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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Symantec Goes Into The Cloud With Email Filtering

Tedschadler

by Ted Schadler

Symantec today announced its acquisition of MessageLabs, a 520-person UK-based email filtering and security vendor. Given the cost and hassles that information & knowledge management professionls (IKM Pros) have keeping email spam down to a dull roar and keeping viruses outside the firewall, this is a great move for Symantec. And now IKM pros with deep Symantec relationships have a simple choice: Keep email filtering on-premise (and pay up front and on-going) or outsource that annoying task to Symantec MessageLabs (and pay by the month).

My colleague Chris Voce and I have been doing research into the costs and challenges of on-premise email versus cloud-based email. (We'll publish a report in the next month or so with the details, but Forrester clients can contact us if they want to talk now about email in the cloud or the cost of email.)

A few things have popped out of the research:

  • Firms don't know what their email costs. It's easy enough to calculate the server and mail client costs, but the other costs -- administration, server and software maintenance, email filtering administration, storage, data center operations -- are usually swept under the carpet. When firms calculate a fully loaded cost per user, they will be shocked.
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iPhone + Lotus Notes = Opportunity + Annoyance

Tedschadler_2 By Ted Schadler

Maybe you saw the IBM announcement or the NY Times article on it. iPhone now can run iNotes, a lightweight application for access to Lotus Notes email, calendaring, and contacts.

But why the complex equation? Let me break it down for you:

IBM has no axe to grind with any mobile device (unlike Microsoft, who is required to promote Windows Mobile devices -- though we've seen a lot of iPhones on the Redmond campus lately). Therefore, it can afford to be device agnostic. The Armonk software giant has long supported BlackBerry, Nokia, and Windows Mobile devices. It now supports iPhone.

In other words, these iPhone owners are change agents. They see a benefit and want to go for it. We call this behavior of employee-led adoption "Technology Populism," and it's a force majeure. Here's one cool situation we heard from a client: demand for iPhone is so high that IT put up a wiki to encourage iPhone opportunists to comment on problems and solutions for iPhone in the enterprise. It's a "very active" wiki with 70 active participants. And this after only a month.

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Cisco's Stepping Up To Collaboration As Business Transformation

TedschadlerBy Ted Schadler

Following on to Rob's great analyses of Cisco's Jabber and PostPath acquisitions, here are some additional things that Information & Knowledge Management Professionals should tune into regarding Cisco as the new collaboration kid on the block:

  • First, Cisco is building a meeting-centric workspace product with WebEx Connect. Think about the key documents, chats, connections, calendar, contact lists, business and collaboration widgets, and video links hosted in a workspace with persistence, invitation- and approval-based access, and all the piece parts of a real workspace. That means you should be putting Cisco on your vendor list when looking at new team collaboration scenarios.
  • Second, Jabber will be bundled into WebEx Connect as the core presence engine. In other words, this acquisition is, as Rob pointed out, a great way for Cisco to get a global-scale presence engine. But it's also presence designed around a B2B or distributed team environment. And that signals where you should look at Cisco: It's in B2B teams. Or teams that sit on the edge of the enterprise -- sales, product development, supply chain, partner management -- should look at this new option.
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Attracting And Retaining Talent: Thought From Day One Of Forrester's Business & Technology Leadership Forum

TedschadlerBy Ted Schadler

"Embrace chaos; deliver results." Really? Unleash social networks, employee-generated video, and wikis loose in my company? That sounds hard for any normal company. Yet that's the theme of our event here in Orlando.

At the end of day one, after listening to a varied and experienced line-up of presenters, I came away with the feeling that not only is it possible to embrace chaos and deliver results, it's also an imperative.

Here are some loosely worded and paraphrased quotes from speakers that anchor my feeling:

When Ken Washington, chief privacy officer of Lockheed Martin, was asked how he convinced the CEO to allow blogs and social networks at Lockheed Martin, he said that in the war for talent these tools will help us "attract and retain talent."

It makes a ton of sense if you think about it. We know from our Technographics studies that the Internet-native Gen Y generation behaves completely differently than their Gen X siblings. They use IM, social networks, and blogs to communicate and get their work done. And the Millenials that follow them are even more estranged from old-school tools like email. These new employees expect the power that a Facebook brings.

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Google Launches "YouTube For The Enterprise"

TedschadlerBy Ted Schadler

Today, Google announced Google Video for business, a new cloud-based collaboration service that gives employees the same ability as consumers to upload, find, view, and share video clips. It's YouTube for the enterprise, folks. See Rob Koplowitz's and Kyle McNabb's report for more on cloud-based collaboration services.

Not that Google's the first company to introduce this service. Startup Veodia launched its cloud-based enterprise video service in 2007. Both moves are part of the video-ification of business, what Forrester's Henry Dewing calls "The Screening Of Global Business."

I think this is an important innovation for the enterprise because it will allow a million video flowers to bloom: training videos, meet-the-team videos, rally-the-sales-troops videos, learn-about-my-product videos, customer-win videos, walk-through-the-power-generation-plant videos, corporate-event videos, how-its-made videos. You get the picture.

Google Video for business:

  • Is bundled into the Google Apps Premier Edition. So even if you don't need cloud-based email, calendaring, document sharing, or team sites, if you buy video, you get the whole suite of collaboration tools.
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Trip Report On iPhone Vs. BlackBerry: Part 1, Typing

TedschadlerBy Ted Schadler

Let me begin by saying that I believe it's time for Information & Knowledge Management (I&KM) professionals to get into the enterprise smartphone debate. After all, the killer application for smartphones is email, calendars, and contacts -- all collaboration apps. And the future of collaboration is pervasive -- anytime, anywhere, any device. Your information workers need them. You should help define the strategy.

So here we go with Part 1 of a multipart blog post on my experience with these two devices.

I recently took a two-week family vacation to Oregon and funky Northern California. Nothing like eating Humboldt Fog cheese on the beach in the Humboldt fog. The four of us camped some and stayed in some lovely B&Bs. As badly as I wanted to be off the grid, I decided that it was best to have a cell phone to take care of essentials.

So it was a prime opportunity to compare a two-year old BlackBerry Pearl against an iPhone 3G to see which one best handled the common collaboration issues that come up on a vacation: email, directions, schedule, contacts, and "rapid research." Oh yeah, both devices use AT&T's network.

I have some particular attitudes towards my cell phone.

  • First, it has to fit into my pocket.
  • Second, I don't suffer lousy interfaces; if it doesn't work the first time, I usually give up.
  • Third, it's a phone first.
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