Bill Pray

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Bill Pray
Research Director
2 years at Gartner
16 years IT industry

Bill Pray is an analyst in the Collaboration and Content Strategies ITP team. He covers communications and collaboration solutions — e-mail, calendars, instant messaging, and web conferencing…Read Full Bio

Cataloging and Executing on the Mobile Productivity Opportunities

by Bill Pray  |  March 24, 2013  |  Comments Off

Last week I was part of a team that spent four days consolidating and analyzing more than a thousand data points from research we have been conducting regarding how iPads (and tablets in general) are being used for productivity within the enterprise. There seems to be a ton of advice and research about mobile in terms of architecture, security, application development and management for enterprises, but we found that when you have all of that in place, what does it matter unless the users can and will actually use mobile devices to get work done?

Through the project, we set out to discover how organizations are grappling with mobile productivity. A participant in our research project succinctly captured the current state of affairs in most enterprises:

“A lot of work is being done this year to catalog the mobile opportunities.”

One concept that appears to be surfacing from the research is the differentiation between mobile opportunities for content consumption and content creation. It appears that many organizations are making distinctions between those who need mobile for consumption and those who need mobile for creation. That distinction is impacting what opportunities they are pursuing in terms of devices, mobile applications, access and BYOD.

How are you cataloging your mobile opportunities?

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Category: Uncategorized     Tags:

Evaluating SaaS Providers Webinar

by Bill Pray  |  January 21, 2013  |  Comments Off

Join me on Wednesday this week for a presentation on guidance for evaluating your SaaS providers:

Please join for a complimentary Gartner webinar.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Evaluating Public SaaS Cloud Providers

Presented by: Bill Pray

EST: 10:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m. | PST: 10:00 a.m. | GMT: 15:00 & 18:00

The promise of utility computing from SaaS cloud providers is tempting: cost savings, less infrastructure and more agility. However, picking the right provider with the right services can be difficult. The SaaS solution landscape consists of a range of offerings – from nascent to mature. The key to success is building a cloud strategy with evaluation criteria that mitigates risks and meets needs.

In this webinar, you will learn:

  • How should SaaS cloud providers be evaluated?
  • What are the facts that IT needs to know about SaaS solutions?
  • What are the misconceptions about SaaS solutions?

After registering you will receive a confirmation email with a calendar invite and instructions on how to join the webinar.

View all upcoming webinars



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Category: Cloud     Tags: , ,

Evaluating SaaS: What are the Buckets?

by Bill Pray  |  January 9, 2013  |  Comments Off

It is interesting to note that the term bucket is used in several ways with technology. Wikipedia lists the technical uses of the term bucket.

Bucket is also a useful metaphor when trying to figure out how to evaluate a software as a service (SaaS) provider and solution. What are the “buckets” for evaluation requirements? As the Wikipedia article states: “A bucket must exist before anything can be put into it.”

The buckets for an IT professional are a bit different than some of the counterparts in an enterprise – e.g. the legal team or purchasing – when evaluating SaaS providers and solutions.

In my conversations with enterprises, the most common buckets that IT professionals create for SaaS evaluation criteria are:

  • Business criteria
    • Pricing and billing
    • Service levels and service level agreements
    • Support and communication
  • Technical criteria
    • Identity
    • Integration
    • Management
    • Security
    • Storage
    • Network

Putting criteria into these buckets then becomes a time consuming and significant undertaking – an exercise that I have been working on for that last several months. Keep in mind, this list excludes the SaaS solution specific buckets such as user experience, clients, solution features, and mobile support.

The key is to ensure it doesn’t become “bit buckets”, as defined by Wikipedia as someplace where something goes to disappear irreversibly, but rather “documentation buckets” in which criteria can be added or modified based on the latest information and requirements.

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Category: Cloud     Tags: , ,

Software as a Service or On-premises?

by Bill Pray  |  November 12, 2012  |  Comments Off

Shamelessly borrowing a bit from Shakespeare – SaaS or on-premises? That is the question.

This question is becoming more common place regarding applications that have been previously restricted to or best deployed in an on-premises software implementation.

The answer requires a two-pronged evaluation:

1. Identification of the enterprise’s requirements for the application

2. Evaluation of the SaaS and/or software provider

Through identification of the enterprise’s requirements for an application, IT can compare the SaaS version of an application to the on-premises version and scorecard them against the enterprise’s requirements – e.g. How does it fit into business process? Is it mission critical? If yes, how is it mission critical?, What features are required? Who needs to use it? And so forth…

Evaluation of a SaaS provider can get a bit tricky, however. Enterprises must develop their own set of core requirements based on their intended use and needs for the applications. The key to a successful evaluation and assessment is transparency from the cloud providers in response to questions and criteria presented by an informed enterprise IT team. Otherwise, the enterprise is susceptible – to borrow from Shakespeare again – to suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

“To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,

Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles…

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Category: Cloud     Tags: ,

Marketing 101 & 3CS: Children and Puppies

by Bill Pray  |  May 1, 2012  |  Comments Off

Marketing loves to use children and puppies (or other cute animals). With the rise of social networking, the enterprise communication, collaboration, content and social (3CS) software vendors are not immune to marketing with children and puppies when it comes to touting the benefits of their social capabilities. Children and puppies make great, feel good social software stories.

