GSA Picks Google Apps: What It Means

The General Services Administration made a bold decision to move its email and collaboration systems to the cloud. In the RFP issued last June, it was easy to see their goals in the statement of objectives:

This Statement of Objectives (SOO) describes the goals that GSA expects to achieve with regard to the

1. modernization of its e-mail system;

2. provision of an effective collaborative working environment;

3. reduction of the government’s in-house system maintenance burden by providing related business, technical, and management functions; and

4. application of appropriate security and privacy safeguards.

GSA announced yesterday that they choose Google Apps for email and collaboration and Unisys as the implementation partner.

So what does this mean?

What it means (WIM) #1: GSA employees will be using a next-generation information workplace. And that means mobile, device-agnostic, and location-agile. Gmail on an iPad? No problem. Email from a home computer? Yep. For GSA and for every other agency and most companies, it's important to give employees the tools to be productive and engage from every location on every device. "Work becomes a thing you do and not a place you go." [Thanks to Earl Newsome of Estee Lauder for that quote.]

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Welcome To The Empowered Era

We inhabit an age in which empowering technology is readily available first to individuals, not institutions. Consumers and employees will always get the new good stuff first. And it will always be so. The economics of technology investment seal that deal. The consumer market is bigger and easier to get started in.

In this empowered era, smart mobile devices, social technology, pervasive video, and cloud computing are the anchor tenants of the new technology platform. These technologies are available to every consumer and employee, even yours. The question is what to do about it? Two things:

  1. Because customers can hijack your brand (consumers in the US make 500 billion impressions on each other online every year), you have to use empower your customers with better information than they can get from their networks. You have to honor your customers as a marketing channel.
  2. Because employees have ready access to technology to improve their working lives, you have to give employees permission -- and protection -- to adopt these technologies. You have to honor employees' use of consumer technology as a source of incremental and sometimes breakthrough innovation.
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How iPads Enter The Workforce

iPad has exploded onto the scene. Who could have imagined that a tablet (a category introduced in 2001) would capture the imagination of employees and IT alike? But it did, and it's kicked off an arms race for smart mobile devices. Every day, a new tablet appears: Cisco Cius, Dell Streak, Samsung Galaxy Tab, RIM PlayBook, HP Windows 7 Tablet, the list goes on. These post-PC devices will find a place in your company, but where?

We've had over 200 conversations with IT customers about iPads and other tablets since January. The interest is incredible. And IT is ahead of the curve on this one, determined not to be playing catchup as happened with employee and executive demand for iPhones. We talk to people every day who are deploying iPads in pilots or experiments.

In a new report for Forrester clients, we categorize the ways in which we see tablets entering the workplace:

  • Displace laptops. This is the classic executive and mobile professional scenario. While it will be some time before tablets replace laptops completely, iPads have proven their value in meeting rooms, on the go, and of course as personal devices. But for now, it means tablets are a third device alongside smartphones and laptops.
  • Replace clipboards and other paper. This is the scenario for a construction manager using an application by Vela Systems whocan now carry an iPad instead of a tube full of construction drawings. It also applies to clinical testing in the pharma industry, facilities inspections by quality assurance pros, and insurance brokers writing business out in the field.
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Get Empowered Free On Kindle Through September 10th

[Update: 3:15pm, 9-7-2010. Sigh. This is a US-only offer. My apologies to colleagues and friends in other countries. I'm told you can buy it on Amazon.com in other countries, at least in hard copy.]

Our new book, Empowered, is free on Kindle through September 10th. That means anybody with a Kindle or Kindle reader (iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Android, PC, or Mac) can download and read it for free forever.

My coauthor Josh Bernoff explains why we're not crazy to do this. It boils down to: We hope you read it and share your thoughts and your own HERO experiences with friends and colleagues. For my part, I'd be thrilled to hear directly back from you or read about your own HERO experiences in comments or posts or tweets or video narratives. Here's Josh's post: 

Starting today and continuing until this Friday September 10, you can download Empowered to your Kindle at no charge.

You want to know how to manage your company in the age of empowered customers, don't you? If you've got a Kindle, what's stopping you?

Now to the other question. Are we crazy?

Some people have told me that giving away Empowered on Kindle makes it seem worthless. Or that I'm giving up revenue.

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Lloyd's Of London Takes Facebook To The Board

[Update: I wrote this post originally for HBR.org. It's now live in shortened form on Harvard Business Review's site: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/09/it_in_the_age_of_empowered_employees.html.]

Peter Hambling, CIO of Lloyd’s of London, the venerable insurer, has made Facebook a priority for customer communications that required board approval. But more on that later. First, some background . . .

It's the nature of things. Some people look for ways to do things better — and that includes your employees. Some of your employees are questing for a better way to get things done. If there's a better way out there, they'll find it. That's a good thing because the thing they're trying to do better is their job. Serve your customers. Solve your business problems. Improve your operations.

It's always been true: Incremental innovation and process improvements have always come from those closest to the problem. It's the basis of kaizen, a system where employees continually improve manufacturing processes. It's also a founding principle of Six Sigma — tap employees' relentless, incremental quality improvements.

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Forrester Content & Collaboration Forum: Get The Empowered Story First Hand

Our new book, Empowered, will be in book stores on September 14. But for a real-world conversation about what it means to unleash employees to solve customer problems using readily available technology, come to our Content & Collaboration Forum in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C. on October 7 and 8.

Yes, this is a pitch to come to a Forrester event, but I promise you that it will be worth your time if you're looking for help with such Empowered topics as enterprise social, empowered employees, iPad in the enterprise, innovation, collaboration in the cloud, videoconferencing, and IT consumerization as well as deep dives into critical topics like search and taxonomy, enterprise content management, and what it means to be a content & collaboration leader.

