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Lego as social media 6 May 2014

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Impact of IT, ITasITis, Social issues, Social media, Tech Watch.
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Yes you did read that correctly.

I caught up, a day or two ago, on a programme put out on the BBC Culture Show on 4th March about Lego.

The programme comments on the characteristics of Lego. It charts its evolution from a very simple kit of highly standard basic blocks. Today’s typical box contains the parts for a specific model, which are no way generic: many of the individual parts are of use for that model and that one only.

But what caught my attention towards the end of the programme was the description of how Lego has been used to enable communities to contribute to their own architectural evolution.

Bjarke Ingels, a contemporary leading architect, has used Lego to design architecture from a standard kit of parts: but far more imaginatively than the square tower blocks of the 1960s.

More striking still was Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson whose Collectivity project took three tonnes of Lego to the citizens of Tirana, Albania in 2005. The bricks were just dumped in a heap in the town square and, within a short time, groups of people were creating, building, and re-imagining their city. The Lego acted as a medium through which they could express their ideas – not individually, but together. Not mentioned in the programme is that this is one of a range of similar projects; I’ve found others in Oslo (2011) and Copenhagen (2008).

At the end of the programme, there’s a move into actual social media and a look at Minecraft which, if you haven’t heard of it (I hadn’t!) is a cult computer game. Minecraft may be set to transform the cities of the future: like Tirana’s Lego, but in the virtual online world. It’s worth a look at the video on Minecraft’s home page. As Minecraft’s website says: “At first, people built structures to protect against nocturnal monsters, but as the game grew players worked together to create wonderful, imaginative things”.

Isn’t that what our social media, at their best, aim to do? Not for people to create individually, for their own gratification, but to share and create together. And like early Lego, the best social platforms are the ones which offer a simple kit of parts from which sophisticated collaborative spaces can be created.

Links:
• Lego – The Building Blocks of Architecture: BBC, 4 Mar 2014. The programme itself is not available here; this is just a short outline. It is available on YouTube: I don’t know if this is a legit copy!
• Lego Towers project from the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), which showcases many projects on its website. Ingels comes into the programme about 15 minutes in.
• Collectivity Project from Olafur Eliasson. The Tirana project is covered in the programme from about 19 minutes.
The Collectivity Project (Olafur Eliasson), OpenIDEO (contribution by Anne Kjaer Riechert), 17 Nov 2011.
• Olafur Eliasson’s LEGO for public tower building 2008
, YouTube, 13 Oct 2008 (Copenhagen: linked from a comment to the OpenIDEO posting)
• Minecraft

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!

Digital Natives and security 5 Jul 2013

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Consumerization, Impact of IT, Insight services, ITasITis, Managing IT, Social media, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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I don’t normally post based on what I learn professionally in a Corporate IT Forum event, because we operate under Chatham House rules. But what follows is in the public domain and I’ve researched it without calling on any privileges.

In any discussion of collaborative working, you come up against the issue that younger people have a different take on using public tools and smart stuff than do those of us who were around as computers began to spread out beyond the finance department. Something that I remember smart people at Forrester Research beginning to highlight well over ten years ago, making the inference that younger potential employees will expect the use of these kind of tools: and may not want to work for organisations that lock them out.

Well, Generation Y is beginning to rise through the ranks; and the Millenials are coming along fast behind. So we can move beyond inference. And one of the things that distinguishes corporate work from what you can do with your own stuff at home is security. That is, protecting everything from the information resources you need to rely on to the endpoint devices and infrastructure. We see the willingness of our younger colleagues to open up on Facebook or the many more recently arrived tools. And we shake our grey heads and worry. But we maybe base our worries on what we think, rather than on what we actually know.

A group of (older) IT managers figured this, and brought together a group of “digital natives” working in security-conscious industries. They asked them how they would like to work in 2020. For an outline of the project, see a guest post by one of the group’s members, Colin Powers, just a week ago on Colin Robbins’ blog Once Upon a Camayoc. And, particularly, embedded in it is a video made by the group which you won’t find by searching. You can find more by searching Twitter for #UKCeB or #DN2020, and there is other material on YouTube too. The presentation was created using an online tool which has been around for a year or two: Prezi.

