by Guy Creese | October 13, 2011 | Comments Off
Last night I read Steve Yegge’s now infamous Google+ post, “Stevey’s Google Platforms Rant.” I think it deserves all the attention it’s getting — it’s an architect’s view of what makes a great system, enlivened with some superb turns of phrase: “Bezos is super smart; don’t get me wrong. He just makes ordinary control freaks look like stoned hippies.”
At a high level, Steve argues that great systems need (1) accessibility (an interface design that works for the user–after all, if the user won’t use the system, what’s the use of all the great programming behind it?) and (2) a service-oriented architecture (the messaging orientation allows the system to morph in a myriad of ways).
However, I think he’s missing the third leg of the stool: the correct data model. At the end of the day, data is the ultimate enterprise resource. Systems must be usable and modifiable, but all that middle (SOA) and front-end work (UI) must apply itself to the right data.
The weakness of bad data model was apparent in the early days of Google Apps. Google Apps took a consumer-oriented data model and plunked it down in front of enterprises–and surprise, surprise, it didn’t sell. For example, the 2007 version of Google Apps had no concept of roles — a group of users, whether it’s a department or a job function. Therefore, enterprises had to add users one by one, instead of en masse. Second, Google Apps had no “delegate switch,” telling the system that this person could stand in for that person — that the CIO’s secretary could read the CIO’s calendar and make appointments. Over time, Google has improved the data model, and the app has improved because of it.
In any case, take a look a Steve’s post — it’s worth a thoughtful read.
Category: Cloud Google Tags: Google, SOA, UI
by Guy Creese | October 4, 2011 | Comments Off
As I noted earlier, I’m at the SharePoint Conference in Anaheim, CA. My thoughts after day 1:
Venue: I’d never been to the Anaheim Conference Center before but it’s very nice. It’s easy to get around, it’s relatively compact, and to get to the Anaheim Marriott is a 3-minute walk. Unfortunately, next year it’s slated to be in Las Vegas, with all the attendant visual noise and increased distances. I was sitting in the Press/Analyst section at the Keynote when the Vegas location was announced, and we let out a collective groan when Las Vegas was announced. That said, the general audience seemed energized at the thought. As analysts, we go to a lot of conferences in Las Vegas and the allure has worn off; the others are probably less jaded.
Presentations: A very good mix of presentations on a wide variety of subjects. The two I attended — one on Office 365, the other on SharePoint and mobile — were given by knowledgeable Microsoft employees. They didn’t ignore the holes/downsides, but they also didn’t dwell on them. It’s probably the best you can expect from a vendor-sponsored conference. The one on mobile was standing room only — and it was a huge room.
Focus: This is a conference about SharePoint today — it’s not about futures. This irks some of my fellow analysts but I’m fine with it. I talk to a lot of clients who don’t even know what SharePoint can do today, so I think further education on what’s possible today is a higher priority than tentatively describing what the product will do tomorrow.
Mobile Strategy: I asked Kurt Delbene about the SharePoint mobile strategy at a breakfast meeting this morning, and he was very clear that Microsoft will be developing mobile clients for non-Windows devices. So while the intent is there, I’m not sure that’s going to translate into a SharePoint client for the iPad anytime soon, for example. To do this well — and quickly — Microsoft needs to have developers who know these different environments (iOS, Android) and QA engineers to test these non-Windows devices. Given Microsoft’s long-time Windows-centricity, I’m not convinced that it has the organizational infrastructure to do this. Hopefully, the SRO situation at the mobile device presentation this afternoon will make Microsoft realize that doing this quickly should be a high priority.
Category: Microsoft SharePoint Tags: #SPC11, Microsoft SharePoint
by Guy Creese | October 3, 2011 | Comments Off
I’m currently at the SharePoint 2011 Conference in Anaheim. 200+ vendors, thousands of attendees, and a lot of excitement.
Category: Uncategorized Tags:
by Guy Creese | February 24, 2011 | Comments Off
For those looking the high points of our recent e-mail coverage, look no farther. The e-mail market is currently a fascinating one. For many years, enterprises supporting e-mail did so on autopilot: (1) buy e-mail server software from one of the top two or three vendors, (2) install it, and (3) maintain it. There were few choices and no drama.
Now there are many choices and market drama. Google shook up the industry with its announcement of a SaaS solution (Google Apps Premier Edition in February 2007); IBM and Microsoft now offer SaaS solutions besides their long-time software solutions, and are increasingly embracing virtualized e-mail servers. Cisco, in the e-mail market for a short time, pulled out this week.