You'll get two days of my Forrester analyst colleagues' presentations and face time as well as keynote presentations from some great and experienced content & collaboration executives. GM's Steve Sacho is way ahead of the curve in understanding how to turn consumerization from IT threat to business opportunity. Richard West of the defense firm, BAE Systems, is bringing his story of how investments in knowledge management and collaboration have empowered employees to work more efficiently together to solve customer problems. Both speakers as well as Zach Brand, head of all things interesting at NPR Digital Media (yes, that NPR), will share their stories, lessons, and experience.

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Zimbra Appliance: VMWare Executes On Cloud-Based Email

VMWare has got it down: Sell a virtualization solution with anchor applications (and seats) that no service provider can live without, starting with email. This is the call we made when VMWare bought open source email and collaboration provider Zimbra from Yahoo! last February. And now they've delivered with the upgraded Zimbra Collaboration Suite Appliance 6.0 targeted at service providers and other virtual cloud hosters. What it means:

What it means #1. VMWare is solidly in the market to provision service providers with email. Service providers that want to resell Google or Microsoft's email have the benefit of low capital costs and rapid deployment. But service providers that don't want to resell another vendors' cloud services need a solution that runs at low cost on cheap servers with easy peasy provisioning. That's what the Zimbra collaboration appliance promises. Will it deliver? Love to hear from service providers on this one.

What it means #2. VMWare drives another nail into the coffin of on-premises business email. At $5/mailbox/month for cloud email, if you take away client software and mailbox administration costs, our analysis shows that it costs twice as much to host a mailbox yourself than to host it in the cloud. This offering gives service providers around the world the opportunity to compete at that price. So who would use on-premises email? Only someone with stringent requirements, massive scale, or a recent upgrade. Even the federal government is moving to cloud-based email as GSA has announced.

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Evaluate Your HERO Project -- Find The Gotchas, Share Results, Build Support

Yesterday we launched our Empowered microsite. On this site you can find lots of resources about our new book, including the blog, where to buy the book in bulk, how Forrester can help your empowered strategies, and a new HERO Project Effort-Value Evaluation tool.

First, some background. When Josh & I first began investigating HEROes (highly empowered and resourceful operatives, basically folks like you who make a difference using new technology), we knew that we needed a way to assess the effort that your projects required. And then we realized that you were tackling new technology solutions because you saw the value they could provide. So we needed to help you assess the value and the effort.

Thus was born the HERO Project Effort-Value Evaluation tool that we introduce in chapter 2. This tool includes five value questions and five effort questions that categorize your project into one of four classes and provides you some high-level guidance on what to watch out for. The online version of the tool also creates a nice email format with the results of your evaluation, which you can easily share with colleagues to get them involved in the project.

I think your best use of the tool is to sanity check your thinking on the project, get insight into the questions you need to answer before getting started, and get others on board with your project goals. If you're in business, it's a way to get IT involved. If you're in IT, it's a way to help your business colleagues scope a project and get your help with it.

We can also help you assess the project and provide additional insight into where you should dig deeper.

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How Are You Using iPad For Business?

We are getting many requests for help on iPad strategies for the enterprise. It's clear why. iPads are a tremendously empowering technology that any employee can buy. My colleague Andy Jaquith has a report coming real soon now on the security aspects of iPhones and iPads, and I'm launching research on case studies of iPad in the enterprise.

I am currently hearing about three business scenarios for iPad and tablets, but I'd love hear of your experiences, plans, concerns, or frustrations. Ping me at tschadler(at)forrester(dot)com. Here are the three scenarios:

  1. Sales people out in the field. This is the "Hollywood pitch deck" scenario. The iPad, particularly with a cover that can prop it up a bit, is a great way to scroll through slides to show a customer or demonstrate a Web site. In one situation, I heard that there's a competition brewing for who can manipulate the Web site upside down (so the client across the table sees it right side up) without making any mistakes. Now there's a new skill for sales: upside down Web browsing.
  2. Executives on an overnight trip. No, iPad doesn't replace a laptop (at least not yet; more on this below). But it's great for email, calendar, reviewing documents, and presenting PDF or Keynote decks.
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Empowered Customers Need Empowered Employees Need Empowered IT

Groundswell technology comes to consumers first. At home, we get social, mobile, video, and cloud services pitched to us 24x7. Facebook, Android, iPad, Foursquare, Google, YouTube, Office Web Apps, Twitter. The list is endless and growing every single day. Empowering technologies like these will always come to consumers first. Why? Because it's a wide-open market. A single developer can build an application that changes the world from their broadband-connected bedroom.

All this technology puts tremendous power directly into the hands of your customers. Your customers often have more information than your sales team — or medical staff — does. They can also whack your brand from their smartphone, with video even, while waiting impatiently in line. They can get a recommendation from someone in their business network while listening to your pitch. Customers are empowered by information and connections. You'd better make sure you give customers better information than they can get elsewhere.

The only way to do that is to empower your employees to directly engage the needs and expectations of empowered customers. Only empowered employees can solve the problems of empowered customers.

Fortunately, your employees are not standing still. People are problem solvers. Left alone, your innovative employees (we call them HEROes — highly empowered and resourceful operatives) are building new solutions using these same groundswell technologies — and many others besides — to solve customer problems.

In fact, 37% of US information workers — employees that use computers for work — use do-it-yourself technology to get work done. Personal mobile devices. Unsanctioned Web sites like Skype or Google Docs or LinkedIn or Smartsheet.com. Unsanctioned software downloaded to a work computer.

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