31
Dec

An unfortunate success story for anyone keen on Office 365

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthOn December 30, 2014, the Business Insider website published an article written by Julie Bort, titled Why An Ex-Microsoft Exec Chose Google Apps Over Microsoft’s Office 365 For His Startup (http://www NULL.businessinsider NULL.com/ex-microsoft-exec-choose-google-apps-2014-12#ixzz3NUrOUIxx). Bort’s article follows the form of a success story, much like the success stories Microsoft publishes on its web sites. But the success story presented by Bort’s article actually tells the story of the conversion of a once prominent executive at Microsoft, and his new business, over to the ranks of subscribers to Google Apps. Even worse, Rahul Sood (the former Microsoft manager of Microsoft Ventures) explains how his team considered subscribing to Office 365, before finalizing their decision, but decided to pass.

One wonders why Microsoft’s own PR effort hasn’t produced more of these articles: in other words, success stories written by writers not directly affiliated with Microsoft, and published on independent websites. As I just noted, Microsoft’s own websites present an extensive set of this content. But somehow the impact of an article like Bort’s is greater, especially given its title. As to the actual detail she presents, arguably, basing a decision on the email component of a suite of Office applications like Office 365 (or Google Apps) is not likely to be appealing to cloud, SaaS stakeholders from any organizations looking to move beyond email, and into one of the more collaborative and informative methods of exchanging data included with Office 365; for example, Yammer newsfeeds, or SharePoint Online Document Libraries and Lists.

But the detail doesn’t matter when the title, itself, amounts to news potentially embarrassing to Microsoft. There is no way to ensure once prominent Microsoft executives like Rahul Sood will continue to choose Microsoft’s own solutions. But there should be no impediment to the PR team at Microsoft looking for the same type of content (meaning ex-executives at Microsoft competitors opting for Microsoft solutions) to balance the public perception of just who is using Office 365.

The kind of content tracking capability implicit to Office 365’s Managed Metadata Service may not be important to a gaming startup like Sood’s. But any startup in a heavily regulated industry will likely pass on GMail as a principal method of exchanging data, anytime, and choose, instead SharePoint Online Document Libraries and Lists, if compliance reporting is a requirement for the business.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

30
Dec

Don’t put too much stock in Amazon’s list of top selling computers for the 2014 holidays

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthOn the day after Christmas, December 26, 2014, Amazon published a press release titled Amazon Prime Experiences Another Record-Breaking Holiday Season (http://phx NULL.corporate-ir NULL.net/phoenix NULL.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2002024). This press release included a listing of the most popular purchases for the holiday gift-buying season. In the computer category the winner was the Acer C720 Chromebook.

Some writers made a point of this press release. Brooke Crothers wrote a piece for Forbes titled Chromebooks From Acer, Asus, HP Top Holiday Sellers On Amazon (http://www NULL.forbes NULL.com/sites/brookecrothers/2014/12/29/chromebooks-from-acer-asus-hp-top-holiday-sellers-on-amazon/).

But a mere 4 days after the publication of this list, on December 30, 2014, the top selling laptop was an Asus running Microsoft Windows.

So what is the significance, if any, of the Amazon statistics? Readers approaching personal computers as pure commodities (I admit to membership in this camp) may want to note the decline in street price represented by these transactions and consider the impact, if any, on adjacent hardware computing form factors (namely tablets). But even by this measure the Amazon statistics can be misleading: the best selling computer device on the Amazon web site on December 30, as of 5:30pm, was the Kindle HD tablet, with a price of $99.00. So, is it, therefore, safe to say the street price for personal computing devices is now firmly established below the $100 mark? Further, does this mean we are looking at a substantially higher volume of devices sold?

I don’t think so. The dollar impact of all of these comparatively inexpensive computing devices is not, in my opinion, likely to mean much of anything good for the bottom line of manufacturers. Commodities are all about big volumes and very low margins. So all of these sales may amount to more of a headache for Asus and its competitors, than anything else.

