Cisco's John Chambers has made "collaboration" a strategy for the company's customers and employees. And enterprise GM Tony Bates is now tasked with driving that strategy. I'm writing from Cisco's launch event in San Francisco. (Well, it's actually still going on.)
There's a lot to digest and analzye, which we'll do over time. But I wanted to share some early thoughts . . .
This week's announcement marks Cisco's formal entry into the broader collaboration market, long fragmented and dominated by IBM and Microsoft for applications and by Tandberg and Polycom for video conferencing.
The company claims 61 products and features, but the key components are email, instant messaging, web conferencing, social software, and video conferencing as well as network-based services like a business TelePresence directory and policy-controlled content tagging. And in the words of Tony Bates, "a video stream runs through all of it."
Cisco's strategy for collaboration fascinates me because it's bold and frankly orthogonal to Microsoft's desktop productivity path and IBM's workgroup history. It's also enterprise-grade by default, unlike Google's consumer-first approach. But I'm fascinated and I believe IT pros should be interested in Cisco's solutions for three reasons:
What is the CIO's role in driving social media into organizations? Listening to many of our clients it seems that it is often that of "social police" - IT gets asked by legal to block any and all social media applications. While in some cases security concerns drive the decision, in others it's deemed a compliance issue. There are also those who believe blocking social media improves productivity.
The trouble with this approach is that it assumes social media can and should be stopped with technology. The fact is many people are already using web-enabled social applications in the workplace on their own personal smartphones (
Last month I had the pleasure of keynoting the "International IT Convergence Conference" in Seoul, sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy. It was a fascinating combination of academic conference, government policy discussion, and technology trade show. And also my first opportunity to visit Korea.
The theme of the conference, and topic of the panel discussion I participated in, was "IT convergence." Convergence means many things to different people; in this case, convergence means the collision or combination of information technology and other industries, i.e., embedding IT capabilities in transportation, healthcare, construction, and etc. The case was well-argued by a number of speakers, and the example stories were compelling: phones becoming pocket computers, ships becoming floating computers, buildings becoming hi-rise computers, and the like. And we didn't have to stretch too far to imagine that big parts of the IT industry itself will eventually be subsumed into these other industries, becoming as important and ubiquitous -- and invisible -- as, say, electric motors.
Big opportunities for IT hardware, software, and services. But I felt it important to point out that such embedding or tailoring of IT systems into industrial and consumer systems will come with risks and challenges for IT suppliers, including:
Sourcing executives are setting their strategic direction for 2010 and beyond and increasingly asking: “What role should we play in SaaS buying decisions?”
Many sourcing executives see SaaS coming into their firms under the radar screen, through divisional, try-and-buy style purchases, often low-cost enough to go largely undetected – at least in their initial phases. However, they also see SaaS’ growing importance as a key strategic initiative in their firms and the trend towards SaaS becoming ubiquitous in the larger software market. Therefore, they want to better understand existing SaaS solutions that are being used in their firms today – where, when, why – and also understand when it makes sense to proactively push SaaS as the best overall solution based on factors such as TCO, flexibility, usability, IT staffing considerations, and upgrades.
Novell collaboration has been in the process of an extreme makeover for a while now. It started with the acquisition and subsequest integration of SiteScape. It continued with new releases of their email offering GroupWise. But, all along they were working on something that would really differentiate their offering in the market. On Wednesday morning they announced Novell Pulse at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. I've been watching Pulse move from concept to what is now an announced product with an H1 2010 announced ship date for the better part of two years now. It represents an interesting blend of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration and content generation capabilities. If that sounds a bit familiar, think Google Wave. In fact, at the time Wave was announced, I was holding my tongue when folks would ask me if I'd seen anything like it before. I had, the product that became Novell Pulse. I just couldn't say because of a pesky NDA!
Thus it was interesting that Novell became the first vendor in the collaboration space to announce a significant partnership and integration with Google around the upcoming Wave offering. The premise is actually pretty cool. A user in Novell Pulse can work in real-time on a document simultaneously with a user on Google Wave. From the Novell side, all security is managed and maintained by Novell.
The IT management software and operations communities have been buzzing this week about reports that Microsoft acquired IT process automation vendor Opalis Software. We have unequivocally confirmed that this rumor is incorrect. Opalis has NOT been acquired by Microsoft. It remains an independent entity, at least for now.
Opalis, based outside of Toronto, has repeatedly reported impressive revenue growth over its short history. For the past few years, it has been a desirable morsel for larger vendors seeking to add strong process automation to their portfolios. Many have expressed interest, but its success allows Opalis to command a high premium that no suitor has yet been willing to pay.
Yesterday evening, Microsoft announced at the 2009 Annual Educause Conference that they would be rolling out SharePoint-based collaboration and productivity services for universities via Live@edu. While this news arrived quietly at a conference to which collaboration software vendor strategists rarely pay attention, it is potentially game changing in the collaboration platform space. Let me say that again: the fact that Microsoft is getting SharePoint in the hands of the future business leaders of America (and beyond) during their formative years is potentially HUGE. But let’s back up for a second and bring everyone up to speed. For those unfamiliar, Live@edu is Microsoft’s hosted email and collaboration suite targeted at universities. It’s a free service that in the last four months saw over 5,000 schools sign up. One of the underlying goals of Live@edu is to get college students ready for the real world by letting them play with Microsoft tools in college.