Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Paris Customer Roundtable

OK, I've put EuroDisney behind me now. How did I manage to do that? Well, a bunch of us moved down to Paris for the rest of the week to meet with our staff in the Paris office and to host a customer roundtable. The sights, the food and the customer roundtable were totally awesome! About a dozen of us went out for dinner our first night in Paris at Roger le Grenouille. Billy Bosworth ate two orders of profitorolles for dessert - the food was that incredible. What a relief from that EuroDisney slop.

On Friday we hosted a number of customers at the Hôtel le Crillon which is arguably the best hotel in Paris. It is located on the Place de la Concorde. The hotel's neighbors include the U.S. Embassy directly next door, the Louvre and it is a stones throw from the Tour Eiffel, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame, Musée d'Orsay and my personal favorite, the Musée Marmottan. Our meeting room overlooked the Place de la Concorde. We were waited on by butlers all day long and all got to enjoy a wonderful four course lunch with both red and white wine pairings. Our Paris office sure knows how to host customers! In some ways the Crillon reminded me of the Fairmont San Francisco. Why? The charter for the League of Nations - the predecesor to the United Nations - was discussed at the Fairmont. The terms of the armistace of World War I were discussed in the meeting rooms we were in at the Crillon. OK, end of history lesson. What did we learn?

Of course, all the customers in attendance had deployed Active Directory already. An interesting note was that one of the customers had literally just finished his upgrade from NT4! So for folks who think everyone has migrated off of NT4 think again. All of the customers were also great examples of heterogenity. Not only did they have AD/Windows but each one of them had Unix, Linux, mainframes (RACF) and mid-range AS/400s. You can imagine the problems they have with forgotten passwords...

  • One customer had reports showing 60% of their calls were for password resets
  • Another customer has an outsourced help desk that charges €10 per call - about $13.50!
  • In September, when most employees come back from their summer vacation they average 4,000 calls per week
  • At one organization it takes 8-10 hours to get a password reset so they see a big spike in calls to the helpdesk on Friday's. I wonder why? Apparently employees are deliberately locking themselves out.
There was no need to debate the ROI of self-service password reset with these customers. QED.

I think the other area that we had really interesting discussion around was two-factor authentication. Each one of the customers was using RSA tokens for remote access to their networks. Each one of the customers was very unhappy with the both the up-front and annual maintenance costs to maintain those RSA tokens. It leads me to think about a couple of things:

  • How sticky are those RSA tokens? Will a customer actually begin to swap those tokens out for lower cost but similiar capability tokens from ActiveIdentity, Entrust or whomever? Or, do they just use those other vendors as a bargaining chip with RSA to get a better deal on acquisition and on-going maintenance fees? In other words, will they really switch out the RSA tokens?
  • What are the migration requirements for switching from one token manufacturer to another? Quest has had a history of building good migration products. Is this an opportunity for us? It wouldn't be if customers didn't actually migrate off of RSA and they simply used the other token vendors as leverage for a better deal with RSA.

So, if your company has RSA tokens let me know how you are handling this issue. Are you migrating to another token? Or, are you simply beating down RSA's pricing? Drop me a line or post a comment.

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