But what about the impact of the volume of operating system (O/S) licenses associated with these sales? The Amazon press release identifies Google’s Chrome O/S as the winner. So is it safe to say Microsoft took a hit from the season? I don’t think so. Chrome is a cloud O/S. If, for argument’s sake, I buy into the notion Chromebooks were the real best seller for this holiday season, then the impact of choice associated with cloud (and the possibility some of these new Chromebook owners will opt for a personal subscription to Office 365) is a big factor rendering any call too early to tell.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

29
Dec

Does Google face a difficult internal challenge as it addresses the enterprise computing market with products?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthPerhaps the biggest obstacle to Google for work improving its success in the enterprise computing market is Google’s approach to marketing communications. Where are the blogs? Is there an easy-to-find repository full of the kind of promotional information enterprise tech consumers have demonstrated an interest in digesting? How do Google’s communications efforts compare to its peers?

The answer to each of the three questions posed above is, unfortunately, not promising:

Where are the blogs?

Unless/until one lands on the Google for work “home page”, Google for Work (https://www NULL.google NULL.com/work/), it is not likely readers will be able to locate the “for work” blog. The blog is mentioned in a vertical column located on the right of the very bottom of the home page under a curious title, “Keep in Touch”.

A search of blogger (which is now a component of Google, itself) did not produce any “Google” blogs with the content enterprise IT management traditionally has been shown to consume.

Is there a familiar spot on the web where business management can visit to read the latest news on Google’s products for enterprise computing?

If one assumes the Google Work (or is it “for work”?) page to be the online repository for any/all information about enterprise computing products offered by Google, disappointment will likely follow. “Google for Work” maintains a Twitter page, @googleforwork. A quick review of the tweets on the page revealed a lot of content located on Google + pages. All of these entries should be linked to the “Google for Work” home page. But, unfortunately, this is not the case. The Twitter page is a better bet. Though even a search of the Twitter page will not reveal all of the content published on topics related to the Google for work offers.

How does Google’s MARCOM for “Google for Work” compare?

I spend quite a bit of time working with marketing communications material published by Microsoft, arguably, Google’s most formidable challenger in the enterprise computing market. Blogs are a prominent feature of Microsoft’s core web sites:

  • Office (http://www NULL.office NULL.com)
  • and MSDN (http://msdn NULL.microsoft NULL.com)

“Blogs” are accessible via a click on a link prominently displayed on the Office home page. The link, admittedly, is located towards the bottom of the page as is the case with the blog link on the Google for work site.

On the MSDN web site, blogs are accessible via a click on the “Community” tab on the horizontal navigation bar at the top of the page, and then a click on the “Blog” hot link exposed to the site visitor.

Oracle maintains an even more extensive set of blogs than Microsoft and, once again, collects the blog content within a “Community” link. IBM does, as well, though the IBM content is not centralized.

Google should re-architect its marketing communications effort for the “Google for work” product line if it is to succeed. Some thought should also go into choosing a better brand name for the product.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

26
Dec

Accenture publishes a study pointing to an expanded IT systems decision-making role for CFOs at many enterprise businesses

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthWith a publication date of December 29, 2014, Accenture released its annual High Performance Finance Study (http://www NULL.accenture NULL.com/us-en/Pages/insight-high-performance-finance-study-cfo-architect-business-value NULL.aspx) for 2014. The findings presented reinforce the notion of a changed decision-making hierarchy for IT systems and solutions within many enterprise businesses.

In my opinion, anyone with an interest in Microsoft should take a look at this report. The two core IT topics:

  • “complex legacy systems and environments”
  • and “[t]he rise of digital on the CFO agenda”

may provide two of the planks of a foundation beneath a joint effort between the two companies, apparently scheduled for 2015: Microsoft, Accenture partner on hybrid cloud offering (http://www NULL.zdnet NULL.com/article/microsoft-accenture-partner-on-azure-hybrid-cloud-offering/).

