Posts Tagged collaboration

Five Reasons Businesses Use the Cloud that IT Can Live With

By 2016, cloud will matter more to business leaders than to IT, according to the IBM Center for Applied Insights. In fact, cloud’s strategic importance to business leaders is poised to double from 34% to 72%. That’s more than their IT counterparts where only 58% acknowledge its strategic importance.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Once business leaders got comfortable with the security of the cloud it was just a matter of figuring out how to use it to lower costs or, better yet, generate more revenue faster. IT, on the other hand, recognized the cloud early on as a new form of IT outsourcing and saw it as a direct threat, which understandably dampened their enthusiasm.

IBM’s research—involving more than 800 cloud decision makers and users—painted a more business-friendly picture that showed the cloud able to deliver more than just efficiency, especially IT efficiency. Pacesetting organizations, according to IBM, are using cloud to gain competitive advantage through strategic business reinvention, better decision making, and deeper collaboration. And now the business results to prove it are starting to roll in. You can access the study here.

IT, however, needn’t worry about being displaced by the cloud. Business managers still lack the technical perspective to evaluate and operationally manage cloud providers. In addition, there will always be certain functions that best remain on premise. These range from conformance with compliance mandates to issues with cloud latency to the need to maintain multiple sources of IT proficiency and capability to ensure business continuance. Finally, there is the need to assemble, maintain, and manage an entire ecosystem of cloud providers (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and others) and services like content distribution, network acceleration, and more.  So, rest assured; if you know your stuff, do it well, and don’t get greedy the cloud is no threat.

From the study came five business reasons to use the cloud:

1)      Better insight and visibility—this is the analytics story; 54% use analytics to derive insights from big data, 59% use it to share data, and 59% intend to use cloud to access and manage big data in the future

2)      Easy collaboration—cloud facilitates and expedites cross-functional collaboration, which drives innovation and boosts productivity

3)      Support for a variety of business needs by forging a tighter link between business outcomes and technology in areas like messaging, storage, and office productivity suites; you should also add compute-business agility

4)      Rapid development of new products and services—with  52% using the cloud to innovate products and services fast and 24% using it to offer additional product and services; anything you can digitize, anything with an information component can be marketed, sold, and delivered via the cloud

5)      Proven results –25% reported a reduction in IT costs due to the cloud, 53% saw an increase in efficiency, and 49% saw improvement in employee mobility.

This last point about mobility is particularly important. With the advent of the cloud geography is no longer a constraining business factor. You can hire people anywhere and have them work anywhere. You can service customers anywhere. You can source almost any goods and services from anywhere. And IT can locate data centers anywhere too.

Yes, there are things for which direct, physical interaction is preferred. Despite the advances in telemedicine, most people still prefer an actual visit to the doctor; that is unless a doctor simply is not accessible. Or take the great strides being made in online learning; in a generation or two the traditional ivy covered college campus may be superfluous except, maybe, to host pep rallies and football games. But even if the ivy halls aren’t needed, the demand for the IT capabilities that make learning possible and enable colleges to function will only increase.

As BottomelineIT has noted many times, the cloud is just one component of your organization’s overall IT and business strategy.  Use it where it makes sense and when it makes sense, but be prepared to alter your use of the cloud as changing conditions dictate. Change is one of the best things at which the cloud is best.

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Make Your Digital Presence a Valuable Asset

Do you recognize your organization’s digital presence as a valuable asset?  You probably are familiar with some aspects of it, less familiar with others. The organization’s website forms a core component of your digital presence. So do any information or blog portals your organization deploys. Do you conduct webcasts to educate customers or prospects? Webcasts are part of your digital presence too. Your digital presence, in short, is all you do in the digital sphere.

IT probably didn’t initiate the organization’s digital presence way back when the scramble was on to stake out a web presence. Probably marketing agitated for it and IT assigned someone as webmaster. Things have changed dramatically in the decade or two since.

 “Digital is the future and a critical component of business strategy in many industries,” notes Howard Tiersky, CEO of Moving Interactive, which specializes in digital innovation consulting.  In other words, Tiersky tries to increase the value of companies’ digital presence, whatever pieces it may include.

To Tiersky, digital represents the largest transformation the media world has seen in decades—the old rules and ways of launching new products no longer apply. But your digital presence probably extends far beyond the digital media world.

According to Kennedy Consulting, “digital strategy, the integration of digital technologies into companies’ strategies and operations in ways that fundamentally alter the value chain, is emerging as a significant source of competitive advantage.” It is driving dramatic changes in the products and services companies bring to market, as well as how they do business. What we really mean when talking about digital is the entire digital landscape: the Internet, Web (World Wide Web), the Cloud, and all they contain; mobile even plays a key part of it.

