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Bye Bye High Tower Software – Part 1

Before coming to Emagined I worked for High Tower Software for nearly three and a half years. Although I have worked on several software projects in the past, I had never before worked for a software company. Lamentably, High Tower’s investors shut down High Tower on November 24 last year. Working in the software industry taught me some very valuable lessons, however. I would like to share some of the most important ones with those who work in this arena:

  • Sales execution is paramount. You must have a great product, but having a great product by itself does not get you very far at all. Whoever heads sales must be highly proficient in motivating sales people and ensuring that sales efforts are always on track. This person is in my mind the most valuable person in a software company.
  • Marketing and selling go hand-in-hand. The software that is being sold and the company that produces it should both be well-recognized and positively regarded by potential customers. Salespersons should not have to “start from scratch” by having to talk about the company for which they work and the nature of the product(s) is makes when they make initial sales calls.
  • Resellers and VARs also make or break sales efforts. Getting resellers and VARs on board is not good enough, however. You also have to do everything within your power to get them to sell your product.[1]
  • Ensure that each release of any software product has enough features to make your product highly competitive. The competition, particularly in the Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) arena, is brutal. Customers tend to buy the product that best meets a list of requirements. Trying to include enough features in each release creates a quandary, however, as there is considerable evidence that smaller, more frequent releases are better from a software quality perspective.
  • Have a sense of urgency, especially if you work for a smaller, less-established software company. Investor funding will not last forever, you know. Effective project management is especially vital. Without it, deliverables will inevitably slip, and money will run out.
  • Ensure that you have a sufficient nucleus of highly proficient developers and quality assurance staff. Not every person in these areas needs to be a guru, but you need to have enough gurus to successfully deal with exceptionally difficult problems such as code instability and performance problems that invariably surface from time-to-time. (High Tower was fortunate to have gurus such as Jon Cruz, Frank Villa, and Henry Deist, to name just a few.)
  • People skills and team play are extremely critical, particularly in small software companies. Tempers, “nastigrams” and silos can, do and will destroy companies.
  • Do everything you can do to get in good with the Gartner Group. Like it or not, a product’s placement within Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant” is a major decision factor in many potential buyers’ minds. Some SIEM products are really not all that good[2], but because they somehow ended up in quadrant 1, they sell anyway.

I truly hope that you will find these lessons learned valuable. You, the readers, almost certainly have additional ones. Post them, and I’ll include them in a future blog.

[1] Emagined is a reseller of Symantec security products. I have been extremely impressed by the Symantec reseller relationship managers and other supporting staff with whom I have dealt.

[2] As High Tower’s Chief Technology Officer I had to constantly learn of and evaluate features in competitors’ products. Given that High Tower’s product is now off the market, I can say things about other SIEM tools (including kudos) that I was not free to say before. I know which SIEM product I would buy without hesitation if I were in the market for such a product!

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