The first of the IT topics presented in the report, “complex legacy systems and environments” make up the on-premises component of a typical hybrid cloud computing scenario. The second, “digital”, “which may include cloud computing or software as a service (SaaS), big data and/or analytics, mobility and social media” (quoted in entirety from an Annual report from Accenture. I have provided a link to the entire report, above), amounts to the other half of the hybrid computing solution.

As I wrote recently, Microsoft provided more of an indication of a shift in the route taken by examples of technology “innovation” as these improvements enter enterprise businesses (and their larger counterparts in the public and not-for-profit sectors) in a global roadshow intended to help these organizations hasten the rate at which they are adopting cloud, SaaS computing offers (with Office 365 as the leading offer from Microsoft in this space). For readers unfamiliar with this global event, the title of this event is “Microsoft Office 365 Summit”, which I attended in New York City in early October. Since the New York City event, Microsoft has held the same event in Sydney, Australia and even in Moscow, in Russia. The Keynote from the New York Show provided Microsoft with an opportunity to present the notion of enterprise IT organizations abdicating the “innovation” leadership role. The report from Accenture argues the Finance Organization has picked it up, although leadership apparently amounts to a lot more accomodation, and a lot less evangelizing new computing methods. Of course, given ubiquitous BYOD across most of these organizations, the changes make sense.

The task facing the CFO as new enterprise tech leader, if the Accenture report is credible (which I think is the case), is much more a matter of building the right container to house “innovation” than actually leading on it. The role is a good one for Finance, which, after all, has to pay the bills, anyways.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

24
Dec

A different perspective on the significance of finance executives assuming CIO duties at major corporations

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthOn December 12, 2014, the CIO Journal feature of the Wall Street Journal included an article written by Rachael King on the appointment of Julie Lagacy to the position of CIO for Caterpillar. The title of King’s article is Caterpillar’s New CIO Has a Finance Background (http://blogs NULL.wsj NULL.com/cio/2014/12/12/caterpillars-new-cio-has-a-finance-background/). While I agree with King”s decision to write about this appointment, in my opinion the significance of it is very different, in fact, a direct opposite, from what King portrays in her article.

King quotes Peter High, whom she identifies as “president of strategy and management consulting firm Metis Strategy, LLC”. She includes a quote from an email message High apparently sent out to his subscribers after the announcement of Lagacy’s appointment to the position of CIO for Caterpillar: “[a]s IT grows in complexity and as IT is at the heart of so much innovation in companies, increasingly IT must act like any other business division, and it must speak the language of business: finance” (quoted from Rachael King’s article. I’ve included a link to the article in the first paragraph of this post).

In October of this year I attended a two day seminar in New York City hosted by Microsoft on the topic of Office 365 Adoption. The title for the seminar was Office 365 Summit: New York (http://summit NULL.office NULL.com/events/office-365-summit-new-york). The Keynote presentation for this seminar, which was presented by Michael Atalla of Microsoft (Atalla, per his LinkedIn Profile is Director, Product Management, Office) picked up on precisely the same topic of the role enterprise IT organizations (and their management, ie CIOs), in 2014, and going forward, will play with regards to the route innovation takes as it enterprise the enterprise. But Atalla portrayed the route, and enterprise IT’s role quite differently. He went to some length to describe the notion of highly consumerized technology, which, nevertheless, constitutes the “leading edge” of innovation, entering the organization as the result of ubiquitous BYOD policies. Along this route, Atalla characterized enterprise IT as playing much more of a custodial role in this process than anything close to a leadership role.

