The Web At 20: What It Means For Collaboration

Tedschadler by Ted Schadler

A wander through history today with apologies to those looking for punchy bullets.

The Web turns 20 today. Frickin' amazing if you ask me. My 10-year old wonders out loud what we all did before the Internet (by which he means the browser-based world of Club Penguin, Google, Yahoo!, and YouTube). And for the life of me, I can't remember, either.

How did we collaborate? Well, I remember that I wrote lots of letters to friends to stay in touch and was thrilled when someone wrote back (it was too expensive to make long-distance phone calls). My 7th grade buddies and I also wrote away to Pennzoil and STP to ask for stickers to put on our notebooks. I also spent a lot of time in the library (any library anywhere) and in book stores looking for books, magazines, research papers, whatever.

And for sharing information? Copies, copies, copies. I was an early and big fan of the mimeograph machine, stinky beast though it was. We used to sneak into the Physics office in college to get extra blanks in case we messed up when making copies for a seminar. And you had to get there early on seminar day to command a slot in the mimeograph line. (It was a blessed breakthrough when the Xerox machine was installed -- and only a dime a copy!)

And for creating, editing, co-authoring? It was typewriters, paper, and purple pens, folks. And pen and ink for graphics. Ugly stuff, but amazingly it worked. It took days or weeks do a turnaround, though.

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Telecommuting Will Rise To Include 43% Of US Workers By 2016

Tedschadler by Ted Schadler

It was shocking to me anyway that we already have 34 million Americans working at least occasionally from home today. And that's with broadband to only 56% of US homes. But that's what the data say. And with our Consumer Technographics survey of 61,033 US and Canadian consumers, you can be confident that the numbers are accurate.

But it's even more surprising to run the numbers forward to 2016 and see how many Americans will work from home then: 63 million! We just published our US Telecommuting forecast that shows how an additional 29 million telecommuters will enter the remote workforce. What's going on?

  • First, broadband pipes to the home, work laptops, and secure VPNs bring the tools that most information workers need right to the kitchen table or bedroom office. And collaboration tools like instant messaging, Web conferencing, team sites, and desktop video conferencing make it ever-easier to stay in touch and contribute to the project.
  • Second, employees rightfully point out that they will save time in commuting and can get more done for their employers with that time. The benefits of work flexibility and leaving gas in the tank are also real.
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Google Tests An Offline Email Client

Tedschadler by Ted Schadler

This has been long rumored by Google Apps watchers, but we get confirmation today: Google is testing an offline email client. This is a Google Gmail Labs feature, which means that it's really test code for the brave. In fact, the Gmail Labs site helpfully warns that "there's an escape hatch" if a feature breaks.

That said, this is a big deal for Google. (Caveat: I haven't tested it yet, so I'll have to report back once I do). Here's what it means:

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Google Apps Shows Some Commercial Clout With A Reseller Program

Tedschadler by Ted Schadler

I spoke recently with Stephen Cho, the product manager for the new Google Apps Reseller Program. It's quite clear that Google has learned from its Postini reseller program, from partners like Appirio and Cap Gemini, and from Microsoft's Exchange Online reseller program.

First, the details:

  • Resellers own the customer. That means billing, first line support, the works.This is in distinct contrast to Microsoft's program for Exchange Online, where partners can sell and benefit from the business, but the Exchange customer would write checks to Redmond.
  • Resellers get 20% margin. That's in the US, anyway. That means $10/user/year. Period. Have you ever seen such price transparency (and low points) in any reseller program? I haven't. The entire term sheet would fit on a 1/3rd of a page.
  • Enterprises can't be their own reseller. They have to sell to at least someone other than themselves. Otherwise, this would be a simple way for a enterprise to whack 20% off the already low $50/user/year cost.
  • Google will provide technical admin support if requested. They won't provide end user support. though. That's one of the value-added services that a VAR can provide.
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WebEx Goes Mobile On iPhone; Notes 8.5 Ships On Macs

Tedschadler by Ted Schadler

MacWorld held two important announcements for collaboration professionals, especially those interested in multidevice future:

1. Lotus announced that Notes 8.5 is shipping on Macintoshes, specifically on the new Leopard version of OS X. And its open source office productivity suite, Symphony will be available in a few months. Why does this matter? It matters because Lotus has a clear, vigorous multidevice strategy for the tools that make information workers productive. See Ed Brill's post for the IBM point of view.

2. Cisco announced that WebEx Meeting Center is available on iPhones. In fact, you can download it today to your iPhone. While I haven't yet had the chance to put it through its paces, this announcement signals Cisco's commitment to supporting multiple devices. I expect them to continue to roll unified communications apps on mobile phones of every flavor.

Here are some details:

  • The native iPhone application is freely available at the Apple AppStore or at iTunes.
  • It doesn't cost any more to attend a meeting over an iPhone. (But the hoster does have to be running the most current version of the WebEx software.)
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Should Your Email Live In The Cloud?

