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.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced today that he will be retiring within 12 months. My Forrester colleague Ted Schadler laid out some of the strategic challenges his successor will face in coming years. Here, I add to Ted's analysis.
Microsoft remains one of the great global technology companies, a solid member of theFortune 50. Although it no longer enjoys the reputation for innovation it did in the 1990s, it’s a critical player in every aspect of end user computing (including devices, software, browsers, development platforms, and services) and of other technology product and service markets.
As CEO, Steve Ballmer solidified Microsoft’s stronghold in enterprise solutions. Microsoft built and maintained — or built and made itself into a key challenger — in several enterprise markets. Microsoft Office remains a titanic success, even as it faces lower-cost competition from Google and others. Windows Azure has been cultivated into a full-fledged contender in the cloud services market. Exchange remains entrenched in enterprises, as do many of Microsoft’s Server and Tools offerings. Microsoft remains the company to beat in some of these markets, and has become a formidable challenger (e.g. as Azure takes on Amazon Web Services) in others.
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.
In Forrester’s latest report, “Tracking The Renegade Technology Buyer,” we uncover the motivations and technology spending priorities of over 1,000 North American and European business executives. The data from the Forrsights Business Decision-Makers Survey was collected in Q4, 2012. Of the 891 respondents that had a budget over US$1 million, 824 spent their own money on hardware, software, telecom or services. Twenty-four percent of the 891 spent over 21% of their budget on technology, accounting for over $US 31 billion in expenditures. Senior management and sales and marketing were the top spending business functions and financial services/insurance and telecom/utilities lead the pack from a vertical perspective.
So why are business leaders carving out part of their own budgets for technology? It’s contrary to what you think. The high business spenders are not doing it because it is faster or cheaper than central IT – they are doing it because they see technology as too important to their success not to be involved. In parallel, senior management is more relaxed in dealing with the technology – 33% of the high spenders say there technology IQ has increased and they are more comfortable working with IT. Another 20% say that their use of consumer technology has changed their expectations of how technology should be used. The consumerization of IT is not just about younger Gen Y staff wanting to bring their own Macs and iPhones to the office; just as or more importantly, it’s also changing the way senior managers drive business and technology strategy.
“Hello, I’m J. P. Gownder, and I serve Infrastructure and Operations professionals!” That’s my new greeting to Forrester’s clients. (I borrowed – aka “stole” – this opening line from my excellent colleague, Laura Ramos, who recently rejoined the Forrester analyst ranks herself).
After eight years in a variety of roles at Forrester, I’ve joined the Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) team as a Vice President and Principal Analyst. I’ll be collaborating with analyst colleagues (please see below) on I&O’s forthcoming Workforce Enablement Playbook. I&O pros face the constant challenge of empowering their companies’ workers with devices and services to make them successful in their jobs… as well as navigating the growing challenge of employees who choose to bring their own technology to work instead.
More specifically, I’ll be researching at least five issues pertinent to I&O pros:
I was at an industry conference recently, standing in the booth of a large PC maker while being indoctrinated with the latest word: "You can manage it with existing tools!" - a marketing director beamed, as he waved a new Windows 8 tablet under my nose. He seemed so happy I thought for a second he might grab my hand and drag me skipping through the tradeshow floor followed by a troupe of merry singing penguins, like a sort of demented convention center edition of Mary Poppins.
Launched earlier this year, Unisys’ People Computing initiative focuses on bringing a “people perspective” to its end user support and outsourcing service offerings. I recently attended Unisys’ Asia Pacific (AP) analyst event in Sydney and this initiative was presented as a key success factor in several infrastructure outsourcing wins in AP in 2011-2012. Case in point: we were given the opportunity to meet Henry Shiner, VP and CIO of McDonald’s Australia/New Zealand. McDonald’s signed an end user computing services contract in 2011 for the management of 43,000 end user devices in Australia and New Zealand. These devices include point-of-sale systems, back-office PC equipment, peripherals, wireless networks, customer order display units, and cameras. Unisys was selected to support the 125,000 people working at 1,060 McDonald’s restaurants. According to Shiner, Unisys’ end user-centric approach was one of the reasons McDonald’s selected Unisys:
Unisys approached service-level definitions from the end user point of view. While the right set of tools and processes are key to efficiently managing more than 60,000 support calls per annum, Unisys approached McDonald’s requirements by working directly with end users — store operators in franchised restaurants — by organizing focus groups to better define end user requirements.
