the subject is pretty important?

Yeah, we really felt that it was what was needed at the time. To be honest, it was taking a long time for publications to really be addressing some of the changes. I was getting a little frustrated with that as well. With the agency we thought that we could put something together that would be a news-bureau type of approach to public relations, which would bring something a lot better than some of the bad practices I had seen.

To get some perspective, this was back when breaking news was considered a weekly publication. Many publications had long lead times because they were monthlies, and the news releases still went via snail mail.

Yes, when we first started the agency -- just to give you perspective -- we had no voice mail at all. As a matter of fact, we fought voice mail for years because we felt that "high touch" was much more important for our kind of service. Even email was still pretty early-stage. And, yes, the fax machine was probably the most important machine in our office at the time. You would fax things to people as well as mail to them.

Gardner: Now you go back ways with our guests, Chris Shipley and Dean Goodermote. Who did you know first and how did they relate to your going out on your own back in '86?

I have known Chris longer, because actually Chris worked for me at PCWeek, which was great. Chris was one of the great hires I made over the years, and Chris joined us right out of college, which was wonderful. It's been really fun watching her career develop. That’s just one of the things that’s been most fun about my spot in the industry.

And this was in the Boston area, which at that time the hot seat of IT, right?

Still is.

Paul: Dean, you are exactly right. I was trying to think in terms of the first clients we had, and two of our three first clients were on the West Coast. But we were servicing them from the East Coast because there just weren’t as many specialists. We were full-service as well at the time, so we were doing advertising as well for some of these companies.

And tell me how did Dean first intersect with Lois Paul & Partners?

Paul: Well. I was trying to think about that. Dean and I go way back. I believe I can cite that it was when we first started working with Lotus in 1991. I was working with Jim Manzi, the CEO, on an interview with a profile that Glenn Rifkin wanted to do for The New York Times. Glenn had asked for people who knew Jim well, and Jim suggested Dean. I didn't know Dean at the time, even though it turns out that Dean lives five minutes from my house.

And, of course, being a skeptical PR person and former journalist, I said, “Has he dealt much with the media?” Jim said, “Well we could do a call together so you get a sense.” I wanted to screen Dean on this. It was one of the funniest calls, the three-way call, having both Jim Manzi and Dean Goodermote, was just tremendous. And it was really fun for me when I got to work with Dean afterward.

Dean, do you recall the call?

I do now. And I didn't before. And you know what I don't remember -- did Glenn mention me? I am not sure if he did. I don't recall.

Paul: But he did interview you.

I know he did interview me after that for some other things too.

Paul: And I think I did tell you that, “Well, he didn't know enough about you because you needed a different PR agency.”

Goodermote: That’s right! And I wanted to work with you, because you were really cool, because you worked with Lotus ... Because then we hired you.

Paul: Right.

Goodermote: At what’s now MRO Software.

What were you looking for in a PR agency at that time?

Goodermote: I think sort of the same thing as now. You're known, in part, by the company you keep. I think I was looking for credibility and prestige. I thought of that firm, and I still do, as a very credible prestigious firm in its own right. So, I was just looking for help from what I thought was the best institution around -- and at that time Lotus was probably the number-one software company in the country. And that probably had a lot to do with it. The people over there, including Jim, were good friends of mine. I had seen the work that [LP&P] had done, and got to know Lois a bit.

That does raise an interesting question. How was it that you started out on a fairly new path, which was a differentiation in PR by taking on a vertical industry, and being new as a start-up and not from a PR background but from a journalism background, and then land the marquis software company in the world? How did you do that?

It’s an interesting story.

Because she is very good it turns out.

So much of it is one thing that’s the same now than it was 20 years ago. It's about relationships. It's credibility. At the end of the day you can deliver, but it all comes back to relationships. Dick was extremely well known in the industry. I was well known as a journalist, but Dick was very well known out and about among the marketing community.

He had some great colleagues in John Landry and Bob Weiler who were one of our first clients at Distribution Management Systems and he had worked with them at McCormack & Dodge. They had moved, at least one of them had moved. Bob Weiler at the time had moved to Lotus and so that was our ability to get in the door or least have a conversation when Lotus was considering making a change. Then, as it turned out, my journalism background struck a chord with Jim Manzi, who is also a former journalist. And so it was the combination of the two of us, we had a great team. Bill McLaughlin led the Lotus team which had to grow tremendously overnight. It was a huge, huge undertaking for us and we did good work -- and we did it for 10 years.