Every organization today operates in this rapidly expanding digital landscape. Some have a small digital presence there, maybe just a website that is little more than a static information portal or electronic brochure. Others digitally engage their customers, partners, and other stakeholders much more extensively through social business, online collaboration, webcasts, video, and more.

At this point, the extent of an organization’s involvement in the digital landscape generally mirrors its industry. “In some industries, digital has become the primary way to interact with customers,” says Tiersky.  For customers in media, entertainment, travel, and financial services an effective digital strategy is a critical requirement. In other industries the need is less urgent right now, but before not too long every company in every industry will need a digital strategy that shapes its digital presence.

Most companies began a decade or two ago with a simple static website. Marketing usually was driving the bus with IT lending technical support as needed.  Over the years it grew and expanded; IT increasingly became involved, often reluctantly.

The budget for these kinds of digital initiatives also grew, and the recipient of the budget began to shift. According to Gartner, marketing is purchasing significant marketing-related technology and services from their own capital and expense budgets – both outside the control of the internal IT organization and in conjunction with them.  The upshot, Gartner predicts that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO. And the volume and value of transactions being generated through the organization’s digital presence has likely become substantial.

The digital landscape and the performance of the organization’s digital presence within that landscape has grown in size to such an extent, as reflected by the increasing amounts of budget allocated to it, that neither IT nor marketing can handle it alone. The scope and complexity of the digital landscape and its many disparate elements has evolved and expanded fast. In addition, the importance of the organization’s digital presence grown even faster; that’s why every organization needs outside help.

And this is why digital consultants, content delivery networks, and cloud-based services providers of all sorts are in demand.  It is time for you as CIO to sit down with the CMO and put together a team that can efficiently optimize your digital presence as a valuable asset going forward.

 The digital landscape is not going away. “We are going through a multi-decade transformation process; every business will shift significantly into digital world,” says Tiersky.  As that happens you want to make sure IT is playing a key role.

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IT Chaos Means Opportunity for the CIO

Hurricanes, hybrid superstorms, earthquake-tsunami combinations, extreme heat, heavy snow in April are just a few signs of chaos. For IT professionals specifically, chaos today comes from the proliferation of smartphones and BYOD or the deluge of data under the banner of big data. A sudden shift to the deployment of massive numbers of ARM processors or extreme virtualization might trigger platform chaos.  A shortage of sufficient energy can lead to another form of chaos. Think of it this way: chaos has become the new normal.

Big consulting firms have latched onto the idea of chaos. Deloitte looks to enterprise data management to create order out of chaos. At Capgemini, the need of organizations to increasingly deal with unstructured processes that ordinary Business Process Management (BPM) solutions were not designed to cope with can be enough to lead to chaos. Their solution: developing case management around a BPM solution – preferably in conjunction with an Enterprise Content Management system – solves many of the problems

Eric Berridge, co-founder of Bluewolf Group, a leading consulting firm specializing in Salesforce.com implementations, put it best when he wrote in a recent blog that CIOs must learn to harness chaos for a very simple reason: business is becoming more chaotic. Globalization and technology, which have turned commerce on its head over the past 20 years, promise an even more dizzying rate of change in the next decade.

Berridge’s solution draws on the superhero metaphor. The CIO has to become Captain Chaos, the one able to overcome a seemingly insurmountable level of disarray to deliver the right value at the right time. And you do that my following a few straightforward tips:

First, don’t build stuff you don’t absolutely have to build. You want your organization to travel as light as possible. If you build systems you are stuck with them. Instead, you want to be able to change systems as fast as the business changes in response to whatever chaos is swirling at the moment. That means you need to aim for an agile IT infrastructure, probably one that can take tap a variety of cloud services and turn them on and off as needed.

Then, recognize the consumerization of IT and the chaos it has sparked.  This is not something to be resisted but embraced and facilitated in ways that give you and your organization the measure of control you need. Figure out how to take advantage of the consumerization of IT through responsive policies, elastic infrastructure, and flexible security capabilities.

Next, encourage the organization’s R&D and product development groups to also adopt agile methods and approaches to innovation, especially through social media and other forms of collaboration. Even encourage them to go a step further by reaching out to customers to participate.  Your role as CIO at this point is to facilitate interaction among the parties who can create successful innovation.

