Jeffrey Mann

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Jeffrey Mann
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

Is There a Dropbox Effect?

by Jeffrey Mann  |  November 12, 2012  |  4 Comments

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.


Category: Apple Cloud consumerization startup Vendors     Tags: , , , , , , , ,

No Email or More Social?

by Jeffrey Mann  |  August 16, 2012  |  4 Comments

Friend or Foe?” cries the clichéd sentinel on a foggy castle keep. With email, it seems no one knows how to answer that question. MP900401860[1]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.

What do you think? Is email a friend or a foe? Reactions to or even better as a comment here or to @jeffmann


Category: email Hype Cycle Personal social media social software     Tags: ,

The Internet’s Eccentric French Uncle Passes from the Scene

by Jeffrey Mann  |  June 29, 2012  |  Submit a Comment

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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Category: consumerization devices europe technology     Tags: ,

Gartner Introduces “Magic Fractals”

by Jeffrey Mann  |  April 1, 2012  |  2 Comments

1 April, 2012: After last year’s successful launch of “Real Quadrants,” Gartner has announced the next iteration in the development of its most popular branded deliverable. The Magic Quadrant’s two axes and four categories have proven insufficient to capture the complexities of IT markets in the second decade of the 21st century. Entire product categories become features of broader products at a dizzying rate. Disruptive innovators find ways to split existing markets in a new way by focusing on a different way of using or combining familiar capabilities. IT buyers are faced with a wide and constantly shifting range of offerings that could fit their needs, in many different ways.

Attempts to introduce nested quadrants or to add a third or fourth axis proved inadequate, as shown below. 

Magic Quadrant 3D!             Nested MQs

The only figure that could adequately cope with the complexity of the current IT market landscape is a fractal, a figure that can represent deep levels of complexity without losing fidelity.

Unfortunately, Magic Fractals cannot be adequately represented on a two dimensional web page. However, this video  shows a possible representation of a Magic Fractal, although the final version is likely to be different.


Category: humor Magic Quadrant     Tags: , , ,

New Year’s Anti-Resolutions for 2012

by Jeffrey Mann  |  January 1, 2012  |  Submit a Comment

For the last several years, I have done blog posts on what I call my anti-resolutions for the year. Many bloggers publish their predictions and highlights around this time of year. So I won’t. If lots of people do something, that usually is a good enough reason for me not do it.

My resolutions are “anti” in a couple different ways. Happy new year! 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. As well as being much easier, it seems to be becoming a thing. Anti-resolutions also suite the way that analysts work; we rarely do stuff, but we comment a lot on what other people or organizations should do or have done.

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 am generally not a grumpy person, but there’s a lot of undesirable activity going on out there. After reading this, please stop it. Thank you.

  1. Stop finding new ways to SPAM me. I have unsolicited email kind of under control. I’ve signed up for the don’t call me telemarketing lists. I really would rather not have to do that for Twitter, SMS, and other channels.
  2. Don’t think that a social media policy should be a long list of things NOT to do. It is OK for a list of anti-resolutions to sound a bit negative, but for social media policies it’s not a good idea. Describing what people should do, and they the organization encourages social media participation needs to be a part of any policy document.
  3. Please don’t ask me how to improve your position in a Magic Quadrant. The answer is simple: create a great product that people need, sell it a lot, and provide terrific support for your users. It really is that simple. There is no specific feature you can add, or partnership you can sign that will move your product to the upper right.
  4. If you want to set up a time to talk to me, tell me where you are likely to be. I live in Europe. I move around a lot. I have little trouble juggling time zones in my head. Matching up calendars will be easier if I know what time zone you are in.
  5. Don’t make me “like” something before I see what it is. Increasingly often, when I see a potentially interesting game, video, minisite or promotion on some social media site, the only way to see what it actually is requires pressing the Like button, or becoming a fan, or following the brand. How can I know if I like it before I see it? Please don’t ask me to commit before coming clean with what you’ve got.
  6. Don’t diss the vendor-customer relationship. I saw a truck go by on the highway this week that epitomizes this puzzling behaviour I see from more and more vendors. It said “All our customers are our partners!” What is wrong with being a customer? This statement assumes that being a partner is somehow more noble or exalted than being a mere customer. I don’t agree. Accepting someone’s money in exchange for providing a product or service is a great responsibility. Being a partner is a different relationship, where both parties expect to benefit from a third party because of their collaboration. Whenever a vendor starts talking about a “partnership” when they are trying to sell me something, I want to ask “So if I make a bonehead decision, will you lose your job?” That’s what being a partner means.
  7. Make noise about revenue and user adoption, not investments. Here is a tip for startups: I am far more impressed by a company that crows about its sales, revenues or customer growth than when it issues a big press release or (heaven forbid) throws a party to mark a big round of venture capital investment. Sure, it is nice when an investor believes enough in you to invest in your future. But it is far more significant when customers give you money because they believe you can help them. If I only ever hear about your ever larger VC participation rounds, it makes me think you are probably heading for a crash, because investors like to get returns on their investments, the kind that can only come from happy customers.
  8. Don’t think that Silicon Valley is like the rest of the world. Every time I visit clients in the Bay area, I notice how things change as I enter the SV Bubble. Within that bubble, reality shifts a bit. In the SV Bubble, SharePoint is irrelevant because no one uses it. Inside the bubble, privacy is a legal matter and not about not being creepy. Mentions on TechCrunch really matter there. VC investments seem to be more important than revenue numbers in there (see previous point). Ties don’t exist. It can be pleasant inside the Silicon Valley Bubble. Just don’t think that it is the real world.
  9. No one will “Reply all” to more than ten people.

