Research VP 14 years at Gartner 26 years IT industry
Jeffrey Mann is a research vice president for collaboration and social software at Gartner Research. Mr. Mann focuses on social software, team workspaces, the collaboration market and knowledge management. Read Full Bio
Word emerged today that Dropbox has acquired CloudOn, a mobile productivity vendor based in Israel. CloudOn produced a Microsoft Word compatible editor for mobile devices and browsers. There are two ways to look at this move.
It makes sense for Dropbox, as editing is functionality that their users are looking for. Having it would help them compete against Google and Microsoft and other EFSS players which have built in editing features.
But it is also odd, considering the deal that Dropbox did for integration with Microsoft recently. One of the reasons Microsoft did that integration deal was that Dropbox is less of a threat to them because they don’t have content creation tools – unlike Google which is a threat to both. They united to combat a common enemy. This acquisition potentially puts Dropbox on a track to compete with Microsoft more than they have in the past.
I doubt that is where Dropbox is going, however. It is not really in Dropbox’s interest to go head on against Microsoft with CloudOn now that they have made nice with each other. They would probably not have shut down CloudOn so quickly if this is the way they were going. The service will disappear in less than two months. Why drive customers away if that is the direction you want to go?
I think this is more of a skills acquisition play. CloudOn started out offering a virtualized Microsoft Word on devices, but has been moving away from that to make a Word compatible editor. They have skills about how to build editing tools and compatibility with Microsoft. Dropbox can use those, not necessarily to make a Microsoft Word clone; that would be boring. It would be far more interesting to build something really new, or add lightweight editing to things like Inbox, or speed up its Harmony project to add collaborative features while editing Microsoft documents in Office or add features to the various Dropbox mobile clients. I don’t have inside information, but this sounds much more likely to me. I’m curious to see how this will play out and where they will go with it.
Over the last several years, I have done many inquiries which are some variation of “How do we get Facebook for use internally?” or “When will Facebook issue a version for use within our company?” I would generally point to pure-play enterprise social vendors because I was pretty sceptical about Facebook doing this, for two main reasons:
Their focus is on making Facebook attractive to hundreds of millions of users. Anything that distracts from that objective is a bad idea.
Facebook makes so much money off of advertising from their consumer product that the money to be made off of an enterprise product is not worth the effort.
There have been several indications over the last couple months that this analysis was no longer valid, and today the penny dropped. Facebook added mobile apps for Facebook at Work to the Apple and Android app stores. They even put up an official help page. It would seem that the risk of distraction and the benefits of diversification are enough to convince Facebook to enter the enterprise social software market. But don’t expect to be able to use it right away. Only participants who work at companies participating in the Beta program can download and use the app.
While there is not a lot of solid information available on Facebook at Work, it looks to take an interesting approach that fits in well with the kinds of developments we are seeing around the digital workplace. Consumerization is an important part of the digital workplace. Vendors like Google, Dropbox and now Facebook are taking that further than we have seen before. Their products are not just inspired by what goes on in the consumer world like we usually see; they are those same products with extensions needed to work in the enterprise. That makes for a very different type of experience.
I spend a lot of time talking to clients about how to encourage adoption, which generally comes down to how do we convince, cajole, and club users into actually using the stuff that was chosen. These consumer-enterprise products don’t have that problem. In fact, companies spend a lot of time and effort trying to keep their users away from them. There may be lots of reasons why they would not be appropriate for all enterprises, but lack of adoption is not one of them.
Ultimately, success looks different for these vendors that have a huge consumer following. Rather than having to convince companies to adopt them (like traditional enterprise suppliers must do), they can make lots and lots of money if they can simply convince a small percentage of the companies where their existing users work to adopt them, or even not to actively block them. That low barrier makes for a very different type of market strategy. This should get interesting.
