4
Jun

Successfully Promoting Apps to Enterprise Business Requires More Than An Appeal to Mobile Users

2 Color Design Hi-Res From the recent financial results of leading software vendors — Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and more — it should be apparent enterprise computing remains the most lucrative software market in mid 2015. So early stage tech businesses (ISVs) need to conceptualize, architect, and build solutions on a foundation including a clear understanding of what enterprise computing is all about if a revenue plan includes marketing to enterprise business.

Unfortunately, ISVs with CRM apps written for iOS who expect business consumers to buy simply because they use iPhones are not likely to succeed. Sure these apps will work fine — to an extent — for SMBs, but not for enterprise computing. A scalable architecture is absolutely required for this market segment. After all, enterprise computing includes PCs, Mainframes, and mobile devices (including tablets as well as smartphones). So it makes sense to either include a PC version of your solution, which will work seamlessly along side your client for the iPhone and iPad. If you do not have the PC solution, then you must have the hooks in place to allow users to plug your solution into one built on a scalable architecture addressing this market requirement.

All of the above may seem rudimentary to readers, but I was recently approached by an early stage business with a CRM built for iPhones, only. When I asked about clients for PCs, etc, my questions went into the void and my email exchange abruptly terminated. So early stage ISVs often combine a promising solution for a solution businesses may really need, with a very limited and inadequate understanding of just how users will actually consume the solution.

Of course, building your solution for an enterprise computing market doesn’t stop when you have successfully equipped your solution with a scalable architecture. You will have to also use a method of authenticating users. So here, too, you should choose the method most familiar to the market — in all likelihood something built to communicate with Microsoft’s Active Directory.

The list of critical architectural requirements does not stop with the above couple of examples. There are more, in fact too many to discuss, completely, in this post even in no more than broad terms.

If you have a solution you think is promising for enterprise computing, but are not familiar with the requirements posed by this market, you need to add someone to your management team who can fill this gap. Our temporary VP of marketing plan can execute on this role until you identify a right candidate for the spot. Please contact us to learn more.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

11
Mar

A consumerized enterprise IT realm is de rigueur in early 2015

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthFew consumer tech commentators, if any, would argue there is much of a market for laptop PCs within their target audience. If these devices are in demand anywhere, the likely market segment is enterprise computing.

So the new 12 inch Macbook with Retina display, which was presented to a global audience during Apple’s “Spring Forward”, March 9, 2015 event is targeted to the enterprise computing market, right? Perhaps. But where, then, is the usual CAT5 port for wired Ethernet data communications? The answer is it does not exist.

Almost every commentator writing about the debut of this device emphasized the strategic forward thinking of the design of this laptop based on a USB Type C port as its sole interface for networks, charging, etc. To simply quote from one of these reviews, readers might want to consider the following comment, which appears in a post to The Verge blog titled Hands-on with the new 12-inch MacBook with Retina Display. Dieter Bohn, who wrote the post, remarks “the screen actually isn’t the most important part of this new MacBook. No, instead it’s the small port on the side, a USB Type-C port that serves as the power jack, a do-anything USB port, a display port, and essentially anything else you could imagine using a cable for.”

The strategic impact of this decision to dispense with a hard wired Ethernet option for a device intended to compete with Windows PCs (or, is the target Microsoft’s Surface 3 two-in-ones?) within the enclaves of businesses, only makes sense in a brave new world of enterprise computing, one ruled over by an autocratic obsession with consumerized IT. It just is not safe to look to wireless data communications for everything.

Readers need not fear Microsoft has been left out of this criticism. The Surface Pro 3 two-in-one also lacks a native Ethernet interface. But there is a docking station option for the Microsoft entry in this category. Per the March 9, 2015 presentation, there does not appear to be one for the 12 inch Macbook.

No industry expert argues for entirely wireless data communications for mission-critical information. It is just too dangerous from a data security perspective. The 12 inch Macbook should have a docking station. One would hope Apple will announce one very soon.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

23
Feb

Apps for SharePoint 2013 carry their own set of implementation risks

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthLarge organizations with an instance of Microsoft SharePoint running on premises may be thinking about migrating their customization process over from full trust solutions to a combination of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Microsoft refers to this combination as the “SharePoint App Model”. A similar combination called the “Office App Model” is also being promoted for requirements to modify the components of Microsoft’s Office suite (“Office”) to meet the unique requirements of specific organizations.

