by Tom Austin | December 3, 2010 | 3 Comments
I’ve been on the road more than home for the last quarter, hitting the US West Coast, Florida, London, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney. The venue changes but the story and the opportunities remain. In almost every location, I’ve been talking to clients about the 10 top success factors (or 10 top failure modes — take your pick) in the new world of work, collaboration, social process support, and so on.
In summary form, here are 10 rules to attend to:
1. If you haven’t defined what constitutes success (and what constitutes failure), how do you know how you’re doing? Stop using vacuous terms like “collaboration” (which means everything to everyone and nothing specific), instead substitute behaviorally-related objectives (project completion rates, time to decision, community vitality). A majority of IT organizations fail on this criteria.
2. Get prior agreement with the business on success/failure criteria. A majority of IT organizations fail to do this.
3. The future is here now — potentiate it. Study existing work patterns and add value selectively. Make the best cases more successful. The worst cases will follow on later.
4. Ignore siren call of infrastructure merchants. Broadscale rollout establishes the wrong pattern and wrong expectations. See rule 3.
5. Culture: Evaluate the culture(s) in your organization and work within your cultural constraints.
6. Volitional: All of these approaches are “volitional”. Andy Grove was right when he said the new has to be 10X better to displace the old.
7. Not everyone is an expert! Target based on key skill profiles. Maybe you should target task workers or junior practitioners and not build for experts.
8. Interenterprise is a key part of critical ad-hoc projects where collaboration and social are key. Users will go outside if you make it difficult.
9. Less is more. Minimalism is to be revered.
10. Be organizationally inclusive at start (legal, ops, security, etc)
My peers continue to argue with me as to the order in which these points should be presented. I say they’re all important.
What rule would you strike from this list? Add to it?
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by Tom Austin | October 13, 2010 | Comments Off
If you’re not in control, you are out of control. Simple as that.
People who complain about having too much information to deal with have themselves to blame. (Or their boss which is really a reflection on their willingness to put up with information abuse.)
Set the right expectations and you’ll be fine.
If you get too many interrupts to be able to do the job at hand, shut off the source!
The mammalian central nervous system evolved to deal with huge numbers of inputs, prioritizing and attending to the most important. Standing on the edge of the savannah, we had to be constantly alert in search of prey and predators. Family — and the roaring fire in the mouth of the cave — provided comfort, safety and solace at night, providing you were inside the cave, not out.
Social tools are good to the extent that they can help prioritize, filter and selectively attend. If they’re just another stream of inputs, everyone of which you absolutely must deal with, you’re standing outside the cave, at night, with no way to get in.
[Turn OFF your iPhone/crackberry/etc from time to time, please!]
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by Tom Austin | October 1, 2010 | 4 Comments
Science Magazine (the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) published an article yesterday on the factors contributing to Collective Intelligence in groups.
Very interesting piece of research! A few key findings:
- Just as there is a general capability to perform a broad range of work — individual intelligence, there is a similar general capability that can be a measure of a group of people working together. The authors call this “collective intelligence”
- Collective intelligence is not primarily a function of the intelligence of the individual members of the group (or of the ‘smartest’ person in the group).
- The strongest predictor of measured “collective intelligence” is the social *sensitivity* of the members and the equality of distribution of conversational turn-taking.
The interesting question, to me, is what can we do to raise people’s *social sensitivity* in the workplace and how can we train them in better group-dynamics practices (e.g., conversational turn-taking). What cues do people need to respond to and how can we better communicate those cues?
Digg (and all the similar voting mechanisms) are cute and somewhat effective but surely there are more effective ways of communicating social cues than aggregating the number of thumbs up and thumbs down given to a particular item.
By the way, the authors of the study note that the proportion of females in the group is also a predictor of the collective intelligence of the group, but this is because females are more likely to be more socially sensitive than their male counterparts. Social sensitivity is more important than gender (but gender tends to be predictive — not determinative — of social sensitivity).
