Social technologies: Standalone Applications Or Features?

TJ Keitt

During CScape at Cisco Live, one of the more interesting conversations I had started with a simple question: Is social software (and collaboration software in general) a set of standalone applications or features of other business applications? This sprang from a discussion on the future of the collaboration technology business and really speaks to a couple of important developments in the market:

 

1) Collaboration platform vendors incorporating social features into their offerings. Anyone who's followed my research and my blog posts knows this story: Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Novell (amongst others) have released collaboration tools that include robust Web 2.0 technologies such as social networks, tag clouds and blogs. This has led to a maturing of the messaging of pure-play vendors - going from "we have the best social software" to "this is how we solve a specific business problem."

2) Business applications that power business processes are becoming social. Another recurring theme in my research is corporate interest in (and fear of not having) enterprise 2.0 technology has led business application vendors to jump into the market. As these vendors do so, they are seeking out tools to help them make their applications social. The inclusion of business application vendors, though, has put more pressure on the pure-play vendors to find a niche that will allow them to compete with vendors that have sure footholds in businesses.

 

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Yes -- Some IT Projects Fail. But Don't Throw The Baby Out With The Bathwater

Tim Sheedy

There has been a lot of negative press and commentary regarding the recent Queensland Health Implementation of Continuity Project (SAP HR and Payroll), which recently experienced a very public failure as many employees were not paid due to multiple points of failure in the project. The recent Auditor-General's Report on the process is damning, spreading the blame across multiple agencies and the systems integration partner, IBM. I make no claims to be familiar with the intricate details of the process, but I have read the report and feel I have a clear understanding of the (many!)  points of failure. 

While this project did seem to be a monumental failure, I would suggest that we consider two important facts:

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How Do You Demonstrate The Real Value Of Collaboration (Software)?

TJ Keitt

As I cruised the pavilion at Cisco Live in Las Vegas last week, the display that held my attention the longest was the Collaboration ROI booth. There, the network infrastructure provider making waves in the collaboration software market was demonstrating calculations it had done on how its various solutions were improving efficiency and productivity for specific jobs in verticals like retail banking. In the example I reviewed, banks using virtual loan officers were able to obtain more small business customers because the bank was able to have someone "there" to answer the prospective customer's questions. Now, with all the activity going on around me, why was this so fascinating? Put simply, it relates to a fundamental issue for all vendors hoping to compete in the collaboration software space: How do you differentiate in this crowded market?

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Open Cities, Smart Cities: Data Drives Smart City Initiatives

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

[co-authored with Eddie Radcliffe]

Last year, Internet inventor Tim Berners-Lee called for access to raw data as the next step in the evolution of the Internet. Apparently Transport For London (TFL, UK) was listening and has recently opened its doors to the commercial use of large amounts of primary data sets and live feeds. The data newly available includes: tube and train traffic data, feeds from live traffic cameras, Oyster card top-up locations, pier and station locations, cycle hire locations, and riverboat timetables. Following this up, TFL has announced plans to release further information on bus stops, routes, timetables and schedules. Access to this data represents an opportunity for developers to create travel applications based on real-time information. In one such example a web-based mash-up plots the approximate position of every single underground train. While interesting to Londoners who may be able to navigate their morning commute a little better (there's still no escaping the inevitable squeeze on the Central Line), this is a compelling move by TFL to allow access to the same data it uses to power its own information boards. As we see it, such access:

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Will Russia Really Change? Cisco Places Its Bet. But Seeing Is Believing.

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev toured Silicon Valley last week, meeting with tech vendor executives and local entrepreneurs.  At Cisco, Medvedev participated in a telepresence session and used a Flip video camera for the first time. He met with representatives of public organizations and academic and business circles at Stanford University.  And, more informally, AmBAR, the American Business Association of Russian-Speaking Professionals, hosted a session in a café in Palo Alto with local students and entrepreneurs.  In each setting, the Russian president hoped to gain an understanding of what makes the Silicon Valley tick and glean some of the best practices developed in the region to take home and apply to his new Skolkovo initiative.  He has been talking about diversifying the economy for some time.  But with this initiative he has plans to develop a Russian “Silicon Valley” just outside of Moscow.  This new “inno-grad” (from “innovation” and the Russian word for city – think Leningrad) will promote Medvedev’s new modernization directions, including advancements in IT, telecommunications, and also biomedical and nuclear technologies. He aims to attract local and foreign high-tech companies with infrastructure, tax incentives, and other government support.  

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Vacation Reflections On Personal Cloud Possibilities

Frank Gillett

I'm on vacation this week, traveling with a small group of my extended family out on the Dingle peninsula of Ireland. I'm mostly focused on vacation, but have done a little checking in on work things. Trying to stay connected - and figuring out how to adjust my Internet habits while on vacation with a Dad and brother that are decidedly less interested in computing is interesting. Here are some random thoughts from the experience.

I'm using a temporary Forrester computer, so none of my files are on this computer. I'm putting new files in the Dropbox folder, so they'll automatically be synced out for access when I get back. And I'm using a SugarSync account to retrieve needed files from my main PC, when I can find a connection. Our B&B doesn't have Wi-Fi, and it is rare in Dingle, so I'm using an ice cream shop that hands you a code if you want to use their Wi-Fi. Which means I connect about every 2 days, because it is several hundred meters away - thankfully it still works when they're closed and they don't change the code!