Don’t get me wrong – marketing folks are smart and the stories are real. Its just that unless you are in the business of helping children and/or puppies, it is important you separate the emotional appeal from your business requirements.

I attended a vendor’s presentation at a conference where the vendor brought a customer success story on stage that was about helping children. It was touching, and judging by the stream of tweets, very personal for numerous members of the audience (including myself) who personally had experience with sick children.

But the analyst in me had to roll back and examine the content: What were the technologies used and why? How exactly did they facilitate the business case and achieve the objective of helping children? What are the alternatives and are any of them better?

The problem was that is not what the presentation was about – it was about telling the story of helping children (which it did quite effectively). What it didn’t effectively say was how can this presentation help a customer to see how these solutions can help their business.

Enterprise 3CS can help children and puppies, but IT professionals need to be wary of vendor marketing and understand what their business is trying to accomplish. Take a step back and recognize the power of the emotional appeal.

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Category: Strategic Planning     Tags: , , , , ,

Enterprise Instant Messaging: Going, Going, Gone?

by Bill Pray  |  April 25, 2012  |  Comments Off

Successful implementation of enterprise IM has hinged on the use case. If use cases are found that the users adopt and value, then EIM becomes important.

Understanding use cases, business benefits, and technical architecture leads to optimized implementation. EIM implementation can be complex and cause the IT department to wonder if the benefit is worth the effort. However, EIM can make an organization more agile and responsive by offering capabilities such as chat, back-channel communication, low-key interruption, presence, and a rich address book.

However, is enterprise social messaging EIM’s better replacement?

Does the social messaging activity stream mean the doom of enterprise instant messaging?

To start answering the questions, it is helpful to identify the differences between enterprise EIM and social messaging:

  • EIM – Usually 1:1 text-based, synchronous (real-time) messages
  • Social messaging – Usually 1:Many text-based, synchronous messages

However, generally, both can do 1:1 or 1:Many.

  • EIM – Enterprise presence (e.g. online, offline, available, busy, etc. The colored indicators of red, green and yellow)
  • Social messaging – Contextual presence (Where someone is, what they are doing, why they are doing it and how they feel about it)


  • EIM – Mature
  • Social messaging – Nascent


  • EIM – Some federation ability to connect to consumer and competing enterprise solutions; some standards available for federation (e.g XMPP)
  • Social messaging – No generally accepted standards, yet


  • EIM – Integrations available with many other enterprise solutions including telephony and web conferencing; a key technology in a unified communications solution
  • Social Messaging – Beneficial integrations still a work-in-progress

Are these differences substantive enough to declare that IM is on its way out?

The technologist in me says “no” in that each solution has advantages. However, looking at the consumer landscape as a bellwether, it certainly seems that IM is on its way out – or rather, on its way in as an integrated component to social messaging (e.g. Facebook Chat).

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Category: Instant Messaging     Tags: , , , ,

Field Research: Listening, Distilling, and Creating

by Bill Pray  |  April 18, 2012  |  Comments Off

A picture is worth a thousand words – in this case pretty much literally. One of the methodologies we use to conduct research in Gartner for Technical Professionals is something that was developed and refined by our group over the last few years called “Field Research.” This picture is from the field research I led on email systems management. This is a photo of the consolidation and interpretation phase. This is only one corner of a room with four corners…

I recently spent a week working on the consolidation and interpretation of our field research on cloud use and adoption. The field research process is fascinating. You start by doing an awful lot of listening. Then you search and identify valuable snippets (one to two sentences) of information based on what you heard. Then you classify, categorize and identify patterns. Then you tell the story. And finally, – our twist on the process – you analyze. Out of it comes insight and problem solving.

You also have to get along with several colleagues in a small room, generally with few windows. You learn a lot about your fellow team members. For example, I love Elden’s personal blog: I was also made an honorary team member of the Data Center Strategies team. They even gave me a plastic cup to prove it:

Obviously, we spent too much time in the small room.

Look for the findings from this research to surface in numerous documents over the next several months. For my part, the findings will be incorporated into an upcoming document on evaluating and selecting your software-as-a-service 3CS (communication, collaboration, content and social) vendors. Also, the findings will be presented as part of several of my presentations at our upcoming Catalyst conference (warning – official marketing pitch – register now to enjoy the San Diego sun and the wealth of information).

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Category: Cloud Strategic Planning Uncategorized     Tags: , , ,

Web Conferencing: More Than It Used to Be…

by Bill Pray  |  April 11, 2012  |  Comments Off

Citrix announced today the acquisition of Podio – aptly described as a collaborative work platform. This fits well with the Citrix Online business (e.g. the GoTo product set – Meeting, Webinar, Training, Assist and Manage). It also matches well with Citrix Online’s targeted small and medium business strategy. And it also continues to match Citrix up against one of its primary competitors: VMware – who added Zimbra and Socialcast to its product portfolio in the last couple of years. Citrix will need to invest in Podio to develop it into an enterprise-class solution, but Citrix has a decent track record of doing that with the GoTo product line.

However, it also highlights a trend in the web conferencing market: web conferencing can’t be just about web conferencing anymore.

Adobe, Cisco, IBM and Microsoft – major web conferencing vendors – have all added or developed SaaS collaborative work platforms over the last several years that complement or incorporate their web conferencing technologies. The convergence of collaborative work spaces with web conferencing is natural, as the idea of persistent web conferencing spaces evolves into a collaborative workspace with data storage capabilities – with the added social twist of features like activity streams.

The convergence is still a work-in-progress, however. Although the vendors provide web conferencing and collaborative workspaces, the integrations are still on the light side. Vendors are still trying to figure out the value of subsumed web conferencing within collaborative workspaces and not give up their existing web conferencing revenue. Furthermore, getting one vendor’s web conferencing technology to work with another vendor’s collaborative workspace is nearly impossible given the lack of standards for web conferencing. Therefore, if you want to mix and match, you sacrifice integration.

Another challenge is the delivery model. Web conferencing is primarily consumed through software-as-a-service (SaaS), with little concern for content security and compliance issues because the data shared in a web conference generally does not persist on the SaaS providers data stores (unless there is a specific choice to do so). SaaS collaborative workspaces bring persistent content storage in a third party data center, which in turn, brings the challenges and questions about data security, compliance, management and ownership. All issues that web conferencing solutions have not had to address at any significant level.

Adding to the complexity is the development and evolution of enterprise social software tools. Activity streams, blogs, wikis, profiles, communities, etc. are part of the convergence and, based on recent field research by our team (led by Larry Cannell), many enterprises and their IT teams are still grappling with the challenges to incorporate enterprise social software into the enterprise environment.

In sum, web conferencing is not just web conferencing anymore.

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Category: Cloud web conferencing     Tags: , , , ,

by Bill Pray  |  September 14, 2011  |  Comments Off

If you ask an IT professional to define presence, you may get something along the lines of:

What Is Presence?

The term “presence” is frequently associated with instant messaging (IM). The basic definition for presence is information that conveys the ability and interest of a user to communicate with another user (or users). For many people, the predominantly manual status settings included in popular consumer IM clients (e.g., Google Talk, Windows Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger) are their first experience with presence.

Gartner ITP research document: Enterprise Presence: Luxury or Necessity? (Requires subscription)

However, if you ask the average information worker, you might be greeted with a blank look. What is really interesting is to ask them to find a co-worker’s availability or ask them how they would find out if they could contact a co-worker at this moment. Do they check an IM client to see a red or green button? Do they grab a mobile phone and call them? Do they SMS instead of call? Do they check their email client? Do they go to a social software web page and look at an activity stream?

Do these options (and many others) change the basic definition of presence? How does an enterprise glean value out of presence if the definition is changing? Does the introduction of contextual presence from social streams – e.g. a Facebook entry that says I am in my office today, working on a huge project, but I am looking forward to lunch with my family and will be taking the afternoon off to take them to a ballgame – change the landscape for presence?

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Category: Communication     Tags: , , , , , , ,

Acquisitions: Pain in Compromise

by Bill Pray  |  August 11, 2011  |  Comments Off

While discussing email upgrade planning with some very sharp folks in a large, global enterprise this week, one of the strategists noted: “With acquisitions, there is pain in compromise.” He was explaining some of the difficulties in moving to an enterprise-wide email system given that the enterprise had been growing with several acquisitions, many of which still operated IT somewhat independently.

For IT, integrating new acquisitions is an exercise with “pain in compromise.” Enterprise IT often does not receive the resources or information on acquisitions early because of legal and compliance issues. But IT is expected to integrate the new acquisitions rapidly, particularly with communications technologies, in order to speed the absorption into and value of the acquisition to the parent company. Rarely is this an easy task based on the conversations with the IT professionals tasked with this duty. In one enterprise I spoke with, acquisitions resulted in 5 different email environments, which they are still trying to reconcile over a period of years – not months. Mergers and acquisitions wreak havoc with email topology and organizational structure.

There is no easy answer because, as one IT architect explained, the executive team isn’t going to decide to acquire or not to acquire based on IT’s ability to integrate the new acquisition into existing systems. The best IT can do is have a good grasp on its abilities to expand existing systems and create generic plans for integrating new acquisitions when they happen. Ultimately, IT has to find the “pain in compromise.”

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Category: e-mail Strategic Planning     Tags: ,