For the past several years (way too many, actually), I have written a series of blog posts on anti-resolutions for the new year. So far, that and the April Fool’s Dauy post have been my most reliable posts, sometimes the only posts in a year. Publishing predictions in a blog or video post around this time of year is easy and predictable. So I won’t. If lots of people do something, that usually makes me want to not do it.
My resolutions are “anti” in several ways. The main one is that these are not things that I intend to do, but are hopes and polite suggestions about what other people should do. That is much easier. Anti-resolutions also suit the way that analysts work; we rarely do stuff, but we comment a lot on what other people or organizations should do. Most of the resolutions are also “anti” because they describe something that I hope won’t happen rather than new things that should happen.
I generally am not a grumpy person, but there’s a lot of undesirable activity going on out there. After reading this, please stop it. I will thank you. When they see you, the world will thank you too, I’m sure eventually.
Stop trying to hide something your product does not do When I speak with vendors describing their products, the main things I am trying to find out is what is it good for, how is it positioned, and how is it different. It is always surprising the lengths that some vendors will go to hide that information. They don’t want to really tell me how it is positioned, because that would imply there are things that the product does not do. They hide how it is different, because they want to fit into an existing category. I will often ask questions like “Are you more focused on X type of use case, or Y?” I usually try to quickly add “…and please don’t say ‘Both’ because they are totally different.” But it is usually too late. They will go to huge lengths to hide any purpose for which their product is not intended.That is foolish, for several reasons. The main one is that understanding what a product does not do is crucial to understanding what it does do. Yes, you could use that simple file manager as a content repository but if you try to convince me that you are a content management vendor when all you do is manage files, that misrepresents your product. A second reason is that I will find out, and I dislike being lied to. If you misrepresent your product in terms of what it can do, why should I believe anything else you say? If you promise your product can address a use case that is way out on the fringe of what it was designed for, why would I recommend you to a client?A forthright “No, we don’t do that” earns tremendous respect. during analyst briefings. Don’t be afraid to say it.
Don’t expect users to navigate a network drive or folder hierarchy to get at their files More and more users are learning how to use files with their phones or tablets. They don’t do things like \user\mktg\jeff\brochures. I talk with too many companies who feel that their users know and love their network file hierarchies, so they have to recreate that in their new file sharing environment. They might know them, but they won’t love them once they know about tags and categories and favourites. Forcing a 1990s navigation method on a modern collaboration tool might help with the short term migration, but is a bad idea in the long run.
Stop giving major vendors so much slack It is fairly depressing when I speak with customers about the deficiencies and strong points of products from large and small vendors. No matter how big the drawbacks, the big vendors usually get a pass. There can be huge holes in their offerings that would sink any vendor trying to enter the market, but when I point them out too many clients just shrug. Whether it is the lack of selective remote wipe capabilities, dependencies on additional products to provide what should be basic functionality, lack of management capabilities, ugly UIs… the normal reaction is “They will get there eventually” or “We can live with that.” The primary reason is that the product is bundled with some other product that they already have, so the perception is that it is free. Cost is definitely a factor, and the emotions of sunk cost are potent; I get that. But a little part of me dies whenever I see a client accept mediocre products (or worse) just because it is easy.
Do not press “Reply all” to more than ten people. I shouldn’t have to say this anymore.
I’ve been in Australia for the last week or so for the Symposium event here, and was lucky enough to spend some time on a couple of the beaches in Gold Coast and Sydney. As well as being impressed by the scenery, sun and great swimming, the respect shown for the life guards was impressive. With the danger of strong currents it is no wonder that most people don’t need to be reminded about staying between the flags when swimming.
But seeing these people on the beach got me thinking about the effect of branding and the need for rebranding. Australial life and surf guards with their red and yellow caps are an iconic, worldwide symbol of strength, health, skill and competence. Yet when you look at those caps in isolation, it is hard to see them as anything but, well… kind of ridiculous and silly. The look of those caps instils confidence not because of anything inherent; they could hardly be seen as stylish or confidence-inspiring. They have acquired that connotation due to the work and dedication of the people who wear them.
IT companies periodically feel that they need to rebrand their products, choosing new names and logos because they feel that the existing ones don’t convey the image they want to bring across. I am always skeptical of these efforts. They often are a sign of a new executive who wants to erase signs of his or her predecessor or is looking to make big changes, starting with the symbolic ones.
My objection to rebranding exercises is that they never bring customer value and and can be tremendously distracting. For at least a year, sales people will be explaining the change. Marketeers will be launching the new brand, updating brochures and hunting down references to the old name. Legal will be updating contracts. Coders will be changing screens and help text. Finance will be updating Excel models so that they can make comparisons cross products with different names but really are the same. All this time, the competition will be concentrating on bringing out new products that really help customers. Is this really how you want to spend your company’s resources as a vendor?
I realise that words matter, but ultimately your brand is what you make of it. A logo or name is only as good as the product and service behind it. Those red and yellow caps do not inspire confidence on their own, but they have acquired value over the years. There is no need to rebrand Australian life guards with a more up to date look because they have given those beanies the meaning they want to convey.
So vendors, unless your brand has become absolute poison put your efforts into improving what you provide rather than wasting time and money on the name and logo.
Like most Gartner analysts, I do quite a few presentations at our events. Sometimes, I get involved in the keynotes, which are both much more fun and much more intense. With each keynote, we want to try something new, provoke different ways of thinking and have a little more fun than we do in the normal presentations.
I ran across this video this weekend, which has haunted me along with many others on the Interwebs. I have a deep-seated fear that when looking for something new, this is the kind of thing I will come up with.
We are looking for the most overused buzzwords in the portals, content management, social and collaboration areas to use as part of the keynote. What terms are used so often they threaten to stop meaning anything at all? Which words will make you scream if you hear them one more time? Please let us know, so that I don’t have to sing or wear a beret.
Replies on Twitter hashtagged with #GartnerPCC and #buzzwords (Is hashtagged as a verb one of those buzzwords?), or as comments here.
The note looked at the expected split coming between SharePoint on premises (which is how most users currently deploy the product) and in the cloud (as part of Office 365). It paints a bleak picture for SharePoint on premises in the long term, with its users destined to become second class citizens, lagging ever further behind the shiny, new innovations coming in Yammer and SharePoint Online.
If anything, today’s announcements are even more bleak for SharePoint on premises. I said:
SharePoint Server continues to be supported and developed, with new versions expected at pretty much the same schedule as with earlier versions.
That was apparently too optimistic. In a blog post today, SharePoint general manager Jared Spataro made clear that they are “committing to another on premises release of SharePoint Server.” Another. As in one more. So there will not be new versions, but one more before the curtain falls on SharePoint as most users now know it.
We will be publishing a longer analysis of the SharePoint Conference announcements, which include quite a bit of good news for those looking for innovative functionality from the cloud. I will also be updating my “Should Microsoft Kill SharePoint” presentation for the Gartner PCC conference in Los Angeles in May.
Last month, I had the chance to describe the Engagement Initiative in a series of one on one meetings. After doing it about 30 times, I kind of got good at it. Here is the cheat sheet for understanding what this important area of coverage at Gartner is all about.
Gartner’s Engagement Initiative brings together existing areas of research like BYOD/A/S, consumerization, personal cloud, Nexus, social and collaboration into a higher level initiative. It provides a common thread through all of these, which key on the influence of individuals on these corporate initiatives. Getting people to understand, use and accept these strategies is a common challenge across all of these areas. It answers the questions that clients are asking about how they can be more innovative, encourage sharing and collaboration, and be prepared for demographic and tech changes in the workforce.
Triggers to read more about this subject or ask for a teleconference include
We want to overhaul the intranet or employee portal. Why? What does it need to do? Do you want the same intranet on a better platform, or something new? Can a social platform replace the intranet by serving the same purpose in a different way?
HR or corporate comms wants to start a project to develop employees’ willingness to collaborate or improve internal communications. These often fail unless there is wider support, like you get from an EI project.
We are moving to Google Apps for Business or Microsoft Office 365 and want to make sure the new capabilities are used effectively.
Senior execs are talking about employee involvement, innovation, culture of sharing. How can we help achieve this?
What comes next after BYOD? BYO service? Application? Anything?
Clients can find lots more info on this subject here.
For the past several years, I have written a series of blog posts on anti-resolutions for the new year. Publishing predictions in a blog or video post around this time of year is easy and predictable. So I won’t. If lots of people do something, that usually is enough reason for me not to do it.
My resolutions are “anti” in several ways. The main one is that these are not things that I intend to do, but are hopes and polite suggestions about what other people should do. That is much easier. Anti-resolutions also suit the way that analysts work; we rarely do stuff, but we comment a lot on what other people or organizations should do. This anti-thing seems to be catching on.
Most of the resolutions are also “anti” because they describe something that I hope won’t happen rather than new things that should happen. I generally am not a grumpy person, but there’s a lot of undesirable activity going on out there. After reading this, please stop it. I will thank you. When they see you, the world will thank you too, I’m sure.
Don’t describe your new product as “Dropbox for the Enterprise” This is definitely the most over-used meme of 2013 for me. I have heard dozens of startups or established companies with a new offering believe they are clever by using this phrase as if they were the first ones to think of it. You aren’t. Just stop it. Not only is Dropbox itself claiming this role, so are dozens of others.
Don’t ask if going to a cloud provider will save money if you don’t know how much you spend now. Cost savings are a tricky thing. Everyone wants them, and wants to know if “going to the cloud” will bring them. But sometimes it is as if users expect cost savings to drop to the ground like rain. “If the day is cloudy, then it probably will rain so everyone gets wet. If my IT is cloudy, then it probably is cheaper, so everyone gets rich.” Stop thinking that.A cloud infrastructure can indeed save money, but not always. I realize that “it depends” is an irritating answer to get from an anlyst, but sometimes we can’t avoid it. Potential savings depend on what you are spending now. If you don’t know that, then it will be pretty hard to know if making any kind of change will result in savings or maybe even increased costs.
Don’t look for “Best practices that provide a competitive advantage” A best practice is something that everyone else is already doing. If everyone is doing it, it won’t give you a competitive advantage. It still might be worth doing, to lower risk or catch up with the competition. But it won’t help you crush competitors. To do that you need to innovate, and innovation does not live inside of a best practice. Innovation is much harder to find, and much more fun.
Don’t start your product briefing with 15 slides on industry trends. I listen to many product briefings along with other analysts. Waaaaay too many of them start with descriptions of what is going on in the industry. We get it. We think about and write about industry trends all of the time. If we don’t get it, then you probably should not waste your time talking to us. Chances are, you are presenting something we wrote or what our competitors are saying that we probably agree with. Skip this and get to the description of why your product is different and better.
Big Data is not about reporting. Stop acting like it is. I have heard several discussions supposedly about the potential benefits of big data that go no further than what business intelligence and good reporting tools have always been able to do. You don’t need big data to see how sales are going across different regions, or to review inventory levels. That is called Reporting.Big data lets you do something new, something that wasn’t possible before either because you didn’t have access to the data or because the tools to make sense of that much data weren’t available. Things like using government demographic data to decide where to place you next retail outlet (data wasn’t available before); collecting sensor data from your products to improve quality (data didn’t exist before you collected it); scanning transactional data for new buying patterns (tools to make sense of the data weren’t available until recently). If it ain’t new, it ain’t worth talking about.
Do not press “Reply all” when there are more than ten people on the To or CC list. I will not give up on this.