… I stayed behind, it was sad to lose a great mentor at PCWeek. I think in the long run that I am really delighted that Lois was able to start this firm and really have such a positive impact on tech PR.

In the early- to mid-80s, PR was about flooding you with out-of-context calls and press releases, and this barrage of paper mail. It was great knowing that you knew when you picked up the phone, and Lois and one of her colleagues was on the phone, you were going to get a straight story. It was going to be relevant to what you were thinking about and working on. You knew that that was a call well worth taking. And that was rare in those days. I think she raised the bar for a lot of other agencies to have to follow.

I'm a bit of a latecomer. I didn’t get into the IT press until 1988, when I was a news editor for a trade publication. Time is always of the essence, whether you are an editor or a reporter, and one of the things that was greatly frustrating to me was getting on the phone with someone who had pitched you on something, and you had a very basic follow-up question -- simply trying to triage whether this was worthwhile -- and then to which reporter to potentially assign it to. You would ask a very direct question -- what does this technology do -- and a lot of the time they just could not come up with an answer.

They couldn't answer if you would say something like, is this software or hardware? Sometimes, they couldn't answer. I know it used to drive me crazy.

I suppose the biggest issue for [LP&P] as a company would have been the transition from Lotus as a spreadsheet, word-processing, and productivity applications company to this much larger category that they invented really -- groupware. Tell us a little bit about this major shift in the market from productivity applications to groupware?

That was actually the catalyst for making the change at the time. The company was really shifting dramatically to this much different [category]. That's when they brought us on. They were just getting ready to launch Lotus Notes, and it was important for them to have a different approach to taking that out to the marketplace.

It was huge, because the cash cow of the company was still the spreadsheet applications and the other applications, which then ended up becoming SmartSuite. And, for a long time, although the future of the company was heading toward groupware, the money was coming in with the applications.

So, it made for a lot of complication in terms of how you told the story externally, because you could not short-shrift those all-important applications. They were up against a monster like Microsoft, a voracious competitor. But at the same time, the future opportunities for Lotus in a strategic direction was inventing a new category and establishing that.

They didn’t like the term "groupware," but it ended up sticking, because none of the alternatives really were resonating. That was the situation. They created a category, and it was dubbed "groupware," and it stayed that way. And, Microsoft could not kill Notes.

Now, for the edification of some of our younger listeners, the match up between Lotus and your organization and Microsoft with Waggoner Edstrom in the mid- to late-'80s was a gargantuan clash of titans. It was like what we see today between, say, Google and Microsoft or Google and Yahoo. It was a very big deal. There's not just a little bit of irony that Ray Ozzie, who is now the chief software architect at Microsoft, was probably one of the key competitive advantages that Lotus had in making that transition. Tell us perhaps, if you remember, the first time you met Ray, and what he brought to the table in terms of groupware?

Sure. Ray was more behind the scenes from a public relations standpoint. It’s not what he liked to do. He is a brilliant visionary and technologist, and he is very customer-focused. He really listens to what customers are looking for, and he thinks ahead of what they need next. But he never really liked all the trappings of public relations.

Actually, the person who had the best relationship with Ray was the person who is working with him now, interestingly enough, Richard Eckel, who is now working with Ray as part of Microsoft, because they acquired Ray's company [Groove Networks], which Richard was working at. Back then, Richard was sort of the connector into Ray.

When I would see Ray in meetings, even though he was reluctant, he was always brilliant. And I remember taking Jim Manzi and Ray to the PC Magazine award’s dinner where they won the Person of the Year Award at a Fall Comdex. It was a black tie event, and we talked them into going to the parties before this event. So, we went to the Spencer Katt party and then the Shadow RAM party for the publications. Ray hung with us through the Spencer Katt party. We got him through that one. There was almost a very interesting encounter with [then Borland International CEO] Philippe Kahn that we managed to side-step. Do you remember that one, Chris?

It was always an interesting encounter when you ran into Philippe.

Well, Richard and I practically had to be bodyguards for that one; it was kind of interesting. It almost came to blows, but it didn’t. But then next we are going ahead to Shadow RAM from one or the other. With Ray, you could just see it was totally against his grain, and he just quietly disappeared. So, it’s interesting to see how much he is doing now in his new position [at Microsoft], because it’s just not something that comes naturally to him or something he enjoys.

Another thing that was very big in those days, if I recall, was that PCWeek, lived, ate, and drank scoops. The scoops were everything for the reporters and the editors. You wanted to get that Page 1, across-the-top story that no one else had, and that might have only been a week ahead of everyone, but it was such a big deal. I have competed against PCWeek, and you guys were the best.

Looking back before [today’s] real-time, everything-comes-out-within-an-hour and then-the-blogger-gets-it-first kind of environment we are in now -- looking back on those weekly cycles, it seems to me that there was a very tender balance you had to make between letting a scoop get out to one publication, without completely pissing off everyone else in the business. How do you give the scoop to one without ruining your relationship with the others? That was really sort of the power brokering position you were in.

It’s really hard. I remember one announcement that we made with Lotus, Bryan Simmons was in charge of corporate communications at the time, and it was tough because he needed The Wall Street Journal to cover this. It was extremely important for a variety of reasons as a public company that the Journal would do this. And, of course, the Journal wants to get it early.

So, Bryan had to cut whatever deal he had to cut, and I remember, PCWeek in particular – [then news editor] John Dodge was very upset, understandably so. And because that publication was competing not only with the other tech pubs that were weeklies, but they felt very much, they were competing with The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and the other business pubs.

So, we knew we were in the penalty box for a while, and that’s something now as PR people we have to consider. We'll talk it over with. If we're doing an announcement for Dean’s company, for example, we have to take a look at what the impact's going to be. If you feel you absolutely have to make some exceptions because you need to be in a certain publication, we know that it’s tough for the other pubs to deal with that.

Also, remember that at that time, the publications, as you yourself mentioned, were much more competitive. And the coverage of technology in mainstream business publications was much more than it is today. So, getting a scoop -- whether it was given or as we at PCWeek liked to believe, we actually went out and found them ourselves -- that made or broke our reputations with the publication, with our readership, with our advertising community. So, these times have changed quite a bit now. There's less competition in the marketplace, unfortunately, because I think it made for a really exciting time in journalism and in the tech industry.

Paul: I’ll tell you -- I don’t know how Chris and Dean feel about it -- but I do think there is more context now for announcements. Reporters are definitely telling us, "Don’t just give us announcements; we want to understand how it fits in with strategy." I think that’s a good direction, more of the analysis. Whereas before, it absolutely was, "I need a scoop, I need the new product."

Shipley: If you think of an even longer run than the 20 years since you have founded Lois Paul & Partners, in the 10 years prior to that, the industry was a lot about [vendors], and the trade publications sort of took what was said to them. Many of those publications were much more advertising-supported.

Then PCWeek and the publications that grew up in the mid-'80s established this journalist approach to the [IT] marketplace and brought much more credibility and much more integrity then we had seen in trade publishing for a long time. Today, we have armchair quarterbacks and analysts everywhere, and I think the really good publications are the ones that are putting this massive amount of data into some sort of context. And you are right, I think this analysis is much more important to the marketplace today than just getting the news out as it was 15 to 20 years ago.

[IT] is a huge industry now. I first started in the early '80s, and it was almost cool to be in this business. And I think there was a period where we lapsed back into that during the late '90s. That was when you could get anything out just because it was cool. And, I think now [IT] is a major part of the U.S. economy. It’s a huge part of Boston. It’s a huge part of Silicon Valley, Austin or wherever else. Which is to say we're not special anymore. We are just like the oil industry. So, I don’t think we can get away with being cool anymore. I know I can't.

Paul: Well, he didn't tell you, though, that he plays bass in their company band. Company bands are back, you know. It’s another sign.

Gardner: I think there was also a sense of revolution, the PC revolution. And that was probably typified by the famous Apple Computer commercial with the big hammer coming down. There were the mainframes and the minis and the server-based computers that were typified by IBM and Digital Equipment Corp. Then, there were these upstarts and hippies who would come out with these PCs. And you sort of rode that.

Now, we are kind of in a different world, where to be hip and revolutionary and cool is really about being Web 2.0 and, interestingly, it's sitting on a server somewhere. And so, the role of the PC in being cutting-edge and innovative is really not in the same category. It has sort of gone off to the sidelines, and it’s the Internet and what you can do with interfaces and mash ups and real-time online publishing and rich content that seems to be the new revolution. Any reaction to that, Lois?

Paul: With our client base, we have always had clients that are more in the infrastructure rather than consumer-related technologies, and we have a mix now, but it’s always been more [about representing] the complex technology. What we have done, what our clients are doing, is enabling the changes. As Dean said, technology has become much more of a part of the economy, and is changing people’s day-to-day lives and the way business works.

I do think that’s what we're seeing more and more with our clients, [the Internet] and I think that’s what’s interesting, because it’s how you can get things to work. It’s how you can add to the productivity of your day or make things easier for you in the incredible pace people are living at now. That’s what’s important about technology, not technology for technology’s sake.

And I suppose you can legitimately take on a “mission-accomplished” sort of a feeling of success, because if we didn’t have a PC on every desktop, and if the PC revolution didn’t really happen, then the Internet revolution wouldn't have happened and there wouldn't have been the network nodes. So it’s sort of that the Internet is riding on the shoulders of giants, and the companies that you were representing and the work you were doing in the 80s and early 90s were those giants.

Goodermote: And, remember, you were working with us in the early 90s and that’s why we were giants.

Paul: That’s right, exactly. I was just going to say, you and I need to retire now.

Right. My shoulders are hurting.

While we are on the subject of retirement, what does the future portend for Lois Paul & Partners, and how do you see this business changing? It seems like the whole notion now is “return on influence.” How do we get the viral snowball to start gathering speed and volume in the blogosphere, and then in the mainstream media? That seems to be the new goal.

It's something we are very much working with now, exploring. Some of our clients are more ready to take advantage of it than others. But I do think that things are changing rapidly.

I just see that as the way our company has always been -- and Bill McLaughlin has said this frequently -- that we reinvent ourselves every several years. I think we are in one of those transitional phases right now. I feel good that we have the 20-year mark behind us. We survived the downturn. We are intact. We are part of the Fleishman-Hillard and Omnicom Group family of agencies, and we are taking advantage of those connections, especially to expand internationally, in terms of our ability to serve our clients.

But there are great opportunities for us. That keeps it interesting, because we have a great group of people who have been in the industry for 20 years, like myself, and the people have only been in the industry 5, 10 or 15 years. They are all bringing these new ideas in. So, they’re constantly at my door reaching into the candy drawer in my desk, and one of them is constantly lobbying me. Kari Hanson is determined that we need to be doing new-era public relations, and that’s a good thing. She is influencing the various elements that we are adding.

Do you think even the term "public relations" is now out of date? It seems like marketing plays a role -- that viral plays a role; analyst relations kicks in. Do you think PR is not the right way to look at it?

Paul: PR is always hard to define. It’s been hard to define. At the same time, just as when you are a product company, people have to put you into some sort of bucket. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been one that’s been able to substitute [for PR]. We’ve really said that we’ll provide strategic communications, and then the programs that go underneath those. And those can include media relations, analyst relations, financial communications, crisis communications. But it's hard, it is changing, and it’s changing rapidly. At the same time, we are seeing that the basic elements of it are becoming even more critical, because as you say, influencing and positioning yourself is really, really critical as the marketplace is heating up again.

It also seems that the role of what is almost derogatorily referred to as "mainstream media" is under some pressure. That is to say, individuals or companies themselves are in the role now of publishing, and they need to maintain credibility and influence in doing so, in going direct to their audiences, or more commonly, to communities.

These are developers, users, or affinity groups that are considered either a lifestyle tie or work-a-day tie to a culture. Any thoughts from Dean or Chris as to whether a PR role is what's needed, or should this be something else? Or is this something that should be an internal core competency within many companies?

I don’t know. Having been around Lois for so long, I’d still look for Lois and her colleagues. Usually some junior person sort of tells me now, because I can get out of touch. Maybe it's different and maybe it's really not public relations as it used to be, but you are still looking to influence buyers ultimately. I think that does change. I think it’s changed a lot and even if it’s supposed to come internally, I think even the agencies can even guide you how to do that, who to go to.

You know, what I have to say: There is a lot of pressure to try and to grab on to these new ideas in non-traditional marketing efforts or public relations or direct-to-customer communications. All that still requires as much strategy, and certainly you want some of that expertise in-house, but I think you seek out strategists who can help you deliver that message. That doesn’t change when the media changes. It’s a constant in that being able to communicate effectively with the marketplace is what drives business success.

I do remember having this debate. We were in the late '80s, and we were doing PR internally. There was a period where I think it was sort of the up-and-coming wisdom, that you should do PR internally. Am I right or not?



It was the function you should have in-house. Marketing maybe should be out of house or other parts of marketing communications, but that part should be in-house. And we did that for a while, and I think it was after that that we hired you, Lois.

How do you effectively work within that decision process -- inside or outside, Lois?

Paul: That’s something where we understand that in order for us to make sense for you to use an agency, we have got to deliver a multiple on whatever you are spending with us, because you should not only be getting the benefit of the team that you have, but you should be getting the benefit of everybody’s connections at the agency.

We should be able to do things for you more quickly. We should be able to get the doors opened faster, and you also have the ability to tap people like myself who have got great connections, as well as the rest of the team. So, at the end of the day, the best combination, if you can do it, if you are at the right size, is to have an internal person who knows the workings of your company inside and out, who can then partner with the appropriate-size agency team. Then, you get the best of both worlds. We have done it in a variety of ways.

And, I suppose if what you say is true, that it’s really ultimately based on relationships and having the advantage of being sort of a layer above the organization, the company, the client -- maybe that gives you better opportunity to create extended relationships.

Paul: It does, and also, to be honest, sometimes our clients need to bring us in because we can be the sanity check. We can be the person that, even though they already know what the right answer is, for whatever reason, their executives might not be hearing it from someone who is inside the company. When that’s amplified by an external consultant, it could make all the difference. So, sometimes we play that role.

Right, okay. Do you have any juicy tidbits for us looking back on 20 years, some name-dropping, something that perhaps has not come out in public, but with the turning of the clock is probably something that can now come out? I mean, something along the lines of who’s Deep Throat -- that sort of thing.

There are certainly a lot of good stories. We certainly had our sources at PCWeek. But what we also had was a tremendous amount of fun covering this industry. And once in a while, a couple of executives had some fun watching us chase down false leads. So, it was a time when there was actually not only competitiveness among the papers, but also a bit of competitiveness in the spirit of the relationship between press and PR, and between the companies that were being covered.

Gardner: It was a little bit more fun back then, wasn’t it?

Paul: It was a little crazy. I mean, it was fun. I remember things like when Ed Scannell was at Computerworld, and I remember Ed cornering Bill Gates, who had just done a keynote at Comdex. And he would do the basic reporter trick, which is not ask your question during a press conference, but try to button-hole somebody afterward.

I just remember watching that. He and I were colleagues at the time. There used to be more of that sort of thing. We were going to be the Edward R. Murrows of the computer industry and go after people. There is some of that now, too, but there were lot of big personalities to go after then. There was access. There weren’t the entourages.

I remember watching Bill Gates basically running around conferences where he was not the big noise back then. Microsoft was a new company, and he was basically trying to connect then with people. So, it was really fascinating watching as the industry developed. And now he has announced he is going to be moving on to another big change, he is going to be lessening his day-to-day role.

Right -- and managing some of Warren Buffett’s money.

Yeah, he is going to be a little busy.

Gardner: Now another innovation that I think PCWeek didn’t entirely pioneer, but mastered, was their rumor column, Spencer Katt. Of course, the bloggers today, they think they’ve come up with something entirely new. But in many ways, Spencer Katt was a blog …

Sure was.

… and it was a very powerful way of getting the word out anonymously and having a little competitive fun. But also really getting some good communications work done through these vehicles. Do you have any remembrances around the leveraging of the rumor column?

Paul: Sure, I remember the very early days. I don't remember how long it took, but I do remember that legal [departments] basically pulled the plug on paying people for the rumors. Because basically that could have been considered corporate espionage. I forgot what the exact term was, but that was something that was done in the very early days.

How much did they pay?

Paul: I think it was $100 per tip, something like that -- and then they would give T-shirts and I have certainly have some in my drawer.

Gardner: Coffee mugs and whatever, yeah.

Paul: Yeah, they will give coffee mugs or T-shirts, Spencer Katt T-shirts. But in the early days they were actually paying for the tips. Then, they realized, "Wait a minute. You might be encouraging people to basically divulge corporate secrets."

Gardner: And everybody in the business read that.

Oh, sure. That and Shadow RAM also, I think, did a great job with their rumor column --- and CRN.

Shipley: I think I have the distinction of being the only person in the industry who has written both Spencer Katt and [InfoWorld’s] Robert X. Cringely. These were some really interesting days. I think one of the things that was so very interesting to me about it as a writer was I was watching this community really want to participate in the story. In some cases, you got the tip because some of them were just not happy that the product they bought wasn't the product they expected or something of this sort. But there was this other overtone of, "I want to be part of the story in some way." That was the thing that I really loved, that those columns took hold and stayed in the market for as long as they did.

I was just going through some old emails, because I was trying to write something for a presentation I was giving, and I found some old emails from Mitchell Kertzman when he was our client, when he was the CEO of Powersoft. And one in particular is about the Spencer Katt column. He was particularly excited that he and Powersoft were referenced in the Spencer column because...

He’d made it.

Paul: Yeah, he felt that, "Oh, they are paying attention. Boy, this must be part of the buzz."

We had fun with that column, too. And, let me tell you about the bad, old days when, at the time, the writer of the column was sneaking into suites at Comdex and then placing Spencer Katt’s business card on the pillows of executives who were running these companies. I mean, we were having some fun. So we miss a little bit of that today.

It’s become a business process, as Dean said. [IT] has become a big part of the economy now. The fun days are starting to end, and that’s not good. We have to get the fun back.

Shipley: I think at that time we were reinventing everything: what was the PC industry going to be and what was journalism and public relations and the roles of all of these players? I suspect -- with the changes coming down the road -- we'll be re-inventing once again.

Paul: It’s funny though, with blogs and everything, I am still looking at them to make sure that it makes sense. And that I can sort of foresee the future form, because I am always looking at what’s the return going to be for the investment of time for a client. That’s what they are always asking me for. They want to know that if I apply a certain amount of time and resources to something, is it going to really help me in terms of perception in the market place. Is it going to help me drive sales? And so we always have to look at things like that. So, I guess I am still skeptical.

Gardner: So, is it a fad or is it a real new development?

Paul: I think it's a new development, but I guess what I haven't figured out yet is: Is it in its final shape that will provide the value that people need, because it’s still formative.

Gardner: Well, I look forward to our call in 20 years from now on your 40th anniversary so we can look back on that and make a determination.

Sounds good, Dana.

Well, congratulations on this milestone, there are not too many things that happen in this industry for 20 years.

Paul: That’s right, and we are all still so young and vibrant -- that’s what’s so great.

Gardner: Well, great. I think we have had a fun time discussing this industry and the changes -- and this is by no means over yet: an ongoing journey. Joining us today for a 20th anniversary discussion about Lois Paul, or is it Lotus Paul and Partners ... has been Lois Paul, the founder and president of LP&P, thanks very much for sharing.


And also Chris Shipley, co-founder of Guidewire Group and the executive producer of the DEMO conferences. Thanks Chris.

Shipley: It’s been a lot of fun. Congratulations Lois on 20 years.

Oh, thanks, Chris.

And Dean Goodermote, the CEO of Double-Take Software.

Goodermote: Thank you. Congratulations, Lois.

Thanks, Dean.

Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions and you have been listening to a BriefingsDirect podcast. Thanks for listening.

Podcast sponsor: Interarbor Solutions. Listen to the podcast here.

Transcript of Dana Gardner’s BriefingsDirect podcast on the 20th Anniversary of tech PR firm Lois Paul & Partners. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2006. All rights reserved.