Recently, I published a report about a small software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor, Dimdim, which is having success in the crowded Web conferencing market. Like many small vendors, Dimdim provides a free service tier, generously allowing up to 20 participants into the free meeting, to help drum up business. The report, though, did not simply highlight the number of users that Dimdim has captured in four short years of existence -- over 5 million -- but also its success in attracting partners like Intuit, Novell and Nortel CVAS. Why? For new vendors entering crowded markets, attracting partners is vital for two reasons:
Partners open doors to new markets. In crowded markets, incumbent vendors and new entrants jostle to serve customer needs. For the new entrants, the customers that can be wrangled through media hype and analyst buzz is minimal. Mass appeal comes from firms with strong working relationships with a range of buyers in a number of markets -- e.g., oil & gas, healthcare, government -- embracing a small vendor's offering and introducing it to their clients.
Our new book, Empowered, will be in book stores on September 14. But for a real-world conversation about what it means to unleash employees to solve customer problems using readily available technology, come to our Content & Collaboration Forum in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C. on October 7 and 8.
Yes, this is a pitch to come to a Forrester event, but I promise you that it will be worth your time if you're looking for help with such Empowered topics as enterprise social, empowered employees, iPad in the enterprise, innovation, collaboration in the cloud, videoconferencing, and IT consumerization as well as deep dives into critical topics like search and taxonomy, enterprise content management, and what it means to be a content & collaboration leader.
You'll get two days of my Forrester analyst colleagues' presentations and face time as well as keynote presentations from some great and experienced content & collaboration executives. GM's Steve Sacho is way ahead of the curve in understanding how to turn consumerization from IT threat to business opportunity. Richard West of the defense firm, BAE Systems, is bringing his story of how investments in knowledge management and collaboration have empowered employees to work more efficiently together to solve customer problems. Both speakers as well as Zach Brand, head of all things interesting at NPR Digital Media (yes, that NPR), will share their stories, lessons, and experience.
Anyone familiar with social technologies will remember the launch of Google Wave in the fall of 2009. It was a new kind of communication platform released into a beta test with 100,000 invitations sent out. Google’s strategy in limiting the rollout was designed not to overload the architecture (and perhaps to create a sense of scarcity, which it did very well). Google also wanted to develop the platform experientially based on user feedback. However, on Wednesday Google announced it was pulling the plug on Wave. Eric Schmidt tried to put a positive spin on it, describing Wave as a failed experiment that was also a learning experience. And there are certainly some lessons that can be applied to the rollout of enterprise social platforms.
Numbers Matter – Develop A Strategy For Rapid Adoption
So what does this mean for CIOs and IT, the custodians of enterprise technology architecture?
It is clear Jive wants to play with the big boys in the enterprise software space. To date, many Jive deployments have not involved IT. This ability to deploy its technology without IT’s involvement has no doubt helped Jive to this point. Of course, having market-leading functionality hasn't hurt. (Jive has featured highly in recent Forrester Wave reports).
At the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, I sat down with Jive’s new CEO, Tony Zingale, to explore the company strategy. From our discussion, it was apparent that Jive intends to compete for a big slice of the enterprise collaboration marketplace. Fundamentally, this is the right direction for Jive, but I foresee some big challenges for the company along the way.
We are getting many requests for help on iPad strategies for the enterprise. It's clear why. iPads are a tremendously empowering technology that any employee can buy. My colleague Andy Jaquith has a report coming real soon now on the security aspects of iPhones and iPads, and I'm launching research on case studies of iPad in the enterprise.
I am currently hearing about three business scenarios for iPad and tablets, but I'd love hear of your experiences, plans, concerns, or frustrations. Ping me at tschadler(at)forrester(dot)com. Here are the three scenarios:
Sales people out in the field. This is the "Hollywood pitch deck" scenario. The iPad, particularly with a cover that can prop it up a bit, is a great way to scroll through slides to show a customer or demonstrate a Web site. In one situation, I heard that there's a competition brewing for who can manipulate the Web site upside down (so the client across the table sees it right side up) without making any mistakes. Now there's a new skill for sales: upside down Web browsing.
Executives on an overnight trip. No, iPad doesn't replace a laptop (at least not yet; more on this below). But it's great for email, calendar, reviewing documents, and presenting PDF or Keynote decks.