Happy new year everyone.

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Category: anti-resolutions being an analyst social media social software     Tags: , ,

Getting Sociable at Symposium Barcelona

by Jeffrey Mann  |  November 4, 2011  |  2 Comments

Gartner’s big European event starts next week in Barcelona, a welcome change from Cannes, in my own opinion. Social is inevitably a hot topic, and I look forward to speaking with many customers over the four days of the conference. I will be doing two workshops (defining a social media strategy, and creating a SharePoint strategy with Mick MacCormascaigh) and two presentations (the social scenario and an update on Unified Communications and Collaboration with Steve Blood).

Those sessions would make it a busy four days, but also have about 35 meetings already scheduled. That means I am sold out, so I am sorry if any delegates weren’t able to get on my calendar. You can look for at the receptions (if the questions aren’t too hard) or set up a time to talk after the event if my slots were all taken.

This is the first time in three years that I am not looking at Symposium as the conference chair. I am looking forward to being “just” an analyst in one of my favourite cities in the world. Hope to see you there.



Category: being an analyst collaboration europe Events social media social software symposium     Tags: , , , , ,

KM vs. SM? Really?

by Jeffrey Mann  |  November 1, 2011  |  1 Comment


My colleague Anthony Bradley has been courting controversy with his comments on social media vs. knowledge management on his blog.

OK, I’ll bite. I disagree,

I disagree, but not so much on the substance of his comments. Anthony’s characterization of what some knowledge management (KM) projects look like, and what social media (SM) efforts should look like are accurate for many cases that I have observed. But that would be the case for pretty much any comments. KM can accurately be described in pretty much any way you like. It has become so broad a term that it threatens to stop meaning anything at all.

My real disagreement is with pretty much any sentence that starts with the phrase “KM is…” Whatever text follows will be too limiting. There will be plenty of situations that do not align with whatever that characterization is. Many KM projects look exactly like an SM project; in fact, adoption of social techniques is one of the hottest areas of KM right now. Certainly, many managers will mess it up by applying rigid ideas about how these project should be managed, but you don’t have to call it KM to do that; plenty will make mistakes without ever referring to KM at all. There are hundreds of ways to mess up a project.

I have been working with customers trying to do KM for at least 15 years. In that time, I have seen an unimaginably wide spectrum of activities that fall under what they call KM; some of them directed and hierarchical, many of them chaotic and emergent. I have pretty much given up on trying to wrestle down a concise definition of what KM is or should be for all practitioners and use cases. At Gartner, we have adopted for our purposes a wide definition ("A formal program to manage an organization’s intellectual assets.") coupled with narrow use cases that focus on design, justification, management and incentives. The KM activities as described should lead to other projects that deliver actual value. These could look like workflow, search, document management or, yes even social media projects. In our model, KM sets the scene for the real value to follow. Seen in this way, SM is just one of the tools and techniques that could be employed as the result of a KM process.

Not everyone will not use the term “KM” in that way, and that’s fine. If someone wants to call their storage management initiative KM, who am I to say that is forbidden? It is not the term that will cause failure; it’s what you do wrong that will send the project spinning off in the wrong direction.