Finally, layer on enough just-in-time governance to enable the organization to manage the collaboration and interactivity. The goal is to rein in chaos and put it to work. To do that you need to help set priorities, define objectives, execute plans, and enforce flexible and agile policies—all the things that any successful business needs to do but do so in the context of a chaotic world that is changing in ways you and top management can’t predict.

As CIO this puts big demands on you too. To start, you have to keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening with the world at large, in business and with technology. That means you need to figuratively identify and place sensors and monitors that can tip you off as things change. You also can’t master every technology. Instead you need to identify an ever-changing stable of technology masters you can call on as needed and familiarize yourself with the vast amount of resources available in the cloud.

In the end, these last two points—a stable of technology masters you can call upon and deep familiarity with cloud resources—will enable you to deliver the most value to your organization despite the chaos of the moment. At that point you truly become Captain Chaos, the one your organization counts on to deal with ever changing chaos.

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Avoid the Pitfalls of Social Networking

In an economy where innovation has become the currency for sustained competitive advantage, it also has become a truism that when companies collaborate they will innovate more often and more effectively.  Although large enterprises have long deployed complex and sophisticated collaboration tools, popular social networking tools can do as good a job.

That’s why you hear a lot about the successes big consumer product and entertainment companies are having with social networking.  P&G, for example, discovered that Facebook could pump new life into a stable but decidedly staid product, Pepto-Bismol.  Business Week wrote about it here in March.

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and those not so explicitly consumer oriented have found social networking success a bit more elusive.   Among midsize businesses, for instance, 38% have a company Facebook page, but less than a quarter uses it to generate new leads and sales and less than one-fifth use it for internal collaboration or customer retention, according to a recent study by the SMB Group.

The SMB 2012 study shows overall use of social media is up from 44% to 53% among small businesses (1-99 employees) and up from 52% to 63% among medium businesses (100-999 employees) year-over-year, but it also reveals a widening gap between SMBs that are using social networking in an informal, ad hoc manner and those taking a more planned, strategic approach. Here is how can you make social strategic in your organization and avoid common pitfalls.

Start by making a commitment to use social networking strategically and link it to goals for revenue growth. Strategic users, the study found, also were more likely to have already integrated social media with existing business applications and processes. CRM, customer support, and product development are the three that most immediately come to mind.

After that, you want to avoid five social networking pitfalls SMBs trip on. Kevin Casey, writing for Information Week, elaborated on them, which Bottomline IT summarizes below:

  1. Not enough time. A lack of time was the clear number-one issue for small businesses, with 62% citing it as a roadblock to effective social engagement. Midsize businesses are similarly pressed.
  2. Too many social networks. The time issue compounds as the number of social platforms grows. Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and others bring social networks that together complicate strategy development and execution.
  3. Hard to measure. Nearly half of midsize firms report being unable to accurately measure the value of their social networking. Why define and execute a strategy if there is no effective way to evaluate progress?
  4. Inappropriate tools and services. Yes, social monitoring and management tools are emerging but many are not designed for SMBs. They don’t want a comprehensive command center but something easily deployed that covers their key social activities in one simple toolset, including metrics.
  5. Confusing customer sentiment. SMBs experience a deluge of social information emanating from these networks, some of it contradictory, which makes it hard to figure out what it all means. Social analysis tools are just emerging for this.

Data published in Forrester’s Global Enterprise Web 2.0 Market Forecast: 2007 to 2013, projects that enterprise spending on Web 2.0 technologies will reach $4.6 billion by 2013 and climb to $6.4 billion by 2016.  Gartner predicts that social technology will be integrated with most business applications by 2016. But, deriving value from social networking is not just about implementing Web 2.0 technology. Rather, it is about transforming a company’s knowledge-sharing culture and influencing daily behavior patterns to ensure effective adoption and exploitation of the new social tools and processes, writes Gloria Burke for Unisys.  That’s how you get true, sustainable collaboration.

Maybe the first challenge in that transformation is getting your organization to adopt of social networking at all. Corinne Sklar, marketing director at Bluewolf Group, a leading social consulting firm, has this to say on adoption: Long emails with links to how-to web pages tend to fall victim to the I’ll-get-to-it-later email black hole. Instead, innovate with new forms of communication, the more streamlined and concise the better. As attention spans diminish providing a mix of communication tools helps your people get the info they need in the kind of short, bite-sized chunks they can absorb immediately. When going social, instant gratification counts.

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Social Media Gets Down to Business at Enterprise 2.0

At lasts week’s Enterprise 2.0 social networking conference in Boston, the talk got down to serious business. The fun and games of Facebook and Twitter took a back seat to using social networking for actual business work, mainly around collaboration that leads to innovation.