The availability of three delivery models—software, SaaS, and virtualization—while giving enterprises more options, also make e-mail strategy decisions more complicated. IT1 documents about this newly dynamic e-mail market include (note: Gartner IT1 subscription required):
- Cisco’s Software-as-a-Service 3C Gambit, Bill Pray, 5 October 2010
- IBM LotusLive: Software-as-a-Service Lotus?, Bill Pray, 1 September 2010
- E-Mail Servers and Virtualization, Bill Pray, 21 April 2010
- Google Apps Premier Edition: Gmail Plus Other Stuff, Guy Creese, 05 March 2010
- To [Microsoft] BPOS or Not to BPOS? That Is the Question, Guy Creese, 11 February 2010
- E-Mail Retention: Getting Value Out of the Mailbox, Bill Pray, 04 February 2010
- E-Mail Migration: How to Move with Agility, Bill Pray, 22 December 2009
Category: Cloud Google IBM Microsoft SaaS Tags:
by Guy Creese | February 9, 2011 | Comments Off
Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), died on Sunday. For those not old enough to remember, DEC was a powerhouse in its heyday. In the late 1980s, it topped out at 120,000 employees and $14 billion in annual revenue, second only to IBM. However, in the 1990s it began to lose its way, and eventually was bought by Compaq (which in turn was bought by HP).
Olsen’s great contribution was his triggering of the “Empowerment Cycle” within high tech. Until DEC came along in the late 1950s, the computer industry consisted of IBM and the BUNCH (Burroughs, UNIVAC, NCR, Control Data, and Honeywell) offering behemoth machines that ran big jobs. They required raised floors for cooling, were run by geek programmers, and were not nimble in satisfying business requirements. If a business user wanted a new report designed, the reply from IT was typically, “Sure, we can give you that–in nine months.”
Olsen and DEC liberated the business from the tyranny of mainframes and gave it an alternative. DEC’s PDP and VAX series computers were a fraction of the cost and size of a mainframe–you could put one in the corner of a room. And that’s what companies did. Rather than deal with the mainframe jerks in central IT, divisions could buy a couple of VAX’s, hire their own programmers, and build the programs they needed quickly. Put simply, DEC empowered the business, as did its other minicomputer competitors: Data General, Prime, and Wang Laboratories.
The Empowerment Cycle is not novel: new technologies have been giving users more freedom for a long time. For example, in the late 1800s, electricity empowered businesses by letting them locate anywhere on the power grid, instead of near rivers. In the 1950s, transistor radios empowered teenagers by letting them listen to rock and roll music away from their parents. However, within high tech, until Ken Olsen came along, the cycle had never happened.
And it continues to happen. The minicomputer vendors went away because they didn’t see the next Empowerment Cycle coming: personal computers. Minicomputer IT shops became just as arrogant and ponderous as the mainframe shops had been; when PCs and LANs arrived, users jumped at the chance to build their own spreadsheets, rather than wait nine months for a new report. We’re in the midst of another cycle, where SaaS solutions are allowing business units to do an end run around in-house IT. You can thank Ken Olsen for starting it all.
Category: Uncategorized Tags:
by Guy Creese | January 31, 2011 | Comments Off
On Friday I attended a get together entitled, “The Future of Productivity Council.” It was hosted by Microsoft at its Redmond campus and included analysts (me from Gartner, Charlene Li from Altimeter Group), reporters (from publications such as Business Week, CNet, ReadWriteWeb, The Seattle Times, The Wall Street Journal, and ZDNet), and Microsoft executives (including Chris Capossela, Kurt DelBene, PJ Hough, and Ron Markezich).
It was Microsoft’s way of getting out of “here’s our latest product launch” mode to talk about its longer view of how information workers will interact with systems in the future. In the morning, PJ Hough talked about how Microsoft gathers usage statistics for input into the design of future releases; Ron Markezich talked about the company’s current thinking about online services; and Chris Pratley talked about Microsoft’s various labs and how they incubate new product ideas. In the afternoon, we got a tour of the Executive Briefing Center’s “vision of the future” rooms, and heard from Kurt DelBene and Chris Capossela.
While this was Microsoft’s view of the future, it’s worth noting that other large vendors also think years ahead–although they rarely package it up as well as Microsoft did. I’ve been briefed on IBM’s long-term plans, and I’m sure Google has long term plans as well, although I haven’t heard them.
In many ways, we’re at an inflection point in terms of communication, collaboration, and content. New information channels are appearing–e.g., Facebook and Twitter–and old channels are being rethought: for example, should e-mail move to the cloud? So while enterprises are struggling with what to do in this world of change, vendors are as well: “Can we get away with tweaking longtime products, or have requirements changed enough that we just need to go back to the drawing board?” At the conference, Microsoft played cagey, but it’s clear that all of the major vendors are now in “all options are possible” mode. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: Analyst Life, Microsoft
by Guy Creese | January 27, 2011 | Comments Off
I’m currently having a travel adventure, flying from Boston to Seattle to attend a Microsoft conference on information worker productivity. My initial flight on American was cancelled; I rebooked on Delta and we were the first flight to takeoff after Logan’s reopening (we got a foot of snow last night).
