Microsoft Goes Hostile, Looks To Buy Yahoo! And Yes It Impacts You

Rob Koplowitz

Kylemcnabb_4RobkoplowitzBy Kyle McNabb and Rob Koplowitz

This morning Microsoft announced a $44.6b bid to acquire Yahoo! Driven largely to bolster Microsoft’s search and advertising business in order to better compete with Google, this move does have a few hidden gems that will impact enterprise IT environments. For insights into the consumer side of this story, see the post from Charlene Li and Shar  Van Boskirk.

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Travel Benefits Challenged By Environmental Damage

Claire Schooley

ClaireschooleyBy Claire Schooley

An article in January 25, 2008 Chronicle of Higher Education really caused me to sit back and reflect. The author, a university professor, questions the contradiction of conference travel thousands of miles away to hear or give presentations in light of global warming, with air travel one of the greatest polluters. Academics as well as business people travel all the time. In many cases it's critical for executives to gather for multiple-day meetings that address an issue or for academics to conduct research and interact with colleagues. But these are often the exceptions. People travel all the time to one-day meetings or even two-to-three-hour events and then turn around and come home. In fact I fall into this category. Recently I traveled from California to Amsterdam to deliver a half-hour speech, have Q&A, and do a five-minute Website video. At the after-party, I had an opportunity to meet and make connections and learn lots. It was great! I loved it! And that's why people travel. . . as social animals we like the face-to-face interaction, the new environment, or the invigorating atmosphere of a new culture. But is that always enough reason (as the author states) to "put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than do 110,000 Chadians or 11,000 Indians in an entire year?" But patterns are hard to change, especially when we like and get additional value from traveling. After the speech I didn't turn around and come home but traveled on to Belgium and Germany (by fast train) to see friends and deepen those cross-cultural human bonds that are so important in our challenging world today.

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Social Computing As Disposable Technology

Rob Koplowitz

by Rob Koplowitz.

The question of measuring ROI of social computing is hot because it's so much a part of enterprise software acquisition. As information and knowledge management professionals move to get ahead of this emerging technology curve, they find a very consistent pattern:

  • People are using this stuff! Blogs and wikis in particular are popping up everywhere. Why not? They are easy to access, often free, and they are dead simple to use. It's one of those permission / forgiveness things. We've all done it.
  • If people are using these things that IT doesn't know about, there is no way of ensuring security, privacy, availability, governance, compliance, risk mitigation and all of those good things that keep the organization running and employees out of trouble (maybe even jail!).
  • Most really don't want to shut it down because in many instances these are more efficient solutions than those provided by the organization. These tools are often just easier and better for generating and publishing content.
  • The natural inclination in this situation would be to bring in the tradtional software vendors and see if they can support these new technology directions. Not surprisingly, a number of big vendors are ready and willing to help, including BEA, IBM/Lotus, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP.
  • Sounds great. Lots of reasons to go with one of the big vendors (see bullet 2).
  • How much will it cost? How much will it give back? In other words, can the acquisition be justified with a strong return on investment analysis?
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Content as a First-Class Citizen

Rob Koplowitz

by Rob Koplowitz.

Ever think about how much time, energy and money we expend on managing line of business data? Just drive past the Oracle headquarters in Redwood Shores and you'll see a glimmering green city of glass all built on revenue from managing business data. OK, they make some money in other areas these days, but the emerald city was build on database revenue. Managing structured information is key to the success of any organization. The number in the bottom line needs to be accurate or very bad things happen.

On the other side of the coin lives unstructured information. While some unstructured information has been afforded the respect given to structured business data (engineering drawings, legal documents, pharmaceutical documentation, insurance claims documents to name few) the vast majority has languished virtually unmanaged in file servers and on PC hard drives. Even companies with the right resources and motivation, like Oracle which has the ability to manage structured and unstructured data in its database as well applications to take advantage of both, have made only minimal progress at bridging these disparate worlds.

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An Experiment In A Community-Driven Research Agenda

Rob Koplowitz

by Rob Koplowitz.

This September 25-26 at the Forrester Technology Leadership Forum in Carlsbad California, Matt Brown and I will be presenting a session on Social Computing coming to the enterprise. As we began the process of creating an agenda for the session we were immediately struck by the thought that this session should not be driven by the two of us (as charming and articulate as we may be) but by the community that is interested in the topic. In other words, you all should be setting the agenda for a session on social computing, not us. If social computing has the ability to change how work is done, let's put it to work. We always want feedback after a session, but here's a chance to get way ahead of the game and tell us what want before the event.

To that end, we have set up a Wiki to allow the community to drive the process. Matt and I will build the session agenda directly from the input into the Wiki, so if you have areas you'd like to see highlighted, stories to share, words of caution or encouragement please let us know. Willing to help? Access the Wiki here and let's get started!

We'll provide updates on how it's going (both the good and the bad) right here.

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Do Enterprise Users Need A Second Life?

Rob Koplowitz

by Rob Koplowitz

A while back I was invited to a very interesting presentation of some research going on in Sun Microsystems' labs. They were showing off a project called MPK 20. The name of the project is aligned with the naming of the buildings on their Menlo Park campus, MPK 1 - 19. MPK 20, the next building, will be completely virtual. Think of MPK 20 as a private, behind the firewall, version of Linden's Second Life. The idea is for Sun to provide a very rich area for remote workers to come together and collaborate. Their early vision is very much a virtual version of their physical workspace world. The question that occurred to me is, do we need to pursue this path of virtual workspaces?