During CScape at Cisco Live, one of the more interesting conversations I had started with a simple question: Is social software (and collaboration software in general) a set of standalone applications or features of other business applications? This sprang from a discussion on the future of the collaboration technology business and really speaks to a couple of important developments in the market:
Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Citrix Online Executive Meet-Up here in Boston; as an East Coast-based technology analyst, I rarely see the vendors I cover in person without hopping on a plane. For those unfamiliar, Citrix Online is the maker of popular remote access and Web conferencing technologies GoToMyPC, GoToAssist, GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar. The centerpiece of this event was a customer panel exclusively made up of marketing professionals who use the conferencing technologies for customer and channel interactions. It was a fact I made sure to jot down in my notebook – why such a marketing-heavy panel? This prompted a broader question: are sales and marketing the real killer applications for Web conferencing?
A myriad of companies occupy the Web conferencing market, offering solutions that address four basic use cases:
Ad hoc meetings: collaborative sessions that need to happen on short notice. These could be quick screen sharing/document sharing sessions, technical support or demonstrations.
Formal meetings: planned sessions with formal agendas that are centered on a group considering one or more pieces of content.
Large & small group presentations: more formal events where a presenter addresses a group of some size with varying degrees of interactivity.
Training sessions: educational sessions where participants get information, have interactive learning sessions and can be tested on content.
Okay, so I'm a sucker for nostalgia. But being on the same stage as Gilda Radner and John Belushi and John Candy and Tina Fey was a thrill. And being in the same studio where Elvis Costello and the Attractions stopped "Less Than Zero" after a few bars and jumped into "Radio Radio" in defiance of NBC's wishes brought a rebellious, empowered smile to my face.
NBC's Studio 8H, home of Saturday Night Live, is where Microsoft launched SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 yesterday. It was a short, punchy, customer-filled event. These products are the latest in the "Wave 14" product set, a ginormous (as my 9-year old says) overhaul of the Office product line. And they're beauts. Here's my (admittedly enthusiastic) analysis of what Microsoft has accomplished with this product.
The lion awakens and roars.
Microsoft's Office business has taken a battering in the press as journalists chase stories about the important innovations from nimble startup competitors, open source alternatives, and Web-based productivity tools. But let's face it. Microsoft doesn't have 500,000,000 people using its tools for no reason. And while three years is a long time to wait for a product release (especially in this era of instant innovation via the Internet), Microsoft has re-confirmed its position as the most important driver of business productivity on the planet. This launch will crush the dreams of a 100 entrepreneurs and force another 1,000 to rethink their companies. That's okay. It's what happens when Microsoft turns a niche product for a geeky few into a global feature that anybody can use. As an economy, we need it.
Even though there's plenty of evidence showing the positive impact many companies are getting from leveraging a social media strategy, there are still companies rigidly refusing to develop a social media strategy. This reminds me of the early days of the Internet: there were those companies looking to embrace the Internet and develop a new kind of "e-business," and the rest, steadfastly refusing to believe the Internet would transform their business. Even as Amazon defined a new online shopping channel in retail it was amazing to see how many large retailers were slow to establish an online presence.
Back in 2000 I wrote a report urging online retailers to embrace “community” as one of three core elements of their customer strategy. Companies such as REI, which already had an online community in 2000, have learned from their experience and are surging ahead into new social media.
I stopped down to RIM's WES (5,000 enterprise mobile pros, ISVs, and carriers) conference in Orlando yesterday. The company's been taking heat lately from Wall Street analysts who seem more interested in watching iPhones rise than tracking BlackBerry units shipped. What you as an information & knowledge management professional should care about is if RIM will be a strong partner in the future. At the conference, I saw six things that give me great confidence that RIM is future-proofing companies' investments in the BlackBerry platform:
BES Express is basic BES for $0. And it's good enough for most employees in most industries. RIM says it's taking off, with 55,000 downloads of the server software since March. And according to RIM, it's designed to scale out to enterprise levels.
BlackBerry 6 is the OS that you've been waiting for. While the mobile world was going WebKit browser, RIM was still Java-only. They've fixed that in the next version of the operating system, due out in Q3 2010. See the video clip for a sneak peak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlO8KMv7Bx4. It has a much better browser, better touchscreen features, and a cleaner interface. And with RIM's participation in Adobe's open screens initiative, I expect to see Flash support as well, something iPhone doesn't have.
The Pearl 3G and a new Bold prove that RIM understands fashion and usability. Frankly, these devices are gorgeous. I've always loved the Pearl, but I got tired of the Edge network. With the Pearl 3G, and its optical track pad, 3G, Wi-Fi, better screen, it's a beauty with brains. And it fits into my pocket in a way that the iPhone just doesn't.
RIM's carrier-focus means it will get the attention that you need in every market. 175 carriers. Enough said.