Friday, March 31, 2006

When you say (data leakage) it makes me feel (choose one: scared, angry…confused.)

From CHEN PR Veep Kevin Kosh...

I’m sure we’ve all heard this “MadLibs-esque” phrase in seminars on appropriate business conduct, and while we all appreciate the need for education and awareness, phrases like that that have become a punch line in some cases as part of the backlash against overcompensation in political correctness – case in point is the popularity of NBC’s “The Office” that revels in its political incorrectness.

But railing against political correctness is a well worn path and not my point here, however, there seem to be events occurring in data security at the moment headed in a similar direction. There’s a very interesting story in eWEEK this week by Larry Dignan, titled “In Florida, Data Breach, Offshore Outsourcing, CYA Collide.” It covers a “data breach” of which the State of Florida threw up an alarm to 108,000 former and current employees regarding potential mishandling of their personal data. In describing the breach, Florida cites a subcontractor who sent information offshore, and also quickly states that it has “received no reports of identity theft as a result of the offshore work.” With 53 million consumers personal information compromised in the last 13 months, this is obviously no laughing matter, but the question is, is it a breach of protocol or a breach of trust? And to Larry’s point, putting the event in such close proximity to phrases like “identity theft,” creates a linkage that may be inappropriate and even alarmist.

Larry sums up the issue well. “The crime: Florida data was being sent offshore because its subcontractor had a subcontractor that went overseas.” He then goes on to say, “OK, so to this point all we know is that Florida can't keep tabs on its vendors' vendors. At last check, offshoring wasn't illegal.”

There’s a lot to be worked out for sure from a data security and a regulatory standpoint to adequately protect and inform consumers, but in the meantime, this probably will be one of many alarms raised out of fear rather than reason.

And of course, years from now we can all look back on this and get a good laugh as some sitcom star jokes about SQL injection and cross site scripting attacks – oh the fun we’ll have. And if you can’t wait, there’s always those great CitiBank identity theft commercials that make identity theft funny.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

It's Still America's Technology Highway

From my co-founder Brenda Nashawaty...

Yesterday business executives from Europe and the U.S. gathered in a conference room just off Route 128 to talk about helping European companies enter U.S. markets.

The meeting was hosted by MentoNet, a professional mentoring organization in Silicon Valley, the Boston area and European technology centers. MentoNet introduced EuroUS Ventures, its new €100 million fund to bring private European companies to the U.S.

These companies already have traction in their home countries. MentoNet is successful because their management and their portfolio companies understand that it's not enough to have a great product or service. Doing business in the U.S. requires leadership, investors and advisors who understand how to succeed in our markets.

We also heard from a representative of the Swiss Consulate in Cambridge on the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) which promotes entrepreneurship. MentoNet is working with CTI to help their member companies enter or expand in the U.S.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Missing the Trees for the Forest

From CHENer Kate Hoagland...

Whether it’s the levies breaking, a finger in the chili or an unruly executive running off at the mouth, communications crises are a way of life in today’s world.

In the recent article “In Case of Emergency,” James Surowiecki (a.k.a. Mr. Wisdom of Crowds) argues business pitfalls are inevitable in part because we are plagued with an unrealistic level of optimism towards those potential problems, with top executives as the biggest offenders. Low probability events, while they may carry a huge price tag, are just that -- unlikely to happen and not worth planning or attempting to prevent. Yet, according to a study by the Institute of Crisis Management, nearly 75 percent of major business emergencies could have been avoided because the warning signs were there. Exuding confidence despite the bleakest circumstances may allow our leaders to quickly climb the corporate ladder but it can also cause them to fall just as fast. Are we guilty of breeding our top executives to only see the forest and not the trees until it’s too late?

Recently Bill Gates was quoted mocking MIT’s affordable computer project to benefit third world countries. He criticized the small screens and cranks stating, "If you are going to go have people share the computer, get a broadband connection and have somebody there who can help support the user, geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you're not sitting there cranking the thing while you're trying to type.” He went on to promote Microsoft’s more expensive computer.

Recognized for his philanthropy and countless hours dedicated to third world poverty issues, Bill Gates’ comments hardly reinforce his TIME “Person of Year” title. Call me crazy, but communities without running water probably lack the luxury of electricity and would benefit from cranking mechanisms. Moreover, I’m willing to bet that broadband connections in the bush are rare to non-existent.

