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Posts Tagged ‘Cloud’

A Peek Over the Horizon

January 9, 2013 1 comment

 

2013 is upon us, budgets are locked and people are looking forward, with great anticipation to the rewards 2013 will surely bring. Many look upon a new year as an opportunity, a time to make adjustments, course correct, set goals and focus on the positive. In my house, one is graduating college, he will get a job (that is the plan, anyway). One is graduating high school, he will go to college and the third will be firmly entrenched in middle school (the teenage equivalent to purgatory).

As far as predictions go, if we really want to go out on a limb, we should focus on 2014, 2013 is too easy (it is after all, already here). Why look further out? A lesson learned from my dad when I first learned to drive, “focus a bit further ahead”, he would say,” it makes the experience much smoother for your passengers”. It makes logical sense, make slight course corrections as you go, but generally look as far out as you can. Much of what will happen for the next few months was determined by our actions at the end of last year. I plan to work hard in 2013 and try to keep the right as smooth as possible. From a predictions standpoint, I am going to skip 2013.

Where we will be in 2014:

  • Cloud becomes the default position, then we will all realize it is actually a hybrid model
  • We might stop arguing about definitions, buzzwords that fizzle
  • The FAA and FCC will decide that phones are ‘ok’ on airplanes, we will all complain
  • The CIO and CMO will be best of friends, like a shotgun wedding
  • Customer Centricity will be a reality, not just a Vision
  • Something not yet on our radar, will cause a major disruption

Cloud – Maybe, just maybe, we will realize that cloud computing is really an extension of a concept created in the 1950s, but the time has come. Everyone will realize that Cloud Computing is simply a metaphor for the things I need computers to do. I need storage, to store stuff, I need CPUs to compute stuff and I need to do both of these things a lot. Deciding to extend your enterprise (personal or company) to the cloud is a business decision that frankly comes down to economics, governance and law. Hence, this will be the job description for the CIO; to evaluate the economic and legal benefit of renting compute time versus buying a computer. The default position for IT will be Cloud first, then On-Premise.

Definitions/Buzzwords – Sadly, it will take another year or more before ‘Social’ will no longer be an important prefix to every business and technology term we have been using since the 1950s. This includes, but will not be limited to: business, customer, marketing, monitoring, networks, CRM and media. We will no longer feel the need to append the suffix ‘Cloud’ on: private, personal, hybrid, open, nor elastic. ‘Cloud’ might just going back to being something related to weather. ‘Mobile’, everything will be mobile, so it will lose its luster and appeal as a descriptor. Influencer will take a backseat to real world Friend.

Airplanes – We will fight for the use of mobile phones on airplanes and the wish we didn’t. We will most certainly become very annoyed with the ringtone in the seat next to us, almost as annoyed as with the person trying to have a conversation talking loudly and saying “WHAT” in order to overcome the engine noise. My last bastion of a ‘leave me alone’ place will be lost. This will make us sad, then angry. By 2015 is that certain flights (like New York/Boston or San Francisco/Seattle) will be designated as NO cell phone flights, like the “quiet car” on the commuter rail.

CMO/CIO – Hatfields/McCoys, Yankees/Red Sox, Barcelona/Real Madrid – ok, maybe not that bad, but you get the point. The CMO has a job to do and has enjoyed the freedom of SaaS. Shadow IT is still going strong, but the CIO is doing their best to gain some control, without appearing to be controlling. The CIO has a tough job, as does the CMO. The best path to success is to work together. The key driver here is going to be the sheer volume of data (buzzword avoided) required to gain a competitive advantage. The CMO will not be able to go it alone, they will need help. Yes, the CMO will have a much greater purchasing authority, possibly surpassing the CIO for technology; but they will need some help. Frenemies to the end!

Customer Centric – Companies who do not put the customer front and center, understand their jobs-to-be-done and learn to co-create value with their customers, through value-in-use will not be doing very well. This is what customer centricity is about. We will spend 2013 talking about it more, trying to understand it better and ready to execute in 2014.

Disruption – Something not even on our radar will cause major disruption. It is hard to say exactly what this is, or will be, but it is lurking, waiting to pounce. If I knew exactly what it was, I would be planning for it.

My focus for 2013? Context…

The word for 2013 is ‘Context’. Context will help (me at least) in the transition from what and why, to how. I will be spending a lot of time in 2013 working to understand the proper context of, data, information and timing; mostly to determine relevance.

If you would like some help getting from here to there, feel free to give me a call!

