mercredi 31 juillet 2013

Optimize your solution by better knowing your service provider

I've been working in presales with a service provider since a couple of years, during which I witnessed different kinds of relations with customers. In this post, I will give my recommendations for improving the relation with your service provider in order to optimize your solution (quality, price..). The following does not apply on one shot providers.

The most important step is to understand well the organization of your provider:
  • Understand his commercial organization and the role of each representative (Account Manager, Business Manager..). Is the there any hidden influent positions? who is the decision maker? for example who validates margins and discounts for your account?
    To analyze well the organization of your provider, you should diversify his representatives as much as possible, and try to target the best representative for each specific subject.
  • Anticipate any risk due to the organization of your provider and overcome it. For example, if you realize by time that your provider doesn't have an efficient internal communication plan among different actors involved in your complex project, you can play an active role to improve this communication.
  • Understand the commission structure of the sales representatives: based on turnover? on margin? on quality? any representative who is not commissioned? This information reveals the development strategy of your provider and its values, and helps you avoid any possible perversion of his management system.
  • Understand the sales cycles of your provider: monthly based? or based on trimester? this helps you adapt the phasing of your service procurement to your provider's sales cycle in order to get the best financial offers.

Another aspect, which is rarely considered, is the motivation of your provider's team. It is very important to consider his team as a part of your project team in order to motivate them and succeed your project. Some hints for smartly managing your provider's team:
  • Empower your provider's team by giving the complete picture and explaining the stakes of your project in an atmosphere of trust and partnership.
  • Try to play the fair game of competition, in order to challenge enough the provider's team, yet maintain it's motivation in the same time.
  • Put the right amount of pressure on the provider's team for the same reason as described before. To know what is the right amount of pressure, you must understand well the processes of your provider: how do they function, what is their average delays..


lundi 15 juillet 2013

Content Delivery Networks

As promised previously, I'll dedicate this post to Content Delivery Networks. The goal of CDN is to improve the performance of networked applications, whether on a private network or over the Internet.
CDN is a distributed set of interconnected surrogate servers offloading traffic from the origin server. When a user makes a request, the intelligent CDN platform redirects the request to the best server capable of answering, in order to deliver the best performance and user experience.

CDN's performance is measured by the hit ratio, the ratio of requests served by surrogates instead of the origin server. Hit ratio depends on the nature of data: It is more suited to static and basic dynamic data and it's not suited to security sensitive data and data modified concurrently by different users.

CDN is a great solution for businesses that depend on networked applications, typically online e-commerce websites. First, the CDN solution will improve and harmonize the customer's experience, leading to a more loyal customer and a better conversion rate thus generating more revenues. Second, a CDN System will help simplifying and improving the efficiency of the webserver infrastructure:
  • Reduce infrastructure (Internet access, servers..) by offloading traffic to CDN provider's surrogate servers.
  • Avoid sizing the infrastructure to the peak traffic making it more effcient.
  • Avoid the complexity of evolving the infrastructure in order to absorb more traffic (load balancing systems, heavy investments ..).
  • Increase the availability of infrastructure by leveraging the availability of a redundant and distributed CDN platform.
In the following Prezi slides, I try to explain the different components building a CDN system and the different possible architectures and their stakes. This presentation is inspired from the great book by Dinesh Verma on CDNs.

Personnaly, my first experience on CDN was with Orange Labs, where we tried to leverage a CDN for a Video on Demand service. And now, I am excited about designing and proposing CDN solutions to my customers, since Orange Business Services and Akamai (leader global CDN provider) have signed a strategic partnership in November 2012: Orange will commercialize Akamai's solutions and will extend Akamai's CDN on their networks.