Yet, however insensitive his comments may be, businesses depend on the Bill Gates-es of the world to speak candid, creative bold visions, unhindered by whom or what such visions might offend. Microsoft’s success is in direct relation to Bill Gates’ leadership and vision. Too often, though, executives cross a fine line; above the law at the worst extreme or out-of-touch with reality at best.

Or maybe we have unrealistic expectations of the capabilities of our leaders? Nobody’s perfect.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Software Rock Star

From Co-founder Brenda Nashawaty...

Pitching national business media requires a compelling idea and the facts to back it up. Recently we had the great pleasure of working with Dean Inouye and Dan Tuohy of The Boston Globe on a long profile of our client Chris Stone, president and CEO of StreamServe.

Most people in the software business know Chris. He founded the Object Management Group which created the CORBA standard. More than 60 percent of all software is written using OMG-based APIs and concepts. Today it’s called Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Web services, but it’s the same ideas with different interfaces (the Linux GNOME user interface is based on CORBA).

Before founding the OMG Chris and his team at Data General created the first laptop, in 1986. He also was Vice Chairman in the Office of the CEO at Novell, where he and Eric Schmidt drove NetWare’s move to TCP/IP and the ideas for "directory" technology as the basis for security and identity.

At StreamServe Chris is introducing Enterprise Document Presentment (EDP) software to the U.S. StreamServe EDP software already is used by thousands of companies internationally to communicate effectively with customers, partners and suppliers. EDP software automates the creation and presentment of documents from any source, in any format, to any channel.

What does that mean? Chris often uses the example of monthly telephone bills. Wouldn’t it be great if we got a single, easy to read bill from Verizon or Cingular instead of a separate, unreadable bill for each phone line that required separate payment? With EDP software, carriers could send us a single bill – on a Web site, to our handhelds, or by snail mail, email or fax – that would be so clear and easily understandable we’d almost look forward to paying the bill. Consider all your dealings with goods and service providers and you’ll see how EDP software could make you feel like your vendors only had eyes for you.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

When Seeing Your Client on the Hot Seat is a Good Thing

From CHEN Account Manager Juli Greenwood...

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with John Gallant and his Hot Seat team (including Jason Meserve), on behalf of our client Application Security, Inc. and VP of Strategy and Marketing Ted Julian. It was a reunion of sorts since not that long ago John sat down with Ted for a spirited debate on data security from the VORTEX show floor.

AppSecInc helps more than 500 organizations safeguard their databases. Little wonder that the database security sector is growing at a rapid pace. Each day it seems there’s a new headline pointing to a large scale security breach. One reason the sector’s turning heads is because it simply does not discriminate – it affects everyone. Data security is an issue that’s top of mind for anyone with a debit card or social security number – and for those companies responsible for housing and protecting that data it’s their lifeblood. With 50 million personal records compromised since the start of 2005 alone, it’s likely you or someone you know has been affected.

So next time you hand over that social security number, you’ll likely think about where it’s going to live – and whether or not it’s being protected by AppSecInc. I know I do.

Check out AppSecInc’s Hot Seat here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Network World's IT Roadmap Launches in Boston

From CHEN PR Partner Barb Ewen...

CHEN PR client mValent was a gold sponsor of Network World's inaugural IT Roadmap conference in Boston this past Monday. The event was a good draw, with more than 500 attending, including CIOs from a broad range of industries. The series kicked off in Boston and will be held in several other cities.

Hosted by Network World’s John Gallant, the speakers and topics were compelling. Hot topics included application and content security, wireless LANs and enterprise mobility, network management, storage and data compliance, VoIP and collaboration, and network and application acceleration.

Chatting with analyst Jim Metzler confirmed that compliance issues are driving a lot of decisions about adoption of new technologies. And the pressures on IT departments are at an all time high with silos of decision-making forming about who owns applications and who owns infrastructures. Jim commented, after hearing several vendor presentations that morning, enterprises don’t want to hear just about the latest solutions and approaches, they want to know how to do it!

The exhibit floor was totally booked with close to 50 exhibitors across many technologies -- certainly a good sign for the health and enthusiasm for high tech in the Boston area. The attendance also supports the receptivity for more focused events that optimize the time and budgets of IT organizations, a trend we are seeing across many of our clients.

For Network World's coverage of the event, check here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Ozzie Awarded Key Industry Player

From my partner Chris Carleton...

Few tech execs boast a reputation for vision and innovation like Ray Ozzie.

Internationally recognized for his role as the Father of Lotus Notes, his subsequent years spent founding/growing/selling Groove Networks to Microsoft – and ascending to the position of Microsoft CTO – have earned him at least as much attention. There’s no reason to believe the spotlight will dim any time soon.

Arguably the best and brightest to come from our neck of the tech woods, he enjoyed such billing last week. Attending the annual Massachusetts Network Communications Council Awards Dinner, he was there to collect his prize for Key Industry Player.

Microsoft PR exec Rich Eckel kindly stopped by with Ray during the pre-dinner cocktail chat CHEN PRers Barb Ewen, Kevin Kosh and I were having with the evening’s emcee, Network World’s John Gallant.

What ensued was a most interesting discussion about the opportunities and challenges facing tech company execs – be they with Series A Startups or Multibillion Megaplayers.

Few can speak from a position of authority on this topic as can Ray. His adventures are impressive. Iris Associates, predecessor to Notes, which Lotus execs keenly incubated to help it safely gesticulate in the shadows of 800-pound Spreadsheet Gorilla 1-2-3. Then, redefining collaborative computing under the Lotus Notes banner. Leaping back into start-up land after IBM’s acquisition of Lotus to found Groove Networks, fueled by a commitment to take collaboration to the next level. Taking a substantial investment from Microsoft to help Groove implement against its plans. Eventually being acquired by Bill Gates & Co .

I won’t quote from the conversation since that’d be inappropriate. Besides, I’m confident Ray (and, thus, Rich) has plenty of others quoting and misquoting him. But, suffice to say there’s a lot of Grass Is Greener fodder on the startup versus big company front… depending on which side of the fence you’re standing at any given time. It’s equally clear that the combo of startup and big company experience Ray brings to his current role comes in plenty handy.

Notably, it was great to see Rich again. He and Ray came to the awards dinner from NYC, where they participated in Microsoft’s kickoff of its $500 million marketing campaign to pump Windows Vista and Office 2007.

Jerry Maguire and the Geek

Guy Kawasaki's blog has recently become a morning "must read" for me. Last week's post on The Art of the Board Meeting tells you why. He's distilled the essential board of directors to the following types (in a nutshell):

  • The Customer - Representing the type of person you're selling to.
  • The Geek - Provides a reality check on your technical team.
  • Dad or Mom - The comforter and pro-bono psychiatrist.
  • The Tightass - Or just plain asskicker.
  • Jerry Maguire - Owner of a platinum Rolodex.
  • The CEO - Someone who has not just been a CEO he/she is doing it right now.
According to Kawasaki, "Collectively, your board should provide guidance, support, and connections. If it doesn't, frankly, it's your fault."

Thank you Simon for telling me to shape up and read this.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Six-Year-Old Email: Priceless!

As one of the last in my office to convert, I've recently been dragged kicking and screaming over to Outlook. (Can't we just go directly to Thunderbird?) This migration of ten years of my email life has caused me to rethink some of my e-folders. Do I really need my emails from 1996, when we started out in a semi-below-ground floor of a cozy old office building in Wellesley?

In the course of sorting things out, I found this priceless email from my partner Barb Ewen:

-----Original Message-----

From: Barbara Ewen []
Sent: Monday, April 10, 2000 7:15 AM
To: chen
Subject: Fwd: google


My husband Ted found a great search engine that he says is better and quicker than the others. So give it a try.


>Here is the URL for google:

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

WBUR: Trust, but Verify

Thanks to CHENer Nick Harris for this post...

The CHEN PR “dawn patrol," consisting of Barb Heffner, Randy Wambold, Juli Greenwood and me, made a rain-soaked early-morning journey to the WBUR studio in Boston to volunteer on the phones as part of the station's most recent fundraiser. (WBUR is our local NPR affiliate.)

The CHEN team was joined by representatives from a range of local universities and businesses as well as individuals who felt compelled to give back to the news. With a total of $55,000 raised in one hour, the effort was an enormous success.

This isn’t to say of course that there wasn’t anything in it for us, as CHEN PR was recognized multiple times on-air for the contribution, the group was granted behind-the-scenes access to the 'BUR studios, and personal thanks from legendary hosts Bob Oakes, Tom Ashbrook, Robin Young and news director John Davidow.

Principal Barb Heffner later commented on the experience: “WBUR really reached out to us and both Mr. Davidow and several of the on-air personalities were very generous with their time. We’ll do it again. And if the economy keeps warming up, perhaps we can get back to underwriting. I’m so happy to have other 'news for nerds' devotees here at the agency to support WBUR."

