This has been long rumored by Google Apps watchers, but we get confirmation today: Google is testing an offline email client. This is a Google Gmail Labs feature, which means that it's really test code for the brave. In fact, the Gmail Labs site helpfully warns that "there's an escape hatch" if a feature breaks.
That said, this is a big deal for Google. (Caveat: I haven't tested it yet, so I'll have to report back once I do). Here's what it means:
IT organizations focus on the business needs they understand, not on the ones that matter to business.
When we ask business execs and IT execs the same questions around the importance of technology to business goals, and how well IT does supporting those business goals, we get interesting results. First, business and IT see technology’s value differently: to business, the greatest value is in products and services, and in competitive differentiation, whereas to IT, the greatest value is in improving operational efficiency. But the second result is more interesting: both business and IT believe IT doesn’t do well supporting the business goals around products and services, or differentiation – but IT believes they do much worse than business believes they do.
In his inaugural address, Barack Obama told us it's "..time to put aside childish things." A country that once showed greatness through youthful exuberance is being asked to show greatness through measured maturity. It's a moment of realization. And a time of challenge.
Microsoft has announced that it intends to lay off up to 5000 employees over the next 18 months. For those of us who have chosen this industry as our career home, layoffs are nothing new. We live in a cyclical world and nowhere is the cycle more evident than in the computer industry, where companies are constantly appearing out of nowhere, growing, shrinking, acquiring and being acquired.
But this is different. This is the latest sign of a sea change in our industry. The best and brightest minds in the industry saw this coming. Steve Jobs saw it when he turned Apple Computer into Apple and turned tech into "tech fashion." Larry Ellison saw it when he began to acquire players that would make Oracle an indispensable piece of corporate infrastructure and at the same time established a more predictable maintenance revenue stream to Oracle.
Business says it wants to be more involved with technology decision-making – taking a more leadership role especially when it comes to solutions with direct business benefit. And if business acts on this desire by working with IT the way we’ve wanted, this is all to the good. But we have to recognize that the more they care – for example if they are in product development or sales – the less likely they are going to want to work with us in the way we wanted – via steering committees, architecture review boards, and formalized project proposal processes. To them, it might appear easier to use SAAS offerings, or contract for or develop their own solutions – and they may have a point. Many of the efficiencies centralized IT can provide count less when using cloud-based services and newer, more end-user friendly tools. And if IT won’t support them because they are off the ‘approved technology’ ranch – well, they have alternatives.
I’ve been seeing a mushrooming of requests from Forrester’s CIO clients for IT spending benchmarks. These CIOs attempt to defend their budgets against repeated requests to cut, cut, cut. Their hope is that a spending benchmark will show that their budgets are reasonable given their size and industry – giving them ammo to fend off perceptions that “our IT spending must be too high.”
What I tell these CIOs is that spending benchmarks are only a first step in determining the appropriateness of IT budgets – and not a simple one at that. The reality is that a benchmark tells you only what you are spending in relation to the average of a group of ‘similar’ companies. (see Forrester’s “US IT Spending Benchmarks For 2008”). It really tells you nothing about whether it is the right or wrong amount, whether it’s being spent on the right things, or what benefits you are getting from this investment. And what constitutes a ‘similar’ company is not straight-forward: is it just same size/same industry? Same georgraphy? Same business operating model or strategy? Same prospects for growth or contraction? These are all business characteristics, but what about IT characteristics like the degree of automation, use of packaged versus custom software, outsourcing or history of past M&As?
As we enter a new year, business process & applications professionals who want to stay ahead of the pack need to know what to expect in 2009. Uncertain economic times lie ahead, and those professionals who know what is on the horizon will best weather the storm. Here are some key trends in key process and app areas that our analysts predict for 2009:
Financial Performance Management: Financial management professionals stand in the spotlight as the economic downturn continues and companies cope with weaker demand, price pressures, rising costs, and credit constraints. Technology and process strategies in 2009 will focus on improving planning, budgeting and forecasting, and cash and risk management while under the cloud of a very uncertain and unfavorable tax environment.
Here’s another follow-up to our recent jam session on how to use Lean as an opportunity to make real improvement running IT. In a previous post on defining Lean, we addressed cost cutting, reduced planning horizons, consolidation and the quick killing off bad ideas. But we did not discuss whether and how Lean can help innovative CIOs transitioning their firms to Business Technology (see Forrester’s "Five Essential Best Practices For The IT-To-BT Transformation"), instead of focusing on making their IT shops skinnier.
Firms have used Lean for solving different problems. So far the most popular application has been as a process improvement tool, with Kaizen Blitz being similar to other process improvement tools such as Just-In-Time (JIT), Six Sigma, or Total Quality Management (TQM). Executives use them to uncover and implement opportunities to improve lead times, cut waste, and optimize development and provisioning processes. These tools work fine for processes with relatively stable steps and stakeholders, such as incident, problem, change, or release management (see Forrester’s "Applying Lean Thinking To IT").
I spoke recently with Stephen Cho, the product manager for the new Google Apps Reseller Program. It's quite clear that Google has learned from its Postini reseller program, from partners like Appirio and Cap Gemini, and from Microsoft's Exchange Online reseller program.
First, the details:
Resellers own the customer. That means billing, first line support, the works.This is in distinct contrast to Microsoft's program for Exchange Online, where partners can sell and benefit from the business, but the Exchange customer would write checks to Redmond.
Resellers get 20% margin. That's in the US, anyway. That means $10/user/year. Period. Have you ever seen such price transparency (and low points) in any reseller program? I haven't. The entire term sheet would fit on a 1/3rd of a page.
Enterprises can't be their own reseller. They have to sell to at least someone other than themselves. Otherwise, this would be a simple way for a enterprise to whack 20% off the already low $50/user/year cost.
Google will provide technical admin support if requested. They won't provide end user support. though. That's one of the value-added services that a VAR can provide.
MacWorld held two important announcements for collaboration professionals, especially those interested in multidevice future:
1. Lotus announced that Notes 8.5 is shipping on Macintoshes, specifically on the new Leopard version of OS X. And its open source office productivity suite, Symphony will be available in a few months. Why does this matter? It matters because Lotus has a clear, vigorous multidevice strategy for the tools that make information workers productive. See Ed Brill's post for the IBM point of view.
2. Cisco announced that WebEx Meeting Center is available on iPhones. In fact, you can download it today to your iPhone. While I haven't yet had the chance to put it through its paces, this announcement signals Cisco's commitment to supporting multiple devices. I expect them to continue to roll unified communications apps on mobile phones of every flavor.
Here are some details:
The native iPhone application is freely available at the Apple AppStore or at iTunes.
It doesn't cost any more to attend a meeting over an iPhone. (But the hoster does have to be running the most current version of the WebEx software.)
a) a black box of spending b) a large bureaucracy which my function tries to work with c) a collection of applications and projects d) the help desk, and the relationship manager I work with e) a set of business services supporting my department or function
Now, which of these is the most beneficial perspective — the one that leads to your firm getting the most bang for your technology spending?
The correct answer is e) a set of business services supporting my department or function.
Why? – because the others eliminate any useful dialogue between you (the IT organization) and business execs (your customers). By viewing IT as a set of business services, such as a ‘product engineering service’ or a ‘field sales support service’, IT spending is mapped to functions which business cares about. When the IT organization is aligned around these services, redundant applications, overlapping projects, and organizational silos are more easily exposed, and the business-IT discussion is re-focused on service levels, costs and capabilities.