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Why I hate the new Google Maps 17 Apr 2014

Posted by Tony Law in Impact of IT, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Social issues, Tech Watch, Technorati, Uncategorized.
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I finally allowed myself to be pushed into using the new Google Maps instead of the old familiar one.

Here are all the things that I cannot do as easily as previously.

1 – have it open by default with my own location rather than the blanket map of the USA

2 – immediately find my own list of custom maps. It’s an extra click and I have to know that it appears as a drop down from the search bar. Custom maps have become a lot more complicated to create and manage, too, with “layers” and so on. And there’s a different set of marker icons, differently styled from the old ones. So modifying an existing map, such as the one I maintain for Brighton Early Music Festival, won’t be straightforward if I want to maintain consistent styling.

3 – sharing has changed. It used to be simple: create a map, and embed the HTML provided. Now, for example, the Brighton Early Music Festival map doesn’t properly display the venue markers. Never had a problem before. Still working on this one!

4 – “search nearby” was a simple click from the pin marker on the old version. These pin markers have got “smart” which means that if I search for Victoria Coach Station, when I click or hover on the pin what I get is a list of all the coach services which leave from there. If I right click, I get three options: Directions to here; Directions from here; and What’s here, which doesn’t seem to do anything. If I search for Ebury Street (essentially the same location) I get a pin with no smart hover at all. But the marker does not now pop up nearby information, Directions, Save and Search Nearby options.

5 – no accessible help without going out to separate web pages; and even then the instructions don’t make sense. For example, Google says that “Search nearby” is on a drop down you find by clicking the search box. No, it doesn’t. Not in Firefox. It does, though, appear to work in Chrome. I don’t like being pushed to a different browser.

6 – having found Search nearby, I get given (of course) a set of strange, supposedly related, links. Well I suppose this is what Google does. But for me, it gets in the way.

7 – extra panels and drop-downs obscure parts of the map I’m trying to look at

Now all this, and more, is partly the natural response to changing a familiar application. Let’s assume that overall the product is fuller-featured and more flexible than the old version, and its links to the rest of Google’s information are more capable. But software vendors in general are not always good at user-oriented upgrades. Keep the backward compatibility unless there’s a really, really good reason not to. Icon redesigns, and added complexity in the user interface, are not good reasons.

I’m exploring alternatives. Apple’s new map application doesn’t have near the same level of functionality, and older offerings such as Streetmap haven’t really moved on either. But for (UK) route planning, for example, I’m now using either AA or RAC route planner – which still have the simple, straightforward A-to-B interface.

Links:
• Google Maps (new version)
• How to search “nearby” in new Google Maps? Google Forum, 11 Jun 2013
• Google Removes “Search Nearby” Function From Updated Google Maps, contributor to Slashdot, 16 Jan 2014
• Route planners from the AA and RAC
Streetmap (UK)

Link: Heartbleed update 15 Apr 2014

Posted by Tony Law in Impact of IT, ITasITis, Managing IT, Tech Watch, Technorati, Uncategorized.
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A quick follow up, back from a few days away.

Huffington Post have a recent update which notes that the Open SSL vulnerability applies in major products from Cisco and Juniper Networks. They also repeat what’s becoming the consensus on passwords: change your passwords for services which you know were vulnerable but have now been patched. There’s no point in changing a password which might still be at risk.

They reference the Mashable resource on what’s been patched a,md copy the patchable list: Google (and Gmail), Yahoo (and Yahoo Mail), Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Etsy, GoDaddy, Intuit, USAA, Box, Dropbox, GitHub, IFTTT, Minecraft, OKCupid, SoundCloud and Wunderlist.  A quick look, though, suggests that the Mashable article was a one-off and the list is not being kept updated.

The article also recommends turning off external access to your home network: the sort of capability, for example, that you might use for remote access through LogMeIn, TeamViewer or similar. If you’re not using this kind of facility, disable it. Your firewall should already be holding the line on this.

