Researching The Social With The Shizzle

I knew it was only a matter of time before someone used Xtranormal.com to good effect. Always a trailblazer, The Cranky Product Manager posted some videos about interviewing for a PM position.

And then I couldn't resist...

In The Tech Industry, Complex Is A Polite Word For Fat

Ever since I got an iPad, I've been eager for the update to the upgrade to the iOS4 operating system that premiered on the iPhone months ago. The ease of use of the iPad erodes, grain by grain, with each app that you add to it, as long as you're forced to keep sweeping across page after page of apps. Organizing apps into functional groups across pages is a tedious process. After a while, you really feel the need for folders to organize your apps more effectively.

Imagine my disappointment, therefore, when iTunes froze as soon as I launched it. It was the start of yet another chapter in the story of my hate-hate relationship with iTunes, because of its unstoppable bloat and accompanying seizures. With every major update, iTunes grows another layer of fat, causing more frequent electronic coronaries when it needs to run (or waddle) through its paces. I can't say I was surprised that iTunes froze, forcing me to reinstall it (the software equivalent of sending someone to fat camp?) before I could get it working again.

Here, from a single company, on a single desktop, is the history of the tech industry's problems with complexity. A device that is consummately simple to use, the iPad, is handcuffed, like a slender Sidney Poitier to a morbidly obese Tony Curtis, to iTunes. As Apple keeps jamming more of its business plan, in the form of new features (Genius, Ping, etc.) and new content (anything that could be described as "released" or "published"), iTunes swells to ever-increasing levels of complexity. 

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Novell Acquired By Attachmate

News hit today that Novell will be acquired by Attachmate, which in turn is owned by an investment group led by Francisco Partners, Golden Gate Capital and Thoma Bravo.

My colleague, Chris Voce, has posted about what this means to Infrastructure & Operations professionals.

Here are my observations regarding the impact on and implications for the vendor community:

  1. This is a deal focused on systems management. It's a deal for what Novell gives Attachmate in the systems management space by way of market share (led by ZENworks), portfolio-expanding technology (BSM, CMBD, etc.), and tech innovation (virtualization and cloud).
     
  2. This puts SUSE on the auction block. Most of Novell is staying as a separate brand alongside NetIQ and Attachmate. SUSE is also becoming another brand. Given that there are so many ways to divvy up Novell (e.g., merging Novell's systems and security management with NetIQ), SUSE is conspicuous as its own brand. It's certainly not core to Attachmate, and this brings up all sorts of speculation as to whether they plan on selling off SUSE (or be made an offer too good to pass up). There are the obvious acquirers worth speculating about: IBM and HP. Other candidates include Oracle, EMC, Cisco, or Dell: Anyone with an appliance business moving up the stack, or in Oracle’s case a platform business expanding to sell appliances, could potentially turn SUSE into a key asset. SAP is another contender. Any acquisition of SUSE could, in turn, put RedHat into play.
     
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Will T-Systems Be Competing With Amazon Soon?

With its latest public cloud offering, T-Systems not only comes close to Amazon’s EC2 pricing, it might even be cheaper than Amazon. The €4 billion, German headquartered IT services firm announced today a public beta running from November 2010 to February 2011.

Although Amazon recently made a time-bombed version of its EC2 available for free, a real, unlimited service still costs in the range of $0.095 per hour for a small server of one core with 1.7 GB RAM in Europe. Last week, Forrester had the chance to look at a beta version of T-Systems’ public cloud offering. Although no pricing has been announced officially, the beta showed the price for a virtual machine of a similar size to the aforementioned Amazon machine starting at €0.2/hour. T-Systems inidcated that they even like to go below the Amazon pricing! T-Systems has been working for more than a year with cloud provisioning tools from Zimory to manage the virtualization of larger-scale server and landscape compositions. Leveraging this experience, T-Systems manages to drive efficiency even further than the current economies of scale, which makes this aggressive move possible.

Is T-Systems planning to seriously compete with Amazon in the future and does it make sense for a traditional large enterprise IT services and hosting firm to compete with low-price public cloud offerings?

T-Systems’ public cloud beta shows a continuous memory sizing in a state-of-the-art self-service portal.

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It Takes A Community To Build A Community

Lately, I've been working on behalf of some Forrester clients to answer the question, "How do we build a community?" Frequently, the answer is, "You don't build a community. You expand it." Few communities appear ex nihilo at the behest of a technology vendor. More commonly, successful community sites identify an existing collection of like-minded people, then entice them to your site with something of value to them.

Developer communities are a good example. Megavendors like Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM have an easy time creating a community site, since there are already a lot of developers connected to these companies, and to each other. If SAP never created its own community site, somewhere in Social Media Land there would be a collection of technical professionals talking to each other about customizing and implementing SAP applications.

