Enterprise Social, It's Time To...

My father was never one to use profanity, with one exception. In those instances when I was taking just too long to make a decision or show progress, he'd say, "Rob, it's time to ... or get off the pot!" We're pretty much at that point with Enterprise Social.

In 2012 Forrester embarked on an extensive research project to determine the business value of collaboration and enterprise social initiatives. The backdrop was straightforward; overall adoption was not at the levels projected by the organizations that had made the investment. Just about half had made the investment in some form, and just about half were waiting for more evidence of true business value.

Through extensive interviews, we discovered that the value was indeed emerging, albeit somewhat slowly. If that's the case, then the question changes from "is there value?" to "how do we accelerate time to value?" The research indicated that when enterprise social solutions and tenets are applied to known business processes with an eye toward increasing the quality through better access to content and expertise, the results are demonstrable. Additional benefits came from removing human latency from processes by applying not only social, but mobile as well. How do you find the low-hanging fruit in your organization? The more case studies there are, the better chance of finding on that would resonate for you. To that end, Forrester has assembled an all-star cast of vendors to discuss specific use cases within their customer bases. The goal of the panel is to discuss business, not products. 

Joining me on stage will be:

Adam Pisoni of Yammer

Andy Kershaw of Oracle

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SharePoint, Meet Yammer; Is It Time For Microsoft To Burn The Boats?

In collaboration, there are cloud vendors, on-premises vendors and hybrid vendors. Here's the thing; hybrid vendors are not really cloud vendors. What do I mean by that? Let's look at two different applications that both run as part of Office 365; SharePoint and Yammer. SharePoint is hybrid (Microsoft will happily allow you to choose between an on-prem or cloud) and Yammer is pure cloud. In many respects they are similar; both run in Microsoft run data centers, can be purchased on a subscription basis, are fast and easy to provision, provide automated upgrades, put reliability and security in the hands of the vendor, etc. Lots to like about running an application in the cloud. 

Here's where they are not alike. A pure cloud vendor is fundamentally better positioned to gather requirements and deliver new functionality faster. Let's take a look at a new release process might work with a product based on a traditional product software develop approach, like SharePoint:

  • A business planning cycle determines new requirements that are critical to market success
  • A product planning cycle determines which features and functions are technically and economically feasible to build within the development cycle
  • Engineering builds a new release of the product
  • The product code goes through multiple release stages to get market feedback and test the stability of the new features and functions 
  • The product becomes GA (generally available) 
  • Rinse and repeat
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Office 2013 Launches

On Tuesday of this week, Microsoft launched Office 2013, the latest version of its flagship productivity suite. Forrester has released a report entitled Office 2013: A Breakthrough in Productivity; I had the opportunity to work with some great Forrester minds on writing it. Each analyst brought a unique perspective to the analysis:

  • My work, in addition to corralling all the talent mentioned below, focuses on document collaboration and social. 
  • John Rymer’s work is in the analysis of the new development environment with specific focus on SharePoint.
  • Ted Schadler focuses on the current and emerging mobile experience.
  • Art Scholler provides excellent perspective on the role of Office 2013 in unified communications with a focus on Lync.
  • Phillip Karcher takes a close look at the next version of the productivity suite. 
  • Frank Gillett looks at the implications of cloud deployment.
  • Chris Voce looks specifically at Exchange and provides perspective on the operational environment in general.
  • Leslie Owens provides perspective on search, taxonomy, and information architecture in the new release.
  • TJ Keitt weighs in on broad collaboration capabilities.
  • James Staten looks how Office fits into Microsoft’s broader cloud strategy. 
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Social? It Will Never Work! Or Will It?

More than 22 years ago, I met my amazing wife and was welcomed into her wonderful family. At the time, I was a project manager working for Lotus Consulting. I managed the rollout of large Lotus Notes implementations as well as the development of Notes applications. Over the years, I had many great conversations with my father-in-law, Jerry. He was a senior executive at CalTrans (California’s department of transportation), but earlier in his career he had also been a project manager. Did we do the same job? Well, not really. I rolled out email systems. He managed a little project called Interstate Highway 5 from the Oregon border to Mexico — California’s portion of a 1,381 mile stretch of road. While he was far too gracious and modest a person to say so, the scale, complexity, and risk that he managed were far beyond anything I could even imagine. Nevertheless, he spoke to me as a peer and I was honored that he did so.

One of my favorite stories from Jerry was how he drove the introduction of PCs at CalTrans in the late 1980s. At the time, his engineers were wedded to two primary business tools: drafting tables and computing power, the latter of which was purchased from a California government service provider called the Teale Data Center. Jerry recognized two things: Drafting tables were inherently inefficient and the Teale Data Center was really expensive. He saw an opportunity with the emergence of personal computing. Move common tasks done on paper to a computer and move expensive processing to local PCs. The engineers resisted the change. “It will never work!” they cried.

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Some Thoughts on 2012 Before The Holidays

We're just about to the end of 2012 (and according to the Mayan calendar, the end of time) so I figured it was about the right time to put together some thoughts on the year. 

Let's start with Enterprise Social, which continues to mature. It was the first thing I was assigned to cover when I came to Forrester six years ago and it's been a great ride so far. Enterprise Social is at that stage of development where we remain hopeful, but in the cool gray of the morning we must admit to having concerns. It's a bit like a teenager that has always been a good, albeit quirky kid, that is now getting into a bit of trouble. Just a stage? A lot of licenses have been sold but adoption remains a challenge for many. Certainly, the promises of E2.0 we were envisioning six years ago have been elusive for most. That said, the patterns are emerging that indicate success can be found. Funny thing, success is aligned with good old business value. Who'd have guessed? As is often the case, the closer you get to revenue the greater the chance for success. Mobile sales people lead in terms of demand for social solutions because better access to content, expertise and collective action drives sales which drive better performance reviews and compensation. Will the rest of the enterprise follow? Well, that's the $64 question. 

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The Digital Disruption Changes Everything — Unless It Doesn't

I'm going to tell you a story of opportunity. I will warn you in advance that it paints the art of the possible, but ultimately it's a cautionary tale. 

I have a 17-year-old son. He's a high school senior and attends a private high school in our city. In Forrester terminology, you could call him "empowered." So much so that over his first three years he rarely wore the required school uniform. Now, the school uniform is far from draconian. It's a polo, color of your choice, with a school logo. I actually think they look good, but he says they itch. To get around it he simply wore the polo of his choice under a sweater. It would seem all polo collars look the same. This worked well until a new principal came in last year and figured out what was going on. A new dress code was instituted that required that students also wear school approved outer wear so that a school logo was always visible. 

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Microsoft Turns The Battleship In Pirate-Infested Waters

For a long time Microsoft ruled the knowledge worker part of the IT seas with impunity. They have fended off attacks from the expected folks like IBM and Oracle rather handily. Then the consumerization wave hit. Turns out the danger came not from a frontal assault from another battleship, but from a huge array of small pirates. Knowledge worker eyeballs that always belonged to Microsoft strayed to Evernote, Dropbox, Box, Jive, Yammer, Google Apps, Confluence, you name it. Even IBM donned an eye patch and went pirate with Connections. A few leaks were found in the Microsoft battleship. Nothing too alarming if you follow the revenue and profit growth numbers from the Office group, but Microsoft has always thrived on paranoia. And for a paranoid company, this is very key moment in time.

Today Microsoft announced the biggest release of Office ever. Every product with an Office brand, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Exchange, Lync, SharePoint and on and on, will be updated with this new release. The strategy is in stark contrast to that of the competition. The pending acquisition of Yammer notwithstanding, the strategy is vintage Microsoft. Generate deeper and deeper integration between multiple products, marginalize competing products down to the level of core product features and bundle, bundle, bundle. 

The consumer trends that Microsoft is reacting to are well known at this point: mobile, social and cloud. Here are some of the highlights that IT needs to pay attention to:

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Microsoft And Yammer Face A Sliding Doors Moment

In the wonderful movie Sliding Doors, Helen runs for a train and just makes it on as the doors are closing. Moments later we see her running again for the same train only to have the doors close a moment before she arrives, forcing her to wait several minutes for the next train to arrive. We then see two versions of Helen's life unfold, one where she had made the train and one where she did not. The seemingly trivial moment in her day proves to lead to two wildly different outcomes. 

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Google Drive Could Be Huge

Today Google announced Google Drive as a solution to store, share and synchronize content across multiple devices. Big deal? Yes, this could be a very big deal. Why? Here's the deal: Up until now Google has addressed the enterprise by attempting to displace two of the most deeply entrenched applications, email and productivity. Let's face it, email is big, messy and expensive to move. Not to mention risky. Doesn't mean organizations don't do it, they just will do it on their own time and terms. And that's just email. Want to take Microsoft Office away from me? Pry it out of my cold dead hands. I'm happy to use Google Apps for certain stuff, but I need my Office. So basically, until Drive, Google was attempting to move some pretty tough stuff. Their addressable market was small firms (some of whom have and will grow large) and really forward-thinking organizations that were willing to make a pretty dramatic change. Large, risk-averse enterprises? Not so much. 

Then came Google Drive. Content storage is in the midst of a massive upheaval. Three indicators:

  • Users are becoming increasingly dependent on Dropbox for file synchronization, and IT is not always happy about it. Geez, I just want to have a file I start on my laptop at work available to peek at on my smartphone on the train home. Oh yeah, I also want it on my tablet while I'm at home watching Suburgatory. And, I may want to point a colleague to it. Sounds reasonable. IT, you don't want me to use Dropbox. Watcha got instead?
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Delivering The Social Business Imperative

Forrester fields hundreds of client inquiries each year on the topic of social business and collaboration. And the trend doesn't appear to be slowing. Often the first question is, "How far behind are we?" Well here's the data. You judge for yourself. According to Forrester survey data from 1,332 executives and IT decision-makers:

  • 49% will have investments in social networking solutions in 2012.
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