Links:
• Digital Natives: Secure Collaboration in Team Defence 2020, Colin Powers (guest post), Once Upon a Camayoc, 25 Jun 2013
UK Council for Electronic Business (UKCeB)
• Forrester Research: What Gen Y Really Thinks About Your IT Department, TJ Keitt, 1 Apr 2011 (it seems that Forrester has dropped reference to Generation Y in its more recent research). Access requires a full client account
Forrester Research, Create A Habitat Of Technology Engagement And Enablement For Your Workforce, C Voce and others, 10 May 2013. This report is available to free registered users and is linked to The Workforce Enablement Playbook
Prezi

Enterprise grade public cloud: IDC’s take 19 Jun 2013

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Consumerization, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Managing IT, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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I’m on an AT&T webcast relating to public cloud infrastructure and its growth. Allow that this is primarly a US-focussed perspective. It’s AT&T sponsored, but delivered by IDC. It’s being recorded, and I’ll add the URL when it’s available.

Much of the underlying data comes from IDC’s winter 2012 CloudTrack Survey, with around 500 respondents. Five elements: the pace of change; deployment; networking; workloads; and next-generation solutions.

IDC refer to the “third platform”, not just second platform; and with spend growing nearly 12% per year compared to less than 1% for second platform. Third platform will account for almost 25% of this combined spend by 2020, and in the next three years spend on external services will grow to around an eighth of “traditional” IT spend. Over three quarters of North American companies are already using public cloud services.

There’s a useful categorisation of cloud deployment models, with names that speak for themselves. Self-run private or managed private; dedicated (externally) hosted or virtual private cloud; or public. Running across these are the decisions about on- or off-site, and dedicated or shared infrastructure. That eighth of spend shift over the next three years depends on these decisions.

Virtual-private cloud (VPC) has clout, through additional security and control, better connectivity into corporate networks, and more controlled SLAs but are built on public cloud infrastructure. AT&T believe shared services will command the lion’s share of the developing spend, although the split between dedicated and shared is more equal right now. This is what AT&T imply by “enterprise grade public cloud”.

Connectivity is crucial (remember, AT&T is a network company …) and there is an opportunity to connect VPC through an MPLS (multi-protocol label switching) high-availability cloud network rather than the public internet. Integration to the corporate network is close to seamless. IDC believe this option overcomes many enterprise objections to VPC cloud usage. And the CloudTrack survey suggests that any major workload coming up for reinvestment is at least going to be considered for cloud migration.

Noticeably, the workloads most likely to be moved are about the key elements of the “third platform”: social, big data (and analytics) and mobile. Where relevant, emerging markets also make a strong contribution to the importance of the third platform. Enterprises will need competencies across cloud and all these; they may not be tagged as cloud initiatives, but in these spaces cloud is crucial for developments to be effective, and those developments will be combinations of the four technology spaces. There’s a graphic for this; look in the webcast when it’s online (I’ll add the URL when it’s available).

On the half hour. Transition from the IDC analyst (Frank Gens, Senior Vice President and Chief Analyst) to Amy Machi, AT&T representative. This is a sales pitch for the combination of IBM’s Smart Cloud solution and AT&T’s VPN (NetBond), and you’ll get less notes. But with so much discussion about the limitations of service agreements with providers, it’s interesting that IBM trail over 70 auditable automated tasks available to clients, and cloud-based ITIL processes. Also, an important point is that AT&T will scale network capability in line with the demands on the scaleable cloud resource being claimed at IBM’s end of the wire. For anyone looking seriously at this version of the Cloud option, several case studies show the variation in possibilities.

Note, too, that at the present this is a US service and users need to be an AT&T customer. It will extend to Europe and Asia/Pacific relatively soon.

So: in response to questions, Frank Gens believes that investment in new capabilities will swamp legacy migration onto the third platform. And IT managers (VP/SVP) are coming to accept a reputable cloud service provider as having security at least as good as their own and possibly better, but the network has remained a vulnerability. With a managed MPLS network, rather than public infrastructure, these concerns are mitigating.

Tech trends for 2012: who thinks what? 6 Jan 2012

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Consumerization, Impact of IT, Insight services, IT is business, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Managing IT, Social issues, Social media, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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It’s the time when insight services are awash with predictions for the coming year. I’ve been having a look or, where possible, a listen to a few.