Smaller vendors, of course, don't have nearly as easy a time. If you're a sales force automation (SFA) vendor, for example, there are plenty of people out there interested in sales force effectiveness, but far fewer interested in your tool. Since developers have no direct stake in managing a sales force, you can't count on them to be interested in you in the same way that a sales VP might be. Therefore, it's hard to see why developers would participate in a SFA vendor's forums, except when they have an immediate question that needs answering. (Usually in the form of, "Why doesn't this work?")

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Mobility Solution Complexity Drives New Vendor Opportunities

During the past year, many companies have revisited their corporate mobility initiatives, device support, and mobile application deployment strategies. In addition, a growing number of firms are prioritizing mobility initiatives as a key strategic focus, expanding the use of smartphone devices, and investing in a range of mobile applications to address the needs of employees in various roles.

As the population and diversity of smartphones making their way into firms increases, so do the challenges for IT organizations. Below are key drivers of increased corporate mobility complexity:

  • Most enterprises support multiple wireless networks.
  • Many firms also support a wide variety of mobile devices.
  • New segments of mobile workers are emerging.
  • Employees use a wide range of mobile applications.
  • Some employees choose non-approved devices.
  • Smartphone security concerns loom over mobile adoption.
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Lync Launches A New Era For Microsoft

Today, Microsoft begins life as a real competitor in the enterprise voice space. It has slain dragons (like enabling call access control and E911), faced mighty jousters (Miercom has called Lync a resilient, feature-rich, scalable UC system in their review), and emerged triumphant to compete for enterprise accounts looking for unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions. Microsoft has amassed an impressive list of early adaptors — of both Office Communications Service Release 2 (OCS R2) and Lync — that includes large and small deployments with varied features/capabilities enabled.

Lync required Lighthouse accounts to use a wide array of services at significant scale, so I expect to see big accounts like Marquette University and the Dominican Republic Ministry of Education join current OCS enterprise voice users like Shell, Intel, AT Kearney, and Sprint on Microsoft’s “Customer Success Stories” page. In talking to many early adopters, I heard very few complaints about voice quality or reliability of the solutions, and:

  1.      Almost every firm using Lync is connecting employees together using Lync AND other Microsoft products.
  2.      Improved voice quality and reliability drives customer satisfaction and makes Microsoft’s story more credible in delivering UC&C solutions.
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The Path To Revolution In Management Consulting

This past May, I was on a plane when I created the first version of the path to revolution (see figure below) in management consulting, and which I am sharing with you today. This figure has not really changed much since then, but I have been developing the underlying structure to help me, as well as executives at consulting service providers, segment and map the new portfolio of existing and evolving services that have bubbled up in the wake of the increasing diversification of delivery options. My interactions with a number of executives over the past few months have helped me in this early validation process.

I recently started a discussion about what constitutes management consulting 2.0 in The Forrester Community For Vendor Strategy Professionals. This opened up the discussion on innovation in management consulting to a broader audience. While the community discussion has triggered quite a number of views (already more than 1,200 views), there are unfortunately just four (very valuable) responses so far. I encourage you to weigh in to the discussion (and to also check out others such as those on an apps-everywhere world and Smart Computing). You’ll also find new contributions from me there soon.

In the future, we will see four main approaches to delivering value to clients from management consulting service providers (which begs the question as to whether the phrase “management consulting” is not fading into obsolescence anyway):

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SaaS Removes Excuses For Flying Blind

A recent conversation with executives from Clarizen, a software company in the work/project/task management realm, shows how profoundly SaaS can change the innovation process in technology companies. However, you won't get the most beneficial changes unless you're willing to make an investment.

During our briefing, I asked the CEO of Clarizen, Avinoam Nowogrodski, and the VP of Marketing, Sharon Vardi, whether being a SaaS vendor made it any easier to resolve the sort of questions that vex technology vendors. Their response: "Of course it does."

Here's one of those vexing questions: Why don't more customers move from a pilot to full adoption? The usual first answers blame someone else's department for the disappointing conversion rate: Your product stinks. Your leads stink. Your salespeople stink. 

Round-robin finger-pointing like this thrives in an informational vacuum. If the only hard fact available is the conversion rate, marketing can accuse sales of presumed incompetence; sales can claim that the current bug count might have an effect on customer satisfaction; development can claim that it's bogged down in too many special requests from strategic customers; and so on.

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UX Becomes A Genuine Layer, Not A Tarpaulin

During last August's Agile 2010 conference, I attended a session that used a board game to simulate the collaboration between developers and UX professionals. The object of the game was to coordinate the schedules of these two groups, who normally follow the beats of different metronomes. On top of that basic timing challenge, unexpected events complicated this dance between development and UX.

While this session does show a novel application of serious gaming (one of my favorite topics, in case you hadn't noticed), the interesting aspect of this session is that it happened at all. Until recently, UX was not a major concern for Agilists – or most people developing software, for that matter. The phrase, "And then we'll throw a UI on top of it," summarized the indifference of all too many development teams to UX concerns.

In the last few years, many teams have learned a new attitude. Instead of treating UX as a tarpaulin, thrown over the application to clumsily hold it all together, UX is as much a part of the system as the technical architecture or the application logic.

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