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Category: knowledge management social media social software     Tags: , , , ,

Real Quadrants? Not Really

by Jeffrey Mann  |  April 2, 2011  |  2 Comments

I had a little fun in yesterday’s April 1 post assigning new names to the Magic Quadrants, and renaming the whole thing to Real Quadrants. I hope I left enough clues that it was a joke, but it actually illustrates a frustrating issue. I am starting the process to update the Externally-Facing Social Software Magic Quadrant, so how people use the MQ is top of mind at the moment.

Analysts do a lot of work to define inclusion and evaluation criteria to give what we feel is a realistic and useful picture of a market. Obviously, there is no way to include all the nuances of what companies need to do and how they should get there in a two dimensional graphic. For most markets, we cannot include all possible vendors, but draw the inclusion criteria carefully to rate the most relevant ones. Our goal is to make the dot placements provide an overall view of the market, which combined with the text descriptions of the market itself and each vendor provides useful guidance. These are consistently among the most popular deliverables we produce, so despite the inevitable limitations, clients love them and find them useful.

However, it is not a good idea to take important decisions only by looking at the top right corner. I cringe whenever I hear customers say that they only consider vendors in the leader’s quadrant. That is not how these things should be used. When I speak with customers, I often recommend vendors from every quadrant or who are not on the MQ at all, based on what the customer wants to achieve, the infrastructure already installed, potential affinity with how the vendor works, etc. Interpreting these diagrams too broadly means missing out on a lot of great stuff.

Also, apologies to European readers who probably didn’t read it on April 1. I only thought of it in the evening while walking my dog. It usually works that way.


Category: being an analyst humor Magic Quadrant     Tags: ,

Gartner Introduces “Real Quadrants” on April 1, 2011

by Jeffrey Mann  |  April 1, 2011  |  10 Comments

We are constantly looking at our branded deliverables to see how they can be improved or connect more closely with how our customers use them. Customer feedback has told us that the names of the 4 sections in our Magic Quadrants don’t correspond with how many customers choose to interpret them. Despite our efforts to explain how these are intended to be used, many customers insist on ignoring the real intentions behind the structure and assign simplistic interpretations to what each placement means.

Therefore, as of April 1, 2011 we will be renaming the Magic Quadrants and calling them “Real Quadrants®” and changing the names of each quadrant. Rather than Challengers, Leaders, Niche Players and Visionaries, the corresponding sections will be named as indicated below to correspond more closely with these simplistic interpretations.


It will take some time to finish reformatting existing documents. We expect to have this completed and will launch them all simultaneously on April 31, 2011. We have not yet come up with a name for the fifth quadrant introduced in Mark McDonald’s new magic MQ, which launched today.

For more information about Real Quadrants, please click here.


Category: being an analyst humor Magic Quadrant     Tags: , , , , , , ,

Closing Out the PCC Conference

by Jeffrey Mann  |  March 30, 2011  |  Submit a Comment

I’m waiting for my flight home after seeing the 2011 Portals, Content and Collaboration summit come to a close in Los Angeles. We passed the venue on to our CRM colleagues, imagewho will continue with Customer 360 event. These conferences are always as exhausting as they are stimulating, so please allow me some fairly random comments and observations.

  • It felt good, from the analyst perspective. 
    Events each have their own feel, their own level of buzz. This event certainly had lots of buzz, with a feeling of optimism underlying it. Judging by feedback from Twitter, people laughing at the right spots, and having lots of questions I felt like my sessions were well-received, even the one where I attack the wisdom of pursuing financial ROI for PCC projects. I was a bit nervous about that one.
  • The venue was great.
    The conference location at LA Live was pleasant to be at. I like downtown venues where it’s possible to get out and see something, where there are people around that aren’t part of the conference. This venue had that.
  • Technology is advancing, but the issues that many enterprises are facing don’t.
    The biggest challenges that enterprises face continue to be defining strategy, setting priorities and policies, and driving adoption. New capabilities come available, but these remain the issues that cause the biggest problems.
  • IRL doesn’t necessarily mean face time.
    The opportunity to meet with other people facing similar issues. This remains a challenge though, as ever more powerful and portable devices provide distraction. I almost tweeted a scene I found funny, with six people sitting around a table in comfortable chairs, all of them engrossed in their phones and tablets, ignoring each other. Tweeting snarky comments about customers is probably a bad thing though, so I held back.

I hope that Customer 360 will be as good. I will be watching on Twitter.

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Category: collaboration PCC social software     Tags: , , , ,