Did you see a recent Forrester announcement? In line with their own recommendations, they’ve replaced the CIO post with a Chief Business Technology Officer. With hindsight I’m surprised it’s taken this long; “Not IT but BT” has been a Forrester theme for several years now.

Another place where I’ve seen the Business Technology tag used is in McKinsey‘s quarterly newsletter. Their Business Technology office has just reported their sixth annual technology survey. According to the newsletter, “executives say their companies are boosting IT spending and adopting new technology platforms to support innovation”. McKinsey see a significant challenge to IT: “Aspirations—and current expectations—for IT have never been higher”.

Here are a few other pointers.

IDC Insights believe the CIO’s 2012 agenda will be shaped around the “Four Forces” (Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data). I’m registered on their webcast (10th Jan: free) to hear more. Yankee Group also offer a focus on mobility. Their focus is on the market for devices, but their research speaks also to the corporate buyer strategist when they see an even smartphone market between Android, iPhone and BlackBerry. Oddly, though, they refer to the Bring-Your-Own market but don’t have a focus on tablets. They do, though, see both personal Cloud services and HTML5 becoming important in the coming year.

Gartner, of course, have created their swathe of Predicts 2012 content. Of course, most of it is client-only access. But the front page of Predicts 2012 includes a 15-minute podcast from Darryl Plummer. He highlights the same four areas as IDC (except he says “Information” instead of “Big Data”). It’s worth listening to Darryl; he’s quite listenable-to.

Significantly, Gartner’s highlighted report for the IT community is titled “Gartner’s Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2012 and Beyond: Control Slips Away“. You almost don’t need to read the report; but there’s a useful summary by Peter Galen at Infosec Update. Corporate control of users’ IT assets has been useful, but is now increasingly a myth. Seems like Gartner are saying that this year is the year it will reach tipping point. But, listening to Darryl speaking in this area, I did rather wonder “What took you so long?”

IBM, in their “5 in 5″ (five trends in five years) take the argument a step further and look beyond the WENA (western Europe/North America) corporate market. Thanks to Basex for the alert to this, but I’m not entirely clear that Basex is looking at the same report. Their focus on mobile devices is on the super-smart, not on the abolition of the digital divide. Worth a look, to lift your eyes beyond the immediate page.

Finally, Ray Wang (now at his own Constellation Research) highlights “10 Mega Business Trends To Watch For In 2012″.

.

Perhaps the key one, for IT, is “Keep consumerisation of IT enterprise class”: in other words, ensure the right balance between enablement and discipline. Here’s a world class statement of the issue:  If IT is too strict, business fails. If business fails to have a level of discipline in technology adoption, IT can not keep up with the lack of standards and scale. Ray sets this in the context (and there’s a timechart) of the change from transaction to engagement as the basis for business. There are comments for innovators, and for those who are scared to innovate.

Happy New Year!

Links:
• Forrester Research Names First Chief Business Technology Officer, Forrester Press Release, 5 Oct 2011
• A rising role for IT: McKinsey Global Survey results, McKinsey Quarterly, Dec 2011
• IDC Insights 2012 Predictions: The CIO Agenda, IDC Insights, 4 Jan 2012, in IT Governance and Executive Strategies. For the webcast (10 Jan), the registration link is at the foot of the page.
• Register and download 2012 Mobility Predictions: A Year of Living Dangerously, Yankee Group , Dec 2011
• Predicts 2012: Gartner; summary at Infosec Island, Peter Galen, 3 Jan 2012
• IBM the next 5 in 5, see also Basex Tech Watch
• 10 Mega Business Trends To Watch For In 2012, Ray Wang, constellation

UK honours Apple’s designer 31 Dec 2011

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Impact of IT, ITasITis, Technorati.
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Don’t suppose it’ll make most of the headlines, but Jonathan Ive has been awarded a knighthood (KBE) in the UK’s New Year Honours list. Though my paper, the Guardian, in their online report, only refers to him as “designer of the iPhone, iPad and iPod”. Well, we know better!

For interest, the Guardian offers a fully accessible list of the honorands. I found a couple of CBEs for computer science professors (one at what’s now Queen Mary, University of London, where I started my IT career), and a couple of retired Civil Service IT directors, but otherwise remarkably little recognising the UK’s information science capability.

Interesting that, to publish this information, the Guardian has created a Google Docs spreadsheet. No point in inventing your own infrastructure when the cloud can do the job!

