Lloyd's Of London Takes Facebook To The Board

Ted Schadler

[Update: I wrote this post originally for HBR.org. It's now live in shortened form on Harvard Business Review's site: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/09/it_in_the_age_of_empowered_employees.html.]

Peter Hambling, CIO of Lloyd’s of London, the venerable insurer, has made Facebook a priority for customer communications that required board approval. But more on that later. First, some background . . .

It's the nature of things. Some people look for ways to do things better — and that includes your employees. Some of your employees are questing for a better way to get things done. If there's a better way out there, they'll find it. That's a good thing because the thing they're trying to do better is their job. Serve your customers. Solve your business problems. Improve your operations.

It's always been true: Incremental innovation and process improvements have always come from those closest to the problem. It's the basis of kaizen, a system where employees continually improve manufacturing processes. It's also a founding principle of Six Sigma — tap employees' relentless, incremental quality improvements.

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When Consumers Want To Share Products

JP Gownder

Product strategists should check out this article in today’s New York Times about online borrowing.  Think of it as a Web-empowered peer-to-peer product rental program. The article describes how Web sites like SnapGoods allow private owners of products to rent them out for temporary periods of time to consumers who want to use – but do not (or cannot) own – those same products. It’s a product rental marketplace, smaller than but resembling a product sales marketplace (like eBay).

This peer-to-peer product rental approach to sharing complements another sharing technique that has been around for a while: timesharing. Vacationers who own 1/8 of a condominium in the Bahamas get to use it part of the time, as do their fellow timeshare partners. More recently, the Web enabled Zipcar to grow to over 275,000 users by 2009. Zipcar users make reservations to use vehicles in their neighborhoods on an hourly basis.

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Connected TVs Will Sell, But Will They Get Used?

James McQuivey

I'm a big fan of the digital home, even if the phrase itself has slipped from popular use lately. I cannot wait for it to happen to me -- I'll have connected displays (does the word TV even apply anymore?) throughout the house, including the ones in my pocket, in my lap, or otherwise within reach at all times. Those displays will all speak IP, the language of the Internet, and they'll all speak to each other as well, allowing me to control one display -- say, my TV -- with another one -- my Droid X, for example. There's so much product innovation yet to come in the digital home that I love my job.

I'm not the only one who sees it, of course. If you follow the excited announcements from TV makers and electronics retailers like Best Buy, the next TV we all buy will be a connected TV (defined as a TV set with its own Internet connection whether wired or wireless and some kind of software platform), a critical first step toward that future digital home nirvana.

Connected TVs are going to be a big deal; to understand why, read my latest report which includes US survey results about connected TVs along with a forecast for connected TV penetration through the middle of the decade. It just went live to Forrester clients last week. In the report, we show that thanks to the enthusiasm on the supply side, connected TVs are going to sell like proverbial hotcakes. By 2015, we forecast that more than 43 million US homes will have at least one. That's a remarkable number, especially considering that we entered 2010 with fewer than 2 million connected TV homes in the US.

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Oracle Cancels OpenSolaris – What’s The Big Deal?

Richard Fichera

There has been turmoil and angst recently in the 0pen source community of late over Oracle’s decision to cancel OpenSolaris. Since this community can be expected to react violently anytime something is taken out of open source, the real question is whether this action has any impact on real-world IT and operations professionals. The short answer is no.

 Enterprise Solaris users, be they small, medium or large, are using it to run critical applications; and as far as we can tell, the uptake of OpenSolaris as opposed to Solaris supplied and sold by Sun was very low in commercial accounts, other than possibly a surge in test and dev environments. The decision to take Solaris into the open source arena was, in my opinion, fundamentally flawed, and Oracle’s subsequent decision to change this is eminently rational – Oracle’s customers almost certainly are not going to run their companies on an OS that is built and maintained by any open source community (even the vast majority of corporate Linux use is via a distribution supported by a major vendor and under a paid subscription model), and Oracle cannot continue to develop Solaris unless they have absolute control over it, just as is the case with every other enterprise OS. In the same vein, unless Oracle can also have an expectation of being compensated for their investments in future Solaris development, there is little motivation for them to continue to invest heavily in Solaris.

App Internet: The Next Wave

Like most CEOs, you're probably feeling good because your company finally has a great Web site. But don't get too comfortable. The way you connect to your customers is about to change again...

Two ways of computing have dominated over the past 20 years. The first I'll call the "Microsoft model" -- where local personal computers do most of the work. The second model is the Web/Cloud model, in which most of the work happens on remote servers. Both are outmoded. The Microsoft model fails to leverage the economies of scale in the Cloud; Web/Cloud fail to leverage the exponential growth in the power of local storage and processors. 

So what comes next? Something I call the "App Internet." In this model, powerful local devices (PCs, smartphones, tablets) run applications that simultaneously and seamlessly take advantage of resources in the Web/Cloud. If you want to see this model in action, check out iPhone and Android applications.

