Technology Jeopardy: Beat The Odds Of Project Failure With A Single Question

A version of this post originally appeared on Computerworld.

People are always asking me, “What can we do to help people do their very best work?”

Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question. But I really do wish someone who stewards workforce computing for his or her company would — and I'd be over the moon if it were someone who really wanted to know the answer.

Spend a million bucks on security? Sure! Two million on a sales force automation system to get better reports and more predictable forecasting? Of course! Another million or so on private cloud automation to speed up provisioning? Sign me up! But how much would you spend to understand how technology impacts the most powerful driving force in your company: the intrinsic motivation of your people? The what? Yes, exactly.

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As You Prepare for VMworld 2014, Educate Yourself On Digital Workspace Technologies

Bill Gates said "People everywhere love Windows.” Whether or not you agree, the fact that Microsoft Windows remains the de facto standard for business productivity after nearly 3 decades, suggests that many still do. But as the sales figures of Microsoft’s competitors suggest, people everywhere love lots of other things too. And one of the reasons they love them so much is that they like to get things done, and sometimes that means getting away from the office to a quiet place, or using a technology that isn’t constrained by corporate policies and controls, so they can be freer to experiment, grow their skills and develop their ideas uninhibited.
 
Technology managers I speak with are aware of this, but they’re justifiably paranoid about security, costs, and complexity. So the result of these conflicting forces coming together is inspiring rapid innovation in a mosaic of technologies that Forrester collectively calls digital workspace delivery systems. It involves many vendors, including Microsoft, Citrix, VMware, Dell, nComputing, Amazon Web Services, Fujitsu, AppSense, Moka5, and more. The goal of our work is to help companies develop their capabilities for delivering satisfying Microsoft Windows desktop and application experiences to a wide range of users, devices, and locations.
 
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How Technology Burns Out Employees And Erodes Customer Service, And What To Do About It

Do you start your days looking at a calendar full of meetings and feel overcome with joy? Me neither - especially when I have a lot of work to get done that I know is more important. And when you’re in those meetings, are you fully engaged or are you trying to clean out your email queue and put the finishing touches on your slides for your next meeting? That’s what I thought. After all of your meetings, are you in any mood to plan your next day, week or month? Nope, me neither. Do you tell yourself that you’re going to get up early on a Saturday so you can get things done that require a lot of focus, and then don’t do it? Yeah, me too.

And so it continues. A crisis of attention wears us out and re-tunes our brains to feast on the false sense of accomplishment that goes with getting a lot of really small, transactional things done. And our mobile devices make matters worse. Without realizing it, we drain our limited cognitive fuel, leaving nothing left at the end of the day to do serious thinking, creative work or longer-term planning. Mismanaging our technology and ourselves, and burning out, is but one element in a mosaic of things that scientists who participated in our research like Teresa Amabile at the Harvard Business School and author of “The Progress Principle", and David Rock, neuroscientist and author of “Your Brain at Work" now know about how we work best as knowledge workers. It’s also something that we as individuals can, and must control if we want to be effective in our jobs as knowledge workers.

When employees don’t have the resources to meet the demands of their jobs, they burn out

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A Nice Example Of Applying Desktop Virtualization To Improve Customer Experience

When I was maybe 2 years old, my mother lost track of me in a Toys-R-Us store. After a dozen stressful minutes, she finally found me - holding a Fisher-Price airplane. And so began my love affair with airplanes and aviation. So as I looked through the break-out schedule while attending NVIDIA’s GPU conference two weeks ago in San Jose, California, Gulfstream Aero’s session on transforming manufacturing and field service with desktop virtualization caught my eye. It didn’t disappoint.

There are 2 reasons why I liked this session so much and why I think it’s worth sharing with you:

  1. It’s a nice example of technology that makes the work easier for employees, and helps them improve the customer experience directly.
  2. It’s also an example of how a technology that’s not necessarily a money saver (in this case, VDI) shines when it enables workers do something that would be difficult or impossible any other way.
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Navigating the Legal and Audit Implications of BYOD Initiatives

While the consumerization of IT marches on, in its footsteps lurks the specter of unknown risk. We live in a world of zero-sum games of litigation where suffocating regulations are the norm, and failure to comply can draw millions in fines and lawsuits. Technology diversity multiplies the challenge of maintaining compliance — it’s no wonder so many IT shops take a one-size-fits-all approach to workforce computing and forbid bring-your-own-device (BYOD). But it doesn't have to be this way. It’s possible to craft an approach that brilliantly achieves the conflicting goals of embracing BYOD and consumerization while slashing the risks and costs at the same time. Our recent research on the topic comes from working with lawyers and auditors who specialize in technology law and compliance reveals that it can indeed be done.