Links:
• New Year honours list reflects my aims for ‘big society’, says David Cameron, Guardian, 31 Dec 2011
• New Year’s Honours, 2012 …, Guardian datablog, 31 Dec 2011
• 2012 New Year Honours, Google Docs

Beyond gmail: Google apps event with BCS 11 Oct 2011

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Consumerization, IT is business, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Managing IT, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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I’m at a BCS North London event at Google’s London office, listening to presenters from the AppsBroker consultancy extend my understanding of how Google Apps work. We’ve passed through the background stuff about using cloud apps in general and now getting to the meat. If you’ve wondered, like me, what Google APIs can really do, then this is an as-it-goes posting; watch the space! Any errors in understanding or interpretation are mine, of course.

How to write a Google-extended app …

1 – Appscript; 2 – Gadget APIs; s – Data APIs

1: Appscript = Javascript extended. Primarily for spreadsheets plus elements such as contacts, calendar, finance, sites, docs list, maps (some of these are in Labs).

Just seeing the down side of everything being online rather than on the device; the demo’s gone down through being unconnected. Notwithstanding that I’m doing this on Google’s guest network,, the demo doc is, it appears, “offline”. Embarrassing, even when the demo’s working on a ChromeBook, which admittedly does reboot nice and quickly!

When it’s come back, we get a quick view of the script code inserted into a Spreadsheet to quickly create a form with follow-on technology such as mail-outs based on the respondent’s input, or sending update notifications when an online document is changed.

2: Data APIs, based on REST rather than SOAP (HTML based, IIRC, but can use other languages eg. Java/script .NET, …). Can for example use Data APIs to push data into a shared spreadsheet in real time from multiple users/locations/sources, but maintaining one version of truth.

3: Gadget APIs: simple HTML/Javascript to extend gadgets. Example shown: a smart reschedule for a shared meeting. Looks a lot like the calendaring that Lotus Notes has done for years!

Google App Engine and Cloud Storage will have a >99.9% SLA from November. Cloud SQL (see Google Blog last week) is under beta.

— adding to the interest level, we just had a fire evacuation and a quick tour of Eccleston Square with the fire marshals. Now trickling back – at least, most of us. I think some people have decided to duck out.

In the pipeline: Google Big Query: online dataset analysis – data mining/BI application. And something called the Google Periodic Table (there’s an extra column in the Transition Metal section …) which visualises the family of applications and extensions. Prediction, for example, can look at web traffic and draw interesting conclusions. Lots of searches on “sore throat” might signal the start of a flu epidemic.

Abbreviated in response to the disruption: Dalim, chair of the Branch, talking about governance. What changes with the cloud? Some of the controls e.g. for change management; assurance from third parties, and provider management; identity and access management (d0 you still have super users?) and monitoring; evolving technology, complexity and challenges. Dalim offers an app assurance checklist [see BCS NLB website in due course].

Q&A … references to Google’s global infrastructure capability; e.g. guaranteeing at least four copies of data on different continents (that is, replication like Lotus Notes used to do). Regarding data protection issues – Google can’t at present commit to (for example) segregating data into the EU though this is being worked on. The offering currently may not be appropriate for heavily regulated in-country enterprises e.g. some areas of government, finance. Google, though, takes the approach that they are not data owners; they are data holders, and would pass access requests to the data owners. And there are data online about which countries request legal discovery, how often, and when. From the security point of view, just a glimpse of the multiple levels of protection applied to data.

Thinking about a portfolio of services: Google Apps will integrate both on-premise (e.g. with AD) and other cloud services (e.g. a strategic partnership with salesforce.com). And there’s a commitment to back data out if a service relationship is terminated. Cloud, to Google, is short term contractable (e.g. 12 month; or a little as 1 month) – no lock-in.

Links:
• Google Apps (follow the links)
• Google App Engine, Cloud Storage and Prediction API are open for business, Official Google Blog, 11 Oct 2011
• BCS North London Branch: Past Events 2011 (you may have to scroll for this event; presentations are not yet posted but are expected)
• AppsBroker consultancy

Gartner webinar: Cloud Strategies for Portals, Content, & Collaboration Projects 14 Sep 2011

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Impact of IT, Insight services, ITasITis, Managing IT, Social issues, Social media, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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My second webinar report today features a free Gartner seminar from Jeffrey Mann, who I knew well in his META Group days as a great application analyst. The topic isn’t “what’s available” but “how do you make decisions”: potentially much more useful.

