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.
This morning Microsoft launched SharePoint 2010, the follow-up to the very successful Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. As the morning progresses, I receive more and more notifications from vendors that are announcing integration strategies for the new offering. Meanwhile, other vendors announce strategies to compete. The social computing vendors are no exception. No matter the strategy, it's clear that SharePoint is creating a market disruption that not only vendors but clients need to address in creating and updating broad collaboration strategies. Many Forrester clients have already begun this assessment process, as evidenced by my inquiry load over the past several months. One question has surfaced repeatedly:
Does SharePoint 2010 affect my plans for social in the enterprise?
Well, yes and no. Here's the 100,000 foot view. If you are committed to SharePoint you really need to take a look at what Microsoft delivers as part of 2010. For many, this release will reach the proverbial "good enough" bar. MySites, already a decent profiling service, continues to improve. Blogs and wikis, which were pretty dismal in MOSS 2007, are quite well done. Key missing elements like tags, tag clouds, community sites and activity streams are now part of the offering. Microblogs, a hot top of mind topic at the moment, are not quite there yet. Interesting. As Twitter explodes and Yammer continues to gain ground in the enterprise, SharePoint comes up short in microblogging. The reason? At least for the time being, SharePoint is dependent on a pretty traditional development cycle and microblogging exploded pretty late in the product development cycle. In other words, SharePoint is now clearly in the social game, but will play the role of fast follower for the time being.
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.
In a recent blog post called "Drop The Pilot," Andrew McAfee argues that most "Enterprise 2.0" pilots are unintentionally set up to fail. This is in part because such enterprise communities depend upon broad employee acceptance in order to be effective. This doesn't mean that collaboration platforms are only effective in organizations with tens of thousands of employees, but it certainly helps. And the challenge with pilots is that they are frequently focused on a subset of the organization -- these pilots never really have the chance to fully realize their potential. Perhaps the best pilots are those that are not limited in scale but limited in time -- they determine adoption rates over time and use the pilot to figure out how to make the final rollout more successful.
In his blog post McAfee goes on to suggest six steps toward effective deployment which gel nicely with the key lessons learned from the United Business Media (UBM) case study published recently. McAfee suggests you should:
Collaboration and social technologies continue to be hot in 2010. In Forrester's 2009 Enterprise Software Survey, we asked respondents to rate the following on a scale of 1-5:
How important are the following software initiatives in supporting your firm's current business goals?
-Increase deployment and use of collaboration technologies
58% answered 4 or 5. In conversations with clients, it's clear that as we exit the current recession and enter a new economy, firms are betting on knowledge workers to drive competitive differentiation in the same manner that they bet on technology to drive efficiency in the early to mid-90's. The trend is particularly strong in North America and Western Europe where big bets are being made on innovation, design and other differentiation that will derive from more efficient, better connected knowledge workers.
This trend indicates high level, organizational goals and is likely to be more dependent on sociology than technology. The truth of the matter is that firms that have made large investments in collaboration, particularly social technologies, and have not made an accompanying investment in driving organizational and cultural change, have struggled. Why then, the trend toward investments in collaboration technologies?
The answer is that technology will support the efforts in a very significant way. And, in the case of social technologies, 2010 will be a break out year. Why? The market is clearly hungry for solutions and the vendors are poised to deliver.
"Well, as of this moment, they're on double-secret probation!"
Dean Wormer, Faber College
Recently I have had a number of conversations regarding the role of pre-moderation of internal social networks. Just by way of explanation, pre-moderation would be the approval of all content (posts and comments) prior to posting. Over the past several years and hundreds of conversations with enterprise clients, this has rarely come up.
Just to be clear, there is risk associated with enterprise social networking. There is nothing about social technologies that precludes requirements for privacy, security, maintenance of intellectual capital, regulatory compliance, etc. However, given the right degree of attention, these all are manageable. In fact, over time, social technologies will reduce the risk associated with all of these (more on that later).
OK, so if anyone can say anything at anytime, that's risky right? Well, in thoery, but in reality, not really. Remember, we're talking about internal social networks. Presumably, these are IT sanctioned, authenticated solutions. In other words, everyone knows who you are. And, we can assume that with some degree of planning and education, your users will be aware of the policies that govern the environment. And if you post something not within policy, well you get put on probation (or maybe double-secret probation). Animal House references aside, many a fine internal social networking policy begins with "don't do anything that will get you fired".
There are three key points here:
One, provide a sanctioned solution for your organization because if you don't they may well find something on their own and that could be a whole different kind of trouble.
You can use Internet protocols to make phone calls inside your own network. And you don't have to pay for the minutes. But you can't do the same thing with a business partner. Instead, you have to pay a carrier like BT or AT&T to carry the phone call over the public switched telephone network (PSTN).
(PSTN is an analog network born in 1878 when Bell opened a switching office in New Haven, CT. It's done us proud, but it's time to move to a digital network.)
It's even worse for video conferencing. If you want to have a video conference internally, you can use your IP network to do it. But if you want to do a video conference with a business partner, you have to use a complex business gateway link and pay a lot of money for it.
Cisco thinks it's time to change that. We spoke with Cisco executives Tony Bates, Barry O'Sullivan, and Joe Burton about Cisco's intercompany media engine (IME), a new technology to replace PSTN with its Internet equivalent. Cisco's goals are audacious:
Apple just announced its media tablet (we coined these things mobile media tablets in 2005 in private client conversations and ) amidst much excitement and surprisingly little secrecy. There wasn't much if anything in the announcement that the bloggers hadn't anticipated.
This product will appear in 60 days with WiFi and in 90 days unlocked with AT&T data plan for $629 and $29/month. It will catch on quickly as an employee-provisioned third device, particularly for Mobile Professionals, 28% of the workforce. IT will support it in many organizations. After all, it's just a big iPhone to them and already 20% of firms support them.
Most of the media coverage will discuss the impact on consumer markets. I'm going to talk about the impact on businesses and on information & knowledge management professionals, the IT executive responsible for making the workforce successful with technology.
Make no mistake, this is an attractive business tool. Laptops will be left at home.
One thing's for sure, Apple knows how to time the market. And the market it's timed this time around is an important one: information workers self-provisioning what they need rather than what their employers provide. We have called this trend Technology Populism(AKA consumerization of IT), and it's important enough that we're writing a book called Groundswell Heroes about how to harness it.
We just had another of our regular cloud research meetings at Forrester. In these meetings, we cut across our research organization to examine cloud computing from every angle.
Compared with even just a year ago, it's amazing how important and pervasive cloud computing analysis (as opposed to cloud computing guesswork) has become in our research calendar.
You can see the existing cloud/*aaS research here and our planned research here. As the meeting host, I mostly listen, probe, and take notes, but ocassionally I get to jump in with a thought.
To wit: We are often asked about whether cloud-based collaboration (email, team sites, instant messaging, Web conferencing, social computing, etc.) works best on multi-tenant, dedicated solutions, or both. The answer is both, but trending towards multi-tenant. Our clients are interested in both multi-tenant and single-tenant or dedicated cloud solutions -- as long as the price is right.
The future of cloud-based collaboration is clearly multi-tenant for two economic reasons:
1. Multi-tenant enables the fundamental economic benefits of a shared resource. We can see this in the price war going on in email right now -- a 50% price cut in the last 12 months with multi-tenant cloud email. The floor on email cost keeps dropping, fueled by the better economics of multi-tenant solutions and high capacity utilization.