Technology Vendors for IT Focus on IT Spend
Forrester's technology vendor clients prefer data over analysis, whereas our IT clients prefer analysis. The vendors are gracious and will sit through a few slides of customer problem examples and politely let me wax on about where their real opportunities are, but most only really perk up when I get to the data slides. Having been responsible for product strategy for software product lines myself, I understand precisely why this is the case: When you're in middle management, your ability to get oxygen (read: funding) to sustain your team depends on your ability to make a case, and the case is usually predicated on IT spend.
Their Strategies are Often Tied to the IT Buyer Data so They Miss the Underlying Human Factors
Why? Because the garden variety general manager in the technology business understands numbers. Human factors? Not so much. For many of them, understanding the underlying human reasons for a disruptive technology shift like, say, the rise of Apple, is not in their DNA. Only the numbers matter. It's tragic really, because if they could reflect on the human factors that I bring with the analysis, born from observation of hundreds of firms who are not yet their customer, their investment priorities would be clearer because significant unmet market needs and competitive risks would be obvious. The best possible question a vendor can ask: What are we missing?
Vendor Strategists Need to Combine Market Data with Human Factors
Jason Hurd is the son of an Idaho backcountry bush pilot, stands about 6' 5" tall and runs an aircraft maintenance shop at the Erie Municipal Airport in Colorado - about a mile as the crow flies from my office. Airplanes are in his blood, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more interesting character or competent mechanic anywhere. His shop is not the cheapest around, but pilots who value their lives know that Jason's is the place to go if they want a thorough inspection and the work done right the first time. When an aircraft breaks down, the pilot can't just pull over to the side of the road, hop out and fix it. In fact, aircraft maintenance is about as mission-critical as it gets. Oh, and it's heavily regulated and operates on razor-thin margins, too.
His mechanics are all first-rate - Jason sees to that with high standards and expectations for both hiring and conduct. The shop is spotless and his employees are both competent and courteous. He runs a tight ship. What I find most fascinating when I visit his shop though is the incredible amount of money that his employees have spent on their tools. The rolling tool boxes ($8,500 each…without the tools) are painted with blazing yellow paint, and festooned with chrome Snap-On logos. But the real money is inside; the value of the tools can easily reach $50,000 or more - all paid for by the mechanics themselves, and each mechanic earns maybe $45,000 per year in salary - much less when they're fresh out of aviation school. And…when they're new to the job and making the least money is when they have to start building their tool inventories.
Cloud, technology populism, video, and integrated solutions were in evidence throughout the show. Here is what I learned or conformed at Enterprise Connect 2012:
Cloud is happening. Buyer interest is and has been up, service providers are investing, and OEMs are enabling. At the show, SPs from 8x8 and M5 (now part of ShoreTel) to AT&T and Verizon were demoing capabilities. SIs, including well-known names from BlacBox to Presidio to HP, were talking about cloud too. Many OEM vendors did not discuss the channel implications made obvious by SI and SP discussion of cloud services — although NEC made ease of doing business for the channel one of the tenets of its cloud discussion. If I were a solution vendor, I would spend more time discussing where my solutions could be purchased and the role for my sales force, since buyers who attend Enterprise Connect in droves want to know where and how they can buy cloud solutions.
The real story here is consumerization or technology populism. Personal cloud services have enabled information workers to be a decision AND buying center for all types of communications and collaboration. Although we talk about smartphones and tablets in discussing technology populism, unified communications and fixed mobile convergence were the examples on display at this show. Buyers (including information workers and traditional technology managers) today need to know how to integrate Box, Google Docs, SalesForce, and other services into their business processes that depend on communications.