Compelling Content Experiences Prove To Be Google And Microsoft's Rich Opportunity In 2014

In November 2013, we published a report laying out what will be the key points of differentiation between Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 by 2016. At the core of this report is a simple message: The value of these cloud collaboration suites isn't inexpensive email; their value is in their role as an interaction point for your business ecosystem. And at the center of each of these interactions is content of some sort -- contracts, marketing collateral, product specifications, customer records, and more. As more of this content lands in Google Drive and SkyDrive Pro, the market will reward the vendor that makes it easiest for information workers to author content, share it with others, manage its use and distribution, and be aware of any changes to this content. We call this combination of capabilities content services.

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Simple Isn't Always That Simple When Moving To Google Apps Or Office 365

I spent the past three months talking to Google and Microsoft professional services partners, as well as Google Apps and Office 365 clients, to better understand how cloud collaboration and productivity suites are implemented and the value clients get once they move into these environments. One word that came up quite a bit during these conversations was "simple." As in "We think moving to [Google Apps or Office 365] will simplify our [costs, IT management, user experience, etc.]." This got me thinking: Should CIOs think moving collaboration workloads to the cloud actually simplifies their job? Well...yes, but there's a but. Simplicity in these environments comes with costs. Business and IT leaders must be sure they're willing to pay them as a condition of getting the benefits of the cloud. So what does this mean?

  • These platforms simplify contracting if you can live with the standard service agreement. One Google client told us one of the reasons they rejected the incumbent players was because they felt the licensing agreements were "convoluted." Yes, cloud collaboration and productivity suite providers have straightforward per user pricing for clearly defined feature/function tiers. But the devil's in the details. These players are able to deliver highly efficient, low-cost services because they do not permit a lot of deviation from the standard service agreement. So, healthcare clients looking for business associates' agreements will not find a willing partner in Google.* And smaller enterprises that require a dedicated collaboration environment will find that Microsoft enforces a minimum seat count on Office 365's dedicated SKU.
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How Does A CIO Build The Workplace Of The Future?

Anyone who's been following this blog knows that I've invested a lot of time recently laying out the case for why CIOs should take more ownership over employee engagement and workforce experience. With the foundational argument in place, it's now time to turn to the critical question: How should an IT department act? This can be a paralyzing question because owning the workforce experience means IT leaders must step outside of traditional technology provisioning and maintenance roles. That's why the path forward for IT leaders is to implement a series of changes in how they view themselves, employees, and the technology landscape:

  • Pivot benchmarks to account for engagement's link with IT satisfaction. Traditional IT benchmarks concern the performance of the infrastructure and employees' satisfaction with the service they receive. These are indeed important measures, but they do not give a complete view of how technology helps engage employees. We recently published our benchmarks for workforce experience that lay out what CIOs should be evaluating in addition to their customary metrics. These include employee engagement measures, employee technology attitudes, where employees learn about technology and how IT plans align with employee expectations. Evaluating both IT and the workforce in such a fashion requires the buy-in of executives, particularly the head of HR who traditionally owns employee engagement and satisfaction surveys.
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The Five Questions We Don't Get About Office 365 And Google Apps But Should

The era of cloud-based collaboration technology is here. Forrester's last survey of collaboration software decision makers showed that 67% are planning to or already deploy collaboration software-as-a-service (SaaS). Buttressing this stat is the incredibly high volume of inquiries I've received over the past two quarters from business and IT leaders trying to decide between Microsoft technology and the Google portfolio. The questions were so numerous that we published a report to answer our clients' basic queries. The increased activity, however, obscures the fact that we're still in the early days. As our report shows, IT leaders are still trying to get acquainted with cloud technologies: What features are in the suite? Is it secure? Are businesses like mine using it? These are essential things to know, yes. But they don't fully tell the story of how a company can get the most out of a cloud collaboration and productivity suite implementation. So, as you examine Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Business, here are five more questions you need to address at the outset:

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Lessons From A CIO Forum Conversation On Employee Engagement

Yesterday afternoon, I moderated a panel on the role the IT department can play in the business's employee engagement efforts. Any follower of this blog knows that this is a topic I've talked about a lot lately (see previous posts here and here) because hiring, developing and retaining talented and productive employees is critical in the Age of the Customer. The panelists were Ed Flahive, Vice President Global Learning & Development at State Street, Mike Peterson, CIO and Vice President at CHG Healthcare Services, and Ray Velez, Chief Technology Officer at Razorfish. As you've probably observed, this was an eclectic group, representing human resources, IT and client delivery groups respectively. Well, that was on purpose. This topic requires perspectives from both business leaders and technologists. Having had 24 hours to think about that discussion, I thought I would share a few a-ha's I had from my conversation with these gentlemen:

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Engaged Employees Expect IT Leaders To Understand Their Needs

My colleague Simon Yates and I have spent a good bit of time recently discussing the role of IT in creating engaging experiences for employees. We've proposed that IT leaders concern themselves with helping business leaders convert that engagement into productive actions that achieve positive business outcomes, like good customer experiences and employees advocating for the company. But what does this mean for IT leaders in practice? Well, let's look at a group of employees who are currently creating the types of outcomes businesses seek: those willing to advocate for their business as a place to work and as a place to do business. According to our Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey, Q4 2012, around two-thirds of this group feel IT understands and meets their needs (see figure below).