And check what your Internet provider is doing and the status of your wireless router. Being a BT user. with a BT Home Hub, I tried searching the bt.com website for information on Heartbleed but nothing surfaced. It would be nice to know.

Huffington suggests that, at the moment, public WiFi has to be treated as an unknown quantity since you can’t tell what infrastructure they use or whether it’s been patched. BT again doesn’t have any information on the impact of Heartbleed on BT Wifi (Openzone, as was) but it does say that user details are encrypted when you log in to their service. It’s perhaps ironic that they offer free Cisco VPN software, which you can download when connected to one of their hotspots. I didn’t know this. I’ll take it up for my laptop.

I also have an O2 Wifi locator app on my phone. There’s nothing about security on their website. Anyone with other Wifi-finder apps? Please check their sites and post a comment here about what you find.

Links:
• The Heartbleed Bug Goes Even Deeper Than We Realized – Here’s What You Should Do, Alexis Kleinman, The Huffington Post, 11 Apr 2014
• Security when using BT’s Wi-fi hotspots, BTWifi.com, with link to the Cisco offer
• The Heartbleed Hit List, Mashable, 9 Apr 2014
• What to make of Heartbleed? ITasITis, 4 Apr 2014

What to make of Heartbleed? 10 Apr 2014

Posted by Tony Law in Impact of IT, IT is business, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Social media, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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I watched the BBC News report last night about the security hole in Open SSL. With its conclusion that everyone should change all their passwords, now … and the old chestnut that you should keep separate passwords for every service you use, never write them down, and so on. Thankfully by this morning common sense is beginning to prevail. The Guardian passes on advice to check if services have been patched first; and offer a link to a tool that will check a site for you.

First, as they say, other Secure Socket Layer implementations are available. While a lot of secure web connections do rely on Open SSL, it’s not by any means universal.

Second, as always, dig behind the news. As Techcrunch did. This is the first vulnerability to have its own website and “cool logo”; this was launched by Codenomicon in Finland which started by creating notes for its own internal use and then took what it calls a “Bugs 2.0″ approach to put their information out there. I remember doing something similar way back in Year 2000 days. Incidentally, the Open SSL report (very brief) credits Google Security for discovering the bug. It also identifies the versions which are vulnerable. (There’s a note there that says that if users can’t upgrade to the fixed version, they can recompile Open SSL with -DOPENSSL_NO_HEARTBEATS which, I’m guessing, gives a clue as to the naming of the bug.)

If you want real information, then, go to Heartbleed.com. The Codenomicon Q&A is posted there. In brief: this is not a problem with the specification of SSL/TLS; it’s an implementation bug in OpenSSL. It has been around a long time, but there’s no evidence of significant exploitation. A fix is already available, but needs to be rolled out.

What was clear, too, is that the BBC reporter (and some others) don’t understand the Open Source process. The Guardian asserts that “anyone can update” the code, and leads readers to suppose that someone can maliciously insert a vulnerability. Conspiracy theories suggest that this might even be part of the NSA’s attack on internet security. But of course that ain’t the case. Yes, anyone can join an Open Source project: but code updates don’t automatically get put out there. Bugs can get through, just as they can in commercial software: but testing and versioning is a pretty rigorous process.

Also, this is a server-side problem not an end-user issue. So yes, change your passwords on key services that handle your critical resources  if you’re worried but it might be worth, first, checking whether they’re likely to be using Open SSL. Your bank probably isn’t. There’s a useful list of possibly vulnerable services on Mashable (Facebook: change it; LinkedIn: no need; and so on)

And what do you do about passwords? We use so many online services and accounts that unless you have a systematic approach to passwords you’ll never cope. Personally, I have a standard, hopefully unguessable password I use for all low-criticality services; another, much stronger, for a small handful of critical and really personal ones; and a system which makes it fairly easy to recover passwords for a range of intermediate sites (rely on their Reset Password facility and keep a record of when this has been last used). But also, for online purchases, I use a separate credit card with a deliberately low credit limit. Don’t just rely on technology!