Despite what I refer to as a near “binary” presentation, where the strengths of these app models (the “pluses”) are presented in direct comparison with the weaknesses of their full trust solution ancestors (the “zeroes”), readers with similar interests will benefit if they include a governance plan for customization along with the other migration components. Here is why:

jQuery is a popular function library for JavaScript. Since jQuery is actively supported in the user community, the library continues to evolve. Hence there are many different versions of the library. But not all features of all libraries are the same. So conflicts can arise from customizations built with earlier versions of the jQuery library. Especially when these customizations are actively used alongside other customizations built with other versions of the library.

The negative impact of these conflicts is greater when a central IT organization steps back and opts to empower line of business (LoB) units to build their own customizations for an on-premises complex computing platform like SharePoint 2013. On the surface this approach may look to be the correct one to take, especially if this stance has evolved after several years of an active BYOD policy.

Some proponents of Dev/Ops may recommend this kind of flexible posture on the part of enterprise IT. But if there is no central control over how jQuery libraries are to be implemented, then the risks of a breakdown in computer processing take on a more palpable shape. A far better policy calls for enterprise IT to directly arbitrate with LoBs on the question of how customizations are to be managed. In fact, enterprise IT ought to publish a set of standards for how customizations are to be built with SharePoint and/or Office apps. Finally, a set of tools should be implemented (and developed if they are not found to be available given the unique needs of a specific organization) capable of detecting processes running on internal on-premises computing systems to ensure any/all examples of app customizations are in conformance with this policy.

Without this kind of governance plan, larger organizations will face much the same odds of poor return on development investment from app model efforts, as would be the case if they simply proceeded with “legacy” customization techniques.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

20
Feb

Enterprise tech ISVs should recommend hybrid computing platform scenarios to their customers

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthEnterprise technology consumers have made their reluctance clear. In most cases they will not agree to incur the expense and effort required to migrate on-premises computing platforms, like Microsoft SharePoint, to public cloud tenancy. So the ISVs owning the IP supporting these platforms, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, IBM, EMC, etc, should promote hybrid computing scenarios to these customers.

Anyone reading an article written by Jeffrey Schwartz, and published to the RedmondMag web site on February 20, 2015, will get this dose of reality. The article is titled SharePoint MVPs: ‘On-Prem is Very Much Alive and Well’, and is composed of a set of quotes from participants in a TweetJam, including Asif Rehmani, who is a client of ours. Rehmani is the CEO of VisualSP. VisualSP is also the name of Rehmani’s leading product, which, in my opinion, should be a core component in any adoption strategy for SharePoint for a large community of users. VisualSP provides SharePoint users with access to high powered technical tips, in video format, directly within the SharePoint workspace — in other words, “in-context”. This writer serves as Vice President for Business Development for Rehmani’s company.

The TweetJam was organized by Christian Buckley who also served as its moderator. Buckley, himself, is a SharePoint MVP and a familiar spokesperson on SharePoint topics.

The specific challenge platforms represent to stakeholders thinking about migrating enterprise applications to public cloud alternatives, is the opportunity users have, more often than not, seized to customize them. An ERP system built on SAP, Oracle, or Microsoft components, for example, usually includes an extensive set of features either provided by third parties, or built, from the ground up, with custom code. As the MVPs quoted in Schwartz’s article make clear, from their quotes, the effort required to migrate these “computing realms” entirely over to a public cloud PaaS like Office 365 is a non-starter.

Apparently Microsoft (the clear leader in this effort. Microsoft has used its “Mobile First, Cloud First” campaign to help its enterprise computing customers decide to migrate to Office 365 and Azure. The start of this campaign coincided with Satya Nadella’s ascendance to the position of CEO of the company in 2014. Nadella was the first to articulate this slogan of the Microsoft brand) has gotten this message. Several articles were published over the last two days about an event freshly added to the Microsoft Ignite schedule for May, 2014 — an early peek at SharePoint Server 2016.

This change is a healthy transformation of a campaign which appears to have been too brittle for its targeted audience to adopt. Hybrid computing scenarios, with a public cloud component supporting appropriately chosen computing requirements, operating, in tandem, with an on-premises data center, is the solution the enterprise computing market appears to favor. After all, no one likes ultimatums — least of all one’s core customers.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

17
Feb

Microsoft lowers the volume on its Mobile First Cloud First clarion call at least for SharePoint

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIn the aftermath of SPTechCon Austin, and a number of announcements from Microsoft, not the least of which being the planned debut of SharePoint 2016, later this year, it is safe to say the volume on “mobile first, cloud first” has been turned down by Redmond.