This post is coming to you at 30,000 feet over Syracuse, via Delta’s wi-fi; it’s the first in-flight wi-fi I’ve used;it’s quite zippy. I first began flying at age one; those were the days when the DC-3 was state-of-the-art, people dressed up to fly, smoking was rampant, and the PC hadn’t been invented. Things sure have changed.
Category: Analyst Life Tags:
by Guy Creese | October 21, 2010 | 3 Comments
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced Office 365–the combining of BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), Microsoft Office Live Small Business, and Live@edu with Office (cloud or software). I posted about it yesterday; Jeff Mann posted about it the day before. In his post, Jeff mused about the name:
Do I really want to be in the Office 365 days per year? What happens in leap years (Microsoft gives you a day off once every four years). I honestly don’t think that it would be possible to come up with anything that would not have some kind of downside, and it certainly is better than BPOS or some other anodyne acronym.
I’d also thought about the name–”Why didn’t they call it Office 366? That would take care of leap year and on a 1-to-10 dial it would be like going to 11 for normal years.” As a former product manager (9 years) I was involved in many product naming exercises, and I thought it would be fun to meander through some possible alternatives and the potential discussion around them.
To be clear, this is a fantasy naming exercise. Microsoft never asked me for my advice about the name “Office 365″ and I have no idea if they pondered any of the following alternatives. This is to be taken as a lighthearted romp through the daily humdrum of a product manager. Some alternative product names could have been:
- Office 24/7–”On the upside, it shows that it’s always available. On the downside, if the service ever goes down, some irate customer will sue us for making a promise with the product name that we didn’t fulfill.”
- Office Blue–”Hey, what about using a color? We’ve done nouns (Word), verbs (Excel), made up words (Visio), combination words (PowerPoint), numbers (Office 97), and years (Office 2010), but never a color. How about ‘Office Blue’? It’s a nice, calm color; Bing, MSN, and Silverlight all use blue in their logos. Calling it Office Blue would irritate Big Blue (IBM) and that would be a good thing… Oh, good point. I’d forgotten about the BSD (Blue Screen of Death). Never mind.”
- Office 2011–”Well, that’s when we’ll ship it, but then we’ll get support calls from people wondering how it differs from Office 2010, and that will get way too complicated and keep Customer Support Engineers on the phone too long. We can’t afford that name.”
- Office/BPOS/MOLSB/Live@edu–”This is excellent! It preserves the investment we’ve made in the previous brands while bringing them together under one moniker. Huh? What do you mean it’s too difficult to remember?”
- Office Partly Cloudy–”This name highlights the fact that this is a combination cloud/software offering. It’s ‘partly cloudy’–get it?”
- Office As You Like It–”Customers can buy as little or as much as they need–it’s “As You Like It.” Oh. Hmm. You don’t like the Shakespeare connection, huh? Worried that people will start calling it, ‘The Taming of the Shrew?’”
Given what could have been, the name “Office 365″ doesn’t look too bad….
Category: Uncategorized Tags:
by Guy Creese | October 20, 2010 | 1 Comment
Yesterday, Microsoft announced Microsoft Office 365–announced being the operative word, since it won’t be in production until sometime in 2011. Office 365 unites BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), Microsoft Office Live Small Business, and Live@edu under one brand name. It adds an online enterprise version of the Office Web Apps to the portfolio, as well as allows customers to buy Office Professional Plus (software) on an on-going basis.
Here are my quick takeaways from this announcement. (I previously wrote a 31-page report on BPOS and a 29-page report on Office 2010 [note: Gartner subscription required], so this short blog post just scratches the surface of potential impacts.)
From a Microsoft point-of-view:
- Helps Stop Erosion of the Franchise: This has the ability to stop the potential erosion of Microsoft’s Office franchise. Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) has been very successful in the SMB (small and medium business) space, with the long-term threat to Microsoft being that SMBs who started out using GAPE would remain loyal to Google and not switch to Microsoft Office or BPOS as they got bigger. Office 365 can snare SMBs in the early days and grow with them.