You Still Have to Act But the Cure is Often Worse Than the Disease
The technology attorneys we interviewed for this research agree — once you learn that BYOD is happening in your organization, you have a legal obligation to do something about it, whether you have established industry guidance to draw on or not. The answer is seemingly simple: Take action to stamp out the risk. However, the answer isn't that straightforward because: 

  • The more restrictions you put in place, the more incentive people will have to work around them and the more sophisticated and clandestine their efforts will be.
  • There is no data leak prevention tool for the human brain, so arguably the most valuable and sensitive information walks around on two legs and leaves the building every night. Accepting this is important for keeping a healthy perspective about information risk on employee-owned devices.
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Citrix Acquires Framehawk, Bolsters Enterprise and DaaS Portfolios

This morning Citrix announced the acquisition application mobilization vendor Framehawk for an undisclosed sum as the battle for high performance for corporate Windows apps on mobile devices rages on. Here’s my take:

It's a good acquisition for Citrix and in turn for I&O pros for 3 reasons:

  • Some of Framehawk's technology will be additive to Citrix's enterprise portfolio. Specifically, Framehawk's framebuffering protocol - called Lightweight Framebuffer Protocol, or LFP - is designed for mobile carrier networks like 4G/LTE where there is often highly variable latency, loss, and jitter. Citrix will add it to their arsenal alongside HDX to improve the end user experience of server-hosted Windows applications on mobile devices for XenDeskop App Edition and XenDesktop.
  • It will be a boon for DaaS providers' customer experience. Citrix is in the business of building a Desktops-as-a-Service (DaaS) platforms for service providers. One of the barriers to the success of DaaS in the enterprise, and a potential source of value for service providers, is the user experience on mobile devices over mobile networks. Another player to watch the remote desktop/app protocol space for mobile networks is RapidScale.
  • It's a competitive take-out play as well. Delivering Windows apps from the datacenter to both corporate and employee-owned desktops, laptops and mobile devices is what Citrix does - it's their place in the technology universe. Framehawk's technology approach, while expensive, has some advantages. Citrix was probably starting to see them in more deals as competition.
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VMware Buys Desktone as the Desktop-as-a-Service Market Heats Up

VMware Acquires Desktone. What does it Mean?
In Barcelona this week, VMware announced that it is acquiring Desktops-as-a-Service provider, Desktone. This is a market I've been watching for several years, and I think this is good news for both Desktone and VMware customers. On one hand it provides an alternative for VMware prospects who are unsure whether they want to make the investment in ramping up an in-house VDI initiative, and it provides a scale-out option for existing VMware View customers who may be loathe to make additional capital investments to expand their capacity. With Citrix also developing their own homegrown DaaS infrastructure offering for service providers, this move further legitimizes the DaaS market.
 
Forrester has been tracking the rise in interest in DaaS specifically in our Forrsights surveys of IT decision makers for the past 2 years, which gives us a unique view into the market. In Figure 1 below, we can see the rise in IT decision-maker interest in DaaS relative to on-premise hosted virtual desktops, and see that year-over-year growth of DaaS interest is strong. The market accelerated in part because Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers see it as a way to monetize their existing infrastructure investments. 
 
 
What is DaaS exactly?
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A New Microsoft Emerges. Leader Again or Still Fast-Follower?

Today's re-org at Microsoft comes amidst mixed success as they straddle the gap between capricious individual consumers and the cash-strapped, risk-averse needs of enterprise IT buyers who find themselves years behind the demands of their own capricious workers, who are also consumers when they go home. Windows 8 shows us that Microsoft has more learning to do about where to place those bets, but we also think their work on server, cloud and hybrid cloud is excellent, and that their longer-term strategy is viable. We see this organizational re-alignment as very positive.
 
The Server and Tools Business becomes Cloud and Enterprise Engineering Group
Satya Nadella and Scott Guthrie both have done a great job of driving Agile development and continuous delivery into every team in STB and that is resulting in faster moving and more compelling products and services. They deserve a lot of credit for this and so putting even more under them seems a good thing. The key is whether it is the right things.
 
For perspective: one of Microsoft's greatest strengths is that they give smart people development tools that are extremely easy to use and deceptively powerful. So much so that generations of developers will commit themselves and careers to mastery of Visual Studio, for example. Microsoft democratizes software development by lowering the barriers to entry like no other company. The shift to cloud gives them the chance to do it again, and the improvements in Visual Studio 2013 shown at BUILD in San Francisco are superb and stretch smoothly from the datacenter to the cloud.
 
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Citrix Takes Big Leaps Forward with Digital Workspace Delivery

There are very few companies in technology who truly understand that "consumers" and workers are the same *people*. Citrix is one of them. Consumers are consumers because they have jobs, and they get out of bed in the morning to go to a place where they earn money in exchange for their time and work to further their employers' objectives. It really is that simple. Yet most tech companies pay lip service to "consumers" while they target most of their resources on the stated needs of enterprise IT, and the implications of this abstraction are profound.
 
Citrix lives for achieving the conflicting goals of employee freedom and IT comfort
I believe Citrix understands this and while their POs usually come from enterprise IT, their vision and purpose as a business are to meet the needs of workers in their daily lives. But how? For one thing, this is a business where nuances are important. Precisely where technology providers draw lines between employee needs and IT needs determines whether employees will embrace it or reject it, but we also believe it goes much further. When a person reaches an artificial barrier, or seemingly arbitrary "policy" gets in the way of what they see as their good, honest attempt to get hard work done, their next thought might just be: How stupid do they think I am? Don't they trust me? And so goes the path of building frustration and draining trust out of the organization as a direct result of poor workforce computing strategy and choices, followed by enormous time and energy spent getting around the barriers.
 
CEO Mark Templeton describes what exceptional IT leadership looks like
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Collected Insights on Microsoft's Q3FY13 Performance

There is plenty of speculation in the industry this quarter about the future of Microsoft given the challenges facing Windows 8. Microsoft reported flat revenues in the Windows Division today, citing the transition in the PC industry overall. The good news is that Microsoft is a diversified business with strengthening enterprise multi-year licensing revenues of 16% as one good sign. New licensing models for Office and the release of Microsoft Azure IaaS platform are both positives, with Online Services Revenue up 18%.

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