Let's start with an assumption. The paradigm of bringing workers to a physical office is beginning to break down and it's only going to get worse. A few driving factors:

  • Carbon footprint. Organizations will be increasingly held accountable for the overall effect they have on the world. Asking workers to drive or fly to a physical location in order to do work that can be done virtually is undoubtedly the biggest contributing factor to overall carbon footprint for most organizations.
  • Competition for workers. If you require workers to come to an office every day, your hiring is constrained by the talent pool that is located within commute distance of your office. Would you rather have the best worker available in the world or the best worker within 30 miles of your office? Additionally, workers that commute from long distances are far more likely to become frustrated and leave.
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Google Gears And Converse All-Stars

Rob Koplowitz

by Rob Koplowitz.

One of the great joys I have in working for Forrester is the opportunity to collaborate with my colleague Oliver Young on the future of Web 2.0. Oliver and I bring very different perspectives to the table and the final product is better as a result. Part of the reason for our difference in perspective is generational. I am a baby boomer (born between 1946 and 1964). Oliver is what Forrester calls a millennial (born between 1980 and 2000). Oddly enough we share a passion for Converse All-Stars. Mine was the result of seeing them worn by the late great Wilt Chamberlain. Oliver, no doubt, was influenced by some highly pierced and tattooed musician.   

One area where we do not agree is on the impact of Google's recent announcement of Google Gears, a set of JavaScript capabilities that Google has developed and released to Open Source that allow disconnected access to web based content and application logic. The first instantiation is available today and allows users take Google Reader off-line. If you read my recent blog about Google and Salesforce.com targeting Microsoft, you can quickly see how critical this functionality is in competing with a vendor that can leverage an install base of about a half a billion copies of client based productivity software.

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Can Salesforce Help Google Storm The Microsoft Fortress?

Rob Koplowitz

by Rob Koplowitz.

Imagine two gigantic mountains of money. On top of each sits a warrior that wants nothing more than to be sitting on a pile of money twice the size. One warrior, we'll call him Google, dominates the world of on-line search and advertising. The other, we'll call him Microsoft, dominates productivity software.What's the fastest way to double the size of your mountain? Simple, take the other guy's pile.

Google entered the world of enterprise productivity software earlier this year. While they continually claim that they don't compete with Microsoft and that their goal is to bring collaboration and productivity to currently under-served workers,it's hard to imagine that they aren't eyeing that big pile of money that Microsoft is sitting on. Afterall, all those free lunches in Google's cafeterias aren't really free. Google wants you to give up that software and information on your laptop and access it all from their data centers.

Google spokespeople continually repeat the mantra, "We understand the enterprise". While I believe that to be true, I also think that Google has a lot to prove before being taken seriously as an enterprise software vendor. If they really intend to try to get at Microsoft's pile of money, they are going to have to demonstrate that they understand security, privacy and reliability and all in the emerging software as a services (SaaS) model. They also have to prove that they have the stomach to take on Microsoft for the long haul. Let's be clear here, Microsoft is not fond of anyone putting their hands on their pile of money.

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The New Software Industry – Forces At Play, Business In Motion

Claire Schooley

by Claire Schooley.

I attended a conference sponsored by Carnegie Mellon West; The Fisher IT Center at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley; the Software Industry Center at Carnegie Mellon University; and Services: Science, Management, and Engineering Program at UC Berkeley. The one-day event was held at the Microsoft Campus at Moffitt Field in Silicon Valley. The goal of this conference was to discuss where the software industry is going. Ten sessions including individual speakers and panels from university and business communicated the strong message that software is at a crossroads and will dramatically change in the future, and . . . the change has already begun. To access slides of the speaker presentations go to http://west.cmu.edu/sofcon/postcon.

The changes are around growth of software-as-a-service, new roles of services as a value- add to commoditized software, and new businesses and pricing models. The overwhelming consensus was that software-as-a-service is where the growth is today. Speakers pointed out some of the most successful companies in terms of generating revenue like WebEx, Amazon, Google — all service-based. At the same time they do not see companies that have built their business around software like Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft going “down-the-tube” just yet. In fact Oracle already has Oracle On-demand, a very successful service solution while supporting their enterprise installed customers. Companies that have these installed applications will not find it easy to change to a service-model, even it they wanted to. It requires architectural, economic and cultural changes and requires a ten-year time table to move from an installed software model to a services model. It seems much easier to start from the ground up like Salesforce.com.

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Organizations Need Two Dramatically Different Kinds Of Learning

Claire Schooley

by Claire Schooley.

Organization’s learning leaders hear the words “informal learning” or “eLearning 2.0” and think, “Oh my, now we have to change the way we provide training!” Yes, you may want to make some changes but, more importantly, you need to look at existing learning within your organization and determine what is training and what is education or development. I see two distinct types of learning that are both complementary, but also dramatically different. Today’s knowledge workers need both.

Training refers to the learning that employees access in order to do their job. This includes traditional mandated training for fields like accounting or pharmaceuticals. But a large percentage of training should be the “just-in-time” kind that gives the employees the information or knowledge refresher that they need to continue their work task. This informal learning is driven by the employee and is generally not tracked except to indicate the number of employees who have accessed the sites. Examples include online mentoring, clicking on the “just-in-time” learning related to the work topic for a three-to-five minute learning nugget, accessing the context-sensitive learning built into the application, or clicking on “expertise location” on the intranet to find a person in the organization who has the expertise to help. This kind of training or knowledge seeking requires a good search engine to find a document, PowerPoint, video, blog, wiki, etc. on the organization’s intranet site. A good practice is to make the five to ten-minute learning objects or course components searchable so an employee can find the exact part of a module or course that will provide the assistance they need.

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