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by Tom Austin | September 22, 2010 | 1 Comment
My most recent post on the social and moral obligations of the IT industry has apparently generated zero comment.
Cynic that I am, I would ordinarily assume no one cares. Perhaps David Autor’s piece on the Brooking Institution site will generate some dialog. In the full PDF, he talks about the role of technology in the gutting of the middle class world wide.
Who wants to talk about the relationship between automation of routine tasks and reduction in the demand for labor?
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by Tom Austin | September 14, 2010 | 10 Comments
It was the early 1960s and as an inquisitive 8th grader, I had to naively ask, at a lecture at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Grand Army Plaza Branch “…So if computers are of value because they remove the need for people to perform certain jobs, what will those people do for work?”
As I recall, I felt the lecturer patronized me. “People will rejoice because they won’t have to do mind numbing tasks any more. Their quality of life will go up. People will have more leisure time. There will be new jobs fixing the computers and programming them to do new things and people will have to run them. Those jobs will pay well so the standard of living will grow up. Don’t worry about it.” It may have been a figment of my imagination, but I recall hearing something like “…sonny boy…” at the end.
Fifty years have gone by. We’ve accomplished the unimaginable! Computer technology pervades most of what we do and it does it invisibly and at phenomenally low cost. It’s miraculous, allowing a doctor thousands of miles from her patient to diagnose his problem with the simplest of tools attached to a mobile phone across a network reliant on millions of unseen CPUs. It helps up refine models for climate change, predict the weather a week or more ahead of time and kill people half way around the globe, sitting in a remote control center unexposed to mortal risk. It has dramatically increased the safety (and performance) of automobiles, simultaneously improving emissions and fuel economy (particularly when measured on a constant weight basis).
We can now use quant models to fire off market transactions in microseconds and socialize with people anywhere in the globe at light speed. We can analyze millions of text messages in fractions of a second and play the market implications of shifting sentiments faster than you or I can read this one sentence.
With our advance integrated logistics, tied into supply chain applications, ERP systems, product life cycle planning tools, automated warehouses, inter-enterprise networks and whatnot, the speed with which we run our businesses continues to accelerate.
Finally, the legal system that protects the intellectual property underneath most of this revolution has ensured hundreds of billions of dollars of profits for what have, over the last fifty years, become many of the biggest, most valuable enterprises ever. And it created phenomenal riches for some.
What’s wrong with this picture and what do we collectively need to do about it?
I’ve left out the admirable decision that people like Bill Gates have made, to return huge portions of the IT related personal wealth they accumulated over the last 25 or more years to help address some of the ills of the poorest of all of us. I deeply respect, appreciate, applaud and commend their philanthropy. But it’s not enough to absolve the negatives flowing along with the benefits of the IT and communications revolution we are going through.
Where all the new jobs for the ones displaced? Most will turn out to have been employment ephemera as new technologies came out, automating away the new jobs created by the previous cycle.
Where is the work-life balance improvement? It’s been disastrous. We’ve increased leisure time for parts of the middle and lower class (if you call underemployment and underemployment leisure — I don’t). And we’ve increased work demands on the privileged few with knowledge worker jobs (you’re still reading your crackberry at your kid’s musicals, aren’t you?) The U.S. is seeing continuing shrinkage of its middle class, probably more quickly than any other developed economy (although the U.S. may just be out in front, not unique).
How are all the IT and communications firms helping repair the social fabric that has been ripped to shreds during the last 30 to 40 years? This is not a call for a return to older models. Many of them were born in reaction to the post World War one socialism surge and the privations of World War two.
What the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is doing is phenomenally good but I wonder if Bill couldn’t have done more by driving the overall industry to actively do dramatically more to address the social, employment, education, motivation and direction problems we face today. What unique capabilities could the Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Intel, Google and others bring to the table to really attack these problems?
We have destroyed more jobs than we created. How do we address this, we, the active participants in this industry? Not through makeshift jobs or cash handouts. The issues and needs are deeper than that.
