My colleague James Staten recently wrote about AutoDesk Cloud as an exemplar of the move toward App Internet, the concept of implementing applications that are distributed between local and cloud resources in a fashion that is transparent to the user except for the improved experience. His analysis is 100% correct, and AutoDesk Cloud represents a major leap in CAD functionality, intelligently offloading the inherently parallel and intensive rendering tasks and facilitating some aspects of collaboration.
But (and there’s always a “but”), having been involved in graphics technology on and off since the '80s, I would say that “cloud” implementation of rendering and analysis is something that has been incrementally evolving for decades, with hundreds of well-documented distributed environments with desktops fluidly shipping their renderings to local rendering and analysis farms that would today be called private clouds, with the results shipped back to the creating workstations. This work was largely developed and paid for either by universities and by media companies as part of major movie production projects. Some of them were of significant scale, such as “Massive,” the rendering and animation farm for "Lord of the Rings" that had approximately 1,500 compute nodes, and a subsequent installation at Weta that may have up to 7,000 nodes. In my, admittedly arguable, opinion, the move to AutoDesk Cloud, while representing a major jump in capabilities by making the cloud accessible to a huge number of users, does not represent a major architectural innovation, but rather an incremental step.
One of the many interesting topics of discussion we get into in our Social Business Strategy workshops is around the social ecosystem. This is the name I have given the collection of business capabilities potentially enhanced by one or more social technologies.
First let me define social technologies. Note I’m using the word “technology” quite deliberately in place of the more common term “social media” because social media is too often associated with consumer-facing technology as deployed in support of marketing. In defining the entire social ecosystem I prefer the more generic “technology”. I define social technology as “any technology that enables one-to-many communications in a public forum (or semi-public if behind a security firewall)”.
Marketers, how are you getting along with IT these days? It matters more than it used to. The job your company expects you to do is more and more entwined with technology. And so are the people in your target market.
Our research at Forrester shows almost half of US adults say technology is important to them. And the ecosystem of suppliers of marketing-centric technologies and services is ballooning. So whatever your aim as a marketer — whether it’s listening to the market, engaging with potential customers, or measuring the results of those efforts — you can’t do your job without these many technologies of new channels, new services, and new products.
This technology entwinement is especially tight when your company tackles the challenge of mastering the flow of customer data throughout the organization, from inputs across customer touchpoints, to the many ways you subsequently engage those customers. The struggle is not only in how to do this but also in how to do it sustainably: How to remember what data’s been collected, how it’s been used, what the outcomes have been, and on and on.
Where it gets messy is that marketers and IT often sing from different hymnals when it comes to making the most of all the relevant technologies. You’re eager to get to market with exciting new tools for engaging with potential customers, and you’re willing to experiment. But your IT colleagues often seem to be focused above all on cutting costs and avoiding risk — goals that rarely mesh well with what you’re trying to get done as a marketer. Not surprisingly, one marketing exec that Forrester interviewed recently called IT the “Department of No.”
Whereas in the past it may have been possible (even expected!) for marketing and IT to work at arm’s length, it’s not an option anymore.
With the increasing richness and complexity that digital channels and social media bring to the marketing equation, senior marketers increasingly realize that, to be relevant in shaping their brands’ interaction with customers, their teams need to embrace new technologies with the help of the IT group.
In my latest joint research effort with my fellow analyst Nigel Fenwick from Forrester’s CIO role, I explore how marketing and IT can successfully work together in enabling organizations to master the customer data flow.
Our early findings were not very promising . . . What clearly emerged from our interviews with CMOs and CIOs was how deeply ingrained the stereotypes about the two teams are. We heard that:
IT is the department of “no” and does not care about customers or what’s happening in the market.
Marketing is having all of the fun and spending money without rhyme or reason.
I'm not going to comment on the $8.5B purchase price, though I'm sure Marc Andreesen's investment company is happy with their return. And I'm not going to comment on the impact on Xbox, Hotmail, and Live.com. And I don't think this has anything to do with Windows Mobile.
But I am going to comment on the impact of the deal on the enterprise, and specifically on content and collaboration professionals responsible for workforce productivity and collaboration. When you strip it down to its essence -- Skype operating as a separate business unit reporting to Steve Ballmer -- here's what you need to know about the Skype deal:
First, Microsoft gets an important consumerization brand. Skype is a powerful consumer brand with a reported 600+ million subscribers. But it's also a "consumerization brand," meaning that it's a valuable brand for people who use Skype to get their jobs done. Consumerization of IT is just people using familiar consumer tools to get work done. It's a force of technology-based innovation as we wrote about in our book, Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, Transform Your Business. Google and Apple and Skype have dominant consumerization brands. Microsoft does not. Until now. And as a bonus, Google doesn't get to buy Skype. And more importantly, neither does Cisco.
Last night I had the pleasure of attending a customer case study session hosted by Cisco. Representatives from two clients -- SmithAmundsen (a law firm) and Republic Services (a waste management company) -- discussed how they were deploying Cisco unified communication and collaboration technology within their businesses. While the two speakers presented compelling stories about the need for collaboration within business, what caught my attention was where their companies received value. The constant refrain was these technologies saved money on travel, office space and IT expenditures. This isn't a new story: last year at Cisco's Collaboration Summit, Vid Byanna of Accenture mentioned that travel cost reduction was a big driver for his firm adopting desktop video technology for its remote workforce. Nor is this a Cisco-specific story: I recently published a report that shows the majority of content and collaboration professionals say travel reductions is the #1 benefit of collaboration software. But does it teach us the right lesson about the value of collaboration software?