Links:
• Heartbleed, The First Security Bug With A Cool Logo, TechCrunch, 9 Apr 2014
• Heartbleed bug, website from Codenomicon (Finland) – use this site for onward references to official vulnerability reports and other sources
• OpenSSL project
• The Heartbleed Hit List, Mashable, 9 Apr 2014
Heartbleed: don’t rush to update passwords, security experts warn, Alex Hearn, The Guardian, 9 Apr 2014
• Heartbleed bug: Public urged to reset all passwords, Rory Cellan-Jones (main report), BBC, 9 Apr 2014
Test (your) server for Heartbleed, service from Filippo Valsorda as referenced in The Guardian. I’m unclear why this service is registered in the British Indian Ocean Territory (.io domain) since Filippo’s bio says he is currently attending “hacker school in NYC”. On your own head be it.

Constellation Office Hours 25 Mar 2014

Posted by Tony Law in Insight services, ITasITis, Technorati.
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Long ago as a client of META Group, I occasionally had the chance to sit in on their analysts’ monthly phone conferences. R “Ray” Wang’s Constellation group are starting an open version of this and I’m about to join the half-hour webinar call. I have no idea what to expect. It will be a first flavour for me of how Constellation operates – especially after the recent management changes. It may be a chance to catch up with some analysts I know from their previous lives, and some I don’t. I’ll take notes as I go, and update this posting. And I’ll add a replay link when it’s available.

So this is actually the first such monthly meeting. Courtney Sato is leading off. I see two other faces (yes, video on) but only Attendee 4 and Attendee 5. There’s a Twitter stream going too. Watch out for it every fourth Tuesday.

A standard format is developing. First, news: leading off with the arrival of Peter Kim (see my blog post); and new reports (a quick run-through). I might look for material relating to digital business disruption (though I remember talking about business disruption from the earliest days of the Internet); and something about the FIDO Alliance (Fast IDentity Online). Here too is a note of events that Constellation analysts will be attending.

So: over to the analysts. First, Alan Lepofski. Box is going for an IPO, announced yesterday and beating Dropbox. He’s looking at opportunities beyond commodity services. Cisco are linking up with Chrome for collaborative services e.g. Webex. There is commoditisation of file sync and share.

Second, Holger Müller. The Google Cloud event is just starting in San Francisco, and some announcements are expected; some more about the Cisco cloud announcements and their use of OpenStack; other major players are being mentioned too.

Bruce Daley: Oracle are releasing version 8 of their Sales Cloud. Some comments about its impact and links to mobile.

Now a few “big ideas”, future research topics. Alan Lepofski: “Digital Proficiency” is a combination of skill and comfort and is more important than which “generation” you belong to. It’s promoted as a better way to plan for user/customer skills. It’s not about age. Bruce thinks this isn’t so easy to say when you’re older :-)

Holger Müller: identifying a move to a “sharing economy” which seems to be a paradigm for a moving-around and moving-on employment model. As companies transform, the key people are not the ones moving vertically up a silo, but those with broad experience of different areas of business. The broader experience is more beneficial in responding to – or creating – disruption.

Bruce Daley: working on Oracle Sales Cloud as part of mobility. Holger is at a conference and just gave us a quick video tour of the forum. Bruce is pointing out how the various call participants are in different places: this is taken for granted in today’s mobile world but actually it’s still quite new. Back to Oracle: he’s watching debates about HTML5 versus platform-native development, and harking back to previous IT generations (e.g. minicomputers) where vendors promoted their own “standards” (think Android, iOS, Windows Phone). He expects convergence on a single standard, but it won’t be HTML5.

Holger, though, has some wider comments about consumerised versus business-oriented developers. Native is harder for developers but easier for users. The argument doesn’t change; but the native technologies do (such as, gesture-based applications using the built-in accelerometers). Think beyond mobile hand-held; think in-car, wearable and more. An interesting conversation – but we’re coming down to the end of the half hour.

