Craig Roth

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Craig Roth
Managing Vice President: Communication, Collaboration, and Content
4 years at Gartner
25 years IT industry

Craig Roth is a vice president and service director for Gartner Research, in Burton Group's Collaboration and Content Strategies service. Mr. Roth covers a wide range of knowledge and Web-related topics at the intersection of collaboration, content… Read Full Bio

Confused by Office 365? Gartner for Tech Professionals to the Rescue!

by Craig Roth  |  May 20, 2014  |  4 Comments

If you’re confused by Office 365, you’re not alone. Many organizations are now exploring it and have questions about features, infrastructure (such as how secure it is or service levels), and architecting hybrid solutions. Today I just want to outline some of the great materials we’ve got for you in Gartner for Technical Professionals.

A good place to start is the webinar Guy Creese just did called “The Hidden Gotchas of Office 365.” The replay link is here.

We’ll be covering Office 365 in depth at our upcoming Catalyst Conference (August 11-14 in Los Angeles). These sessions will be helpful for anyone considering or implementing Office 365:

  • Which Is Better for Our Organization: Google Apps or Office 365?
  • Does Office 365 Meet Production-Grade Enterprise Requirements?
  • IAM Guide to Office 365
  • Office 365 Versus Mobile Productivity: Gaps, Issues and Work-Arounds
  • SaaS SLAs, Support, Pricing and Licensing: The IT Professional’s Role and Challenges
  • Securing Sensitive SaaS With Cloud Access Security Brokers
  • Should You Leverage Exchange, Lync or Both in the Cloud?
  • How to Plan and Implement a Hybrid Exchange Solution

And, of course, we have lots of the in depth research we’re known for. Clients can check out:

  • Microsoft’s Changing Social Software Strategy: Yammer, SharePoint and the Role of Cloud Services Within Office
  • What IT Needs to Know About Office 365: In-Depth Assessment
  • What IT Needs to Know About Office 365: Features and Functionality
  • Cloud Suites for Collaboration: Assessing Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps and IBM SmartCloud for Social Business
  • Preparing Your IAM Environment for Working With Azure AD and Office 365

And if all that doesn’t answer your question, please call client services and set up a call! We’re here to help.

4 Comments »

Category: CatalystNA14 Cloud GartnerCAT Google Microsoft Office Microsoft SharePoint     Tags:

Being Digitally Smart in a Digitally Impaired Organization

by Craig Roth  |  April 11, 2014  |  4 Comments

PwC just released its 6th Annual Digital IQ Survey. In it they define 5 behaviors of high-performing organizations and state:

If you want to boost your company’s performance, raise your Digital IQ by developing these five behaviors.

That’s great advice for the executives that can “create a common talent framework to manage and develop those in digital roles” or help their CEO become “an active champion in the use of IT to achieve business strategy”.

But what about the poor folks in the trenches that know the smart thing to do, but don’t have the ability to raise “Digital IQ” (to borrow their term)? You can pester the executives about it, but trying more than once is a career limiting move.

You can aim for their hearts by pointing out that “those businesses … that have a strong Digital IQ … were 2.2 times more likely to be top-performers in revenue growth, profitability, and innovation.” but don’t be surprised if the causality is turned around. Sure, if your company was swimming in growth, profit, and innovation it would be easier to make IT platform investments, raise the priority of digital projects, and risk jumping onto leading-edge outside-in approaches. But most organizations aren’t doing so well (or don’t let on that they are). As one client worded it to me “We’re in HD: hunker down mode”.

So, to be a bit crass, how do you accomplish digitally smart things in a digitally impaired company? According to the study, 80% of companies rated themselves as having a less than “excellent” Digital IQ. Siginificantly increasing an organization’s ability to understand, value, and embed technology in critical business processes takes a long time. In the meantime there are major trends that need to be addressed in 2014 to stay competitive – cloud, mobile, social, and the leveraging of information.

I wish I had a step-by-step list on how to get past this conundrum, but that’s more an art than a science. It is painful to act in a high digital IQ way in a low digital IQ organization.

As an analyst I don’t get to pick just the most advanced clients, nor do I get to just say their problem is low digital IQ and raising it would help them with their collaboration system rollout or mobile UC project. The approach (“answer” is too strong) is to adjust the “best practices” approaches for the environment. That may mean extending timelines, dividing the project into smaller steps (by technology or by group), and reducing scope/expectations. Success measurements may have to be more pedestrian (such as number of users, amount of usage, time saved in one inefficient process) rather than lofty measures that require a high Digitial IQ such as engagement.

