Category Archives: conference


If you’ve never heard of TED, you should check it out!  (If you’ve gone to TED, please let me know.)

Anyways, TED’s an annual conference designed to bring the best thinkers together from the entire world to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.  These folks are encouraged to speak with the other TED attendees for 18 minutes.  Then the TED Prize is awarded to three individuals as a way to grant their “one wish to change the world”.  You can check out their videos on the TED site to see some of the speeches that have been given over the years.  Pretty awesome.

Victoria Pynchon, author of the Settle It Now Negotiation Blog put pen to paper today to ask why there isn’t a LegalTED – a conference focused on finding new and innovative ways to not only resolve disputes, but also prevent them from happening.  I commented to her that I’d had the same idea for awhile now, but I simply didn’t know how to express it the way she did.

If you’re reading my blog, chances are that you spend a significant portion of your day trying to resolve disputes (real or perceived).  You waste time on repetition of the same tasks over and over (between different parties, sure, but the same task nonetheless)… and you fight many of the same battles in seemingly endless succession.  Isn’t it time to find a better way to get the job done?

Head on over to Victoria’s site and contact her through the comments to let her know if you’re interested in helping out.  It’s gonna’ take some work to get this off the ground – not the least of which is trying to get TED interested in allowing us to piggy back off their success (so if anyone knows the folks at TED and can connect us, that would be great).

I look forward to working with you on finding new ways to solve our old (and tired) problems!


CIOForum – the best IT conference I’ve been to in a long time!

This past week, I was aboard the Norwegian Dawn for the CIOForum.  I admit that I was a bit skeptical about getting to go on a four-day cruise for free (even if I was presenting… but the attendees get to go for free, too)!  The “catch” is that IT vendors have to pay a significant amount of money to go, thus they are guaranteed meetings with the attendees to explain their products and services.

From a marketing perspective, this is absolutely brilliant!  They sail from New York to the East Hampton end of Long Island, drop anchor, and sit in the ocean for four days.  You are on the boat the entire time… and you have a personalized schedule keeping you in meeting after meeting for the entire time with limited breaks.  It sounds like an endurance test, and it is, but the truth is that the best part of any conference is the ability to network with your peers … which just doesn’t happen in cities like Las Vegas where the attendees scatter to the wind after the opening session to do “fun” things in the host city.

Onboard, however, you are constantly networking.  You are talking about problems you really face in the workplace and you get great insights into what others are doing to solve the problems.  For example, I had meetings on IT governance, cybercrime, leadership and my own on negotiation.  Oh, this isn’t just for CIOs, either.  They ran 5 concurrent conferences on the ship:  CIO, HR, Marketing, SupplyChain/Logistics and Legal.  So if you’re actually in a high-level leadership role one of those areas, there’s an event for you, too.  Of course, there are great keynotes (we had Dan Rather as our opening speaker, for example), plenty of activities (the spa and fitness area is open 24/7) and entertainment, too (comedians, dancing and more networking).

Maybe I’ll see you onboard in 2009!

CIO Forum this week

This Tuesday through Friday, I’ll be onboard the Norwegian Dawn for the 2008 CIO Forum. I’m participating on a 2-person panel talking about strategies for receiving more value from your IT-related purchases. We’re going to cover the Five Fundamental Skills for Effective Negotiation and you’ll even get a free copy of the Software License Risk Matrix!

If you’re one of the attendees, please look me up… Deck 11, second room from the bow, starboard side – we don’t have to talk about software licensing… I swear.

Additionally, for those people interested in either purchasing a copy of the Software License Risk Matrix or in redeeming my special offer for a FREE copy for those people who own the Software Licensing Handbook… I’m sorry to say that I’ll be slightly delayed in getting your Matrix out to you as I will not have internet access on the ship.  But I will fulfill all orders/redemptions by Saturday at noon (ET)!

Negotiation skill

Yesterday was the Business of Software 2007 Software Idol competition in San Jose. The topic of my 11 minute talk was the Five Fundamental Skills for Effective Negotiation – a result of research done last year. I didn’t win the prize (a Nintendo Wii), but I did end up having some great conversations with many of the world’s leading thinkers with respects to technology. Bill Buxton, head of Microsoft Research, asked me two very simple, yet often ignored questions about negotiation and negotiators.

First, he wanted to know whether a skilled negotiator (or sales person) could identify someone not so skilled simply on the basis of an initial conversation. The easy answer is “yes, they can.” If you are party to a negotiation and are not a skilled negotiator when the other side is, they will know it.

The logical followup second question then is whether two skilled negotiators create better deals. The answer, generally speaking, is also yes. I know that if I’m talking with another trained negotiator, we’re going to complete the deal much faster and more efficiently. Part of it is the negotiation skills and part of it is the contract/license experience to know where there are real issues versus red herrings.

For example, governing law is not a real issue. The parties either agree on their respective home states or New York. Once in awhile it’s Delaware. It’s a non-issue and can derail an unskilled negotiator/contract professional who is unable to move to the more important contract components.

So… the moral of the story is that if you’re a less-experienced negotiator, please go educate yourself. Books, training classes (and of course, real experience) will all help you to become better. Then add in the licensing component to understand what is really important as opposed to what only appears important.

Term and Termination

I told you the other day that I was implementing a contract management system. Part of this task is the Herculean effort required to go through all of the existing contract files and cull them down to the contracts and their related paperwork. This wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have active agreements dating back to the 70s – or if thirty people didn’t mark the same document “to be filed” and the filer never look to see if another copy was already filed.

The second task, however, and one that is more important, is entering the metadata about the contract into the system. One obvious piece of information is the date of termination… and while you wouldn’t possibly believe this, almost 50% of the agreements I’ve seen so far have no termination date.

