Connie, Erica and I attended Adobe's analyst days this week in New York, and Connie and I had a chance to sit down with Bruce Chizen, Adobe's CEO, over lunch yesterday. Adobe is a major player in the Web 2.0 universe, with Flash (and the new Apollo technology) competing with Ajax-based technologies for creating rich internet apps (RIAs).
While Ajax is more open, Flash nonetheless can boast better cross-browser and cross-platform support, especially when moving into the realm of mobile devices. Ajax can run into problems just between Internet Explorer and Firefox, but the Flash player works in both browsers as well as in Safari — and on Linux too. In the mobile, world, Adobe showcased a first-of-its-kind tool for testing how a Flash movie looks on a variety of different cell phone models, with extremely rich metadata about each device. It was able to simulate things like the appearance of the screen outdoors vs. indoors, and the performance of a movie on different phones. We also saw a Sony PlayStation 3 running on Flash content.
One interesting question was about whether PDF was threatened by Microsoft's recent moves to create a replacement standard in its XML Paper Specification (XPS). Bruce's answer was, to paraphrase, "No." He believes — and I agree — that it's too late to displace PDF with any format, and especially not with one whose promoter has the goal of selling Windows and Office in mind. Adobe's recent submittal of PDF to the ISO will really help its adoption in government, too.
Postal regulations matter. The US and most other countries are moving to 'shape-based pricing', which means that postal prices will now reflect the size of the mail being sent, not just its weight or delivery terms. Why is this happening? And do we care? It's happening because the postal regulators have boned up on economics and discovered an amazing thing: their costs are very much related to their machinery's ability to handle volume automatically (no humans). I'll refrain from the usual postal references here.
Often when I order takeout food, the restaurants know who I am right away — as if I was a member of the family. At some restaurants, my son placed the order regularly in the past and they will ask about him, "Is Justin okay? Why isn't he placing the order today?" They will leverage the information in my record to make the order simpler. "So you take the plain nan with that?"
If these small establishments with limited resources have this kind of personalized service, why is it that the biggest financial institutions in the world seem to not have any idea who I am? And if I want to extend my business with them, why do I need to start from scratch?
Information managers I speak with struggle to address these pain points in external communications with customers, clients, citizens, agents, and stores; account opening is near the top of the list of pain points. It exists at the lonely edge of the business process where the company interacts with the client — where information bounces between a company's firewall and the customer's domain — but why is this so difficult?
I spent a fine day at Hyland Software with A.J. Hyland and his team at the Hyland Software annual partnership conference last week. I'd have to say A.J.'s been a bit riled up of late. He admits to having a large chip on his shoulder — analysts and others have been telling him for years that the smallish pure play vendor will have trouble competing, and they make a good case. Consolidation continues and Microsoft Office 2007 is creating confusion for ECM buyers and more fodder for industry watch dogs.
Yet Hyland has grown revenues consistently and has been profitable for years. I speak to information and knowledge management professionals every day and one thing is constant: they are trying to buy solutions that solve problems. And most care little about who is buying who; they care even less about whether an ECM provider is part of a big company positioning for infrastructure of a medium size pure play emphasizing applications and vertical markets. Most companies are like the homeowner that wants a better shower but doesn't really care whether the underlying pipes are PVC or cooper.
Many of us purchased our large ERP systems prior to Y2K and our CRM systems almost 3 or 4 years ago. As we enter the next big upgrade cycle thinking about what enterprise application (e.g., ERP, CRM, or SCM) to replace, we'll need to think about the lessons learned. Traditionally, it made sense to put the transactional automation system in first and then go from there. However, with experience, we know this is completely backwards. If you put the big ERP system in, after a few years, some high level muckety muck inevitably asks where are those nice reports that they saw during the demo. Then, we spend the next several years building the right BI infrastructure so we can get to the analytics, dashboards, and reporting tools. A year later, we realize that our data is corrupt and we have duplicates that keep us from making a solid decision. The real question is: do we want to do this again?
In short, the answer is no. You'll want to do this the right way during the next upgrade cycle. Start first by identifying your master data requirements. Think about your business processes you need to support and the customer and product data reuqirements. Then, figure out the type of analytical requirements you'll have. Question you should ask include:
If you want to communicate with your clients, prospects, and colleagues, it's good to make sure that your channels are all working — end to end. Even the largest firms can struggle with this — and nobody gets any larger than Microsoft. The team from Redmond boasts a formidable array of communication technologies and keeping them all in synch can be challenging.
I recently had the experience of joining them for an analyst call, and there was a Live Meeting opportunity for a richer presentation. I was eager to take advantage of that and clicked the appropriate buttons. I was offered an enhanced Media Player stream but like many companies, Forrester locks down its configurations, so upgrading that was not an option. So I chose the web browser version instead. As it happens, IE is not one of the "locked down" components so I had already upgraded to IE7 (and that was not without its challenges; it doesn't work well with some key corporate systems we use here. But that's another issue.)
Well, that turned out not to be optimal either. I got the following message from Live Meeting:
I recently spoke with an IT manager who came up with a great analogy for a problem I continue to see in the WCM space. He was telling me about how much customization his team has needed to do while implementing a WCM solution, and how he expected some features to be more out-of-the box, like advanced content authoring tools. He commented, “At Christmas time, the vendor sent us one of those gift baskets that vendors sometimes send. You know what those baskets are usually like - wine, cheese, candy. But you know what they sent us in this year’s basket? Brownie mix. We had to bake our own holiday gift. I wanted to call them up and tell them, ‘This is exactly what is wrong with your product!’"
I owe the title of this blog entry to my San Francisco-based peer, Rob Koplowitz. Why? Well, he has a quicker wit than I do.... Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest professional basketball player of all time, felt he could translate his incredible hand/eye coordination and skills to the sport of baseball when he first retired. The result? He played a few games in the minor leagues, drew a ton of attention, but never came close to the success he had in basketball.