Links:
Constellation events
• Following months of speculation, Box files for IPO. ZDNet, 24 Mar 2014
Oracle Sales Cloud
Google Cloud Platform Live event
• OpenStack

For Twitter feed, search #crchat including Alan Lepofsky’s five categories of digital workers, and the file sync and share vendors he mentioned.

Peter Kim joins Constellation 21 Mar 2014

Posted by Tony Law in Insight services, ITasITis, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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R “Ray” Wang’s Constellation Research has announced that Peter Kim has joined the group as Chief Strategy Officer. This is another step in the evolution of Constellation following the appointment of a CEO, Bridgette Chambers, from outside the team, and presumably (although this is not explicit in the announcement) another element of Ray Wang’s founding role which the group has now decided should be devolved. It would be interesting to know how far this shows Chambers making her mark on the direction of the group.

Peter Kim is an acknowledged specialist and his eponymous blog Being Peter Kim is well known (it goes way back to Peter’s days at Forrester Research alongside Ray). Peter will also be a Principal Analyst with the group, bringing his focus on Digital Marketing Transformation.

InformationSpan’s Index of Analyst Blogs has always included Constellation Research because of the high profile names the group includes, and Peter Kim has been added. I’ve also added a note (long intended and finally achieved) on IDC’s online community; the detail may be expanded in due course. For both these groups, follow the tab (above), and look for Others.

Links:
• Constellation Names Peter Kim Chief Strategy Officer, Constellation research press release, 3 Mar 2014
• Ray Wang’s Constellation reaches the next stage, ITasITis, 4 Sep 2013
Being Peter Kim
IDC Community

Gartner buys … what, exactly? 19 Mar 2014

Posted by Tony Law in Insight services, ITasITis, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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A recent monitor report (11th March) from Outsell noted that Gartner have bought a small(ish) analyst firm Software Advice: around 100 employees. I’ve spent the intervening week checking to see what Gartner might be buying. The press release is short on detail and I haven’t spotted any other commentary; KCG, SageCircle and others please correct me if I’ve missed something!

Software Advice does what its name implies. It provides advice (“Find software for your business”) across just short of thirty categories: generic enterprise areas (e.g. Business Intelligence); market sectors (Manufacturing); and niche areas (Church Management). More below. Key to Software Advice reporting are Buyer Views, Industry Views and User Views documents (collectively referred to as Views below, when we report redirections within blog sequences). It’s not the purpose of this blog to explore their style. Its story is told by CEO and co-founder Don Fornes in a (separate) blog post.

Software Advice don’t (appear to) have an online list of their analysts, but I’ve been able to recover a list of 110 contributors to their accessible online content (mainly the blogs). Several cover a range of areas (more than ten, in a few cases). I have no way to check how many of them are currently with the firm, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise. My list may not be complete or up to date; but it should help identify if, when and where these analysts re-surface in Gartner, and what happens to the coverage. Will it be merged into mainstream research? Will it disappear into the consultancy business? Will some topics simply be abandoned? Will analysts stay or leave? What will the fallout be? There is far from a good fit between Software Advice coverage and Gartner’s, but Software Advice is probably not enough for Gartner to springboard into these additional areas. Interesting, though, that Don Fornes is now listed as a Gartner Group Vice President. That looks as if Gartner see this as a strategic purchase. Watch this space.

Not all of Software Advice’s categories map either to Gartner’s current list of industry sectors or to their IT topics or roles, although many do. So it will be interesting to see what happens. The big question, going on previous experiences with Burton and AMR Research, is how far and how soon Gartner will integrate these topics and analysts – especially the categories not currently strong on Gartner’s agenda.

As always we can look at the blogs to get the picture. In this case, it’s a confused one. There are two groups of blogs from Software Advice. They are topic related, not personal blogs as Gartner’s are; similar to the former Burton and AMR blogs.

One blog group maps to most of the categories used by Software Advice: many of these seem dormant but some have recent postings. The other is a group of eight current, named blogs. There is overlap and redirection within both. So for example a post indexed in B2B Marketing Mentor redirects to an Industry View document outside the blog structure. Similarly, posts in the Customer Relationship Management blog redirect to CSI, to B2B Marketing Mentor, and to Views.

Here is Software Advice’s list of blogs and topics, with an indication of their status in the blog lists. There are some inconsistencies in naming, which we have resolved. Not all topic blogs carry the topic as a page title; a few carry the generic title The Software Advice Blog.

The following are the titled blogs:
The Able Altruist: Non-profit. Most recent post (of 16): 27 Feb 2014. Gartner coverage in this area: minimal.
The B2B Marketing Mentor: Most recent post (of 33): 12 Dec 2013. Gartner coverage: strong.
CSI: Customer Service Investigator: CRM, Most recent post (of 36): 3 Feb 2014. Gartner coverage: moderate.
Hello Operator: business telephony including call centres. Most recent post (of 11): 16 Jan 2014. Gartner coverage: moderate.
The New Talent Times: Human resources. Most recent post (of 57): 19 Feb 2014. Gartner coverage: moderate.
Overnight Success: hotel and hospitality management. Most recent post (of 7):30 Jan 2014. Gartner coverage: none specific.
The Profitable Practice: medical practice management. Most recent post (of 55): 18 Feb 2014. Gartner coverage: none specific.
Plotting Success: business intelligence. Most recent post (of 23): 29 Jan 2014. Gartner coverage: strong.

There is overlap between these and the older-style (non-titled) blogs. All or some posts in some of these older-style blogs redirect to postings in the titled blogs. Inconsistency is rife! The following list covers all Software Advice categories. The website lists these on the home page; there is also a drop-down menu which breaks them into Industry and Application groups. Asterisks * here indicate categories not included in the drop-down menus which I have added to what seems the most appropriate group.

Industries:
Assisted Living*: no blog.
Church Management*: no blog
Construction: The Construction Blog (66 postings, most recent 4 Feb 2014); one post redirects to a View. No titled blog
Dental*: no blog
Distribution: The Distribution Blog (17; 8 Jul 2013); no titled blog
Home Health*: no blog
Hotel Management*: The Hotel Management Blog; all (7) articles redirect to Overnight Success
Long-term Care*: no blog
Manufacturing: The Manufacturing Blog (37; 23 Sep 2013); no titled blog. Manufacturing is a headline Gartner industry sector.
Medical: The Medical Blog (59; 6 Jul 2011); 18 further articles redirect to The Profitable Practice (though some older articles can no longer be reached by that route) or to software evaluation reports. Healthcare providers is a headline Gartner sector.
Non-Profit: The Non-Profit Blog (1; 6 Jul 2011); further articles redirect to The Able Altruist (one of these appears there under a different title).
Professional Services: no blog
Property Management: Topic blog headed as The Software Advice Blog (34; 9 Jan 2014); no titled blog
Recruiting Agency*: no blog
Retail: The Retail Blog (40; 13 Feb 2014); one further articles redirects to a software evaluation report and another redirects to the generic page for retail software. No titled blog. Retail is a headline Gartner industry sector.

Gartner sectors Banking & Investment Services; Education; Energy & Utilities; Government; Insurance; and Media do not appear to map onto these Software Advice categories

Applications
Accounting: The Accounting Blog (20 postings; most recent 19 Oct 2011); no titled blog
Business Intelligence*: The Business Intelligence Blog, all (9) articles redirect to Plotting Success (29 Jan 2014). Business Intelligence & Information Management is a listed Gartner IT role.
Business Telephony*: topic also referred to as Business VOIP. Topic blog headed as The Software Advice Blog, all articles redirect to Hello Operator (16 Jan 2014)
Career Advice*: not included on the blog index page. Topic blog (8 Aug 2012) headed as The Software Advice Blog; no titled blog. One post redirects to The New Talent Times.
CRM: also indexed as Customer Relationship Management in full, or as Customer Management. The Customer Relationship Management Blog (109; 12 Feb 2013); 17 posts redirect to Views, to The B2B Marketing Mentor or to CSI: Customer Service Investigator.
Enterprise Resource Planning: listed in the blog index as Enterprise. The Enterprise Blog (50; 26 Jun 2013); no titled blog
Facilities Management: in the blog index as Facility Management. The Facilities Management Blog (10; 25 Mar 2013); no titled blog
Human Resources: The Human Resources Blog (56; 76 Dec 2012). 13 further articles redirect to The New Talent Times.
Inventory Management*: no blog
Maintenance Management: Topic blog (3; 26 Jun 2013) headed as The Software Advice Blog; 1 further post redirects to a View document. No titled blog
Project Management: The Project Management Blog (3; 10 Feb 2014); no titled blog. Gartner’s list of IT roles includes Project and Portfolio Management.
Security*: The Security Blog (3; 6 Mar 2014); no titled blog. Security and Risk Management is a listed Gartner IT role.
Supply Chain Management: The Supply Chain Management Blog (20; 5 Mar 2014); no titled blog.

Gartner list Applications and Sourcing and Vendor Management among their IT Roles. Digital Marketing also relates to several areas of Software Advice coverage. Gartner IT roles which don’t appear to map easily to Software Advice coverage include Business Process Improvement; CIO and IT Executives; Enterprise Architecture; Infrastructure and Operations.

Links:
• Gartner acquires Software Advice, Gartner press release, 11 Mar 2014
• Software Advice; link here to Software Advice titled blogs and to Software Advice untitled blogs
How Software Advice Got Started, Don Fornes, A Million Little Wins, Part I, 25 Mar 2013 (the link to part II is at the end of this post)

Changes and updates: the Analyst Blogs index 28 Feb 2014

Posted by Tony Law in Insight services, ITasITis, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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Within the last few days I’ve undertaken a full refresh of the InformationSpan index to key analyst blogs. I’ve refreshed the Gartner list; as usual there are a handful of changes since last time. I’ve refreshed the list of URLs covered by my custom Google search.

More importantly, there’s been a full review of the index to Forrester’s blogs; a lot has happened since the last one. Forrester’s approach to their blogs is different from Gartner’s: analysts post in different areas, and Forrester roll these blogs up into topics and then into high-level blogs. At the top level there use to be three: Business Technology (that is, enterprise IT); Marketing & Strategy; and Technology Vendors. The last two have been brought together. At the next level down there have been a number of changes; Forrester haven’t removed any category links at this level so you can still, for example, click to the Vendor Strategy blog within the Business Technology stream but this will now redirect you to the CIO stream. There are more changes within the Marketing & Strategy stream.

Forrester do publish content as individual analyst blogs too but they don’t index this. So we provide an index by analyst name and this is now more consistent with the way we list Gartner’s blogging analysts. One main difference though: the topic areas indicated for each analyst identify the roll-up blogs for these areas and not the topic descriptions on Forrester’s website. There isn’t an exact match between the two.

Thirdly I’ve reviewed the content on the Other Blogs page, checked all the analysts referenced, and made a few changes. I intend to make more, to make this page more useful. Candidate blogs from known or less-known analysts would be welcome; please comment.

Click the tab above this posting to see more. Don’t forget to refresh your browser if you use this service regularly.

A rare direct link: TB-L on the Web’s Silver Jubilee 12 Feb 2014

Posted by Tony Law in Impact of IT, ITasITis, Social media, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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I rarely post a direct link just to another piece of reporting – I prefer to go behind press reports to the originals if I can. But for shortage of time, here’s a link to a report in Wired of an interview with Sir Tim Berners-Lee. To be fair, this is the original because the event was organised by Wired to launch its own March issue celebrating the Web at 25.

So read, in brief, what TimBL has to say, and follow the links for more. The original link came through a tweet from OpenQRS, an Open Source healthcare software community. So, to be fair, there’s a link to them too.

Links:
• Tim Berners-Lee: we need to re-decentralise the web, Wired, 6 Feb 2014
• Open QRS

Horses for Sources: what’s with outsourcing 6 Feb 2014

Posted by Tony Law in Insight services, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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I’m on a webinar by HfS Research: my first direct encounter with Phil Fersht’s organisation. It’s a where-are-we-going session called “Outlook for the Extended Enterprise”. This post will update live, as we go.

Primarily we’re discussing “extended’ in the sense of multiple outsourced operations, not of industry alliances and cooperative business. HfS’s own research, done in conjunction with KPMG, seems to be painting quite a poor picture of outsourcing value beyond running standard operations. “Talent, technology and analytics value”, Phil asserts, are frequently absent. Once the initial savings are off the books, value doesn’t develop in, for example, exploiting “big data”.

Business-enablement of IT is a gap. I’m beginning to feel like this conversation might have happened equally any time in the last ten, perhaps 20 years. What’s interesting is a breakdown of “BPO maturity” into four quartiles. There seems to be a gap which companies are about to cross to get into the top quartile.

What are the problems? Fear of change; lack of vision; silo operations. The espoused change is to a centre-led organisation; the pros and cons of this haven’t been discussed though. The point’s already been made that perhaps not all enterprises can achieve effective globally-managed business services (which means IT, HR and so on). Maybe that should be “… nor should they”?

Microphone being passed to Ed Caso of Wells Fargo Securities. He’s a senior analyst and has just switched the screen to presenter split-screen. Finally got into proper presentation mode. He’s offering a survey, I think, of the key providers in the outsource market. It’s the sort of analysis which Gartner and the others started out in … Some comments about the financial situation in India and its impact; changes in some providers. And a note that a lot of early 10-year contracts are coming up for review and re-tender. There are visa and immigration issues in several major economies, which might drive more work offshore as it becomes harder to identify skilled staff entitled to work in the home country.

Enterprise-wide sourcing is linked to wider awareness of options, a portfolio approach (provider, location and skills) rather than single-source, hybrid cloud usage, and worries about data security post-Snowden (see my previous post on this). And the providers are further challenged by SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud): opportunities for the providers, but long term contracts don’t fit the speed of technology development. There’s still a tendency to be more comfortable with deliverables-based contracting rather than value-based.

Another change of speaker: Mike Friend of HfS. Where Caso was US-focussed, Friend is looking at Europe in the context of some fiscal optimism. There’s a prediction for IT oursourcing to grow at around 3.5% through the next four years, and BPO 6.1%, led by the UK market and particularly public sector spending. He’s mentioning a lot of individual companies.

So where do we go? Charles Sutherland of HfS takes over on process automation – that is, avoiding direct people costs – invoking more capable and “friendly” tools. This is still in the context of sourcing: looking for providers who can offer this as a way forward. It’s a potential differentiator in the market. Sutherland is encouraging buyers to look beyond simple cost. He’s suggesting what the signs might be that this is moving in the market, through 2014.

And the final speaker: Ned May of HfS on “the impact of digital”: the SMAC stack again, emphasising the need to embrace all four elements. The speaker does accept that “digital is not new” but I thought it had been around at least since the inauguration of the Web in the mid 1990s. The examples seem to be describing how what goes round comes around, perhaps with a new view of its capabilities. Experimentation will change to planned projects, but skunkworks projects will be of value. This isn’t just a technology change, it’s a mindset change. Some people have been saying this for a long time!

And finally: workforce issues, Christa Degna Manning. Who doesn’t seem to be accessible … emphasising the importance of a back channel for management issues on web calls! The issue is HR outsourcing as, like other areas, this moves to second/third generation outsourcing. Perhaps no longer primarily to support the HR practitioner, but to support and develop the employee.

The key question is whether this is still same-old outsourcing, or whether the trends discussed earlier apply here too. That is,  to look for what the webinar regards as higher-maturity outsourcing: the role of talent, for example, and long term benefits; managing contractors and non-employees; connection through collaboration technologies and perhaps to the world of crowd-sourcing and micro-work contracting (think Amazon Mechanical Turk). I’m reminded of John Adair’s long-established Venn diagram depicting management as the intersection of Task, Team and Individual.

Webcast preview link: http://www.horsesforsources.com/the-hfs-2014-outlook_012814. A replay link when I have it.

Over time, but a couple of quick questions to wrap up. The question of handling IP (I presume this means the IP that the outsource process generates). Providers like to be able to re-use (perhaps by back-licensing) processes, for example, developed within a contract.  A bit more elaboration about “digital”. I clearly need to figure out what HfS mean when they say “digital” but I think it means digitally-captured business information from, perhaps, unconventional, distributed, and big-data sources. And a question about how this works in a shared services model (which is not the same as global business services, even within the one enterprise).

Time to drop off the call. I’ll add some reflections, and tidy this up, tomorrow.

Facebook at 10, Microsoft at 40 5 Feb 2014

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Impact of IT, IT is business, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Managing IT, Social media, Technorati.
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OK, a slight stretch for a snappy headline but these have been two lead stories in the last few days.

Others will comment with more depth and more knowledge than I can on either Facebook’s tenth anniversary or the appointment of Satya Nadella to succeed Steve Ballmer (and, of course, Bill Gates) at the head of Microsoft. But I was remembering, quite a while ago now, a META Group event in London when the Web was just arriving and disintermediation was a new word. The speaker took a look at the banking industry, with new on-line start-ups starting to eat the lunch of the established financial institutions.

The point was this. The new entrants invested, typically, in just two things: infrastructure, and software development. Existing players had institutional weight; they had enterprises to keep in existence with all the corporate overheads that accumulate over time. with shareholders and stockmarket expectations and dividends. They needed to cut costs to compete with the new lean players. And (doesn’t it still happen?) they would target the IT budget. So the area of investment which differentiated their new competitors was precisely where they were dis-investing.

Microsoft is fast approaching 40. It’s a solid, established player with corporate overheads, strategies, shareholders. Is it still as lean and sharp as the company which turned on a sixpence (a dime, if you’re American; a 5p piece for the youngsters) when it “got” the Internet and realised that MSN and AOL were not going to be where most of the traffic went. Enter Internet Explorer, competing with Netscape; and the rest is history.

Well … we can look at areas in the recent past where that hasn’t been repeated. Smartphones? a lot of Windows phones have been sold, but Android and iPhone are the big players and an Office 365 subscription gives access to Office mobile software on these platforms as well as Windows. But on the other hand: Office 365 is a good model, for both consumers and Microsoft, because it converts intermittent capital costs for what is still essential software into predictable operational costs. And while capital versus operational is the language of the enterprise, where Microsoft’s heart arguably is these days, the concept works for individual licences. There are undoubtedly challenges, but a CEO with an Indian background may have the right insight and vision to work round all that unavoidable corporate baggage.

What about Facebook? Facebook has got to the stage where it is acquiring the corporate baggage (shareholders and so on). It’s had to face up to public perception, particularly over issues like personal online security. Both companies now find themselves covered in the main news sections and financial pages, like any other corporation, rather than only in  geek-tech reporting. They’ve gone mainstream.

So Facebook has new competitors in the social media space, sharper and newly innovative where Facebook is unavoidably solidifying. Microsoft is in a stable, continuing enterprise market which it understands; it appears not to understand the consumer market so well. Facebook is in precisely that consumer market, although a lot of enterprises use it to communicate with their own consumers. It’s a fashion market. What’s coming next? and how can Mark Zuckerberg stay ahead of the game?

No links here; just a personal opinion, and you can find lots of links with some easy searching!

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