I agree with what I take to be Atalla’s assessment. In my opinion Caterpillar’s decision to appoint a senior finance manager, Julie Lagacy, is an example of how this custodial role is playing out for very large businesses here in the U.S., and not the kind of decision Peter High (and, presumably, Rachael King) consider it to be. Enterprise IT is no longer “the heart of so much innovation”. Perhaps it never was.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

23
Dec

ExactTarget and Socedo enable direct marketing in an online, otherwise inbound contact world

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthDirect marketers feeling lonely in 2014’s online world can take heart. ExactTarget (http://www NULL.exacttarget NULL.com) and Socedo (http://www NULL.socedo NULL.com) have the tools required to potentially transform an outbound strategy into an online, social media winner.

I’ve been using Socedo for about a month, and recently sat through a couple of ExactTarget product presentations. In my opinion, either of these tools provide direct marketing professionals with methods of proactively engaging with prospects online. The opportunity for this type of, hopefully, person-to-person interaction (as opposed to person to bot interaction), in a world of online product promotion otherwise dominated by inbound marketing solutions (like HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo), is no small feat. Certainly the prominence of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, (along with the information-heavy alerts/newsfeeds they each provide) near the top of the heap of opportunities, online, for personal engagement, contributes to the promise of these tools. But readers are advised not to get sidetracked: the tools themselves are definitely worth some study.

Both tools can be used to identify online content matching patterns, including keywords, prospect profiles, etc. The ExactTarget demonstration I attended included identification and aggregation of online content matching pattern targets in real time. The presentation method included a set of browser widgets, which a user can run, ad hoc, by simply refreshing a browser window.

Socedo and ExactTarget each include a workflow engine. So some of the task of engaging with prospects can be automated. Socedo’s workflow is complex and includes a component which can be configured with a set of criteria the solution will then use to analyze targets prior to presenting them as “leads”. The brief glimpse I had of ExactTarget’s workflow leads me to assume their automation engine is more useful for routing information along to designated contacts within a marketing team, than it would be as a means of placing the whole outbound engagement process on auto pilot (which is where Socedo looks to be going with their processes).

As far as scope is concerned, ExactTarget presents online direct marketers with a panoramic view of just about all of the social media venues they could imagine. In contrast, Socedo is limited (at least at present) to the Twitter fire hose.

Bottom line: early stage ISVs after a method of neutralizing the “passivity potential” of inbound marketing should take a look at one, or better yet, both of these tools. Feel free to contact me for more of my thoughts on either product.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

22
Dec

Disruptive Technology startups require a different set of evaluation criteria

Uber, Airbnb, and, I would argue, Yelp and Groupon can each be categorized as a disruptive technology startup. But the importance of the adjective appended to the business type for this category of early stage business should not be over-emphasized. Here’s why:

For each of the businesses mentioned above, an important objective is to capitalize on an opportunity to enhance the efficiency of a social process. In the late 1990s this phenomenon was referred to as “dis-intermediation”. Back then, online versions of print publications popped up to challenge the hardcopy hierarchy of newspapers. The whole process was disruptive, even down to the tense internal relationship between teams at, for example, the Conde Nast set of publications, and their print counterparts. Back then, I worked with Human Resources at Conde Nast in effort to help them fill some editorial management positions for their online publications. So I can personally attest to the disruptive nature of the process.

So disruption is nothing new. But why all the buzz about “disruptive tech (http://www NULL.foxbusiness NULL.com/technology/2014/12/22/year-in-tech-disruption-takes-center-stage/)“? Perhaps it will be helpful to consider the scope of the impact of a business like Uber. Car services are used by a much larger segment of the US population than, one can argue, even print newspapers. Therefore, when a well-funded albeit early-stage business like Uber tries to step into the New York City market for private car transportation services, it makes a very big noise. I would argue businesses like Yelp and Groupon are doing the same. The size of the US markets impacted by Yelp and Groupon are comparably massive. So the moniker “disruptive” makes sense for them, as well.