Promoting CHEN PR and supporting one of the most trusted local news sources made for an extremely rewarding morning, and something that Davidow said sparked some thought after leaving the studios. In response to a question regarding 'BUR's reliance on the blogosphere, he said that although they do monitor some blogging networks very closely, they are relatively conservative, that news is something organic, and that in this regard, WBUR follows Damon Runyan's advice to: “Trust, but verify.” (If you think that former President Reagan said it first, Wikiquote will set you straight.)

In our increasingly complex and multifaceted media environment, this is an excellent philosophy for a news editor, and one that will reinforce my support for this station.

Monday, March 13, 2006

WSJ: Makes Our Day - Tech Spending on the Rise

Today's WSJ reports a "slow and steady acceleration" in IT spending among corporations, according to a survey by Goldman Sachs. This, along with our recent spring-like weather (70 degrees!), is cause for celebration. (See page A6; sorry it's subscription required.)

According to the Journal:

The survey, which polls 100 managers in charge of the technology purchases at corporations, found that an increasing number of participants in the survey are anticipating spending growth of more than 10% this year.

Of the respondents, 19% fall into the above-10% spending camp.

Famed Goldman Sachs analyst Laura Conigliaro points to some "subtle signs of improvement" over the firm's 2005 survey.

Hey, we'll take it.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

"There was never an exit strategy; there was naked ambition..."

That's how Marc Fleury answered the last question at his keynote at the recent MIT Enterprise Forum open source event. He lived up to the audience's high expectations. He's still funny, irreverent and sharp. The Oracle rumors were flying, so it made the timing interesting, and the question was one individual's attempt to get at the Oracle rumors.

Darryl Taft/eWeek did such a great job of wrapping this up that I'll just point you to his piece and flag a few notable quotes that Darryl didn't include:
  • We spend 30 cents versus $2.50 for the typical software company to acquire $1 dollar of maintenance. The profitable part of the software model has always been the maintenance.
  • Most of the marketing department in typical software companies spends time creating leads. We spend a lot of time killing leads. Out of 100 leads, we ask, which 3 will yield revenue?
  • There's very little litigation in the open source world vs. the proprietary world -- 3-4 orders of magnitude less litigation.
  • On the developer side, I run a music label. I go around the world and hire the best rock stars. They're a demanding bunch.
Here's the funny anecdote (borrowed from Darryl's article) that closed his session:

After leaving his job at Sun Microsystems, "I go to see my wife who was pregnant with our first kid," Fleury said. "And I say, 'Baby, I'm writing software for free.' And she turns around and says, 'You're stupid.' So I was a little taken aback."

Then, "We moved to Atlanta to my in-laws'," Fleury said. "So we're not even a garage company: I'm my-in-laws' garage company. And so I told my wife that if I could do one year and make 60K I could make a living. I did training and 20 people came to the first one, and I made 60K. 'I am king of the world!' I couldn't believe it," he said, smiling.

However, "My father-in-law had the big-boy talk with me that amounted essentially to, 'Why don't you get out of my place, you bum?'" Fleury said. "And I didn't get it at the time. He was like, 'A young man your age needs his own place.'

"My mother-in-law was a great cook, I put on 10 pounds, my wife was happy after a difficult time in Silicon Valley. It was a happy time for me."

Fleury added, "Then David Skok [venture capitalist at Matrix Partners] came along and things got difficult for me."

I sure hope his in-laws are alive and well to see his success.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Kind Words for Our Profession

From CHEN Veep Randy Wambold...

This afternoon my colleague Juli Greenwood and I attended a panel sponsored by BusinessWire entitled, "Investor Targeting for the Biotech Community."

All four panelists were engaging and informative but the remarks of one in particular caught my ears.

John Sterling, editor of Genetic Engineering News, spoke about how to work with his publication. As PR professionals, we have all read rants by journalists who have had an unhappy experience with an ill-prepared PR person.

Refreshingly, Mr. Sterling, who has been with Genetic Engineering News (also known as GEN) for 22 years, spoke of the nice rapport he enjoys with a wide group of PR and IR professionals that he considers well-informed and helpful. He actually went so far as to say, "I enjoy working with PR and IR professionals."

Mr. Sterling's remarks reflect the ideal to which those of us who take the B to B PR profession seriously aspire, and it's nice to hear that that ideal is worth striving for.

Here's to ending the week on an up note.