Here is what BottomlineIT wrote about last year’s conference. Not that it wasn’t serious, but the buzz was around networks of networks. Since then the focus has evolved. Basic social and collaboration has morphed into mobile networking and innovation with a strong focus on delivering business value.

To that end, Nathan Bricklin, head of social strategy and Wells Fargo Wholesale Services, advised attendees: “What you should have is a business strategy, and then you can layer social efforts and social tools to support the business strategy.” Nobody disagreed.

Among the vendors and speakers, several main themes emerged:  mobile everywhere, all devices welcome, connecting social to traditional business applications, and collaboration that drives business innovation.

Enterprise 2.0 this year clearly was about social for mobile devices.  If you walked around the show with a small laptop connected via WiFi you probably felt like a dinosaur. You want your social connections with you wherever you are and wherever you go. Social media has become a mobile play, no doubt.

And the products are scrambling to support any mobile device. The iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, and other tablets of all sorts. Unlike previous years where the iPhone ruled, this year any device is welcome. (Your blogger was connecting via an Android smartphone.)

The vendors apparently also now understand that to make social networking acceptable to business they have to interact with traditional business applications. You couldn’t sit through a product demo without seeing how it would connect with a company’s CRM or ERP or financial systems. Pulling customer data from the CRM system and combining it with other social content to drive sales was a frequently demoed example, so was budgeting where input from numerous managers and business units were combined in a final budget.

Finally, streamlined collaboration enabled by social networking alone apparently does not deliver sufficient business value fast enough. The big business payoff from collaboration, it turns out, comes by fueling more, better, and faster innovation.  Said one vendor: “You connect social to traditional business apps and then use social to tap innovation around the periphery of the enterprise.”

The oddball at the show was Crowd Computing Systems, which seemed only marginally social. As they explained it, they join artificial intelligence with crowd sourcing to help companies select business process outsourcing (BPO) providers.  As they put it:  “By fusing human and artificial intelligence to match specific tasks to the best resources for completing them – whether human or machine – we not only make getting work done faster, we make it more scalable, predictable, flexible and accurate.” It’s an interesting idea although I’m still not sure why they were at Enterprise 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 in Boston is one of two live conferences the organization puts on each year.  The other is in Santa Clara. Starting next week the organization’s two live events will each take on their own positioning as Enterprise 2.0 Boston becomes E2 Social and Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara becomes E2 Innovate. E2 Social will continue to spotlight the technologies and market forces within social business and collaboration, whereas E2 Innovate will look more broadly to what the influences of mobile, social, data and analytics mean for next generation enterprise applications. However it shakes out, BottomlineIT will be there next year.

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Use Cloud to Avoid WikiLeaks-like Exposure

WikiLeaks material makes for interesting reading unless your company is the target. Bank of America Corp., for example, was a recent target of a WikiLeaks exposure.  It turned out not to be WikiLeaks but a hacker that goes by the name Anonymous, but the result—exposed information—was the same.

The point here: every business risks finding its information exposed in WikiLeaks fashion. A Bank of America spokesman said the documents were non-foreclosure related clerical and administrative documents stolen by a former Balboa Insurance employee. Should managers feel relieved?

Absolutely not. In this case an employee of a presumably trusted associate leaked the information. In today’s networked, connected, collaborative economy, every company relies increasingly on expanding networks—ecosystems—of associated organizations with which they must share information. Fortunately, there are ways to protect against this.

For years overnight delivery has been the favored method of sharing documents or unstructured information. It’s easy, but it isn’t cheap and it certainly isn’t secure. Documents can be lost; more importantly, you have no control over what the recipient will do once the document is received.

Today maybe the most common way to share electronic documents outside the organization is via email attachments. Email is fast, easy, and cheap but it, too, is far from secure. And once it gets to its destination anything can happen.

IT is reasonably good at securing documents for sharing within the firewall through layers or perimeter protection. There are data loss prevention (DLP) systems that can stop employees from sending unauthorized information outside the organization. Other technologies, such as digital rights management (DRM), can be embedded in documents to extend control over what can be done with them once they leave your hands.

The cloud, however, appears ideal for securely sharing documents outside the firewall. In the cloud companies set up space through which you can securely share documents. Those you want to share your documents access the space with a browser and view the documents there. Depending on the security provided those viewing your documents might not be able to download them, print them, or forward them. They might be able to make changes to the document there, but not leak them.

