In the Cisco Collaboration Connection event for Asia Pacific early this week, I had the opportunity to try newly designed Cisco collaboration products, as well has have in-depth discussions with senior executives from Cisco. And I was also able to observe the response from the partners and customers I met from across APAC, including China, India, Singapore and Indonesia, and exchange my thoughts with them as well. I feel that the DNA of Cisco is changing, from technology-centric toward customer experience focused, starting with the collaboration business. Here is evidence beyond slogans on their Power Point slides.
Design. When people talk about the design of Cisco’s collaboration products, usually it would be with words like high-tech, standardized or professional, but seldom about fashionable design, beauty, simplicity, or ease of use – attributes typically used to describe the leading consumer electronic appliances from Apple or Samsung. Now, with the latest product announcements, it’s totally different, and Cisco has won several Red Dot industrial design awards in 2014.
Over the past two decades, the Internet has triggered a tectonic shift in the concept of networking — one that has redefined how companies market and sell products. More recently, social media, mobile, and cloud have fundamentally changed the concept of collaboration, enabling businesses, employees, customers, and partners to continuously interact with each other to create innovative new products and services and enhance existing ones. Rising customer expectations and faster product life cycles are forcing companies to adapt to a new style of business: “the collaborative economy.” My new report outlines the core dynamics of the collaborative economy and the implications for CIOs and their business partners:
Collaboration is much more than unified communications. It’s not sufficient for the CIO to roll out a unified communications solution; technology solutions alone do not change business processes or support employees’ changing collaborative behavior — let alone alter business models. A modern collaboration strategy requires CIOs to make organizational adjustments in addition to technology planning.
Collaboration is becoming part of the corporate strategy. A modern collaboration platform is the foundation for better innovation, faster processes, and greater employee satisfaction, which lead to happier customers and new revenue opportunities. We believe that modern collaboration is part of competitive advantage — and leading CIOs must support it as part of their group strategy.
We've been talking about Adaptive Intelligence (AI) for a while now. As a refresher, AI is is the real-time, multidirectional sharing of data to derive contextually appropriate, authoritative knowledge that helps maximize business value.
Increasingly in inquiries, workshops, FLB sessions, and advisories, we hear from our customer insights (CI) clients that developing the capabilities required for adaptive intelligence would actually help them solve a lot of other problems, too. For example:
A systematic data innovation approach encourages knowledge sharing throughout the organization, reduces data acquisition redundancies, and brings energy and creativity to the CI practice.
A good handle on data origin kickstarts your marketing organization's big data process by providing a well-audited foundation to build upon.
Better data governance and data controls improve your privacy and security practices by ensuring cross-functional adoption of the same set of standards and processes.
Better data structure puts more data in the hands of analysts and decision-makers, in the moment and within the systems of need (eg, campaign management tools, content management systems, customer service portals, and more).
More data interoperability enables channel-agnostic customer recognition, and the ability to ingest novel forms of data -- like preference, wearables data, and many more -- that can vastly improve your ability to deliver great customer experiences.
Last week I hosted Media Corp’s CIO Leaders Summit in Sydney. In addition to my emcee duties, I also moderated two panels, both of which inspired significant discussion among the more than 50 senior IT decision-makers present. Highlights included:
Peter Bourke, CIO of Westfield, helped drive a lively discussion on the changing role of the CIO and strategies for leading innovation within the organization versus simply responding to business needs.
Andrew Wiles, CIO of Vodafone, addressed the importance of talent management and the skills that IT professionals require to succeed in a fast-paced business environment.
The CTOs of Avaya and Cisco provided excellent insight from the vendor perspective, while David Gee, CIO of Credit Union Australia, wrapped up the event with a vision of the future — the “microtrends and megatrends” likely to affect our lives, both professionally and personally.
I spent the past three months talking to Google and Microsoft professional services partners, as well as Google Apps and Office 365 clients, to better understand how cloud collaboration and productivity suites are implemented and the value clients get once they move into these environments. One word that came up quite a bit during these conversations was "simple." As in "We think moving to [Google Apps or Office 365] will simplify our [costs, IT management, user experience, etc.]." This got me thinking: Should CIOs think moving collaboration workloads to the cloud actually simplifies their job? Well...yes, but there's a but. Simplicity in these environments comes with costs. Business and IT leaders must be sure they're willing to pay them as a condition of getting the benefits of the cloud. So what does this mean?