But not without a fight. Anyone reading a post to the Office blog titled Evolution of SharePoint will not find a section dedicated to “SharePoint Server 2016” in this roadmap. Nevertheless, the impact of the following acknowledgement: “But, we realize many customers continue to run their businesses on-premises, within the firewall or with hybrid deployments. That’s why we are committed to making the next version of SharePoint server the most secure, stable and reliable version to date—allowing organizations to take advantage of cloud innovation on their terms” cannot be missed.

Somewhere at Microsoft, a Kubler-Ross level of acceptance (stage 3 of her “On Death and Dying” presentation) has developed about the likelihood of enterprise business and comparably sized organizations in the public and private sector deciding to drop their on-premises SharePoint servers for SharePoint Online/Office 365. Wholesale migration to Office 365 cloud SaaS services will not happen any time soon for this market segment. But a hybrid computing scenario of on-premises computing PLUS a cloud component may work.

I attended SPTechCon Austin along with Asif Rehmani (Asif Rehmani has maintained a position as a SharePoint MVP for each of the last 8 years, and is the CEO of VisualSP). We were exhibitors at the conference. Asif Rehmani also delivered two well attended presentations on no-code approaches to custom process development for SharePoint.

I spoke with representatives from some of the larger companies based in the US (top 5 businesses in the energy sector, global financial firms, and manufacturers of heavy equipment), as well as with representatives from US government agencies at state and federal levels. With the exception of one of these conversations, the others were either entirely focused on SharePoint Server, on-premises, or on a hybrid computing scenario, where SharePoint Online, Office 365 would be implemented in parallel to on-premises servers.

The unique problem represented by SharePoint server, on-premises, in my opinion, is its historical role as a computing platform for the organizations opting to implement it. When applications are customized to enhance their usefulness within a computing platform (like an intranet, or an extranet), it becomes a monumental task to de-couple them from the platform, itself. Microsoft apparently recognized this back in December of 2014 and devoted over 6 hours of its Microsoft Virtual Academy training offer to a presentation on Transform SharePoint Customizations to SharePoint App Model.

Ironically, with a more appropriate perspective squarely in place, in my opinion many more of the larger communities of SharePoint users will be likely to decide to implement SharePoint Online, Office 365 than would otherwise have been the case. At the same time, Microsoft will likely benefit from a popular new on-premises server offer in the form of SharePoint server 2016.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

4
Feb

End users benefit from in-context access to tech training content when new computing platforms are implemented

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthAdoption initiatives accompany almost any type of platform change for enterprise computing consumers. These projects are so common a whole industry developed around them. Back in the 1990s the business was referred to as “business process re-engineering”. Today the same type of work is rolled up and into something called “change management”.

The core objective of almost all of these efforts is to convince a specific group of computing users within an organization — usually “end users” — to adopt the new platform. The strategy powering the project is to provide end users with the technical support and methods they need to successfully transition from one way of doing the computer tasks they face on a daily basis, to another. The tactics include technical support teams, training intensives, and management testimonials on why the platform change was required in the first place.

Readers should not consider cloud systems to be somehow miraculously free of this burden. The adoption challenge big, mature ISVs like IBM, Microsoft, and even Google face when they partner with customers to help end users transition from on-premises computing systems to SaaS and/or PaaS offers in the cloud are the same ones faced just 20 years ago when IBM was seeding enterprise computing markets with Lotus Notes. Adoption is adoption is adoption . . . Or so the saying should go.

One of our clients, Rehmani Consulting, Inc. has brought to market a solution capable of making the whole adoption process easier. VisualSP is a help system built for Microsoft’s SharePoint computing platform. The “one-two punch” of the product amounts to a combination of:

  1. a unique method of exposing, in-context, the kind of technical training content for which enterprise end users have demonstrated an appetite, meaning short, right to the point presentations of computing procedures. The process by which end users absorb the content is referred to as “on-demand training”
  2. and lots and lots of video content

We have marketed the solution since July, 2012. In this space of time we have worked with some very large, prominent, multi-national corporation to help them accelerate their adoption effort with this product. Perhaps as many as 500K SharePoint users are now benefiting from the VisualSP system.