First, he’s talking about Cloud for absorbing capacity demand peaks: the right definition. But, as he points out: the high-end integration requirements of a portal don’t necessarily suit well to Cloud infrastructure. Security and confidentiality play as issues too.

Compared to my post last week, Gartner’s definition of Cloud matches in most elements but I included easy sign up without long term commitments. This matches the use case for absorbing capacity peaks, but for longer-term critical business functions (running your sales on salesforce.com, for example) most consumers will want some longer term assurance.

Gartner also add to the established model of System (or Infrastructure), Platform and Application as a Service: two further levels. Information (e.g. a Reuter’s feed), and Business Services. The shift in provision focus is from “capacity” to “capability”, and evaluation is outcomes based. I like that.

Jeff “gets nervous” if cost saving is the only reason clients are moving to cloud services; cost reduction may be part of the outcome, but there are hidden costs (e.g. increased network capacity) and many disappointments. “Disconnect price from cost … reconnect price to value.”

And, perhaps closer to the meat of the theme: “Portals … will follow … The greater portal opportunity [for Cloud] lies largely with B2B” – strikingly close to Mark Benioff’s Cloudforce message I was listening to earlier. More on that later.

Early Cloud deployment: look for something that will work with the vanilla service (“out of the box” requirement). And it’s easier to start greenfield than migrating from on-premises services. Complexity (e.g. customisations) mitigate against migration.

Jeff showed a self-assessment chart for issues such as data, compliance, policies and failure remediation – how complex is getting going again after a stop? Even with due diligence, it comes down to trust – usually lower for a pure-cloud solution. Users often prefer to be in control even of functions and processes they are not so good at.

What about best practices? Half a dozen use cases, for example capacity on demand (such as hiring lots of extra staff for a short time, I guess like Christmas postal deliveries) – Jeff calls this “Cloudbursting”. I’ve heard a presentation of this being done around a massive weekly sales promotion that, on its first outing, unexpectedly and grossly overloaded the company’s normal web servers. Cloud to the rescue!

Other use cases include: providing lower-end capabilities to segments of the staff population, such as floor staff in a store; secure extranets in an isolated environment (e.g. in M&A or restructuring when information needs to be kept confidential to a subset of staff but in more than one enterprise); or “splitting the stack”. Jeff proposes a small handful of hard-headed questions to help evaluate whether cost will really be saved (bearing in mind that he asserts that cost saving shouldn’t be the only target for a Cloud move). You must be able to identify where cost savings will come from, they’re not automatic!

And do, first, hold a mirror to your entire company and ask if – culturally – the enterprise is ready to make this kind of change (it’s trust, again, but legal issues such as e-discovery may be highly relevant here). Then be sure you understand why: examples might include flexibility, cost, being more easily current to latest software versions, reduced internal resource requirements, and so on. And you must have defined measures for a pilot to judge whether to move on.

In this, recognise the many constituencies in the business with different needs and expectations: not a new idea, but a useful categorisation of business interests on the chart. Think how to get them involved.

Gartner does expect that in the next few years all organisations will have some level of Cloud service: complete (few), or mixed (most).

In the brief Q&A, the issue of recent high profile outages (e.g. on Office 365 for some customers) was raised. Jeff’s view is to keep it in perspective: compare with internal capability, not with the ideal of zero outage.

I raised a question based on listening to Mark Benioff earlier. That presentation was put out via Facebook, and Benioff was strongly promoting “social technology” as the communication and collaboration platform of the future. As an analyst, Jeff sees very few innovations which totally replace what came before, and believes this will be a case in point. So social technologies are, indeed, very important; but the older platforms won’t go away.

Congratulations for Jeff for going beyond the technology of Cloud, and the (perhaps hyped) potential. This was a good counterbalance to Mark Benioff’s evangelistic case, and confirms that Jeff has lost none of his edge since last time I had the chance to interact with him!