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Some Thoughts on Cloud(s)

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

When business people discuss ‘Cloud’ they think Salesforce and maybe Citrix or Microsoft, while technologists think Amazon, Google and Rackspace. Business owners want and believe that they can swipe the credit card, and ‘the system’ is ready tomorrow. To technologists, it is a bit more complex than that, but they too want simplicity. To the IT organization if there are no physical goods, servers, tapes, power supplies, then it is not real. To the line of business, they are tired or asking IT for permission, giving IT the upper hand in business application decision making. Therefore, what it really comes down to is this: To the business it is about gaining control, the IT department it is about losing control. Do not underestimate the emotional elements that go into the decision making process surrounding ‘Cloud’. I did not bring up the most important person, the CFO who has read the first half of the Op Ex v Cap Ex article talking about how Cloud is cheaper (the second half is not quite written yet, but it will say that depending upon the application the cost lines cross at between 4 and 6 years).

Everything is Perspective

Cloud is an overused term, all started when we were too lazy to draw lots of servers and explain what was outside of our firewall – we drew a picture of a cloud. Which, back in the day, was meant to represent the ‘Internet’ – Yes, the whole thing. Lots of people, including myself at a point in time, used the electricity model to describe cloud. To the uninitiated, this works just fine. To others, the metaphor begins to break down and then everyone starts picking it apart. To those folks, I simply say “relax” it is, after all, a metaphor. The detailed oriented among us start to go on the attack and say “well, no security is required for electrons”. Yes, that is true, you win. The simple idea is that companies need a way to innovate, adapt, move and grow at a much faster pace. Having one less thing to worry about, to many people is a good thing. There are those among us who would suggest that Cloud is one MORE thing to worry about. Then don’t…

You – the CIO or IT department will be (or have been) asked to do more with less, optimize your computing power, deal with more data, have five 9s uptime, spend less on electricity and drive innovation. You are asked to think about things you never considered to be your job, like cooling systems, how much weight the floor can support, the electric bill and so much more. It is starting to feel a lot like a data center. So, there might just be a cloud and/or data center inside your firewall (physically or logically). In the end, it is as simple as balancing resources, time and money and enabling your organization to sell, support, collaborate and innovate. Do you need cloud in order to do that? An unconditional – It depends.

I am looking forward to exploring these topics as well as a few others next week at the CIO Cloud Summit. Maybe I will see you there?

Categories: SocialCRM Data Tags: , ,

From the Long Tail to the New Normal

March 26, 2012 6 comments

In this next installment of my ‘connect the dots’ series I am going out on a bit of a limb. My objective here is to help people understand the importance of ‘New Normal’, in writing this I have a better sense of it myself. Working backwards, the ‘New Normal’ is very similar in concept to what Seth Godin calls “Weird”. The best way for me to describe ‘Weird’ is that it is the rest of the story, left out in most Long Tail discussions. The Long Tail, as discussed by Chris Anderson, talks about the outliers, the ones who live and purchase at the edges of the spectrum. In other words, the Long Tail does not talk too much about the rest of the distribution, at least not from the customer-centric perspective. While I have heard New Normal used before, I have not seen many illustrations of what it might look like (other than teenagers walking down the street texting from a mobile phone).

The value of the diagram is to illustrate to others, using specific examples and to talk about the ‘New Normal’, moving beyond buzzwords or hyperbole.

The New Normal has been and can be used to understand many of the changes and challenges many people have been talking about for a while now. Ideas such as; The Social Customer, The Collaborative Organization, Social CRM, Social Business  and more might be better understood with a simple illustration.  Think about the distribution of communication channels used 5 years ago, versus now. We simply have more choices. This is not only about customer communications, think about the ways in which you communicate with your peers now, versus 5 years ago. Would it be interesting to chart some this with your own data?

What exactly is ‘New’ about the New Normal

When applied to a business context, the bell curve is being ‘flattened’.  While Chris Anderson and peers talked about Amazon and Netflix –this is now about your products, services and your customers. The long tail is now the ‘tail wagging the dog’. Let’s bring this a little closer to home; the customer journey. What follows is an objective view, with some sweeping assumptions and data without research data as the foundation. For the purists among you, I am focused on the journey and channels of communication, not the product economics of weird, nor long tail.

Consider the number of modes of communication that a customer used from evaluation to purchase for your product 10 years ago (If you did not have a product 10 years ago, think of your own journey). There might have been a Yahoo search, then a phone call. Maybe an email and a website visit. For the sake of this conversation, let’s speculate that the number of channels used averaged 3 and for 70% of the customers they used between 2 and 4 channels. The rest likely used between 1 and 5 channels. This brings us really close to a pretty, normal distribution, though slightly narrow and steep.

How about today? What would the number of channels look like for the same (or similar) product purchase journey? Again, not scientific, but the data is likely available for your business – Could we guess average of 4 channels? This is just one channel more, on average, but it changes the game. Based on the flattening of the curve, to get to that 70% of your customer base it is likely something like “70% of the customers use between 2 and 7 channels; a pretty big range, not as simple as it used to be. The key point here is that you need to dig in deeper and understand what they are doing on each channel. How many channels would we need to include to get to 95% of your customer population (the -2σ to 2σ in the illustration above)?

The important part of the flattening is not only the reduction in the middle, it is the increase on the edges. I want to be clear on a few things. The new Normal for your customers is dependent upon where they have been. The pace of change is determined by you and your customers, not by a consultant or analyst. Just for fun, if you want to see a Normal distribution in action, take a look at this graphic of the snow in Vermont, as it careens off the bell curve in 2012.  All I can say is, I hope this does not represent the ‘New Normal’. There is a whole lot more to this story – just think about it. As always, the time Sword Ciboodle allows me to think through these concepts is greatly appreciated!

Sources:

Device Explosion – Just Deal with It

January 25, 2012 3 comments

<Circa 2000>

  • “DVD Player, Check”
  • “LeapPad, Check”
  • “Discman, Check”
  • “Laptop, Check”
  • “Car Chargers, Check”

“Ok, the kids are ready for the car ride!”

<Circa 2012>

  • “iPhone 4S, Check”
  • “iPad 2, Check”
  • “KindleFire, Check”
  • “Macbook Air, Check”
  • (Batteries last all day)

“Ok, I am ready to go to work now”

The Back Story

For those of you who can remember way back in the day; you know, when your work computer was faster than your personal one and you had a 17″ monitor in the office, but only a 14″ at home. The download speed at the office rocked (work had this thing called a “T1”). The Ink-Jet printer at home did not hold a candle the color laser printer at work, and you were on the list to get a company mobile phone. ‘Cyber Monday’ actually can trace its roots back to different time as well, because we had to go to work to shop online. Then Bubble 1.0 happened and the real benefit to us is that we got buy the better computer at home, pay for the better bandwidth, and buy our own mobile phone – no, wait, this was better? The result: your own devices are better, faster and bit of a status symbol (or fashion statement, as my daughter would suggest) and best of all – The IT guy cannot get his grubby hands on your device!

Fast forward to the current landscape and these personal devices are even more valuable, why? Between Dropbox, Box.net, Gmail, GoogleDocs, Office365; iPads, iPhones, Galaxy and Samsung (Thumb drives are so 2000), all my data is in the cloud and I can get to it from any and all devices. Unfortunately, as a business, you have no idea where all the documents are located, where information is stored and how to cut access if needed (much less avoid copies). The funny thing is that the critical files still go missing while the Christmas party video of the boss has gone viral and will never disappear. This might not be the “Big Data” problem everyone is talking about, but it is a data problem and it is big. It is easy to send files to my Kindle email, synchronize my files across between my Desktop, iPad and iPhone using DropBox, Box.net is plan B (but still good) and when I want to make sure I have a presentation available I upload it to three different clouds and still email it to Gmail simply to make sure it lives on 2 mail servers. My description is not without hyperbole,  as most standard business users do not need to go to such lengths, but how far off am I, really?

Is this a Data Problem or a Device Problem?

Among the most interesting aspects of this entire conversation is that people are more productive, if they are happy. If you told them to do all of the above, there would be a revolt for sure, but since it was their idea, their choice, you are best to just deal with it (Anyone with kids, gets this concept without question). I have recently begun an experiment, where I gave up my laptop, exchanged for an iPad (still have a desktop at home). It has not been without struggles, but so far so good. I am trying out the KindleFire, and I will eventually decide which device I like best and I will stick with it, until I change my mind.

What is the relevance here, and how and why do businesses care? In order to move forward, it might be a good idea to think about what IBM thinks on the topic.  (I will give the source in a moment):

“Part of the beauty of pervasive computing is that we will not even realize that it is here, once it has become a necessary part of our lives. In the future it will often be invisible, and the user interface will be intuitive. The other important part of the story is that it will all be networked. Data, once entered, will never have to be entered again, but will be readily available whenever and wherever needed.”

The source: “A look at human interaction with pervasive computers” Ark and Selker, IBM Systems Journal (PDF). What is most interesting to me is the date of the publication, July 29, 1999. Look around and many people are saying/talking/writing about this just now, but it has been top of mine for many years. The paper goes on to share the following:

“Computers will not only be increasingly mobile, but information will be accessible from any mobile position. We should not have to carry around devices containing our information. Rather, devices will recognize who we are and obtain information about us, through “remembrance agents” or adaptive user models, Internet information storage, or other means.

Information appliances have human-computer interfaces. An information appliance should be easy for anyone to use and the interaction with the device should be intuitive. Careful design is critical for an intuitive interaction with the device. Although the desktop computer can do many things, this functionality can be separated into more appropriate devices. Some examples of successful popular devices are cellular phones, pagers, televisions, wristwatches, and toasters. Of course, there can be times when these devices become difficult to use, but in their basic form, they meet the criteria for information appliances.”

I suppose that the question above, in bold, is actually incorrect. It is neither a data, nor a device problem, it is an interface problem. With a focus on jobs to be done; I have a job to do, I know what I need to get it done. Every organization simply needs to facilitate my ability and capability. Gone are the days that we can simply sit someone down at a desk and say: “Here is your PC, there is the printer, here is your password for the domain, have a good day”. In order to be productive, the workforce of today and tomorrow has very specific preferences, and we would be wise to consider those preferences. Will it be as exciting when work gives me an iPad?…

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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Is it all just too easy?

November 9, 2009 6 comments

I was fortunate this past week to be able to attend a Cloud conference put on by the 451 Group, down in Boston. While I have fine tuned my focus during the past year, less on the infrastructure side, and more on the business application side, this was time well spent. I believe that from a maturation – ability to offer measurable business value – perspective, Cloud, Open Source, Social and Enterprise 2.0 are growing up together.  Sometimes they act more like siblings during a long car ride, suffering from “Are we there yet” and “Look at me, look at me”.

Even given my slightly different focus, I do try to stay true to the brief description I have on Twitter, “I am passionate about the intersection of people, process and technology”. Luckily, SugarCRM, where I currently hang my hat, sits right in the middle of that that triple witching point:

  • People/Ecosystem – Customers, Employees and Partners,
  • Process – Who speaks, When they say,  How to engage, What channel,
  • Technology – Open Source, Clouds, SaaS, Social (Yes, Social is technology)

Just because you can, does it mean you should?

Ok, now to the point – my theory is that the technology has made it is just too easy to do make bad choices – a crazy, maybe, silly statement, but tell me I am wrong – I dare you. There is a place and a time for the Nike moment – “Just do it” and then there is the ‘take time and think about what you are about to do’. What is the correct balance? Just because you can, does it mean you should? Some are probably saying that about this blog at the moment.

Back in the day (sorry, I love that phrase, my 18yo pulls it on me all the time), when you wanted to get something done, you had to do the ole ‘budget justification’, think through it, present to senior team members – Yes, ask for money, too! Part of this was also a required “Check with IT, I am not sure what you want to do is part of the standard”. This last one was especially hard for the Open Source applications.  Combine a pent up demand, economic pressures, getting tired of the perception of IT blocking progress with SaaS, Cloud and Online Social Media channels – and it is a perfect storm and excuse to just IGNORE the IT dept.

So, before anyone beats me up too much, this is not what I am suggesting, just saying what happens, what I have seen happen and the end result. I have seen many companies take the route of using SaaS – Take a Look at Phil Wainewright’s Blog He talks to Conformity – An interesting company who has the business model to help clean up this mess, but I am not going to deep here, just a reference to justify this post.

My key point is that it all just to dam easy. The ease of spending $20 to get a server in the cloud – yes, I said $20, standing up a system, setting up a blog, putting together a YouTube account, FaceBook group, Newsletter, Forums, Chat, Twitter. Awesome, let’s hope all the choices are successful, lots of people, lots of prospects, lots of eyeballs – Maybe some customers too. That would be great, right? Way too many times, I have heard the statement – “Hey that would be a great problem to have” – Really? Unless of course it is your problem to solve. Remember, once you are on a channel it is much harder to leave.

I do have to ‘tip-toe’ a bit, after all I do work for SugarCRM. A company that does make it very easy to get started, and take advantage of a structured CRM application. I am all for making things easy, but job one is success!  I also believe this is much more prevalent with respect to Social Media applications – too many people saying “Just do it”.  Is anything really free, no, as people and time are the most expensive part of running a business.

I am suggesting that a little bit of planning – just a little – is time well spent – Just sayin’