And, above all, patience. A single project of advanced sophistication can act as a beacon for others in a company whose executives think “we’re not Google”. When it becomes clear that the right people can apply wonderful technology to their problems using existing skills and staff, the wheels of progress can start to turn and a vision of a smarter company can result.

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Category: Business cases Organization     Tags:

Should Smartphones Have Home/Work Switch on the Side?

by Craig Roth  |  April 3, 2014  |  7 Comments

Yes, smartphones should have a home/work switch on the side.

Just thought I’d get to the point quickly in case you’re reading this at work. According to the Wall St. Journal in “People for Whom One Cellphone Isn’t Enough“, many people carry two devices to avoid getting distracted. Consider a few examples from the article:

“I would pick up the phone for something else and I would see a work email, and I would feel the temptation to get involved,” says the 28-year-old Encinitas, Calif., resident.

Erica Robbins, a 33-year-old production manager in Los Angeles, says … “I don’t want to be distracted by anything that’s not work-related,” Ms. Robbins says.

I’ve got a better idea – work a home/work switch into the phone. I’m picturing a physical toggle switch. Then you would tag contacts as personal or work. Most contact lists let you do this already. If the switch is in “home” mode, it uses the “home” notification profile which by default has a ringtone for personal contacts and a ringtone of “silent” for work. Vice-versa for work.

This can go further. The home/work switch would change:

  • Background image and theme: There is a psychological benefit to resonating with the user’s “home” or “work” modality and the look of the phone can help
  • Presence status: In “home” mode I show as green/available to personal contacts and red/unavailable to work)
  • Icons: While in “work” mode the apps shown are, perhaps, access to SAP, a few apps my employer created for customers, Salesforce.com, some custom apps. In “home” mode I see Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds, Vine, Instagram. Twitter may appear in both since I use it for both
  • Geolocation: I may want to be locatable in one mode and go dark in the other
  • Passcode: Perhaps having a different passcode for home and work could alleviate some concern about someone causing mischief at a party doing something to embarass you at work when your phone is on the table. And someone peeking at your phone at work if it’s active and you’re not looking couldn’t peek at your personal info. This one’s a stretch and would take more work to flesh out, if it’s doable at all
  • Email accounts: Email accounts are designated as personal or work and show up in their respective modes
  • Voicemail: Calls would be partitioned to home or work based upon the caller’s profile (or in both if it’s an unprofiled caller) and would only show as red when in their matching mode.
  • Exceptions: There would be a third “both” category for those deemed important enough, like a spouse or the boss if desired.

Many elements of the phone would need to be re-architected. But if users are actually maintaining two sets of physical devices, there seems to be enough need to consider it. Imagine seeing people going down the elevator at the end of the day and happily flipping that switch to home, seeing their child’s face switch as the background with all the personal apps they now want, and knowing they won’t be bothered by work until flipping the switch back in the morning. Ahhh!

The home/work toggle switch could help the people that are avoiding distractions, like the two examples above. It wouldn’t help if you have diffferent needs (keyboard, screen size), like the redundancy of two devices, or have a work/life division that’s too murky to trust to metadata.

As an attention management tool, our smartphones could use a little hinting about what is important or distracts us, and the simple home/work division is common enough that there could be many people that would benefit.

What do you think? If the kinks could be worked out, would you push your IT department to include this phone on their approved list?

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Category: Attention Management Information work Mobile     Tags:

SharePoint Conference 2014: Attention Management

by Craig Roth  |  March 20, 2014  |  3 Comments

One pleasant surprise in the SharePoint keynotes was a recognition of the issue of attention management. Jeff Teper said one of his passions is “information overload,” the topic that eventually leads one to attention management once they’ve calmed down from the hysteria of “overload.” I found a bit more on the Office Blog, where Jeff Teper wrote:

“we believe personalized and proactive insights are required to cut through the noise. As humans, we have an incredible ability to achieve—but only if we can focus. And we need technology to help us, so that we can focus our energies on accomplishing big things.”

Jared Spetaro, GM of Office product marketing, said “We believe in personal insights that can be heard when you cut through the noise.”

Well, Mr. Teper and Mr. Spetaro, we share this passion. SharePoint has great promise to alleviate the overload of email, but also threatens to make a bad situation worse when no one can find anything in a sprawling SharePoint mess. Yes, SharePoint can get so bad its users long for the days when everything was sent around in email – at least that way the information was targeted at you!

If you really want to help attention management in SharePoint, how about:

  • An Attention API . Change operations include tweaking of relative importance, whitelists and blacklists, privacy requests, trust/access settings, timeframe resets (such as taking a new role). Query operations include different wants of retrieving relevance rankings.
  • An open XML format for exchanging attention information to make it easier for the full set of applications in a user’s worklife to participate in utilizing and refining the user’s profile. This would be an updated version of the dormant APML (Attention Profiling Mark-up Language). This is needed since an attention profile that only includes a subset of the user’s activities based on market boundaries, and it only usable from within one interface will always be hamstrung.
  • Apply my Attention Management System Conceptual Architecture to look across all inputs, processing, and outputs instead of relying on architects of small parts of the system to build their own ideas in without a view of the overall attentional system. As an example, see how the EAM was applied to email. I think that when enhancing SharePoint, Microsoft tends to see each button and field as a feature request to be prioritized against all others. That means they don’t accommodate value of chains of features that, in isolation are not being requested or seem high impact, but are important when taken as a chain connecting to a common goal. Addressing attention management will require valuing a slew of inter-related features as being greater than the sum of their parts.
  • The activity stream of Yammer is a great start for plugging all the sensors into. But I want to see a full set of controls for filtering them: thumbs up and down (like gmail), filters, user-defined thresholds for alerts, subscribe/unsubscribe, sharing of attentional profiles (per agreed-upon privacy constraints). I wrote about this in 2011: If You Thought Your Inbox Was Overloaded, Wait Until Activity Streams Enterprise Attention Management can yield significant performance improvements to organizations and SharePoint has many opportunities to succeed (or fail). Microsoft seems to recognize these issues, which is a good sign. I’ll be looking to the product to actually realize this vision.

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Category: Attention Management Microsoft SharePoint SPC14     Tags:

SharePoint Conference 2014: Work This Way

by Craig Roth  |  March 13, 2014  |  3 Comments

This year, SharePoint Conference attendees were impelled to “Work like a network”. Listen, Adapt and Grow. Work this way (as our software is designed) and you’ll be more productive.

This could just be linguistic nitpicking. You have to be brief in messaging, and there could be an implied “when you work like a network you will Grow” rather than it being a command. Or it’s messaging meant for the attendees to pass on since the speakers are mostly preaching to the choir at this conference. But I sense some hubris building around IT (and a vendor at that) knowing the smarter way to work.

Work like a network

Even if I believe organizations can get collaborative work done more efficiently with activity steams and social graphs (which I do) that doesn’t mean I have the ability to make it happen. Change management is a dark art. And a practitioner must throw a lot of things into a cauldron to change how people work. Technology is certainly an enabler, but there’s also top-down messaging and setting a good example, bottom-up interest, metrics and incentives, visioning, business process redesign, HR implications, regulatory restrictions, and dealing with the winners and losers in the new way of work. And probably a warty frog and pinch of Eye of Newt for good measure because the same ingredients that work in one situation often fail in another.

Humans are social by nature. Solitary confinement is considered punishment for a reason. We were working like a network long before computers existed and before we were told to. The compelling argument to me is that now the software can finally do what you naturally want to anyways, and fit seamlessly into your ways of work, rather than forcing you to change how you work to fit the software.

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Category: Collaboration Microsoft SharePoint Social software SPC14     Tags:

SharePoint Conference 2014: The SharePoint Forecast is … Cloudy

by Craig Roth  |  March 11, 2014  |  2 Comments

I just got back from the SharePoint Conference 2014 in Las Vegas, which was surprisingly exciting. I say “surprisingly” because tech conferences are generally rather humdrum in the years between releases. But one impact of the cloud era is that conferences become more exciting on a regular basis. Changes can be made at any time, and often without the fanfare of a big release, so it helps to have the vendor walk you through it.

Of course, this year the buzz was about the move to the cloud itself. Is it suitable for every company? Are we going to be forced to go there if we don’t want to? How viable is the hybrid option? What capabilities will I gain and lose?

My Gartner peers and I are still hammering out an official position on the conference that will show up soon. I think it’s clear Microsoft is placing big bets on the cloud and making statements to shift a lot more SharePoint business there.

From talking to attendees and partners, I sensed a lot of mixed messages and uncertainty. Jeff Teper said he wanted to “lower the friction …” of moving to Office 365 and allow you to move there “at your own pace.” Great, but “at your own pace” conflicts with saying they aren’t committing to another on premises release after 2015 and that improvements will show up earlier (and possibly only) in O365. As for exactly how many future improvements you’ll be missing out on by staying on premise (or going with hosted PaaS SharePoint, which uses the on prem code), you know it will be some but can’t say how much.

Change is difficult. It’s difficult for the users, the partners, and, yes, even for vendors. I don’t think there is a secret roadmap – just a vision of where Microsoft wants to take SharePoint. It’s a good vision, but getting there will be tricky. There are still technical details to be ironed out, from customization capabilities to data center locations to the ability to leverage a content delivery network (CDN). There’s a strong suspicion this isn’t a win-win-win proposition for users, partners, and Microsoft. And at many organizations, IT doesn’t own the risk and trust assessment – that’s the purview of the Chief Compliance Officer, Chief Security Officer, or Legal group and the regulatory environment, precedents, and messaging aren’t in line with what they need to see to approve a SaaS move.

To say the future direction of SharePoint is “cloudy” is true on many levels.

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Category: Microsoft Office Microsoft SharePoint SPC14     Tags:

What I’m Looking For Out of SharePoint Conference 2014

by Craig Roth  |  February 26, 2014  |  2 Comments

I’m looking forward to the SharePoint Conference next week in Las Vegas. Not only because it is currently 50 degrees warmer than Chicago, but because there is more going on than usual for an “inbetween year” when there’s no new release to announce.

In particular, I hope to learn about:

  • Hybrid cloud: We all know what SharePoint 2013 on premises does, and I know Microsoft can wax poetically about Office 365, but what about that grey area between the two? What is the future of SharePoint on Azure, or AWS? O365 with workflows running on Azure? O365 with content repositories on premises or at another hoster? SharePoint on Azure but custom code running on premises? There’s a lot of interest in points between the two destinations most often discussed.
  • Mobile without tears: Sure, you can develop a mobile interface to anything in SharePoint. But for organizations with thousands of sites and end users that thought they were finally free of the yoke of IT, treating mobilization as an individual development project for each site is unrealistic. What is the power user or end user story for click-and-dragging their way to a usable mobile site?
  • A reusable deployment plan: Pretty much all the sessions I’ve seen in the agenda focus on a specific aspect of SharePoint, and maybe even how to plan a piece of it such as records management or adoption. But where is one view of the overall plan – everything you have to do to go from nothing to a successful SharePoint implementation? There’s the index in TechNet, Product Line Architecture, Microsoft Operations Framework, Premium Support Services and consulting probably have something. I’m looking for the best, most complete view I can find since I’m writing the Solution Path for SharePoint at Gartner and like to compare to other plans. I haven’t found one I consider complete yet, but will be looking for that at the conference.
  • Forking: 2014 feels like it will be the year the capablities of on premise and SaaS SharePoint start to diverge. When first released, O365 didn’t do everything SharePoint Server could do, which was expected. But as improvements are added, how many are showing up just in O365? And is that because they don’t make sense on premise or for more sinister reasons: that on premise just isn’t as important anymore? If the two versions will fork, it will start with minor features and lags in release dates between the two, but could eventually add up to have and have-nots.

And last, but not least, I hope to test out keynote speaker Bill Clinton’s sysadmin credentials. I’ll be the guy in the back raising my hand and asking him how to configure authentication for a provider hosted app. Oh, I know, I just want to see if you know Mr. President! It should be a fun time!

2 Comments »

Category: Microsoft SharePoint     Tags:

Opening for SharePoint Industry Analyst

by Craig Roth  |  February 20, 2014  |  1 Comment

Do you love working hands on as a SharePoint architect, but are wondering what the next step is in your career? If twiddling bits with SharePoint is your day job while blogging, writing books, helping peers, and speaking at conferences is your hobby, why not switch those around? You could be an industry analyst!

I just posted an opening on my Collaboration and Content team in Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP). We mostly talk to IT folk like SharePoint owners, solution architects, and project managers. I want someone who has gotten hands dirty working with SharePoint 2013 (doing topology, capacity planning, farm architecture, hybrid on-premise and cloud storage and identity, scripting and coded development, mobile access). This candidate would want a change of pace to now focus on writing on best practices, helping clients with strategic SharePoint issues, and speaking at worldwide Gartner conferences like Catalyst, Portals Collaboration and Content Summit, and Symposium.

You’ll have a chance to work with a great team in GTP. There are already four of us that work on SharePoint research, but growth in GTP and SharePoint has created an opportunity for a new team member! You work from home (when not travelling, which is 15%+ of the time), although Gartner may have an office nearby you can use if you’re in a big city. You do have to be U.S. based for this position.

You can read the description here .

I’m going to be at the SharePoint conference in Las Vegas in March, so if you’re interested (or think you might be and want to talk about it) please drop me a line and maybe we can meet up. If there are several folks interested I can set up a meet and greet to let you ask questions in a more casual setting.

1 Comment »

Category: Microsoft SharePoint     Tags:

‘Her’ – A Tech Movie Review

by Craig Roth  |  January 6, 2014  |  1 Comment

You won’t find many movie reviews on the Gartner Blog Network. Our Tomatometer is reserved for technology practices and products. But every now and then a movie comes along that provides some intuition around trends that are important for technology strategists, and “Her” is one of them.

In brief, the movie is about a man that falls in love with a Siri-to-the-nth-degree digital assistant and stars Joaquin Phoenix and a disembodied Scarlett Johansson.

I was interested to see an idealized, future vision of a digital assistant. There are three tricks that Samantha (the name of the digital assistant or “OS”) uses to provide technical value to Theodore (Mr Phoenix’s character). They can be seen in terms of the Enterprise Attention Management issues of filtering, notification, and agency.

The first thing Samantha does to endeer herself to Theodore is to clean up his email inbox. She says something to the effect of “You had 2286 emails. There’s only 86 you need. I’ll throw the rest away, OK?” The audience all chuckled at this line. Yes, it seems that if you’re trying to quickly demonstrate a superior, futuristic intelligence, you have it clean out an inbox. I hope we don’t have to wait until the future to clean out our inboxes, but it’s nice to know agents will eventually do it for us if we don’t get it done in the meantime.

Second, Samantha acts as a highly effective notification agent, notifying Theodore when a really urgent email comes in, which happens a few times during the film. Her tone also conveys the urgency, contrasted with the bored tone she uses to refer to the uninteresting emails that come in. Spam filtering has been taken to a whole new level!

Third, she takes actions on his behalf – quite successfully. I won’t ruin any plot points, but this ability to actually take action on behalf of the user requires a level of trust that computers haven’t earned from us quite yet.

Of course, the trust relationship is at the technological heart of the film. Showing how Samantha is able to interact with, understand, and earn the trust and emotional connection of its user (I typed “her” the first time!) is what enables the rest of “Her” to play out. And that is what is painfully lacking from the automated assistants we have today.

This is enabled through perfect anthropomorphism, personalization (to the point of mirroring), and empathy. I don’t think I’ve known a human whose voice was as perfectly expressive as Scarlett Johansson’s in this movie, let alone a text-to-speech engine.

Of course, I realize the movie is really a way to examine how humans relate and the differences between what they want and need in relationships, not an exploration of attention management through the use of artificial agents and notification engines. But if you can gain a little intuition on the side that may be helpful at work, that’s just one more reason to see this wonderful movie.

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Category: Attention Management Fun     Tags:

Want to Work With No Interruptions, No Meetings, and No Email? You Can on December 31st

by Craig Roth  |  December 24, 2013  |  1 Comment

What would it be like to work without interruptions like meetings, calls, and people stopping by? And without distractions like email? For a lot of people, it’s like working on December 31st.

If your office is like mine, it gets more and more empty after Christmas. The only people working are those without excess vacation time, kids out of school, and out-of-town relatives requiring a visit or visiting. Everyone else is gone, leaving the office and the email inbox eerily quiet. If you work in a business that has end of year panic, like retail or sales/financial, then maybe (if you’re lucky) this quiet date happens just after the calendar year close.

Given the choice, I’d prefer to take off a date just after New Year’s when I’m dodging a war zone, rather than the quiet dates before it. For me, the days from Christmas to New Year’s are the easiest working days I’ll have!

Then again, I’m not as productive as I imagine I’ll be with no interruptions. Without the pressure of trying to get something done before a 3:00 meeting – or the need to feel productive you have coming out of that boring 3:00 meeting – less gets done. Time can seem to drag without timed events anchoring your impression of its passage.

A bit of hubbub seems to help my productivity. In fact studies have shown that a bit of chatter can help creative thinking. For example, a study described in the NY Times blog said:

In a series of experiments that looked at the effects of noise on creative thinking, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had participants brainstorm ideas for new products while they were exposed to varying levels of background noise. Their results, published in The Journal of Consumer Research, found that a level of ambient noise typical of a bustling coffee shop or a television playing in a living room, about 70 decibels, enhanced performance compared with the relative quiet of 50 decibels. … The benefits of moderate noise, however, apply only to creative tasks. Projects that require paying close attention to detail, like proofreading a paper or doing your taxes, Dr. Mehta said, are performed better in quiet environments.

One other advantage of all those scheduled and unscheduled interruptions: they keep me from snacking too much. Oh well, maybe I’ll get some reading done on the exercise bike after New Year’s.

Happy Holidays!

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Category: Attention Management Information work     Tags: