In February 2007, a group of associates and I launched a head on assault on the status quo of email. We planned to offer a cloud based alternative to Microsoft Exchange, Lotus notes and Novell’s Groupwise. At the time, 95% of all email was on premise solution and Microsoft had about 70% share. Here was our story that I developed put within the framework I wrote about in another blogpost.
Step 1: Identify the Problems of the Paradigm that you are trying to disrupt.
Existing email systems are a nightmare for end users and heinously complex and expensive for IT.
- Email box sizes are much, much to small for today’s information age. The average is about 500MB. That is way too small for a world where email volume is increasing by 25% annually. Most users spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning up their email box, deleting and archiving so that their email box can fit new email. If you don’t spend a lot of time managing your impossibly small inbox, then existing systems stop delivering new email to you! Its crazy, why are we forcing users to live in this environment?
- Existing Client server emails require you to download email to your PC. Users are spending tons of time waiting for email to download. And if you are a road warrior and have a bad connection or can’t get through the corporate VPN then there is no email for you. How crazy is this. Do we really need the email to live on our laptops? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to store it on a server? And wouldn’t it be more secure?
- Users spend an hour a day foldering and sorting email. This is a galactic time killer for every information worker. Do we really want to treat high volume electronic communication like it is piece of paper from the 1950s. Back then, we saved each piece of paper into a separate folder and stored it in filing cabinet. In age where we can easily search and find things on a data source called the internet, can’t we develop some email search technology that would allow us to find email without having to spend an hour a day foldering email. You know what is worse than spending an hour a day foldering email? Spending an hour a day foldering email and then still not being able to find it because you can’t remember what folder it is in!!! I mean really, its 2007, this is just such bullsh*t!
- Existing email systems are way too expensive and consume large amounts of scarce IT resources.
On premise systems require hardware, system software and application software to be procured provisioned and maintained. In addition to that expensive virus scanning and spam filtering software and hardware must be added to each email server. Most email systems are deemed mission critical and require high levels of redundancy to ensure data integrity and high levels of availability and performance. So take the normal email hardware and software configuration and multiply it by 2 or 3. Furthermore the nature of most workforces is increasingly distributed, so the It configuration must be deployed in a complex distributed fashion. Lastly, the Microsoft applications require frequent patching to ensure security and reliability. Every second Tuesday a large number of patches are distributed to Microsoft customers. The number of patches is so large and frequent, that the industry has come to know every second Tuesday as “Patch Tuesday”. I mean it is so cumbersome they have a name for the day that you just maintain the system!!!
Step 2. Develop Concrete Impact Statements on the Consequences of the Status Quos
The problems described in Step 1 have the following impact on organizations
- Legacy email systems designed for volume email environment of years gone by have a huge negative impact on information worker productivity. It is estimated that information workers spend 30 minutes per day doing unnecessary email hygiene primarily in unnecessary foldering and email/attachment deletion or archiving. Eliminating that 30 minutes would lead to a 6.25 increase in productivity! No other simple system change can have such a big impact on information working productivity.
- It is estimated that 20% of the data in a company is structured data and 80% of that data in unstructured data. The majority of that unstructured data is in email or in attachments and files sent though email. And yet we force employees to constantly delete, archive or use an arcane foldering system to manage the largest amount of information in your company. If you cannot easily locate our unstructured information, then your decisions, processes are underperforming through lack of complete data. In today’s competitive world you can’t operate without comprehensive data at your fingertips.
- The average company of spending $500 per year per user on email boxes that are 500MB. Expansion of those email boxes is prohibitively expensive. So users are in the worst possible situation: High costs for a service that is not and cannot meet their needs.
Step 3: Position your Company/Product as the only way to stop the Status Quo from continuing to Wreak Havoc
Gmail for business is uniquely capable of solving the problems of legacy email solutions:
- Gmail offers 25GB of storage for every users. That is 50 times larger than your average corporate email boxes. Users will never have to delete an email ever again. Not only will they not have to spend time deleting email, folders and attachments, but they will have access to all their email at all times.
- Gmail has integrated Google Search technology built into the product. No need to create and maintain cumbersome foldering systems. Simply type in a key word and Gmail will find what you are looking for, just like Google on the internet.
- Gmail is a completely cloud based service that requires no hardware, system software or application software. It comes with integrated virus and spam filtering technology, so you can get rid of your expensive in house system. Google does all the work on the system so you can redeploy IT personnel to other projects.
- Gmail is $50 per user per year. This is 1/10 the expense that you are paying for your tiny email boxes today!!!
Step 4: Show you have a concrete plan
Here is our plan : ( just a sample)
- Develop some still unfinished enterprise features that could slow adoption in larger accounts.
- Be able to quickly deploy these new systems in complex It environments.
- Develop a scalable way to train and handle change management
- Compete with MSFT who has dominate share, customer install base leverage and financial contracting advantages due to ties with other MSFT products.
- Convince the market that the cloud is safe, secure environment for corporate data.
Step 5: Tell them that it will be hard and that you need their help.
The closing pitch went something like this:
This is an important mission that we are on. Email systems touch every employee in a company. It is the primary way companies use to communicate in today’s era. And yet we are using systems architected for the late 1990s. Users are furious with the current state of this important application. Companies are overspending on outdated technology that is inherently insecure and heinously complex. We are the only company that has the product and resources to compete with Microsoft. They have no incentive or ability to significantly improve the status quo. Without our efforts, companies will continue to overspend on systems that drive users crazy by enforcing email storage limits and systems that are a decade old. But we need more help. We especially need help from people like you to help us make this new paradigm a reality. There are still unknown technical and integration hurdles to overcome. Microsoft will not take our entry to the market lying down. Expect them to counterattack very hard, to ridicule our new method and spread fear uncertainty and doubt that the future is a scary place. I could sure use your help over the coming years to maker our vision a reality. If we can pull it off, then I think you and I can both look back on this with significant pride because it is an accomplishment that will have big impact on an application that touches every single employee.