What Microsoft's Skype Deal Means: A Post For Content & Collaboration Professionals

Ted Schadler

I'm not going to comment on the $8.5B purchase price, though I'm sure Marc Andreesen's investment company is happy with their return. And I'm not going to comment on the impact on Xbox, Hotmail, and Live.com. And I don't think this has anything to do with Windows Mobile.

But I am going to comment on the impact of the deal on the enterprise, and specifically on content and collaboration professionals responsible for workforce productivity and collaboration. When you strip it down to its essence -- Skype operating as a separate business unit reporting to Steve Ballmer -- here's what you need to know about the Skype deal:

First, Microsoft gets an important consumerization brand. Skype is a powerful consumer brand with a reported 600+ million subscribers. But it's also a "consumerization brand," meaning that it's a valuable brand for people who use Skype to get their jobs done. Consumerization of IT is just people using familiar consumer tools to get work done. It's a force of technology-based innovation as we wrote about in our book, Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, Transform Your Business. Google and Apple and Skype have dominant consumerization brands. Microsoft does not. Until now. And as a bonus, Google doesn't get to buy Skype. And more importantly, neither does Cisco.

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Painting The IT Industry Landscape

Chris Mines

All of us in the technology industry get caught up in the near-term fluctuations and pressures of our business. This quarter’s earnings, next quarter’s shipments, this year’s hiring plan . . . it’s easy to get swallowed up by the flood of immediate concerns. So one of the things that we work hard on at Forrester, and that our clients value in their relationships with us, is taking a few steps back and looking at the longer-term, bigger picture of the size and shape of the industry’s trajectory. It provides strategic and financial context for the short-term fluctuations and trends that buffet all of us.

I am lucky to co-lead research in Forrester's Vendor Strategy team, which is explicitly chartered to predict and quantify the new growth opportunities and disruptions facing strategists at some of our leading clients. We will put those predictions on display later this month at Forrester's IT Forum, our flagship client event. Among the sessions that Vendor Strategy analysts will be leading:

  • "The Software Industry in Transition": Holger Kisker will preview his latest research detailing best practices for software vendors navigating the tricky transition from traditional license to as-a-service pricing and engagement models.
  • "The Computing Technologies of 2016": Frank Gillett will put us in a time machine for a trip five years into the future of computing, storage, network, and component technologies that will underpin new applications, new experiences, and new computing capabilities.
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Why Disqus, And Pre-Existing Social Identities, Matter To B2B Marketers

Peter Burris

[co-authored by Zachary Reiss-Davis]

Disqus, a SaaS commenting platform that companies can embed in any website page, just announced a funding round of $10 million yesterday. In the same announcement, they stated that they are reaching 500 million unique visitors a month across 750,000 different websites, including major media sites like both CNN and Fox News, as well as many high tech news sources, such as ReadWriteWeb (which wrote an article on the announcement).

As a B2B marketer, why does this matter to you? Because B2B sites can learn from these largely media or consumer examples. B2B sites that want to enable community and commenting on their pages, including blog posts, need to make it extremely simple to engage using whichever of your social identities (and resulting social networks) you want to bring to the site. 

Requiring a unique login in order to get an IT developer to share feedback on your new server architecture, for example, makes it easier to capture information in your CRM system, but your visitors want to add value to their existing social identities. Allowing visitors to engage with you using their preferred identities creates a valuable service for them by strengthening their preferred online identity. See the screenshot below for what this looks like with Disqus. This may increase their willingness to engage on your website instead of across the Internet. 

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CIOs: At What Stage Is Your Thinking On Cloud Economics?

James Staten

Is your cloud strategy centered on saving money or fueling revenue growth? Where you land on this question could determine a lot about your experience level with cloud services and what guidance you should be giving to your application developers and infrastructure & operations teams. According to our research the majority of CIOs would vote for the savings, seeing cloud computing as an evolution of outsourcing and hosting that can drive down capital and operations expenses. In some cases this is correct but in many the opposite will result. Using the cloud wrong may raise your costs.

But this isn’t a debate worth having because it’s the exploration of the use cases where it does save you money that bears the real fruit. And it’s through this experience that you can start shifting your thinking from cost savings to revenue opportunities. Forrester surveys show that the top reasons developers tap into cloud services (and the empowered non-developers in your business units) is to rapidly deploy new services and capabilities. And the drivers behind these efforts – new services, better customer experience and improved productivity. Translation: Revenues and profits.

If the cloud is bringing new money in the door, does it really matter if it’s the cheaper solution? Not at first. But over time using cloud as a revenue engine doesn’t necessarily mean high margins on that revenue. That’s where your experience with the cost advantaged uses of cloud come in.

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What Should IT Do If Empowered BT Increases In Popularity?

Marc Cecere

An empowered BT model includes the idea that end users will take on some functions that are typically performed within an IT organization. These may include selecting and deploying applications, buying mobile devices, and contracting with services firms.

With factors such as increased availability of cloud applications, more IT-savvy businesspeople, and IT shops buried in maintenance of existing applications, there’s a lot on the side of increasing IT functions outside of IT. However, security and compliance concerns, the need to integrate apps and data, the complexity of these applications, and cost are just some of the constraints that are holding back this approach.

