I had the chance to join 50 other people at a telepresence event last week. This one took place in real-time using Cisco's TelePresence rooms. (Okay, full disclosure, it was a Cisco industry analyst event held on December 9th.)
(This is a long post, so for those looking for key lessons and gotchas, just scroll now to the bottom.)
For those of you who've been asleep for the last 4 years as first HP and then Cisco followed by LifeSize, Polycom, RADVISION, Tandberg, and Teliris demonstrated the like-being-there experience of telepresence, it's pretty amazing stuff. Video conferencing with near face-time quality. You can in fact see the whites of their eyes.
Companies like P&G, GE, and Dreamworks are using telepresence technology to slash executive travel and give technical staff the tools to collaborate across massive distances with almost the same experience as being there (save the ability to shake hands, share a meal, and have a side conversation).
I first experienced telepresence in 2004 at HP's Corvallis, OR, lab, and it blew me away back then. It's only gotten better. (Colleague Claire Schooley has calculated the ROI of telepresence for those thinking about this technology.)
Back to this telepresence event:
Cisco used 12 telepresence rooms in at eight cities: Boston, New York, San Jose, Toronto, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Bedfont outside London.
Do you truly understand your workforce and what they need from technology? Hint, it's a loaded question. You might think so, but you'd probably be wrong. They're not like you. Not at all.
We weren't sure, either, which is why we surveyed 2,001 US information workers -- people that use computers in their jobs to find out what technology they use and what they need to be successful in their jobs.
We discovered something that consumer market researchers have known for generations: Not everybody needs or wants the same stuff. So we drew on our decade of experience with quantitative analysis and created a segmentation that highlights the differences between employees based on their need for location flexibility (mobility) and their application use:
Location flexibility, a.k.a., mobility -- drives differences in the need for smartphones, wireless networks, collaboration tools, and telecommuting support.
Application use drives differences in social computing, consumerization of IT, and tolerance for virtual desktops.
Microsoft announced the general availability of Exchange Server 2010 yesterday. For information & knowledge management professionals and for the productivity of information workers, there are five good reasons to upgrade:
Much cheaper storage. Exchange 2007 introduced a new storage model, where the email server manages direct-attached storage. Exchange 2010 extends that capability and in the words of one beta customer, "We have reduced the overall costs for our storage by 30% while increasing the usable disk space nine times." This benefit comes from using cheap direct-attached storage in lieu of storage area networks.
Support for much bigger mailboxes. Most firms limit mailbox size to 100-250 MB for good reasons: storage cost, nightly backup windows too short, eDiscovery hassles. Exchange 2010 has much faster I/O (Microsoft says 15 times faster than in Exchange 2003) and improved storage management that allows direct-attached storage and cheap disks. Net it out, and it becomes much easier to expand the mailboxes to 1-2 GB.
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:
Telepresence is the life-size, true color, no latency video meeting technology that creates a “wow” reaction from participants, especially those who have experienced some traditional videoconferencing that gave poor picture quality, out-of synch audio/video, and added no sense of presence to a meeting. Here are some factors that make telepresence different:
• Video provides high quality 1080p pictures with hidden cameras placed to achieve eye contact no matter where people are seated around the conference table.
• Audio is full duplex with microphones and speakers that allow sound to come from the direction of the speaker.
• The environment is purpose-built with lighting arrays, speakers, and cameras all configured for the optimum experience. Conference tables, chairs, and even the wall paint are the same at all sites to convey a uniform sense of presence. Managed service and support assure that this expensive system is going to work. Many organizations buy a concierge-type service model so participants just need to push a button to start the videoconference.
On 9/9/09 Salesforce.com announced the launch of Service Cloud 2, a new set of three collaborative offerings: Salesforce Knowledge, Salesforce Answers and Salesforce for Twitter.
With Salesforce Knowledge companies can share data in the Service Cloud, Salesforce Answers enables companies to create communities to capture knowledge and Salesforce for Twitter allows companies to screen and participate in the 45mio user Twitter community directly from the service cloud.
While the cloud-based cost of email is pretty transparent (many providers, including Microsoft and Google, publish their per-user per-month costs), the cost of running email on-premises is often a big mystery to everyone, including most CIOs. The big challenge is that the costs are spread throughout the budget: some in the hardware budget, some in the software budget, some in the storage budget, some in the cost of capital budget, some in the staffing budgets, and so on.
After dozens of these discussions and after a survey of 53 information & knowledge management professionals to ask about the cost of email, it is abundantly clear that few firms know their true cost of running email on-premises. And this matters if you're considering a move to cloud-based email.
Google is a remarkable company. Need proof? Just consider how reliant we are on Google Maps to find our way around the world. That didn't happen by accident. It happened because Google empowered a couple of brothers, Lars and Jens Rasmussen, to open up the developer APIs to the mapping engine.
These same two brothers announced yesterday at Google I/O developer conference a new technology for communication and collaboration. This new collaboration engine unites email, instant messaging, blogs, wikis into a single hosted conversation. Check out the demo here and the announcement here.
These conversations or "Waves" take place inside Safari, Firefox, or Chrome and look like email on steroids. (Lars said that they took the 40-year old model of email and redesigned it for today's Web-based world.) But it's way more than that. With Google Wave, Google has:
Opened a new path to reinvent how we collaborate. You have to see it to understand, but why would you need four products when one Wave will do? It's a new conversational metaphor that will also easily support document-based collaboration.
Put the code base into open source to attract investment. Google will attract the best and brightest developers and development with this move.
If you had asked me three years ago whether the mobile industry would become a free-for-all of innovation and opportunity, I would have been forced to sigh and say, "can't see how -- the carriers don't seem interested in unlocking that potential."
I would certainly have been wrong as Apple has so impressively shown with its iPhone strategy (with first AT&T's and now 100s of carrier's support).
After 21 months in market, it's quite clear that Apple is redefining its third industry: first the computer industry, next the music industry, and now the mobile industry. With 25,000 applications (yes, mostly consumer applications today) available on Apple's private store and a reported 800,000,000 downloads, the iPhone has become a new platform for innovation.
At least one major enterprise vendor -- Cisco -- now treats the iPhone ahead of BlackBerry devices as a tier one device, at least as demonstrated by its WebEx and Cisco Call Manager applications.
A wander through history today with apologies to those looking for punchy bullets.
The Web turns 20 today. Frickin' amazing if you ask me. My 10-year old wonders out loud what we all did before the Internet (by which he means the browser-based world of Club Penguin, Google, Yahoo!, and YouTube). And for the life of me, I can't remember, either.
How did we collaborate? Well, I remember that I wrote lots of letters to friends to stay in touch and was thrilled when someone wrote back (it was too expensive to make long-distance phone calls). My 7th grade buddies and I also wrote away to Pennzoil and STP to ask for stickers to put on our notebooks. I also spent a lot of time in the library (any library anywhere) and in book stores looking for books, magazines, research papers, whatever.
And for sharing information? Copies, copies, copies. I was an early and big fan of the mimeograph machine, stinky beast though it was. We used to sneak into the Physics office in college to get extra blanks in case we messed up when making copies for a seminar. And you had to get there early on seminar day to command a slot in the mimeograph line. (It was a blessed breakthrough when the Xerox machine was installed -- and only a dime a copy!)
And for creating, editing, co-authoring? It was typewriters, paper, and purple pens, folks. And pen and ink for graphics. Ugly stuff, but amazingly it worked. It took days or weeks do a turnaround, though.