In general, when we think about finding ways to let employees come together in groups to do work, we assume some type of business benefit: faster problem resolution, more innovative ideas and quicker time to market are a few examples. So why, in a business world where 42% of the workforce is mobile, do just 19% and 9% of content and collaboration professionals see improved innovation and faster time to market, respectively, as outcomes of using collaboration software? I have a couple of ideas that I'll be testing in my research going forward. I think this disconnect springs from one of three places:
Social networking is hot, and it’s smart to think about how your organization might use it to generate benefit equal to the market hype. As you develop your social technology strategy, it’s particularly important to steer clear of a fallacy of thought that often creeps into technology strategies for enterprise communication and collaboration.
Oftentimes, an enterprise social strategy, like enterprise collaboration strategies before them, will have among its goals a phrase suggesting that the technology should “change the way people communicate.” Superficially, this phrase may accurately describe part of the effect, but at a more fundamental level, it violates a very important change management principle. To make my point, I’ll back up and start with a little history.
I used to communicate via paper memos and phone calls, but it was cumbersome and time-consuming. Email has come to replace much of that. So, the “way I communicate” has changed, right? On the face of it, yes, but, looking more closely, not really, at least not at first. Compared to my “before email” days, I still communicate the same types of things with the same kinds of people — only email made these communications easier (for the most part). I started using email because (1) it could improve the existing way I communicated and (2) it fit my work and life context — it was just a new program to use on my handy desktop PC. Once email became part of my context, I realized that I could use it for communications that were too costly before. At this point, it did, to a degree, change the way I communicate.
It's important sometimes to step back from the obvious trends and look at things that lie just beyond the light. So in addition to the clear trends in play: mobilizing the entire collaboration toolkit, moving collaboration services to the cloud (often in support of mobile work); and consolidating collaboration workloads onto a full-featured collaboration platform, here are six counterintuitive trends for 2011 (for more detail and an analysis of what content & collaboration professionals should do, please read the full report available to Forrester clients or by credit card):
Consumerization gets board-level approval. Consumerization is inevitable; your response is not. In 2011, tackle this head on. (And read our book, Empowered, while you're at it -- it has a recipe for business success in the empowered era, a world in which customers and employees have power.)
The email inbox gets even more important. I know the established wisdom is for email to get less relevant as Gen Y tweets their way to business collaboration. But come on, look at all the drivers of email: feeds from social media, universal, pervasive on any device. Email's here to stay. But it's time to reinvent the inbox. IBM and Google are leading this charge.
The cloud cements its role as the place for collaboration innovation. The cloud is better for mobile, telework, and distributed organizations. And cloud collaboration services will get better faster than on-premise alternatives. Full stop. The math isn't hard to do. A quarterly product release cycle beats four-year upgrade cycles and every time.
I've always liked the approach Dimdim took in offering web conferencing services. The pillars of the business model, which I profiled last year, were lean operations, smart viral marketing and technology partnerships with larger companies like Novell and Nortel CVAS. The technology they built emphasized ease of use, providing an audio/video/web conferencing experience through the browser, allowing information workers access to a web meeting regardless of the device or operating system they were using. So it was not surprising when software vendors looking for conferencing capabilities started sniffing around Dimdim as an acquisition target. It was even less surprising when Salesforce.com picked up the company for $31 million yesterday.
For Salesforce, this was a straight technology acquisition, as evidenced by the seemingly near total shutdown of Dimdim's website: Monthly accounts cease on March 15 and annual accounts will be allowed to complete their term but will not be able to renew. While the rapid sunsetting of the Dimdim brand probably won't make Salesforce any friends in the Dimdim user base -- reportedly north of 5 million -- it should provide some interesting new services for Salesforce CRM and Force.com customers. Why? Dimdim's real-time communications technology fleshes out the collaboration story Salesforce began with its social offering, Chatter, last year. This blending of tools will boost the collaborative power of some key Chatter features:
No need to revisit the success of iPad. The millions of units sold since April speaks for itself. While most of these have been purchased at retail, many buyers use their tablets for work, often sponsored or supported by an enlightened IT organization. 2011 will be a big year for iPad in the enterprise.
But what about the countless number of tablets from other manufacturers? These anything-but-iPad (ABi) tablets promise enticing characteristics that Content & Collaboration professionals cherish, things like Flash media support, enterprise app stores, and sometimes greatly enhanced security (as RIM’s Playbook will have) or deep links to the unified communications infrastructure (as Cisco’s Cius will have) or full Microsoft Office support (as HP’s Slate will have).
How will these ABi tablets fare in the enterprise in 2011? Fair to partly cloudy, I fear. Three gating factors will slow enterprise adoption:
Many ABI tablets and particularly those from RIM and Cisco and HP will be sold primarily to companies. So in a world of smartphone and tablet consumerization where employees bring personal devices to work, the leading ABi business tablets are being sold through the enterprise door. This will slow down adoption as IT buyers find the budget and evaluate the alternatives. In contrast, iPad is available to consumers as well as directly to businesses. So IT can at least temporarily sidestep the issues of funding and data plan provisioning while developing a tablet strategy. It’s an easier business case to make in 2011. Of course, other Android tablets are available to consumers and will come in through the employee door.