Links:
• Cloud Strategies for Portals, Content, & Collaboration Projects, Gartner webinar, 14 Sep 2011, replay (link to be added when available) – in the meantime see Gartner Webinars
• Mark Benioff at Cloudforce London, ITasITis, 14 Sep 2011

Mark Benioff at Cloudforce London 14 Sep 2011

Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Impact of IT, IT is business, ITasITis, Social issues, Social media, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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I’ve joined the online Cloudforce webcast to view Mark Benioff’s keynote. I’m not able to stay online for the whole two hours, but this is notes as far as I can go.

Benioff has pitched that a new revolution has happened: the role that social technology plays and the depth of its integration into society as a whole has changed in the last year. Interestingly, the broadcast is via Facebook, not one of the established Web Meeting platforms. No registration. Just “Like” the page to join the broadcast. And Twitter feeds for the speakers linked on the page at the time they’re on stage (not when they’re off). We’ll come back to that point.

In the preliminaries at the point I joined, a key point from the JP Ramaswami: businesses need to value relationships not just customers. And now there is an enormous quantity of real data, cheap to collect, to back up research into online interactions. The emphasis being on learning and understanding what makes relationships really work.

A black screen while the broadcast switches to “Cloudforce London”. And a marketing video, pushing Salesforce Chatter but showcasing (at a headline level) how Salesforce is supporting a host of responsive apps to provide customers of banks, cars, coffee shops and more with immediate useful information. Where’s my nearest ATM? What’s my car’s engine temperature? And so on.

Here’s Benioff. A paean of praise to Thomas Watson, Ken Olson and Michael Dell – guess which one is billed as a speaker? – also Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. But the theme is a new area of innovation, and the mix and impact of social technology into society is (he believes) new.

He cited the Arab Spring, which is certainly the current high profile example: not “hard power” or “soft power” but “social power”. And he asks: is there going to be a “Corporate Spring” with the end of in-enterprise dictatorships in a similar paradigm?

People have to respond. There are now more social network users than email, and very nearly Facebook (and Twiter) *is* the Web. And people use mobile apps (smartphones, iPad) more than web browsers; the laptop is out of date for on-the-move information access. The current Forbes cover headlines: Social Power and the coming Corporate Revolution.

Moving into the message for business, he asks for (1) next generation social profiling for customers: they are, after all, on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else. Then (2) create an employee social network and enable staff to use this information. Returning to this, Benioff talks about creating (a few years back) an internal Facebook-alike which, crucially, is integrated with their main platform. Salesforce Chatter is now available to customers, and is going through a major upgrade, sue in a couple of weeks: presence added to IM, connection to other networks, filters, workflow (approvals).  Customer groups (sounds a bit like Google Plus circles) extend the concept to external customers, including file sharing and all sorts of other things; it sounds like some major education will be needed to establish who can share what, and who can commit the company to what.

(3) I intially missed as I had to step out of the room: develop the next generation sales cloud. Benioff highlighted Groupon as a fast growing company; I’m not yet clear whether this means Salesforce is integrating Groupon. And then data.com helping keep up to date as people change their facebook profiles, Twitter handles and so on.

I’d comment, though, that on my first business flight to California – twenty years ago – they were clearly already thinking that way although the information available was less. On my return flight there were some of the same crew as I’d had outbound. I’d swear I was remembered. And although the practical guess is that they’d “just” checked the database, the point is that they had done so. It’s not “just”.

I hade to drop off the broadcast. On return, the webcast is towards the end of an extended case study of Toyota’s new Toyota Friend network which provides easy information about a car’s status, problems, service schedule, and so on – with the dealer able to schedule an appointment and communicate through the network. Not that any of this information hasn’t been available before; what’s added is the integration into a social framework (and, of course, driven by Salesforce).

I’ll see if I can catch up later, and tidy up some of this information – with a link to the recording if possible, but otherwise have a look at the US Dreamforce keynote. Perhaps the key point, if you take Benioff’s point about the rapid and revolutionary integration of social technologies, is that Salesforce is not only preaching the “social enterprise”; it’s becoming one, and the use of Facebook and Twitter explicitly to support this event is part of it.

Links:
• Salesforce Chatter
• Keynote from Dreamforce in the US
• Groupon
• data.com
• Toyota Friend: Salesforce.com and Toyota Form Strategic Alliance to Build ‘Toyota Friend’ …, Toyota US Press Release, 23 May 2011; and Twitter feed (protected for approved members only)

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