We have a pretty poor record at understanding and addressing these kind of issues. I look at the remarkably malapropism “social computing” making the rounds right now. Ask your teenage daughter if she’s doing social computing tonight and if she’s kind, she’ll just chuckle and roll her eyes.
(We also have to ask how much and how government policy may have also contributed here and how changing it might help the industry do a better job.)
I’m not naive. Every era of major technological change requires creative destruction to succeed. It is a necessary part of fundamental change. But this 50 year cycle’s implications are the most profound for our generation and we have a social and moral obligation to do more than we have done. (Carlota Perez’ analysis of these cycles is very interesting. She examines social unrest as a consequence.)
What are the right next steps?
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by Tom Austin | August 30, 2010 | 9 Comments
I’m flagging this as UNOFFICIAL because it’s not my intent to convey any formal Gartner positions here, only a few key personal observations.
I don’t buy every new technology that comes along (even my wife would begrudgingly agree but argue that I buy too many…). And I avoided the iPad siren call at announcement time. It was at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston in June (and a few other events in roughly the same timeframe) that I was seduced.
A lot of folks, particularly sales and marketing types, were using them. So I went out and bought a 3G 64 GB version at the end of June.
Understand, I have tried to be a tablet “fanatic” for years. I went so far as to go out and buy my own Lenovo X61 convertible Tablet (running Windows Vista and Office 2007) in April of 2008. I used it as a tablet until my peers complained that they didn’t like the handwritten emails hogging inbox space. Reading my scrawl was much harder than I thought it was…
The Tablet was also a brick, particularly with the extended life battery that usually conked out in about 2 and a half hours. And startup time? Well, like any good Windows machine, you could measure it in minutes…and then there were all the security patches and forced reboots and image backups and … well, we’ve all been there. And we’re there now…
(I am not a Windows tablet fanatic but I do like OneNote…)
My iPad hasn’t replaced my Tablet PC. And it hasn’t replaced my company issued notebook computer, my personal photo and music editing machine or any of the other computers in my apartment. It’s just made them more secondary.
I’ve seen cases already where iPads are being picked up in a variety of contexts, e.g., on the job in construction, in development for medical applications, in manufacturing operations for data collection and so forth.
The iPad is transformational because it just simply works. It comes on in a couple of seconds. Reboots? You’re kidding, right? I am sure I will want to or have to reboot my iPad someday. That day hasn’t come yet. (I rebooted my iPhone 4 once after 10 weeks of use.)
My expectation is most executives will use instant on, highly reliable (flash based), long-life tablets like the iPad. And as prices get driven down in a few years, these things are going to as ubiquitous as simple calculators once were.
And these things are *not* just “media tablets”. For many, they will be the almost everything device, with persistent storage on the web and offline operation via cached content on the device.
The iPad *is* the right *network computer* vision — it sort of fits what we described in 1997 when I started writing about network computing, but that’s another story.
The iPad is a mortal threat to most user PCs in existence today. I’m sure Microsoft and Google can come up with their own iPad equivalents. And I hope they’re more competitive than Zune. That’s not intended as a cheap shot. Apple needs more competition, but that’s another story too.
So what’s wrong with this story? Do you see most people having personal devices like an iPad?
Let me close with an interesting story. The Telegraph (London) published a story today entitled Oxford English Dictionary ‘will not be printed again’ from which I’ll reproduce the following quote:
Simon Winchester, author of ‘The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary’, said the switch towards online formats was “prescient”.
He said: “Until six months ago I was clinging to the idea that printed books would likely last for ever. Since the arrival of the iPad I am now wholly convinced otherwise.
Good piece to reflect on.
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by Tom Austin | August 11, 2010 | 2 Comments
In his piece in the New York Times, “The First Church of Robotics”, Jaron Lanier comes to bury AI, not to praise it. The piece is clear — there is substantial value to much of the technology work that some might classify as “Artificial Intelligence” but calling it that, according to Jaron, leads to major errors.
