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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The Lion Roars. 2010 Ships. Productivity Cheers.

Okay, so I'm a sucker for nostalgia. But being on the same stage as Gilda Radner and John Belushi and John Candy and Tina Fey was a thrill. And being in the same studio where Elvis Costello and the Attractions stopped "Less Than Zero" after a few bars and jumped into "Radio Radio" in defiance of NBC's wishes brought a rebellious, empowered smile to my face.

NBC's Studio 8H, home of Saturday Night Live, is where Microsoft launched SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 yesterday. It was a short, punchy, customer-filled event. These products are the latest in the "Wave 14" product set, a ginormous (as my 9-year old says) overhaul of the Office product line. And they're beauts. Here's my (admittedly enthusiastic) analysis of what Microsoft has accomplished with this product.

  • The lion awakens and roars.

    Microsoft's Office business has taken a battering in the press as journalists chase stories about the important innovations from nimble startup competitors, open source alternatives, and Web-based productivity tools. But let's face it. Microsoft doesn't have 500,000,000 people using its tools for no reason. And while three years is a long time to wait for a product release (especially in this era of instant innovation via the Internet), Microsoft has re-confirmed its position as the most important driver of business productivity on the planet. This launch will crush the dreams of a 100 entrepreneurs and force another 1,000 to rethink their companies. That's okay. It's what happens when Microsoft turns a niche product for a geeky few into a global feature that anybody can use. As an economy, we need it.

  • The empowerment is real.

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RIM's Mobile Collaboration Platform Gets A Big Boost

I stopped down to RIM's WES (5,000 enterprise mobile pros, ISVs, and carriers) conference in Orlando yesterday. The company's been taking heat lately from Wall Street analysts who seem more interested in watching iPhones rise than tracking BlackBerry units shipped. What you as an information & knowledge management professional should care about is if RIM will be a strong partner in the future. At the conference, I saw six things that give me great confidence that RIM is future-proofing companies' investments in the BlackBerry platform:

  1. BES Express is basic BES for $0. And it's good enough for most employees in most industries. RIM says it's taking off, with 55,000 downloads of the server software since March. And according to RIM, it's designed to scale out to enterprise levels.
  2. BlackBerry 6 is the OS that you've been waiting for. While the mobile world was going WebKit browser, RIM was still Java-only. They've fixed that in the next version of the operating system, due out in Q3 2010. See the video clip for a sneak peak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlO8KMv7Bx4. It has a much better browser, better touchscreen features, and a cleaner interface. And with RIM's participation in Adobe's open screens initiative, I expect to see Flash support as well, something iPhone doesn't have.
  3. The Pearl 3G and a new Bold prove that RIM understands fashion and usability. Frankly, these devices are gorgeous. I've always loved the Pearl, but I got tired of the Edge network. With the Pearl 3G, and its optical track pad, 3G, Wi-Fi, better screen, it's a beauty with brains. And it fits into my pocket in a way that the iPhone just doesn't.
  4. RIM's carrier-focus means it will get the attention that you need in every market. 175 carriers. Enough said.
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With 4.0, Apple Is Listening To Enterprise Concerns

Apple yesterday announced OS 4.0, it's latest iPhone and iPad operating system. This release confirms what we believed last year: that Apple is actually listening to what enterprise IT needs from iPhones. Let's review the history:

  • July 2007. Apple launches iPhone with OS 1.0 as a consumer device without anything that companies require.
  • July 2008. Apple releases iPhone 3G with OS 2.0 and introduces Exchange support, including remote wipe, but little else that companies need. Even so, some firms allowed their employees to bring their own iPhones and get email support.
  • July 2009. Apple releases iPhone 3GS with OS 3.0 and hardware encryption and enough policy-based control to give IT professionals the ability to more comfortably support the devices, particularly in non-regulated industries. The big remaining gaps in 3.0 from our 100+ conversations with IT pros? The inability to distribute applications wirelessly, to push software and policy updates to the device, and to manage iPhones or iPads in the same way that BlackBerry Enterprise Server (or Server Express, the $0-cost version) does.
  • July 2010. Apple will release OS 4.0 that includes wireless app distribution, better data encryption, more APIs for device management, and a significicant number of enterprise features that are outlined below. For other details, check out these Forrester posts on consumer functions and on mobile advertising.
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Cisco's IME: Step One In Bringing B2B Voice & Video Into The Internet Era

You can use Internet protocols to make phone calls inside your own network. And you don't have to pay for the minutes. But you can't do the same thing with a business partner. Instead, you have to pay a carrier like BT or AT&T to carry the phone call over the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

 

(PSTN is an analog network born in 1878 when Bell opened a switching office in New Haven, CT. It's done us proud, but it's time to move to a digital network.)

 

It's even worse for video conferencing. If you want to have a video conference internally, you can use your IP network to do it. But if you want to do a video conference with a business partner, you have to use a complex business gateway link and pay a lot of money for it.
 
Cisco thinks it's time to change that. We spoke with Cisco executives Tony Bates, Barry O'Sullivan, and Joe Burton about Cisco's intercompany media engine (IME), a new technology to replace PSTN with its Internet equivalent. Cisco's goals are audacious:
 
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