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For Small SaaS Vendors, The Benefit Of A Free Tier Is To Attract Partners

TJ Keitt

Recently, I published a report about a small software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor, Dimdim, which is having success in the crowded Web conferencing market. Like many small vendors, Dimdim provides a free service tier, generously allowing up to 20 participants into the free meeting, to help drum up business. The report, though, did not simply highlight the number of users that Dimdim has captured in four short years of existence -- over 5 million -- but also its success in attracting partners like Intuit, Novell and Nortel CVAS. Why? For new vendors entering crowded markets, attracting partners is vital for two reasons:

  1. Partners open doors to new markets. In crowded markets, incumbent vendors and new entrants jostle to serve customer needs. For the new entrants, the customers that can be wrangled through media hype and analyst buzz is minimal. Mass appeal comes from firms with strong working relationships with a range of buyers in a number of markets -- e.g., oil & gas, healthcare, government -- embracing a small vendor's offering and introducing it to their clients.
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Is Disposing Of, Reselling, Or Recycling End-Of-Life IT Equipment Really Strategic To You?

Doug Washburn

Yesterday, I participated in one of the regular content planning sessions for us analysts on Forrester’s IT Infrastructure & Operation’s Research team. Similar to investment managers and their portfolio of stocks or bonds, we spent time making buy/hold/sell decisions on what we will research more, continue to research, or stop researching. Among the many criteria we use to make these decisions, like client readership, inquiries, or consulting, the strategic relevancy to IT is an important factor to consider. And there was some heated debate around research themes we may phase out down the road…

Enter the discussion on IT asset disposition – or the process of reselling, donating, or recycling end-of-life IT equipment. While every organization eventually has to dispose of its end-of-life IT equipment, it’s long been an afterthought. And the data backs this up. Forrester finds that 80% of organizations globally use their OEM, third parties or a combination of the two for IT asset disposition. But when asked how important IT asset disposition is relative to other IT asset management processes, it’s far and away the least important. As an indicator of this, I recently surveyed over 300 European IT professionals where 77% of respondents ranked IT asset disposition “less important” or “least important.”

This begs the question, is disposing of end-of-life IT equipment really strategic?

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The Data Digest: Cross-Channel Media Usage

Reineke Reitsma

Throughout the past 12 years of our Technographics® surveys, we’ve observed digital technology’s role in consumers’ lives increasing steadily.

Today, technologies like PCs and mobile phones, which were once reserved for the most well-heeled tech freaks, are in three-quarters of US households. For media consumption, however, new formats don't necessarily replace old ones. Our Technographics data shows that while new media sources occupy more of young consumers’ time, it’s the traditional media sources that continue to maintain popularity across both younger and older consumer groups.

This continued reliance on traditional media explains why cross-channel media adoption is still seeing slow growth. The Weather Channel leads this race, as it did in previous years, with one-quarter of respondents indicating they both watch The Weather Channel and log in online.

My colleague Jackie Anderson is very busy at the moment analyzing and writing an update to our annual State Of Consumers And Technology Benchmark report that covers topics such as the one mentioned above. When it's published, we'll share some updated numbers. Hint: Some others in the list have done a good job in the past year of engaging people across channels!

Dell – Ready To Challenge HP And IBM For The High Ground?

Richard Fichera

Historically, the positioning of Dell versus its two major competitors for high-value enterprise business, particularly where it involved complex services and the ability to deliver deeply integrated infrastructure and management stacks, has been as sort of an also ran. Competitors looked at Dell as a price spoiler and a channel for standard storage and networking offerings from its partners, not as a potential threat to the high-ground of being able to deliver complex integrated infrastructure solutions.

This comforting image of Dell as being a glorified box pusher appears to be coming to an end. When my colleague Andrew Reichman recently wrote about Dell’s attempted acquisition of 3Par, it made me take another look at Dell’s recent pattern of investments and the series of announcements they have made around delivering integrated infrastructure with a message and solution offering that looks like it is aimed squarely at HP and IBM's Virtual Fabric.

Consider the overall pattern of investments:

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Go Long On Glue Manufacturers

John Kindervag

FLASH TRAFFIC: This just in!

The Washington Post is reporting a new wrinkle in cyberwarfare. In the article Defense official discloses cyberattack, the Post reports that “malicious code placed on the [flash] drive by a foreign intelligence agency uploaded itself onto a network run by the U.S. military's Central Command.” Perhaps SkyNet has become self-aware, as this malware appears to be able to “upload” itself onto a military network. We ARE nearing August 29th

Fascinating. Blame the flash drive. Expect the USB bashing to start again soon. SysAdmins all over will be buying up the world’s supply of epoxy and shoving those nasty USB ports full of that goop. Go long on glue manufacturers.

According to Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III, "It was a network administrator's worst fear: a rogue program operating silently, poised to deliver operational plans into the hands of an unknown adversary." This must be one awesome piece of code – sentient, silent, and “poised.”

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