These positive attitudes toward the IT department's performance stand in stark contrast to the views of employees who aren't achieving these outcomes. For example, while 65% of employee advocates are satisfied with the service they receive from the IT department, just 27% of employees not fully advocating for the company share a similar opinion. So what creates this chasm in opinion? We find clues when we look at some of the attitudes employee advocates have about what their organizations allow them to do:

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The CIO Is The Facilitator Of Engaging Employee Experiences

Employee engagement is a hot topic in many C-suites today. There's a growing body of research that says engaged employees are productive employees, contributing positively to the bottom line. Forrester's own workforce research shows those who feel supported by managers, respected for their efforts, and encouraged to be creative are more inclined to recommend the company as a workplace or a vendor. So, we see a debate within the upper echelons of organizations on how best to create engaging workforce experiences which give an employee's contributions meaning, provide the flexibility they require to be successful, and continuously develop the skills they need to serve customers. It's critical that the CIO is at the table during these conversations. Why? Regardless of the talent retention and management strategy, technology will be necessary to help unlock the potential within the workforce.

The CIO at a large software vendor with a reputation for great employee engagement said it best: "Technology is expected, but [business leaders] do not think about how it enables people." Technology is an ambient part of the workspace. Businesses outfit their workforces with a range of gadgets and give them access to numerous systems which facilitate interactions, manage orders, track projects, store data, and more. Of course, deficiencies in these corporate toolkits lead employees to find and embrace things like iPhones, Galaxy Tabs, Dropbox, and Evernote on their own. But has anyone given serious consideration to how these disparate tools come together to help engage employees so they can properly support the customer?

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Choosing Between Microsoft Office 365 And Google Apps Hinges On Your Belief In The Vendor's Vision

Over the last couple of years, I've fielded a number of inquiries from Forrester clients who are trying to decide whether their company should move their email and other collaboration workloads into the cloud via Google Apps for Business or Microsoft Office 365. This conversation has gained so much momentum that I recently did a podcast with my colleague Mike Gualtieri on the subject, will host a teleconference covering the topic on February 26, and will soon publish a report detailing answers to five of the common questions that we get about online collaboration and productivity suites (which include Office 365, Google Apps, and IBM SmartCloud for Social Business). Fueling this extended conversation are business and IT leaders' deliberations over one question: Is there a right or wrong in selecting one vendor's offering over the other? I'll use a typical analyst hedge to answer: It depends.

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SAS Uses Social Collaboration To Keep Employees Connected And Engaged

My colleague Ted Schadler and I published several case studies in our recent report, "The Road To Social Business Transformation Starts With A Burning Platform." What follows is one of those stories -- SAS's social collaboration platform, The Hub, designed to capture conversations that were leaking out into the public social sphere as employees attempted to share information. Here's the story:

SAS is a company noted for its focus on its people — it has appeared in every one of Fortune's lists of "100 Best Companies to Work For" during the list's 15-year history. And it's no wonder: SAS's perks include intramural sports leagues and a subsidized healthcare center. SAS's commitment to its people, though, goes beyond their health and well-being. The Cary, N.C., software vendor also wants to ensure that its people have tools that keep them connected and engaged, allowing them to stay productive and informed.

In 2009, this desire manifested itself in Senior Director of Internal Communications Karen Lee's push for creating a new platform for the corporate intranet. IT Senior Director Tom Sherrod and his team had worked closely with Karen and her team to roll out an intranet with many embedded tools, such as blogs and wikis. But Karen and company felt something was missing — they wanted a "more social intranet" that provided more information about people, such as pictures.

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Symantec Engages Customers And Prospects Through A Social Media Command Center

My colleague Ted Schadler and I published several case studies in our recent report, "The Road To Social Business Transformation Starts With A Burning Platform." What follows is one of those stories -- Symantec's creation and roll-out of a social media initiative designed to funnel data from the social media sphere into the business to improve responsiveness to market trends. Here's the story:

Tristan Bishop, director of digital strategy at Symantec, knew something very important: If you listen to your customers, you can create a great experience that leads to customer loyalty. Of course, this knowledge was useless unless he could find a way to get the issues customers raised to the group within Symantec that could take appropriate action. So, in June 2011, Tristan worked with his manager, David Sward, senior director of user experience, to propose a plan to Symantec executives for exploring ways to uncover areas for customer experience improvements in social media. Symantec subsequently funded the project.

Around the time that Tristan was experimenting with social listening technology, Ellen Hayes, group manager, corporate communications and social strategy, and the social media team were working on a social listening initiative of their own for brand reputation management and public relations purposes. When they learned of what Tristan was doing, an idea emerged — they should marry their efforts to Tristan's.

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