These platforms simplify contracting if you can live with the standard service agreement. One Google client told us one of the reasons they rejected the incumbent players was because they felt the licensing agreements were "convoluted." Yes, cloud collaboration and productivity suite providers have straightforward per user pricing for clearly defined feature/function tiers. But the devil's in the details. These players are able to deliver highly efficient, low-cost services because they do not permit a lot of deviation from the standard service agreement. So, healthcare clients looking for business associates' agreements will not find a willing partner in Google.* And smaller enterprises that require a dedicated collaboration environment will find that Microsoft enforces a minimum seat count on Office 365's dedicated SKU.
Personal communications services, which we define as communication and collaboration services that merge private, social and business communication in one personal view, are becoming part of the work environment. Services like Skype or Google Apps allow users to speak and send messages across multiple communications services to communicate and collaborate just as they would as consumers within a corporate context. Empowered employees expect to use these collaboration channels not just for personal use but also for work.
Although Skype has been around for more than decade, the market for personal communications services in a business context is still very much evolving. The personal communication experience is complex and challenging, as individuals wrestle with multiple communications services to manage an increasingly diverse set of communication and collaboration technologies.
When people think of futuristic user interfaces (Forrester analysts included), they often invoke the 2002 Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. The imagery in the movie offers a compelling vision of how next-generation technologies – gestural control, voice command, 3D visuals, multi-screen interactions – can empower computing experiences.
Where did Minority Report get this vision? From a man named John Underkoffler, Chief Scientist at a company called Oblong. He designed the computer interfaces in the film.
I had the pleasure of visiting Oblong’s Boston office recently, where I saw demonstrations of several technologies. Most interesting to me was the company’s Mezzanine offering, an “infopresence” conference room that the company sells to enterprises today.
The solution involves equipping a conference room (or multiples – it works as a long distance telepresence location) with a number of monitors (5 in the room I visited), teleconferencing equipment (industry standard products work well), and ceiling-mounted sensors (for interpreting gestural controls), and a whiteboard (a physical one, but visible to a camera). Workers control the room with a wand, which works via both gestural controls and a button.
Putting all of these things together, workers can collaborate both within the room itself and with remote teams (or remote individual team members). The resulting experience, in my view, offers two sets of benefits:
I attended Google’s annual atmosphere road show recently, an event aimed at presenting solutions for business customers. The main points I took away were:
Google’s “mosaic” approach to portfolio development offers tremendous potential. Google has comprehensive offerings covering communications and collaboration solutions (Gmail, Google Plus), contextualized services (Maps, Compute Engine), application development (App Engine), discovery and archiving (Search, Vault), and access tools to information and entertainment (Nexus range, Chromebook/Chromebox).
Google’s approach to innovation sets an industry benchmark. Google is going for 10x innovation, rather than the typical industry approach of pursuing 10% incremental improvements. Compared with its peers, this “moonshot” approach is unorthodox. However, moonshot innovation constitutes a cornerstone of Google’s competitive advantage. It requires Google’s team to think outside established norms. One part of its innovation drive encourages staff to spend 20% of their work time outside their day-to-day tasks. Google is a rare species of company in that it does not see failure if experiments don’t work out. Google cuts the losses, looks at the lessons learned — and employees move on to new projects.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Google+ are fast becoming a big topic for business. Consumers are embracing these communication and collaboration channels for more than just sharing holiday memories. According to software provider Invesp, one-third of workers use social media at work for at least an hour a day. Most of us also expect to use these collaboration channels increasingly in our work environments to improve the information flow.
We want to communicate at work as we are used to communicating when off work – with or without the consent of our employers. Today, however, Invesp data shows that less than 20% of companies have integrated social media with their customer care, sales or product development. Moreover, communication culture is part of business culture and work flexibility and as such impacts any business’ endeavor to attract and retain creative talent. Data by office solutions vendor Intelligent Office, indicates that 25% of people say they would not work for a company that does not allow social media at work.
For IT and business leaders, these social dynamics bring their own opportunities and challenges, as social media communication:
Provides an innovative and attractively priced communication infrastructure.Top management and business line managers alike increasingly recognize that social media forms a fundamental channel for informal communications. Social media offers cost effective collaboration and communication channels.
Over the last couple of years, I've fielded a number of inquiries from Forrester clients who are trying to decide whether their company should move their email and other collaboration workloads into the cloud via Google Apps for Business or Microsoft Office 365. This conversation has gained so much momentum that I recently did a podcast with my colleague Mike Gualtieri on the subject, will host a teleconference covering the topic on February 26, and will soon publish a report detailing answers to five of the common questions that we get about online collaboration and productivity suites (which include Office 365, Google Apps, and IBM SmartCloud for Social Business). Fueling this extended conversation are business and IT leaders' deliberations over one question: Is there a right or wrong in selecting one vendor's offering over the other? I'll use a typical analyst hedge to answer: It depends.