Disruption is actually nothing new to new businesses entering already established markets, and certainly predates the Internet. One need only consider Henry Ford’s Model T and the impact it had on the horse-drawn carriage trade to identify the surroundings of a massively disruptive business plan. Bottom line, anyone choosing to evaluate the likelihood of success for the next Uber should be comfortable with business process “disruption” and on the lookout for the resources the business will require to succeed.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

19
Dec

Success Stories and Case Studies do serve a purpose for enterprise technology consumers

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIf ISVs with offerings targeted to enterprise computing markets needed any more indication of the importance of case studies and success stories, they likely got what they needed in an article written by Elizabeth Dwoskin, which was published on December 16, 2014 on the Online Wall Street Journal web site.

The title of Dwoskin’s article is The Joys and Hype of Software Called Hadoop (http://www NULL.wsj NULL.com/articles/the-joys-and-hype-of-software-called-hadoop-1418777627?mod=LS1). The reason her article should alert any ISVs still in the dark as to why they absolutely require a marketing communications effort, which will produce success stories and case studies can be found in the following quote:

  • “Yet companies that have tried to use Hadoop have met with frustration. Bank of New York Mellon used it to locate glitches in a trading system. It worked well enough on a small scale, but it slowed to a crawl when many employees tried to access it at once, and few of the company’s 13,000 information-technology workers had the expertise to troubleshoot it. David Gleason, the bank’s chief data officer at the time, said that while he was a proponent of Hadoop, ‘it wasn’t ready for prime time.'” (quoted in entirety from Dwoskin’s article in the WSJ. I have provided a link to the entire article, above and encourage readers to spend some time on it)

This comment from a large enterprise consumer — BNY Mellon — which can be read as less than positive, can (and likely will) do a lot to encourage peers to look a lot closer at Hadoop prior to moving forward on an implementation.

Bottom line: enterprise businesses do not like to proceed where their peers have hit obstacles like the one Gleason recounts in his comment. Peer comparisons are, arguably, a very important activity for enterprise business consumers. So ISVs working with Hadoop on big data offers, or NoSQL databases and related analytics need to make the effort to queue up positive comments about consumer experiences with their products.

I recently wrote a set of posts to this blog on Big Data, NoSQL and JSON and must admit to experiencing some difficulty finding the case studies and success stories I needed to gain a perspective on just how enterprise consumers have been using products presented as solutions to the market for these computing trends. Hortonworks (http://www NULL.hortonworks NULL.com), on the other hand, is an exception. So I would encourage any readers after the same type of testimonial content about customer experience with products to visit Hortonworks on the web.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

18
Dec

A Microsoft Perspective on NoSQL and Document Databases

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIn November, 2011, Julie Lerman wrote a post for Microsoft’s MSDN Magazine on Document Databases. The title of her post is What the Heck Are Document Databases? (http://msdn NULL.microsoft NULL.com/en-us/magazine/hh547103 NULL.aspx) Her post may provide business sponsors of NoSQL database projects with useful information about the notion of NoSQL, and, therefore is recommended reading material.

What prompts me to recommend this post for business stakeholders in NoSQL projects (aka Gartner’s “Citizen Developers”) is the comparative lack of abstraction characterizing Lerman’s presentation. She quickly identifies document databases as one of several types of NoSQL databases (she also presents “key-value pair” databases and points to Azure Table Storage as an example). Here’s a great example of the simplicity of Lerman’s presentation of the notion of NoSQL: “The term is used to encompass data storage mechanisms that aren’t relational and therefore don’t require using SQL for accessing their data.”

For some business readers even this short definition may be challenging. Just what does she mean when she presents her notion of “data storage mechanisms that aren’t relational?” It would, perhaps, have been helpful for the audience I have targeted to add an additional sentence, to simply illustrate how rows and columns in tables, which are, defacto, “relational” components (or structure) actually offer users a method of storing information. Kind of like “I know where you are, therefore, dear data, you have been stored SOMEWHERE”.