Whether there will be a trend towards functions moving out of the IT organization or the reverse, with IT taking on more control, empowered BT will happen in some organizations. When it does, there are things that CIOs can do to exploit this and minimize potential damage:

  • Shift senior IT people from “doing” to consulting and overseeing. Architects, for example, spend a significant amount of their time on projects (doing). Some of their time needs to be freed up to provide advice to businesspeople on how to make these functions scalable, secure, and integrated where necessary. Similarly, vendor managers need time to help businesspeople in the selection process for vendors.
  • Select for and build up negotiations skills. The leader of apps that speaks in technical terms, the security expert who generates every possible scenario as an argument for not doing something, and the architect who hoards information while making pronouncements on what the business should and should not do are working against you in an empowered BT world. With technically sophisticated end users and tools that can quickly build functionality, business requests leading to IT responses now become negotiations.
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A Gem of a Deal: SuccessFactors and Plateau Come Together

Claire Schooley

A major announcement in the human capital management (HCM) world occurred on April 26, 2011. SuccessFactors, a top vendor in performance management, announced its intention to purchase Plateau Systems, a leading learning management system (LMS) vendor. Although both vendors have competing products in the talent management space, Plateau had something SuccessFactors needed: an LMS. With the loss of GeoLearning, SuccessFactors’ former LMS partner, which was acquired by SumTotal in January 2011, SuccessFactors was left with a gaping hole in its solution set. Although SuccessFactors executives believe that the future of learning is more in the informal and social realms, organizations need and want LMSes to manage their increasing compliance training needs while keeping a close eye on the whole social and informal learning market. Organizations also have formal courses and simulated and role-play learning that the LMS tracks and reports on. The word is that SuccessFactors’ sales staff have been bemoaning the lack of an LMS to help them close deals. Today, organizations are much more interested in getting multiple HRM functionality from one vendor. Often this suite approach includes performance, compensation, learning, and even recruiting (for more details, see my “Four Pillars of Talent Management” research report). SuccessFactors now has a very strong and complete “four-pillar” solution.

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How To Make The CFO A Buyer For Sustainability Solutions

Chris Mines
Most of the suppliers of IT-for-sustainability (ITfS) solutions that we work with have one path to finding a buyer in their customer organizations: through the IT organization. Whether giants, such as SAP and HP, or newcomers, such as Hara and ENXSuite, vendors of energy management, carbon reporting and other ITfS products are typically starting their sales motion with customers' traditional buyers of software sytems: IT.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. We have long maintained that IT organizations and the CIOs that lead them will increasingly be the owner and operator of environmental systems of record, just as they are for financial, HR, and customer data systems, among others. But, ITfS suppliers will want to develop multiple pathways into customer organizations. For most, decision-making around sustainability processes and technologies is diffuse, spread across IT, facilities, operations and CSR. Finding the buyer for sustainability is oft-times the proverbial needle in the haystack.

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Do You Need An IT Execution Plan For Social Business Strategy?

Nigel Fenwick

Social technology is coming into every organization whether IT wants it or not. The adoption of social technologies to support business and customer needs has been fastest outside of IT — often with IT playing catch-up and struggling to provide value. CIOs are at a crossroads where they can either choose to lead IT toward social business maturity or sit back and watch as the rest of the organization pushes ahead, leaving IT in social business obscurity. The choice is easy, but the execution is difficult. A new report — Social Business Strategy: An IT Execution Plan — suggests CIOs should assess the organization’s current social maturity and implement a plan that positions IT to successfully support a social business strategy.

Organizations are broadly categorized as social laggards, internally mature, externally mature or enterprise mature. The approach recommended for CIOs differs based on the maturity level. For example, CIOs in organizations with strong internal maturity should focus on developing a partnership with marketing in order to extend the use of social strategy out to customers and business partners.

Understand your social maturity

While very few organizations are already at the enterprise maturity level, CIOs in these organizations can take an active role in developing social business strategy by supporting the creation of a social business council and dedicating staff to support social strategy.

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Russian Cities Will Get Smarter... By Law.

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Russian IT decision-makers are optimistic about their prospects for the next 12 months, according to Forrester’s Global Budgets And Priorities Tracker Survey, Q4 2010 – and, surprisingly, much more so than those in other countries -- 67% reported that their prospects are good versus only 52% in the US and 35% in the UK.  On my recent trip to Moscow to deliver the keynote speech at Cloud Russia 2012, I looked for that optimism, and the root sources of it.  There are certain obvious sources.  The price of oil is high, and Russia is an oil exporter.  The 2014 Winter Olympics are bringing significant investment to the region.  But most importantly the political dialogue is focused on innovation and technology.  That, in Russia, counts for a lot. 

Given my own research agenda, I investigated the interest in public sector technology adoption and “smart city” initiatives.  The answers were mixed.  As elsewhere vendors are pushing solutions to improve transportation, energy efficiency and municipal administration.  But many of those technology vendors did not share the optimism of the IT decision-makers for their own prospects in Russia. They did not see Russian cities as highly motivated, or incented, to get smart. 

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Running Pamplona: ICT Drives City Initiatives (Not The Bulls)

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Twenty three years ago I arrived with a backpack and my best friend.  Last week I went back.  The city was as welcoming this time as it was the last, although the circumstances of my visit – and certainly my accommodations – were vastly different. 

Pamplona is a city of about 200,000 inhabitants in Navarra, in the North of Spain.  It is best known for the running of the bulls or, as it is known locally, the Festival of San Fermin, which many of us were first introduced to in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

The bulls were not what brought me to the region this time (although they were the principal reason for my first visit).  Last week I participated in e-NATECH, a tech industry forum organized by ATANA, an association of local ICT companies in Navarra.  From what I saw in both the audience and across the city, Pamplona is clearly a front-runner in terms of ICT (and bulls as I recall from my first visit).

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