Forrester Blogs For Technology Industry Professionals
This is a roll-up of all Forrester blogs written for Technology Industry Professionals. Role-specific blogs are listed below. Visit Forrester.com to learn how we make Technology Industry Professionals successful every day.
Today, Microsoft begins life as a real competitor in the enterprise voice space. It has slain dragons (like enabling call access control and E911), faced mighty jousters (Miercom has called Lync a resilient, feature-rich, scalable UC system in their review), and emerged triumphant to compete for enterprise accounts looking for unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions. Microsoft has amassed an impressive list of early adaptors — of both Office Communications Service Release 2 (OCS R2) and Lync — that includes large and small deployments with varied features/capabilities enabled.
Lync required Lighthouse accounts to use a wide array of services at significant scale, so I expect to see big accounts like Marquette University and the Dominican Republic Ministry of Education join current OCS enterprise voice users like Shell, Intel, AT Kearney, and Sprint on Microsoft’s “Customer Success Stories” page. In talking to many early adopters, I heard very few complaints about voice quality or reliability of the solutions, and:
Almost every firm using Lync is connecting employees together using Lync AND other Microsoft products.
Improved voice quality and reliability drives customer satisfaction and makes Microsoft’s story more credible in delivering UC&C solutions.
A recent conversation with executives from Clarizen, a software company in the work/project/task management realm, shows how profoundly SaaS can change the innovation process in technology companies. However, you won't get the most beneficial changes unless you're willing to make an investment.
During our briefing, I asked the CEO of Clarizen, Avinoam Nowogrodski, and the VP of Marketing, Sharon Vardi, whether being a SaaS vendor made it any easier to resolve the sort of questions that vex technology vendors. Their response: "Of course it does."
Here's one of those vexing questions: Why don't more customers move from a pilot to full adoption? The usual first answers blame someone else's department for the disappointing conversion rate: Your product stinks. Your leads stink. Your salespeople stink.
Round-robin finger-pointing like this thrives in an informational vacuum. If the only hard fact available is the conversion rate, marketing can accuse sales of presumed incompetence; sales can claim that the current bug count might have an effect on customer satisfaction; development can claim that it's bogged down in too many special requests from strategic customers; and so on.
During last August's Agile 2010 conference, I attended a session that used a board game to simulate the collaboration between developers and UX professionals. The object of the game was to coordinate the schedules of these two groups, who normally follow the beats of different metronomes. On top of that basic timing challenge, unexpected events complicated this dance between development and UX.
While this session does show a novel application of serious gaming (one of my favorite topics, in case you hadn't noticed), the interesting aspect of this session is that it happened at all. Until recently, UX was not a major concern for Agilists – or most people developing software, for that matter. The phrase, "And then we'll throw a UI on top of it," summarized the indifference of all too many development teams to UX concerns.
In the last few years, many teams have learned a new attitude. Instead of treating UX as a tarpaulin, thrown over the application to clumsily hold it all together, UX is as much a part of the system as the technical architecture or the application logic.
Undoubtedly, when you read the title of this blog post, you thought, "But politicians are users." No, I'm not talking about that kind of user. Instead, I'm thinking of the user we normally discuss around these parts, the kind of person whom product managers and product marketers try to understand, but often don't.
The 10Questions Project posed questions from salt-of-the-earth, ordinary folk to California senatorial candidates Carly Fiorina and Barbara Boxer. It's a noble failure, a change of medium that had no discernible effect on the quality of message. The candidates' answers are exactly the sort of vague, high-level statements that are more about sentiment (what candidates hint they might do) than policy (what they'd actually do).
These frustrating YouTube snippets resemble the kind of bad answers that users often give when PMs ask them questions like, "So, what would you like to see in the next release?" The reasons for the uselessness of the answers are the same, too:
Last week, Microsoft unveiled its Windows Phone 7 software, which is dramatically different from this company’s previous software for mobile devices. This new mobile operating system software provides an improved user interface, animated icons, a colorful touchscreen, and personalization features which enable users to customize aspects of the phone’s appearance and performance. In addition, these smartphones work with Sharepoint servers, which are being deployed by enterprises.
Sixty mobile operators, including América Móvil, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, O2, Orange, SFR, SingTel, Telstra, Telus, and Vodafone, will be supporting Windows Phone 7 in 30 countries. In the US, Windows phones will be available in November. AT&T will sell Windows phones from HTC, Samsung, and LG Electronics, and T-Mobile USA will offer phones from HTC and Dell Inc.
Even with these distribution channels, Microsoft faces tough competition in the smartphone arena. The US smartphone market is dominated by Research in Motion’s BlackBerry devices, Apple iPhones, and devices that run on Google’s Android operating system. Given this intense competition, Microsoft is going to be fighting for fourth place in the US. Microsoft has a better chance to capture a significant share of the smartphone market in developing regions, including China and Latin America, where customers are not tied to Android or Apple smartphone devices.
Yesterday, I was talking with members of the SAS government team about recent developments, such as the state of their business, acquisitions (here's my take on one of those companies), and success stories. I was very, very happy that they wanted to devote the majority of time on the success stories, since you often get more insight from discussing how customers are using technology than running through the list of new features and functions.
Funny thing, that's exactly the conclusion of our research on thought leadership: If you want to be a thought leader, talk about how you've made people successful. Actually, there are more aspects of thought leadership, but success stories are a good place to start. Not only do they illustrate how a vendor can contribute to a project, but they also identify the types of projects worth pursuing.
SAS is involved in well-established, well-understood government activities, such as preventing fraud in corporate tax collection and social programs. It's also involved in far less established and understood areas, such as nipping new cybersecurity threats in the bud and dealing with recent IT requirements for health care. Not only are governments trying to figure out how to fit technology into their strategies for dealing with these new challenges, they're still figuring out the strategies.
When you were a child, you may have played with a paper fortune teller (a.k.a. cootie catcher). By folding and unfolding this origami-like construct, you produced answers for questions you posed.
The topic of technical debt is a lot like the paper fortune teller: the more you unfold the topic, the more interesting observations emerge. Israel Gat wrote two recent posts (click here and here) at his blog, The Agile Executive, that illustrate the sort of costs that technical debt imposes. His second post focuses on the most conspicuous cost: The more you develop, heedless of the technical debt you create, the harder and harder it becomes to make further changes. While this may seem like an obvious conclusion, it's not one that has the impact on software development that it should. In their rush into the future, building code that is supposed to expand choices, many teams are actually constraining their choices.
For ISVs, technical debt has a lot of important ramifications. Here are just a few:
For startups, aggressive product road maps can be counterproductive. The more you develop, the more competitive your product, right? That formula seems obvious to most insurgent vendors, but there's definitely a point of diminishing marginal returns, when the cost of maintaining all that aggressively-developed code exceeds the company's ability to continue developing and supporting it.
IBM recently launched CityOne, a serious game that poses the kinds of questions about water, power, finance, and retail that city planners face daily. It's a powerful tool for a B2B company like IBM to market its products and services in a way that engages the customer more deeply, making the company's value proposition more clear and compelling.
The BPM game, INNOV8, demonstrated that a serious game can translate a dry and complex subject like BPM into something more interesting and vivid. It appeals to human psychology in a way that even the best white paper can't. Humans are visual creatures, so it's often more effective to show us a principle in action rather than talk about it. A serious game like INNOV8 pushes other buttons in our brains, too. For example, there's a higher probability that someone will finish playing a game than reading a white paper. If the game succeeds at keeping your attention, you want to see it through its conclusion.
Obviously, as a regular blogger, I think social media are the cat's meow. However, when I use social media, I don't lapse into that blissed-out state that cats enjoy when they bust open a jar of catnip. Your experience may be different:
If you believe that Twitter is of net-benefit for the world, and only someone who hasn't used it much would say otherwise, then what's good for Twitter is good for the rest of us, too. Costolo's adventures with the last world-changing messaging system he [led] may have worked out better for himself than for the rest of us in the long run, but his work at Twitter so far has been key at building staying power for this new, more accessible way for people around the world to speak with each other.
That's the concluding paragraph from a ReadWriteWeb story about Twitter's new CEO. It's just the sort of gushy, overblown statement that plays well in the pocket universe of people with a vested interested in social media using social media to sign hosannas on the highest about social media. Outside the pocket universe, it's just the sort of hyperbolic prose that makes people who are on the fence about Twitter, who don't necessarily see it as good for the rest of us, nervous that anything sold that hard must not be as good as advertised. For people who still look at their email inbox with despair, Twitter may be one more channel of communication that they don't need.
What do Umi, FaceTime, Qik, and Skype have in common? No, they are not failed attempts to win at Scrabble; they all are solutions for delivering consumer videoconferencing/calling with significant announcements in 2010.
10/6/2010: (today) Cisco announced Umi, a home telepresence offering using HDTV and cameras, and go-to-market plans with Verizon.
6/11/2010: Apple launched iPhone 4, touting FaceTime via Wi-Fi as a mobile consumer video calling solution; it announced continued go-to-market activities with AT&T as an exclusive carrier.
6/04/2010: Sprint announced the first 4G phone in the US, the HTC EVO and demonstrated the use of the Qik application to enable real-time video calling.
5/18/2010: Having announced partnerships with LG, Panasonic, and Samsung, at CES 2010 to enable embedded Skype video calling capabilities on consumer TV, Skype delivered the HD video camera that completes the solution offer.