Businesses invest considerable sums of money with vendors like Box, Cisco, Google and Microsoft for a collection a technology we call collaboration tools. As an analyst, though, the question that has dogged me in watching this space is "why?" As in "what is the actual value a business gets from investing in collaboration technology?" The vendors' rationale for acquiring collaboration tools has shifted in emphasis over time, going from a conversation on cost savings to one on productivity gains. However, cost savings is an undifferentiated and limited message while "increasing productivity" can feel ephemeral because it is difficult to measure. Yet my inquiry queue remains full of companies trying to figure out how best to deploy these technologies and my briefings calendar is filled with startups and incumbents pitching new offerings in this space. This brings me back to my original question: Why?
A number of Forrester analysts from the Asia Pacific region attended the recent SAP analyst event in Singapore. Meetings with SAP global and regional executives and a large number of detailed breakout sessions over the 1½-day event all clearly indicate that SAP is continuing to try and reposition itself as a true generalized application platform player.
At the core of (almost all) initiatives is the HANA in-memory database technology. Whatever the problem, HANA will solve it (said with tongue planted very firmly in cheek). While the technology clearly has immediate performance benefits, particularly for existing SAP clients, net-new customers will likely need to compare the value of SAP’s offerings with others much more seriously.
My colleague Ted Schadler and I published several case studies in our recent report, "The Road To Social Business Transformation Starts With A Burning Platform." What follows is one of those stories -- SAS's social collaboration platform, The Hub, designed to capture conversations that were leaking out into the public social sphere as employees attempted to share information. Here's the story:
SAS is a company noted for its focus on its people — it has appeared in every one of Fortune's lists of "100 Best Companies to Work For" during the list's 15-year history. And it's no wonder: SAS's perks include intramural sports leagues and a subsidized healthcare center. SAS's commitment to its people, though, goes beyond their health and well-being. The Cary, N.C., software vendor also wants to ensure that its people have tools that keep them connected and engaged, allowing them to stay productive and informed.
In 2009, this desire manifested itself in Senior Director of Internal Communications Karen Lee's push for creating a new platform for the corporate intranet. IT Senior Director Tom Sherrod and his team had worked closely with Karen and her team to roll out an intranet with many embedded tools, such as blogs and wikis. But Karen and company felt something was missing — they wanted a "more social intranet" that provided more information about people, such as pictures.
For social media evangelists, the question on everyone's mind is this: "How do we effectively measure the business value of social initiatives?"
Even when we get close, there's always that pesky issue of causation vs. correlation — can we really prove causation even for examples with high correlation between social initiatives and business outcomes? (Read Freakonomics, or watch the documentary, for insights into the challenges of causation vs. correlation.)
My colleague Ted Schadler and I recently completed a six month investigation into social business and collaborative transformation. As the title of the report -- The Road To Social Business Starts With A Burning Platform -- suggests, these complex workforce programs work when there is a compelling motivation to change behaviors among employees, business sponsors, andRead more
On Monday, February 13, HP announced its next turn of the great wheel for servers with the announcement of its Gen8 family of servers. Interestingly, since the announcement was ahead of Intel’s official announcement of the supporting E5 server CPUs, HP had absolutely nothing to say about the CPUs or performance of these systems. But even if the CPU information had been available, it would have been a sideshow to the main thrust of the Gen8 launch — improving the overall TCO (particularly Opex) of servers by making them more automated, more manageable, and easier to remediate when there is a problem, along with enhancements to storage, data center infrastructure management (DCIM) capabilities, and a fundamental change in the way that services and support are delivered.
With a little more granularity, the major components of the Gen8 server technology announcement included:
Onboard Automation – A suite of capabilities and tools that provide improved agentless local intelligence to allow quicker and lower labor cost provisioning, including faster boot cycles, “one click” firmware updates of single or multiple systems, intelligent and greatly improved boot-time diagnostics, and run-time diagnostics. This is apparently implemented by more powerful onboard management controllers and pre-provisioning a lot of software on built-in flash memory, which is used by the onboard controller. HP claims that the combination of these tools can increase operator productivity by up to 65%. One of the eye-catching features is an iPhone app that will scan a code printed on the server and go back through the Insight Management Environment stack and trigger the appropriate script to provision the server.[i]Possibly a bit of a gimmick, but a cool-looking one.
In the good old days, computer industry trade shows were bigger than life events – booths with barkers and actors, ice cream and espresso bars and games in the booth, magic acts and surging crowds gawking at technology. In recent years, they have for the most part become sad shadows of their former selves. The great SHOWS are gone, replaced with button-down vertical and regional events where you are lucky to get a pen or a miniature candy bar for your troubles.
Enter Oracle OpenWorld. Mix 45,000 people, hundreds of exhibitors, one of the world’s largest software and systems company looking to make an impression, and you have the new generation of technology extravaganza. The scale is extravagant, taking up the entire Moscone Center complex (N, S and W) along with a couple of hotel venues, closing off a block of a major San Francisco street for a week, and throwing a little evening party for 20 or 30 thousand people.
But mixed with the hoopla, which included wheel of fortune giveaways that had hundreds of people snaking around the already crowded exhibition floor in serpentine lines, mini golf and whack-a-mole-games in the exhibit booths along with the aforementioned espresso and ice cream stands, there was genuine content and the public face of some significant trends. So far, after 24 hours, some major messages come through loud and clear:
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)”.
I'll go out on a limb here and say that businesses are not more social - at least, not in the broad-based fashion people envisioned when we first started talking about Enterprise 2.0 in the heady days of the mid-2000s. How could it be? According to our recent survey of 4,985 US information workers, 28% of the workforce uses a social technology. While you may be thinking to yourself this is a good start, allow me a moment to point out some key differences between Enterprise 2.0 users and the rest of the workforce:
They're your highest paid employees. Over half of this group earns more than $60k a year, compared to just 36% of non-users.
They're the most educated members of the workforce. Sixty-five percent of this group has completed at least a 4 year college degree compared to 55% of the rest of the workforce.
They're the leaders in your office. It's not surprising to see 49% of this group are managers are executives given management's enthusiasm about social technologies. Just 31% of non-users are in similar positions.