The biggest pain is mobile phone roaming! I turned off mobile access on the iPad. I signed up for AT&T's roaming data plan, which is the only east option for data but expensive. Even with the international roaming, mobile voice is $1 a minute. And there's no plan for roaming texting, so it's something like 25 or 50 cents a shot. So I bought an Irish SIM at the Post Office - which offers voice and text. But for some reason the old BlackBerry I put the SIM in can't send text, only receive them. And even though it is supposedly only for in-country calls, my brother was able to call my mobile with the Irish SIM when his Guinness factory stop in Dublin didn't work out.

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Software Maintenance Fees May Not Be Invulnerable To Change After All

Andrew Bartels

TECH DYNAMICS: Last Friday, June 25th, the US House and Senate reached agreement on a financial reform bill, which is likely to pass and be signed into law.* At first glance, this legislation has nothing to do with the IT industry directly. But buried in this bill is a provision regarding debit card fees, which could serve as a model for how end users of software could bring about a change in something that is very important to the economics of the software industry — software maintenance fees.

Now, software maintenance fees have been one of the givens in the software industry in perpetual license deals. Typically set at 18% to 22% of initial license fees, they are fixed in stone. An enterprise software buyer can try to negotiate a discount on a license fee; a really smart one can negotiate a deal where the maintenance fee rate is applied against the discounted license fee, not against the list license fee. But software vendors rarely discount maintenance fees. 

Why? Established software vendors depend heavily on maintenance fees for the bulk of their revenue. Almost half (49%) of SAP’s revenues and Oracle’s applications revenues in 2009 came from maintenance fees. Oracle’s middleware business earned 55% of its calendar 2009 revenues from maintenance fees.

And yet maintenance fees are one of the biggest sources of complaint from enterprise software buyers. Every so often this dissatisfaction breaks into the open. SAP faced massive client unrest when it raised maintenance fees for most customers during 2009. SAP tapped the biggest vein of resentment about maintenance fees: fees on old software. Old software is the crux of the problem with maintenance fees: It tends to be stable and therefore requires little support.

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Emerging Markets Report Optimism And IT Budget Increases

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Last week, Forrester released results from our “Global IT Budgets, Priorities, And Emerging Technology Tracking Survey.” Highlights of the survey are reported in Chris Mines’ recent blog, the title of which gives you the gist of our findings: The Overall IT Budget Environment Has Turned Positive.

GlobalForrSights2010_IndustryOutlook.PNGHowever, there were some very interesting differences across some of the geographies we surveyed.  Respondents in emerging markets tend to be more optimistic than their counterparts in more mature markets. When asked about the outlook for their industry, 51% of respondents in Latin America thought that 2010 would be a very good or somewhat good year, followed by 36% in Emerging Asia (China and India) and Russia, with North America and Western Europe lagging behind with only 31% and 25%, respectively. Big difference in outlook between Western Europe and Latin America! On a more positive note all around, these numbers were much more positive than the outlook of respondents in last year’s survey.  In 2009, only 8% of respondents in NA and WE expected a good year – really not very optimistic about their industry outlooks. Emerging Asia (without Russia) was 15%, and Latin America was 21%. 

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The Overall IT Budget Environment Has Turned Positive

Chris Mines

Forrester’s newest survey of the IT spending environment has encouraging news that underpins our forecasts of a rebound in industry fortunes after the nasty recession of 2008-09. The good news for tech vendors is that IT budgets and purchasing plans are starting to reflect an improving economy. Last week, Forrester released results from our “Global IT Budgets, Priorities, And Emerging Technology Tracking Survey.” Among the top-level results: just over 40% of the 2,800 IT decision makers surveyed expect to increase their organization’s overall IT spending in 2010, up from just 12% in 2009; another 33% expect to hold their spending steady. So the overall IT budget environment has turned positive.

Respondents identified the top business priorities supported by IT investments as: 1) grow company revenue, and 2) reduce operating costs. No surprises there. But we were intrigued to see that “Drive new market offerings or business practices” ranked number 4, indicating that respondents are looking to IT to support and enable new product innovation.

We also see an uptick in spending on offshore IT services in 2010 vs. 2009, across ALL geographies.  Survey results also show that more than half of respondents have either implemented or are planning to implement SaaS, illustrating the tech industry’s continuing shift toward new purchasing models based on operating rather than capital expenditures.  

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Empowered Customers Need Empowered Employees Need Empowered IT

Ted Schadler

Groundswell technology comes to consumers first. At home, we get social, mobile, video, and cloud services pitched to us 24x7. Facebook, Android, iPad, Foursquare, Google, YouTube, Office Web Apps, Twitter. The list is endless and growing every single day. Empowering technologies like these will always come to consumers first. Why? Because it's a wide-open market. A single developer can build an application that changes the world from their broadband-connected bedroom.

All this technology puts tremendous power directly into the hands of your customers. Your customers often have more information than your sales team — or medical staff — does. They can also whack your brand from their smartphone, with video even, while waiting impatiently in line. They can get a recommendation from someone in their business network while listening to your pitch. Customers are empowered by information and connections. You'd better make sure you give customers better information than they can get elsewhere.

The only way to do that is to empower your employees to directly engage the needs and expectations of empowered customers. Only empowered employees can solve the problems of empowered customers.

Fortunately, your employees are not standing still. People are problem solvers. Left alone, your innovative employees (we call them HEROes — highly empowered and resourceful operatives) are building new solutions using these same groundswell technologies — and many others besides — to solve customer problems.

In fact, 37% of US information workers — employees that use computers for work — use do-it-yourself technology to get work done. Personal mobile devices. Unsanctioned Web sites like Skype or Google Docs or LinkedIn or Smartsheet.com. Unsanctioned software downloaded to a work computer.

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