But the business user is likely not Lerman’s intended audience. This post appears in Microsoft’s MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) Magazine, so the intended audience, I would assume, are coders working with Microsoft tools (.NET, C#) via VisualStudio. Nevertheless, sections of the post (like the one’s I’ve quoted, above) are certainly worth a read by the audience I have in mind, as well.

Here’s more useful information. As I wrote last week, the definition of NoSQL, “Not Only Structured Query Language” is a useful text string to keep in mind when grappling with hype about “radically different” approaches to managing data, or “getting rid of” relational databases. Back in November, 2011, when Lerman published her post, she drills down into defining the NoSQL acronym, too, by pointing her readers to a post by Brad Holt of the CouchDB (http://couchdb NULL.apache NULL.org/) project. The title of Holt’s post is Addressing the NoSQL Criticism (http://bradley-holt NULL.com/2011/07/addressing-the-nosql-criticism/), which he handles by noting “First, NoSQL is horrible name. It implies that there’s something wrong with SQL and it needs to be replaced with a newer and better technology. If you have structured data that needs to be queried, you should probably use a database that enforces a schema and implements Structured Query Language. I’ve heard people start redefining NoSQL as “not only SQL”. This is a much better definition and doesn’t antagonize those who use existing SQL databases. An SQL database isn’t always the right tool for the job and NoSQL databases give us some other options.” (this quote is excerpted, in entirety, from Brad Holt’s post. I’ve provided a link here to the complete post and encourage readers to read the post in entirety.).

So if you need to get a good understanding about the Document Database type of NoSQL structure, I recommend reading Lerman and Holt’s posts.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

17
Dec

Google Debuts Cloud Dataflow at Google I/O 2014

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthAt the end of a 2.5 hr plus webcast of the Keynote Presentation from Google I/O 2014 (https://www NULL.google NULL.com/events/io#wtLJPvx7-ys) can be found the debut of Google Cloud Dataflow, the replacement for Google MapReduce. Readers unfamiliar with MapReduce, but avidly interested in the big data enterprise computing trend, need to understand MapReduce as the application at the foundation of today’s Apache Hadoop project. Without MapReduce, the Apache Hadoop project would not exist. So Google MapReduce is a software package worth some study, as is Cloud Dataflow.

But wait, there’s more. As Urs Hölze, Senior Vice President, Technical Infrastructure, introduces Google Cloud Dataflow, his audience is also informed about Google’s role in the creation of another of today’s biggest enterprise data analytics approaches — NoSQL (“Not only SQL”). He casually informs his audience (the segue is a simple “by the way”) Google invented NoSQL.

I hope readers will get a feel for where I’m headed with these comments about these revelations about Google’s historical role in the creation of two of the very big trends in enterprise computing in late 2014. I’m perplexed at why Google would, literally, bury this presentation at the very end of the Keynote. Why would Google prefer to cover its pioneering role in these very hot computing trends with a thick fog? Few business decision-makers, if any, will be likely to pierce this veil of obscurity as they search for best-in-class methods of incorporating clusters of servers in a parallel processing role (in other words “big data”) to better address the task of analyzing text data scraped from web pages for corporate sites (“NoSQL”).

On the other hand, I’m also impressed by the potential plus Google can realize by removing this fog. Are they likely to move in this direction? I think they are, based upon some of the information they reported to the U.S. SEC in their most recent 10Q filing for Q3 2014. Year-over-year, the “Other Revenues” segment of Google’s revenue stream grew by 50% from $1,230 (in 000s) in 2013, to $1,841 in 2014. Any/all revenue Google realizes from Google Cloud and its related components (which, by the way, include Cloud Dataflow) are included in this “Other Revenues” segment of the report. For the nine months ending September 30, 2014, the same revenue segment increased from $3,325 in 2013, to $4,991 in 2014. Pretty impressive stuff, and not likely to diminish with a revamped market message powering “Google at Work”, and Amit Singh (late of Oracle) at the head of the effort.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved