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
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?
A columnist at VentureBeat recently wrote about the supposed Dropbox Effect and whether it is real or not. I think it is, but not the way most people seem to be using the term. I see three aspects the supposed Dropbox effect:
What the people saying it think it means
What it really means
What is important about it
What the people saying “Dropbox Effect” seem to think it means As reported in the article, consumerization is sweeping the tech word in the sense that consumer products that are compelling and useful enough will inevitably work their way into the workplace. Startups don’t need to worry about enterprise acceptance; if people use it, IT departments will allow it.
Certainly, consumerization is an important trend that has been around for awhile. But this simplistic view of the term ceased to be valid or even important years ago. There is nothing inevitable about a consumer product, even a really good one, gaining acceptance in the enterprise. Some will, if they are well-designed and manage to meet the needs of both IT departments and individual users. Many more won’t. Most of the companies I talk to don’t adopt Dropbox officially because so many people use it; they go looking for an enterprise tool which can fill the need identified by the many Dropbox users.
Many of the entrepreneurs in the VB article seem to think that the Dropbox effect removes the need to develop good products for the enterprise, a shortcut past the hard slog of building manageable, secure, attractive products. I don’t think so.
What it really means The most prevalent “Dropbox effect” I see is the “OMG! Look at all the people using Dropbox! We have to stop that and provide something better!” reaction from IT managers. That is what is driving interest in products like Box, Egnyte, Yousendit, Sharefile, Syncplicity, Accellion and many, many others. It often means an enterprise fire drill to stamp out usage of a product they don’t trust and replace it with something the users like and that they will use. Certainly, it has nothing to do with widespread enterprise embrace of Dropbox, which I do not see happening.
What is important about it
The importance of the “Dropbox effect” is that individuals are exercising more influence over the technology choices of the companies they work for, even taking direct responsibility to take those choices in some cases. Those individual choices will force IT departments to make allowances for individual preferences faster than they might have done otherwise. Apple has done a particularly good job of selling business tools without selling to the business. Apple’s most important distribution channel to sell to businesses is through individuals who carry the devices in with them each morning, not the central purchasing department.
However, there are limits to how far IT can and should go. Apple has done enough to make their products supportable and manageable to get past IT obstructions. You still don’t see many IT departments embracing DIY Linux machines or XBOXes on the corporate network. The Dropbox Effect does not mean that IT must acquiesce to the inevitability of accepting any IT product that users find themselves; quite the opposite in fact. It means that IT departments must be better at discerning which consumer products contain unacceptable risks, analyzing what individuals use and how to determine what they really need, and nudging users towards tools that make sense.
There really is a Dropbox effect, but it doesn’t provide an excuse for shoddy, poorly designed products. It does provide challenges and opportunities for enterprise IT departments, though.
Friend or Foe?” cries the clichéd sentinel on a foggy castle keep. With email, it seems no one knows how to answer that question. Without email, I could not live the way I choose to or do my work the way I like to do. Unquestionably, email has made my life better.
But like most good things, it goes kind of sour when it hangs around too long. It starts out as your friend, but after a while resentment and antipathy set in. How did I let this thing run my life? Why does it suck so much time? When can I get away from it? Like helping someone in a dysfunctional relationship, it’s time for an intervention. Email needs a stern talking to. Get back where you belong! Leave me alone! Like an intervention, the nature of email also evokes lots of emotion.
When talking about social software adoption with clients, I often end up talking about doing less email, or even eliminating it entirely. This doesn’t feel right, however. It’s hard to drive adoption of something by telling people to stop doing something else. It’s like being on a sinking boat and concentrating on lowering the level of the ocean. We need to stop the leaks and get the water out of the boat. Social techniques can help us do that, so we need more social.
By promoting tools attuned to the work we are doing that involve colleagues at the right time with less friction, we won’t need to resort to email as much. Email usage will go down as a result of good collaboration practices. Attacking email itself as inefficient could be correct, but ultimately is distracting. Asking a colleague to use a wiki because everyone can edit it and see each other’s changes is more convincing than extolling the evils of emailing copies of a Word file around. Maybe I am just a positive person, but focusing on benefits of the new approach rather than the problems of the old one is more appealing to me. I guess I could never go into politics.
If I never had to fire up an email client again, I would not regret it – assuming that everyone who needs to would see my comments, likes, references, comments and questions. Some people or organizations might need to push off of email to get on to social platforms. I suspect that all that pushing and shoving will create as much resentment in the long term as that bossy email client did in the first place.
Ah Minitel.I always had a soft spot for this strange, pre-HTTP online service. It was kind of like the Internet, except for most of the things that make the Internet so compelling. And now it is finally going away.
To be honest, I didn’t realize it was still around so its continued existence was the only really surprising thing about this this news report. I never used Minitel much, but at one time I was very impressed by it. It provided an easy, cheap way to get online, sort of. Except the Minitel version of “online” is not what you are used to. You had to use one of the proprietary terminals or a clunky emulator. Services had to use very specific protocols and technology and run through France Telecom’s infrastructure and billing systems.
The determination of the French government to push it through was admirable. The terminals were available for free, and every post office had at least one lying around. To encourage usage, the phone company (yes, there was A single phone company back then) stopped publishing phone books, so Minitel was the best place to look up a phone number. For a time, France was the most Wired nation on earth due to Minitel.
But like so many early innovators, the early advantage became a millstone. "De remmende voorsprong is a Dutch expression that I have never found a good translation for,but it applies here. It literally means “the braking advantage” referring to something which provides an early benefit but eventually holds one back. Minitel is a great example of a remmende voorsrprong. With a large collection of services available on Minitel, many French companies hesitated initially to embrace the Web. Minitel had a good payment model built into it from the beginning (one of the reasons for the unexpected popularity of the racy Minitel Rose services.
By 2012, I could see very few signs of the existence of Minitel, and French companies have certainly shaken off their attachment to it. I can’t help but be wistful at its passing, however.
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