Gartner’s popular Hype Cycles are getting a real world accessory: The Hype Bicycletm! Specially designed to help navigate the peaks and troughs that IT managers encounter every day, the Hype Bicycletm is your vehicle for IT success. After last year’s Magic Fractals and the year before’s Real Quadrants, this new addition to Gartner’s branded research should attract a good deal of attention.
A special cable mount on the front drags you inexorably up that first intimidating climb after the technology trigger. No, there is no way to control the speed, or to get off of the climb unless you encounter one of the rare “obsolete before plateau” dots. Resistance to the pull of the Hype Cycle is futile, but on the Hype Bicycletm at least it is fun!
As you reach the top and cross the peak of inflated expectations, the cable releases and sends you on your way. There are no pedals and no brakes, so you are certain to enjoy the ride. Just make sure you don’t take your hands of the bars and shout “Wheee!” no matter how tempting that might be. The ride down into the trough of disillusionment starts out fun but can get dangerous.
The momentum created by swooshing down into the trough should be enough to carry you up through the slope of enlightenment and onto the plateau of productivity. You might need to push a bit with your feet, but the Hype Bicycletm is designed to make that easy as well as fun.
So there is no need to treat Hype Cycles as merely an intellectual exercise. Order your Hype Bicycletm today and start riding the technology wave, for real.
My resolutions are “anti” in a couple different ways. The main one is that these are not things that I intend to do, but are hopes and polite suggestions about what other people should do. That is mucheasier. Anti-resolutions also suit the way that analysts work; we rarely do stuff, but we comment a lot on what other people or organizations should do.
Most of the resolutions are also “anti” because they describe something that I hope won’t happen rather than new things that should happen. I try not to be a grumpy person, but there’s a lot of undesirable activity going on out there. After reading this, please stop it. I thank you; the world thanks you, too I’m sure.
Stop assuming that you are special, and therefore cannot use the Cloud. I talk to many customers about cloud-based collaboration. Far too often, I hear something like “We take security seriously, so we cannot store anything in the Cloud.” Certainly, I don’t want to argue that cloud deployment is right for every organization, or that there are no specific security issues associated with Cloud. I find what this statement really means is “The Cloud frightens or confuses me so I want to scare my organization away from having anything to do with it.”
It should be no surprise that everyone takes security seriously or at least likes to think that they do. This statement assumes that only reckless ne’er do wells would have anything do to with the Cloud. Evaluating security, privacy and compliance issues needs to be part of any serious evaluation of a Cloud strategy. Sometimes, the result will be that the Cloud is not right. However, don’t assume that Cloud is always wrong.
Don’t assume that because end users like something, that there must be something wrong with it. End users are taking control of more of their IT environment, as they get more experienced with technology, and the products mature and get easier to use. This is a good thing in terms of usability, and adoption for these technologies. However, I have increasingly seen a knee jerk reaction from some IT departments that assume that if an end user has found it, the product or technology must be wrong for the enterprise. The first reaction when they find an employee using something that the IT department did not provide is to block it.
Certainly, some consumer tools should not be used in the enterprise. But is the risk all that high? Is the productivity hit of blocking the tool until an alternative can be provided too great? Is there an acceptable alternative we can provide or suggest instead? What does this tell us about how employees are working and how IT can support that work better? These are the questions to be considering, not just blocking access and punishing the transgressors.
Don’t assume that when Microsoft, Google, SAP or Apple bring out a feature, that it is game over for everyone who was already addressing that market. Another recurring theme. The assumption is that when one of the big players brings out similar functionality to whatever the hot startups are doing, then they… must… die.
It is rare that a technology becomes “hot” just because no one has thought of it before. Implementation, marketing, user experience, recommendations all have a pretty big role to play in making a product a success. There is no assurance that a big vendor will get all or even any of these right. While competition from a big player will make things harder in startup land, I have every confidence in the ability of major players to screw something up, even if the technology seems obvious and easy to copy.
Do not press “Reply all” to more than ten people. Pretty please?
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