It’s a good piece, with some good insights, and he’s not afraid to take on icons of the industry, ranging from Dyson’s story about Google’s book scanning to NYU’s Shirky, whom Lanier says
“…suggested that when people engage in seemingly trivial activities like “re-Tweeting,” relaying on Twitter a short message from someone else, something non-trivial — real thought and creativity — takes place on a grand scale, within a global brain.”
I’m not completely with Lanier on that one. There are collective phenomena that can emerge from the chatter.
At times, the piece is burdened with too much philosophical baggage but some wisdom comes out of it. For example, what we’ve called “knowledge management” might better thought of as advanced content management, at least the way it’s practiced (and sometimes, one can drop the word “advanced”).
And I am singularly unimpressed with talk of “artificial intelligence”. We can’t effective define natural intelligence so how the heck are we going to create an artificial version?
Both KM and AI have produced important results. But calling them either KM or AI is grossly misleading.
In the main, I think Lanier’s comments are worth consideration and debate. What do you think?
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by Tom Austin | August 8, 2010 | 8 Comments
IBM’s Director, End-User Messaging and Collaboration (Ed Brill) has implicitly recommended that people not read Gartner’s research discussing clients who are asking about moving away from IBM Lotus Notes/Domino email. Why? Well, because he’s summarized the note in his blog post and determined it’s inconsequential.
I discussed Ed’s post in an earlier blog posting of my own, but realize that many readers might want some evidence of elements of our research note that Ed conveniently left out. Here’s one, emphasized in bold:
From 1 July 2009 to 30 April 2010, 116 different clients booked one or more calls with Gartner analysts seeking advice on migrating away from Notes for e-mail. … By comparison, during the same 10-month period, no Microsoft e-mail customers called us for advice on whether to migrate to Notes/Domino for e-mail, although a few considered moving or have moved to other providers, notably Google.
This market disparity is a significant factor Reread what IBM’s Brill conveniently left out. (There’s more in the research note.)
Our research is based on substantive data and very serious discussions with professionals with serious issues and concerns, not cocktail party chatter.
By the way, we’re an equal opportunity analyst firm — we call ‘em like we see ‘em. In this segment, for example, we go deep on all the key competitors. We take Microsoft to task over BPOS-related issues in “Make or Break Time for Microsoft Cloud E-Mail” and I personally laid into Google in this blog less than a week ago. (Behind that blog post is detailed analysis of the Google business model and what it means.) We haven’t seen either Google or Microsoft posting suggestions that people not “bother” reading Gartner research because they don’t like what we’ve written.
If you’re a Gartner client, call us with your important issues.
If you’re not a Gartner client, our Gartner sales offices can help you out. Seriously. Call them…
And if you see any vendor suggesting you need not bother reading any of our research, treat that as a big red flag!
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by Tom Austin | August 7, 2010 | 11 Comments
IBM’s Ed Brill decided to do himself a favor by publishing his summary of our recent research note entitiled “Migrating Off Notes/Domino E-Mail May Make Sense in Some Circumstances”.
If you want to understand what we said, read our research note, not (just) Ed’s spin. I say “we” because even though the only name on the author line is mine, the contents were written by hundreds of Gartner clients, filtered through several key Gartner analysts and vetted by a large number of analysts and managers at Gartner.
While you need to be a Gartner client to read the note, the summary we posted is available to everyone, whether clients or not:
Increasing numbers of IBM Lotus Notes e-mail customers seek Gartner’s advice about moving to other e-mail systems. Either staying with Notes e-mail or migrating can be the right choice, depending on each enterprise’s needs and circumstances.
Those of you who are clients should take the complete Research Note — print it out — and take a highlighter to it (or use electronic equivalents) and try to figure out what statements in the research note Ed Brill forgot to mention in his write up. If you run into Ed, ask him. If you run into an IBM account executive brandishing Ed’s summary, ask the account exec.
Then prioritize the omissions for Ed (there’s more than one). And send them to him asking him why those statements were left out.