These shared spaces vary in the degree of security they provide, their ability to control the document beyond the shared space, and other capabilities they may provide, such as facilitating collaboration. They also vary in the volume and number of documents and users they can manage. Due to these variables, many of the shared spaces are not suitable for the kind of secure document sharing organizations are likely to need. These systems, however, all have drawbacks that prevent widespread adoption. A table below lays out the most common options for secure document sharing.

Three cloud providers, however, can do the job. IntraLinks is widely considered the industry leader. Brainloop, a German company with offices in Cambridge, MA, has staked out the document compliance management and collaboration spaces. Watchdox focuses on ease of use and extended control. Each of these companies delivers enterprise-class secure document sharing.

The main use of such spaces will be for sharing documents relating to M&A activity, Board meetings, and compliance activities. Other use cases focus on product development or collaborative marketing.

The following table lays out the common options.

Option Advantages Gaps
ERP systems Effective secure content sharing within the system Limited collaborationLack of openness
IRM (SharePoint) Strong collaboration Limited access controlLack of openness
ERM/DRM Strong access control No collaboration
Perimeter, DLP Strong protection within firewallUses existing security infrastructure No collaboration
Web/cloud shared space Easily accessibleInexpensiveAllows for strong security and control

Flexible

Collaboration support varies by providerSecurity and control varies by provider

Whatever option or combination of options you choose, the goal is to stop your organization’s documents from showing up on the various WikiLeaks of the world or getting into the wrong hands.

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Telecom Cost Reduction through SIP

IP telephony and Session Internet Protocol (SIP) are emerging as a key way to cut telecom cost as well as deliver the benefits of unified communications. Those benefits focus on collaboration, centralized management, and streamlined communications, such as 4-digit dialing and follow-me capabilities.

A Frost & Sullivan research report lays out the core rationale for IP telephony. The savings include reduced calling costs; faster and more efficient moves, adds, and changes; lower overall network monitoring, management, and configuration costs; and reduced access and long distance call calling costs through voice-over-IP (VoIP) and SIP.

IP telephony also brings enhanced services. These include such capabilities as soft phones; rich presence information; chat; audio, video and web conferencing; mobile access to enterprise applications; and advanced contact center applications, according to Frost & Sullivan.

Although the Frost researchers estimate 30% of organizations have some level of IP telephony many businesses today continue to organize their telecommunication by office or location through conventional local phone lines. They still rely on traditional TDM (time division multiplexing) telephone technology delivered by the local telecom provider. Such traditional networks are location-oriented and need physical provisioning, maintenance, and management at the site of the voice lines, all of which makes this phone setup inherently inefficient and costly.

The problem lies in TDM, the port-based technology that requires fixed-line provisioning at each location. With TDM, the trunks (individual phone lines) require proprietary line cards that terminate the phone company’s dial tone at an organization’s on-premise equipment, often a PBX. Costs include on-premise equipment, carrier dial tone service for each phone line, and ongoing maintenance and support.

And that’s not the worst. Most companies install more phone lines than they really need to handle the rare peak usage when everyone at the location is on the phone at the same time. Given the way the carriers package TDM lines as T1 or PRI trunks with 24/23 voice channels the inefficiency can be startling, as much as 48% underutilization of trunk packages even though such bulk buying still is cheaper. Even in the best cases more than one-fifth of the contracted line capacity may go unused.

In a published report, industry analyst Irwin Lazar at Nemertes Research estimates that on average companies adopting SIP save as much as 60% over what they pay for traditional TDM service. In one case a company used 1,500 SIP trunks to replace 2,250 TDM trunks, which reduced telecom expenses from $5.4 million per year to $945,000 per year.

As IP telephony, SIP takes advantage of the flexibility and inherent efficiency of the IP network, allowing organizations to centralize and consolidate phone lines, simplify management, and redeploy underutilized lines on the fly. In short, SIP eliminates the need to physically deploy extra—and often idle—TDM circuits in each location. Centralized management of such activities as moves, adds, and changes, which can be accomplished with the click of a button, further reduces costs while enabling a more responsive organization.

There are a number of paths to IP telephony. The usual way is through one of the carriers, such as Verizon, or one of the networking vendors, such as Cisco. More recently, IP telephony vendors, such as Smoothstone, have been cropping up in the cloud to provide fully hosted IP trunking to each location using SIP or some form of TDM emulation or a media gateway.

The immediate benefits are substantial costs savings, flexibility, and efficiency. In the long term, IP telephony lays the foundation for unified communications and collaboration, the benefits of which I summarized here last fall.

 

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