There is no reason why a solution like VisualSP cannot deliver comparable benefits to ISVs in need of a method of stimulating adoption of a computing platform. Our solution is built with modern software tools — HTML 5, JavaScript and CSS. If you would like to learn more about how our solution may help your efforts, please let us know.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

27
Jan

Lessons learned from Microsoft’s Q2 2015 Earnings Report

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIn the aftermath of Microsoft’s Q2 FY 2015 earnings conference call and webcast, it is clear a number of well respected Wall Street Analysts–including Rick Sherlund of Nomura Securities–have re-calibrated their future earnings expectations for the company. Sherlund now has a “hold” on the stock. Walter H. Pritchard of Citi changed his rating to sell; readers can read about Pritchard’s opinion in an article published on the StreetInsider.com web site titled UPDATE: Citi Downgrades Microsoft (MSFT) to Sell.

The important points, for me, from the webcast include the following. These points lead me to change my own opinion as to the near term future performance of the business:

  1. Microsoft management (Satya Nadella) presented the Hololens in the context of Windows 10, “Universal Apps” and the consumer market for PC operating systems
  2. Satya Nadella also reported on serious obstacles to further growth for Microsoft for the China and Japan markets
  3. Big improvements in the subscriber numbers for Microsoft’s cloud, IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS businesses (Azure, Office 365) did not translate into big revenue numbers
  4. Management was sanguine about the near term future potential for the business, contributing to the downward revision of earning forecasts
  5. Lots of opinions have been voiced about just what the earnings statistics portend for the company. A writer for the Geekwire website identified weaknesses in the devices market. Pritchard’s rating, which I mentioned above, made references to the cost of new product launches (coming this year) as a big drag on revenue. There are many more, which I do not need to summarize here

These 5 points, when considered alongside Microsoft’s ability to still hit the earnings estimate and actually exceed the expected revenue performance for the quarter, lead me to surmise we are all watching a business do what it needs to do to hit its numbers in whatever manner it can. Blackberry is another example of this type of performance. The method may not please the analysts, but the achievement remains the same.

One comment on the drop in OEM revenue for hardware devices: perhaps a contributor to this drop was management’s decision not to charge for licensing the Windows O/S to hardware OEMs building devices with screens 8 inches in size, and smaller. Unfortunately I did not hear this question asked during the webcast. But if this is the case, the tactic still makes a lot of sense, in my opinion, to protect the low end of the market from further incursion by Google’s Chrome O/S.

On the topic of the target market for the Hololens: I was disappointed to hear Satya Nadella affirm a consumer market target, short term, for the device.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

12
Jan

Another reason why the Android segment of BYOD is problematic for enterprise IT organizations

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthThe Wall Street Journal published an article on what appears to be a decision made by Google not to support so-called older browsers (Jelly Bean 4.3 and earlier) for Android smartphones. But Android Jelly Bean 4.3 appeared as recently as June, 2013 (less than 2 years ago). So it may be safe to assume enterprise IT organizations are about to experience another big headache as they struggle to support BYOD policies permitting personnel to bring Android smartphones (and I would add tablets) into the enterprise. Some of these devices will certainly appear current (merely half way through a typical 3 year use cycle). But permitting them for use inside corporate firewalls might be a big problem.

This article is written by Danny Yadron. The article was published on Monday, January 12, 2015 and is titled Google Isn’t Fixing Some Old Android Bugs.

It is also likely consumers wouldn’t have a problem with Google’s decision, if the devices in question were truly older, meaning the first Android smartphone which appeared on the market in 2008, and its siblings. If the set of devices was merely limited to smartphones from 2008 to, say, 2010 (a full 5 years back), then Yadron’s reference to what he contends is the same posture Microsoft adopted with regards to its Windows XP Operating System, when it decided to stop supporting the product for production computing, would make sense.

But, in my opinion, Yadron’s statement is not tenable. “The security blind spot illustrates the challenges companies face as they try to move customers onto newer products and focus security resources on patching more-current software. Microsoft . . . applied the same reasoning when it stopped supporting Windows XP, first released in 2001, in April [2014].”

When we make reference to the Windows XP operating system, we are talking about software on the market for almost fourteen years. Sure the structure of the two announcements may be the same, but to equate a decision about products purchased as recently as 18 months ago to a decision about products purchased almost 156 months ago (nearly 10 times older) doesn’t make sense.

There is really very little similarity between the stances of these two big ISVs. Enterprise IT organizations are not likely to be fooled into thinking the two statements are the same. When they face an inevitable decision about whether to prohibit the use of mobile computing devices powered by Android Jelly Bean 4.3, on-premises, or not, they are not likely to enjoy their position as an unfortunate “bad guy”/spoiler for their community of computing users. Nevertheless, the best of them will likely have to prohibit these devices (which some personnel may still be paying off) if they are to preserve the comparative security of their internal corporate networks.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 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, 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:

“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

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. 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. 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