- Can Take Google Apps Head On: GAPE is a combination of an e-mail, productivity suite, and collaboration solution, and until Office 365, Microsoft had no direct challenge to it. When pressed, Microsoft would mutter, “Well, we have BPOS, a much richer communication/collaboration solution, and no one really wants an online productivity suite to live in. Office Web Apps is an adjunct to the Office software, rather than a replacement for it.” Now, Microsoft can avoid the marketing gymnastics and just propose Office 365.
From an enterprise point-of-view:
- Is a Credible Alternative to GAPE: Enterprises have looked at GAPE–not so much because they’re enthralled with its functionality, but because they like the idea of paying less for more basic functionality. Microsoft’s Enterprise Agreement (EA) has made enterprises pay the full boat price whether they needed it or not, and this is eliciting emotions in customers ranging from major irritation to downright hostility. Microsoft can now offer a lite and heavy version of a productivity suite in one package, which is what enterprises want; Google can only offer a lite version.
- The Licensing Re-negotiations Begin: Almost all large enterprises have bought an Enterprise Agreement from Microsoft. Happily, Microsoft is saying, “Today, we are also announcing that customers with Enterprise Agreements can easily acquire Microsoft Office 365 through an update to the EA. The Enterprise Agreement now provides the flexibility to combine on-premise software and online services into a single volume licensing agreement.” What’s missing–or at least I haven’t been able to find public documentation on this–is what kind of trade-ins customers will be able to get for their already signed EAs. If the trade-ins are minimal or if the renegotiation gets too byzantine, Microsoft customers will remain angry.
- A Wide Range of Pricing, So User Segmentation Needs to Begin: Prices range from $24 per user per year for basic e-mail to $168 per user per year for the full boat (Office software, e-mail, voicemail, social networking, IM, portal/extranet, voice conferencing, video conferencing, and web conferencing). If Microsoft had come out with $50 per user per year (Google’s GAPE pricing) for the full boat offering, enterprises would just buy Office 365 and GAPE would be toast. However, Microsoft didn’t, so enterprises will have to start deciding which employees need which solutions (and hence a certain product price point) to function. Segmenting users will be a new experience, as enterprises have typically thought of their users as homogeneous–”Everyone gets Office’–rather than as “This group gets Basic Office, this group gets Deluxe Office.”
The impact of Office 365 will become much clearer over the next several months as Microsoft clarifies its EA rebate stance and early adopters kick the tires. Enterprises continue to tell me, “We want good value for the money–while at the same time being able to use in-house or cloud solutions depending on our business needs.” With that as a backdrop, Office 365 is certainly a step in the right direction.
Category: EA Google Microsoft SaaS SharePoint Tags: Microsoft, Microsoft Office, Office Web Apps
by Guy Creese | September 9, 2010 | 1 Comment
If you’re looking for proof that social software offers business value, here are some examples.
First, some proof points from an article from The Economist entitled, “Mining Social Networks: Untangling the Social Web.” It offers some stories of how social network analysis (SNA) is being used, such as decreasing credit risks for banks.
The latest version of SAS’s software identifies risky borrowers by examining their social networks and Internal Revenue Service records, she says. For example, an applicant may be a bad risk, or even a fraudster, if he plans to launch a type of business which has no links to his social network, education, previous business dealings or travel history, which can be pieced together with credit-card records. Ms Joyner says the software can also determine if an applicant has associated with known criminals—perhaps his fiancée has shared an address with a parolee.
Or helping police optimize their staffing:
Richmond [VA]’s police have started monitoring Facebook, MySpace and Twitter messages to determine where the rowdiest festivities will be. On big party nights, the department now saves about $15,000 on overtime pay, because officers are deployed to areas that the software deems ripe for criminal activity. Crime has “dramatically” declined as a result, says Mr Hollifield.
Another example is what can happen to a company when it ignores the power of social software. The first chapter of Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business, by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, details the saga of Heather Armstrong, a blogger and mother of two whose new Maytag washer broke down a week after she’d bought it. After several failed attempts over a month to fix the washer and multiple calls to customer service, Heather finally said to a customer support rep,
And here’s where I say, do you know what Twitter is? Because I have over a million followers on Twitter. If I say something about my terrible experience on Twitter do you think someone will help me? And she says in the most condescending tone and hiss ever uttered, “Yes, I know what Twitter is. And no, that will not matter.”
Oops. It turns out it did. Heather started tweeting about her experience and all of a sudden Maytag corporate (actually, Whirlpool corporate) cared. They finally fixed the machine. However, in the meantime, Heather’s original blog post received 2,906 comments and Forbes did a story on the episode.
In summary, social software does matter. If an enterprise isn’t leveraging it within its business initiatives, there’s still a chance that a disgruntled customer will use it against the enterprise. Put another way, ignoring social software is not a viable strategy.
Category: Social Software Tags: Social network, Social Software, Twitter