Tedschadler by Ted Schadler

Should your email live in the cloud?

Colleague Chris Voce and I have written a pair of reports to answer that question from the perspectives of an information and knowledge management professional and an infrastructure and operations professional. For many firms, the answer is "yes," certainly for some users or some email support services.

The first report tackles the issues of cost. It turns out that most companies have no idea what their fully loaded email costs are (and most low-ball the estimates). But once you add in staffing costs; server and desktop software licenses; upgrades and support fees; archiving and filtering costs; mobile support; hardware, storage, and power costs; and financing costs, email's a big ticket item, as much as $36 per user per month for a 15,000 person company offering BlackBerry support.

Some findings from this cost analysis:

  • A mobile-less information worker can cost $25 per user per month or a whopping $300 per user per year. In a 10,000-person company doing message archiving, that's an annual budget line item of $3 million.
  • When you compare the fully loaded costs of on-premise email to the cloud-based alternatives, the cloud service wins for many worker segments in companies (or divisions) of 15,000 users or less.
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Extranet Collaboration Platforms. Coming Soon, But Then There's That Pesky Many-To-Many Problem

Tedschadler by Ted Schadler

In our conversations with many information and knowledge management professionals, it's clear that their distributed and multicompany teams need better extranet collaboration tools.

And they feel the problem is only getting worse as companies go virtual, global, distributed, outsourced, green, travel-less, and partnered, thus driving the need for ever-better collaboration tools that work outside the firewall.

Trouble is, the messaging and collaboration services that  companies have implemented are designed primarily for internal teams.

For example, it's bloody difficult to set up a secure instant messaging connection with every partner you might want to work with. Such interoperability between IM platforms is technically possible, but operationally nightmarish.

So clever employees do what they must: Use public IM and calendaring services, cobble together conferences from piece parts, and fall back on endless scheduling and sharing emails and voice conferencing. Ugh. Ugly. And scary.

Well, the solution's just around the corner say vendors new and old. After all, many are on the cusp of major product releases that promise much better extranet connections and capabilities:

  • IBM Bluehouse promises a new extranet collaboration platform.
  • Google already offers an extranet collaboration toolkit in its Google Apps Premier Edition.
  • Cisco is adding extranet collaboration capabilities to WebEx.
  • Microsoft is moving its services into the cloud for easier extranet access.
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One Analysts's View Of What IBM's Smarter Planet Means

Tedschadler by Ted Schadler

[dateline] Stamford, CT

IBM CEO Sam Palmisano gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Affairs in New York City on November 6, 2008. In the speech, he added his voice that that of Al Gore, Jeff Immelt, and Barack Obama to declare that the US can lead the world to prosperity (and out of this financial quagmire). He called his vision building a "smarter planet."

Here's how I see the smarter planet:

  • Intelligence and network connections are embedded in physical systems. Chips and bandwidth have helped optimize business processes and make information workers more productive. But information technology hasn't yet really helped optimize our physical systems. A company on a smarter planet will put computers and connections into every physical system so that machines can phone home, operating problems can telegraph themselves, and power grids and distribution systems can be monitored, controlled, and optimized. (Forrester first identified this trend of an extended "Internet of things" in 2001 with a report entitled "The X Internet.")
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Cloud-Based Collaboration Could Rock A CFO's World In A Recession

Tedschadler By Ted Schadler

Did you know that three vendors with something in common grew rapidly during the last recession? WebEx, Placeware (now Microsoft LiveMeeting cum Office Communications Server), and Salesforce.com all grew during the last recession.

One of the reasons is that they offered valuable services -- Web conferencing and sales force automation – that companies needed help with. But the other thing they had in common is that they packaged their offering as a cloud-based service with a pay-as-you-go pricing model.

This model offered three immediate benefits to cash-strapped companies:

  1. It was cheap and easy to get started with these cloud-based services.
  2. The business could buy the services without IT’s help, at least initially.
  3. It was easy to provision these services for business users.
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IBM Lotus Gets Into The Hosted Email Game. Phew.

Tedschadler by Ted Schadler

It is inevitable and welcome that a revitalized Lotus has launched a hosted email and calendar service.

Inevitable because cloud-based email services are on the rise and IBM isn't going to miss out on that. It might be your entire messaging system -- email, calendar, contacts as in hosted Exchange, Gmail, and now Notes Hosted Messaging. Or it might be an ancillary service as in email filtering from Microsoft, Google Postini, or Symantec MessageLabs or Exchange management from Azaleos. But pushing email out of the data center and into the cloud has some real benefits (outlined below).

Welcome to Forrester's enterprise customers because having Microsoft as the only hosted email service in town limits customer choice. And that's never good.

Oh yeah, then there's the attractive price. While nobody can undercut Google's $50/user/year price, IBM has aggressively priced this offering for between $8 and $18 per user per month.

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