I don’t mean that they were intended to be perpetual – I mean that they’re usually a services agreement and they have an effective date, but no contemplation of an end. Sure, I suppose it’s possible that after they spent time negotiating the contract, they didn’t want to have to revisit the agreement… but “forever” is a long time. Besides, I’m sure your organization has change at least one contractual phrase in the intervening years that you’d like to integrate into your old agreements.

So, short and sweet today, let’s just all remember to put termination dates on our agreements. Even if you set it up so that there is some sort of a renewal term, make sure you have a way to get OUT of the agreement that lists what happens in the event of termination (and not just for breach). I might thank you for it some day.

[As a complete side note, don’t forget that the Caucus IT Procurement Summit is next week! If you’re in Orlando, or have time to burn, we’d love to see you. And if you’re going to be there, come find me and say hello!]

Caucus Annual IT Procurement Summit 2007

I can’t believe it’s already October! But one of my favorite events of the whole year happens at the end of this month, the Caucus IT Procurement Summit. Held this year at Walt Disney World (yes, I’m a Disney fan, too), this annual conference provides one of the best opportunities for IT procurement professionals to gather and discuss contract, negotiation, legal and other related issues that face our industry.

I have the honor of serving on the planning committee this year, so of course, some of the best speakers are going to present the best sessions! (No, I’m not speaking this year, so I’m not being arrogant.) In all honesty, though, the presenters really are hand selected and represent the highest quality practitioners in the field.

If you would like to join us (or perhaps you are just looking for a reason to come to Disney in the fall with the nicest weather all year) – don’t fret, there’s still time to register!

See you in Orlando!

Thanks for your Votes!

I just received notice that I’ve been selected to be one of five finalists in the “Software Idol” competition at the Business of Software Conference next month in San Jose!

I didn’t realize that the competition was anything more than getting to speak at the conference, but thanks to your votes, I’m among the five finalists. We’ll each have 11 minutes to speak on our specific topic – then instantaneously, we’ll find out the results.

So, if you’re in the San Jose area and have some time October 29th/30th, I would highly recommend coming down… if for no other reason than to hear Guy Kawasaki, Joel Spolsky, Eric Sink, Bill Buxton and Rick Chapman (among others). These folks are all at the forefront of the software business – and are shaping its future form. Oh, and yeah, you can hear my 11 minute talk on the Five Fundamental Skills for Effective Negotiation, too.

Thank you all again!

Business of Software

The world is getting smaller by the minute, significantly made possible by the internet. People connect in more ways than ever and it’s interesting to dissect the connections themselves.

Joel Spolsky is a software developer, author, renaissance man. His company, Fog Creek Software, not only produces cool tools, but the company itself is a model for others in how to treat your employees with respect and admiration. He also runs a few websites, among them and, as part of that, a discussion board on the Business of Software. Conversations happen on a daily basis between developers and business folks alike – all working on the problems that smaller, usually independent software developers face when creating products.

One of the participants on the the board (and a co-founder of Red Gate Software), Neil Davidson, is helping assemble the 2007 Business of Software Conference. This event is essentially a live version of some of the discussions that happen frequently (plus a lot of bonus material). Additionally, one of my favorite speakers (besides Joel) is going to present this year, Guy Kawasaki.

Feeling a little overconfident, I contacted the organizers and asked if they wanted someone to talk about licensing or negotiation. Come to find out, they have a few slots available – and were going to try something a bit novel to fill them: Software Idol. Each hopeful has 3 minutes to pitch an idea, posted on YouTube. Business of Software newsletter subscribers get to vote. The top three get to come to the conference to present their idea.

It took a few days to arrange, but here’s my submission. Shameless plug: If you’re a Business of Software newsletter member, please vote!

And if you want to attend the conference, I would highly suggest it for almost anyone reading this blog – you’ll learn a lot about the fundamentals of this interesting business.

Service Levels Redux

Back in March, I discussed the creation of service levels for the first time. I talked generically about how to create a service level and what key components were part of the process. At this past weeks’ IT Financial Management Conference, one of my sessions focused on performance guarantees (which is just a broader description that includes service levels). What I realized is that, along with maintenance percentages and other negotiable items, buyers have long been reducing their demands – which has increased the “boldness” quotient for our vendors.

So first, as with these other contract sections, please let me remind you that your actions DO impact others. The less you ask for now, the less I’m going to be able to get without a struggle later.

More importantly, however, is that you should remember that there are two primary classifications of performance guarantees.

First, Service Levels (and Service Level Agreements). SLAs, in my view, are to describe guarantees related to the performance of contractually-agreed upon services. This means that SLAs are usually used to measure performance against response and repair times in your maintenance agreement. In other words, SLAs measure quality. How well did the vendor do with respects to performance?

Obviously, you have to have stated response and repair times to make these work – and such times will also usually be based on a “severity” level determination, too. Thus, outages for Severity 1 (high) will require a much faster response than those for a Severity 4 (low) problem. But with proper definition, you can cover your bases adequately.

Second is the use of Standard Performance Obligations (SPOs). These are the types of things I was really talking about in the last post on SLAs. The distinction here is that an SPO is measuring output/availability/quantity as opposed to quality. So a SPO would cover uptime/downtime or the number of widgets your software is supposed to process in a given time frame, etc.

See the difference between SLAs and SPOs?

Your contract might need both for you to be sufficiently covered for any particular issue. Both require good definitions, measurability, reporting and “incentives” to meet the guarantee. But each one measures something a bit different than the other and it’s important to cover both.

How do you measure performance in your agreements? Comment below!