Don’t really do that, please! Ed doesn’t need to be deluged with more email, in either electronic or paper form. I’m trying to make an important point. You might benefit from seeing the difference between our research and vendor spin (or vendor employee spin).
Consider the sources: Ed is IBM’s chief Notes evangelist (his official title is Director, End-User Messaging and Collaboration) and his focus is maximizing IBM’s success. Would you expect someone in that position to put a spin on his summary of our research, a spin to help him achieve his objectives? (I bet you and I have formulated the same answer in our minds.)
I’ve been where Ed is today. I used to work for a vendor in this very space, among others, Digital Equipment. I know what someone in Ed’s position is supposed to do. And, in my capacity as a Gartner analyst, I know what I have to do too.
If you want to know what we wrote, read our research, not a vendor’s summary or extract or use of selected quotes. Otherwise, you never really know what you’re getting, do you?
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by Tom Austin | August 5, 2010 | 3 Comments
These thoughts are purely personal ones, about the industry, and they do not necessarily reflect Gartner’s official positions here.
Enterprise buyers and independent software vendors are not getting a fair shake.
Last night I read about Google’s decision to pull the plug on Wave. It was posted on the Google blog. Well, congrats to them for telling the world. But it’s not not enough to announce the execution after it has happened.
We’re going to publish an official position on the crash of Wave (this isn’t it) but I think there are some important additional lessons to be learned out of this situation, lessons for enterprises, software and service providers and Google, among others.
We just published a research note that I authored on the business mechanics of Google’s GAPE. The summary says:
Gartner estimates that Google Apps Premier Edition generates only 0.3% of Google’s revenue. Office, including e-mail and collaboration tools, generates 28% of Microsoft’s revenue and over half its profits. The firms’ offerings are similar, so exploit their business-model differences where you can.
Three tenths of a percent! GAPE is a rounding error (we estimate Q1 revenue at $21 million out of $300 million of “License and other Revenue” which itself is a miniscule proportion of the 6.8 billion dollars of total revenue they reported).
The troubling fact is Google has not released any official numbers on exactly how much revenue GAPE generates. For that matter, the other vendors (e.g., IBM and Microsoft) aren’t as forthcoming as we’d like them to be either. But Google’s lack of real transparency here is most critical because they have to establish credibility and trust to succeed.
We’ve heard the good talk from Google about how important Apps is to their strategy — from Schmidt on down. If it’s so important, we think Google should publish its GAPE revenue numbers and put their credibility on the line with their buyers, the SEC and the world. (We’d say the same thing to their competitors.) Further, we think enterprises should demand it — and not the hand waving we’ve seen about 25 million users (most of whom don’t pay for GAPE).
Think about the independent software vendors (ISVs) who may have invested in Wave. Now that Google has pulled the plug, why should enterprises believe Google won’t announce someday through their blog that they’re pulling the plug on GAPE? We don’t believe the effort is a big contributor to their results (read my note if you can). They may even be losing money given what we see. We’re sure Google will honor its contracts but that’s not enough.
If Google wants enterprises to trust them, they need to be far more transparent about how this business is going. And they need to be more forthcoming about what exactly they’re planning to deliver. Forget about NDA hand waving! Where’s the open plan? Google likes to position themselves as promoting the free flow of information. Where’s the free flow of information to the market about what they are going to deliver when?
A great test of Google’s strategy of “democratizing information” would be for them to make their ever evolving product plan public, along with status changes, slips, delivery ahead of schedule, plan changes and so forth. A few quarters of exposure to that for enterprises and maybe they could generate more credibility and trust with enterprises. And drive more openness from their competitors, too.
Google doesn’t feel ready to intimately engage the enterprise market. I love their sense of being “different”. I love their engineering derring-do and entrepreneurial spirit. But enterprise investments require more than flirtatious seduction. It requires a willingness and commitment to get married on the part of both parties. Google needs to do more to get enterprises to step up to the altar and get married.
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