Sunday, September 21, 2014

It’s Not Just About the Unstructured Data

For well over a decade, the content management world has been claiming unstructured data. The argument usually goes something like this:
Structured data is the information that comes in the form of numbers, words, dates, percentages, and currency amounts that all fit neatly into the rows and columns of a database. Unstructured data, on the other hand, consists of documents, images, web pages, video files, CAD drawings, and PowerPoint files for which a database is ill suited and that thus require specialized technologies to ingest, analyze, manipulate, share, and archive it. This unstructured data – or content - represents over 80% of all the data in the enterprise. BTW, I’m pretty sure that Gartner made up that 80% number.
I admit that I was one of the early pioneers of this message and I carried it dutifully for years. The entire content management industry did that. But the more I’m learning about what customers really want, the more I’m coming to realize that we have been all wrong.
Because, customers don’t care about managing unstructured data.
What customers want are applications that address real business problems. Real business problems require real information and that almost always comes in both, structured and unstructured form. In fact I can hardly think of an application that doesn’t need to combine both types of data sets.

Take Invoice Processing. There is the structured data like the name of the supplier, the date, the list of goods, the total, etc. But there are also the invoice itself, the bill of lading, the damage reports and pictures, and other unstructured data.

How about Employee File Management? You have the employee files such as the original job application, resume, contract, performance reviews, and training certificates – all of them are unstructured documents or scanned images. But you also have the reporting structure, salary data, bank account info, benefits, bonus attainment, and other structured data.
In most applications, the structured and unstructured data need to be used together. Sure, the data may need to be kept in different containers – structured data in a database and unstructured data in the repository of a content management system. But using one without the other doesn’t really solve real business problems.
I think that the myopic focus on unstructured data has hurt the enterprise content management (ECM) industry. Sure, we need the specialized software that can manage the unstructured data but ultimately, customers need applications that can handle both, structured and unstructured data together in a single solution.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The World in Real-Time

I came recently across an amazing array of sites that provide a real-time or near real-time view of things happening around the world. I have picked my top ten favorites for my blog post today:

This service has been around for a few years but it continues to fascinate me. It provides a real-time view of the air traffic over pretty much any part of the world. I was once playing with this service on a flight UA902 from Frankfurt home to San Francisco using the on-board WiFi and I was able to locate my flight and see our position better than the screen in the seat in front of me:


Marine Traffic provides a very similar service as FlightRadar24 - but for ships. Of course, if we can track planes in the air, we should be able to do it for ships! Watching the ships passing by from the 18th floor of the Transamerica Pyramid while being able to identify them online is cool. Sadly, I never have time for something like this...

The US Geological Survey (USGS) web site provides a near real-time tracking of worldwide earthquakes. Living in California, I have this page bookmarked in my browser. Because when it shakes, you want to know... provides a near real time view of the lightning strikes. Not much use in California where we never get any lighting but I've seen some amazing storms when I lived in Waterloo, ON! As I wrote this post, New Orleans was getting some action.

There are many great weather applications with real-time or near real-time weather maps. I particularly like Dark Sky on my iPhone with it’s down-to-the-minute precipitation forecast. This is a great app for a runner to check what to expect just before leaving the house or hotel! Dark Sky.png

Sailflow is one of the many real-time wind monitors, showing the wind speed and strength anywhere in the world. This is a great service for a [rusty] sailor like me! There are also services that show the near-real time data for ocean currents such as the NOAA site.

Digital Attack Map is a collaboration between Google Ideas group and Arbor Networks. It shows a nice visualization of all cyber attack by country. Kinda scary if you ask me!

GasBuddy provides a National Gas Price Heat map with the ability to drill down to see the current (or recent) gas prices at practically every gas station in your neighborhood. If you don’t mind a little detour, you can save some good money with this app:

Trendsmap Is another Google research project mapping in real time what’s trending on Twitter:

There are many, many other great visual tools tracking things in real time. I couldn't possibly show them all. But I thought my list wouldn't be complete without mentioning Waze, the ultimate real-time road traffic monitor based on crowd-sourced data:

Aren't all these tools amazing? I’m sure you know other examples of real-time monitoring services that I've missed. Please do share your favorites in the comments to this post!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

New World of Information Governance

The people won.

For many years, we used to talk about the information balancing dilemma.  On one side, organizations would like to assure themselves of complete risk elimination as it relates to how their employees handle information. Nothing good can come from employees having the ability to write something in public, right? It could easily result in a lawsuit, a damaging audit, or a security leak. The less people can share and communicate with the outside world, the better. If they have to post something on the outside, let’s make sure our Legal department checks it first!

The employees, on the other hand, want to use any tool that helps them get their job done. They are under constant pressure to do more with less and they are usually measured by objectives that rarely consider the constraints of information governance. They need to produce, perform, and deliver - and anything that prevents them from doing that is counter-productive. Not being able to freely share and communicate stands in the way of getting the job done. Filing records, assigning access privileges, classifying content assets - that’s all just a waste of time!

For years, one of the main value propositions of enterprise content management (ECM) has been helping organizations deal with this dilemma. ECM would offer productivity benefits in the form of search, well organized libraries, workflows, and collaboration while also ensuring a sufficient level of information governance with capabilities such as access control, records retention, authenticity and non-repudiation.

The success rate wasn’t that great, actually. Users typically had to be forced to use the information governance features and hence their compliance reliability was often dismal. Have you added metadata to any documents lately? Do you like filing records? Do you enjoy organizing your email into folders? Yeah, me neither…

At the same time, the restrictions imposed by security and governance requirements are usually seen as a software adoption hurdle. What do you mean I can’t invite my partners to this workspace? Why do I have to classify documents when saving them? What’s metadata, by the way? It was this constant tension between the people and the companies that left ECM in the middle.

Not anymore. Because, the people won.

It’s true. The groundswell of consumerization has swept across the enterprise and the scales have been tipped towards the users. They have clearly shown which tools they want to use - by flocking to the consumer tools and eventually bringing them into the enterprise, often while knowingly violating corporate policies and ignoring the rules of information governance. Yet denial is no longer an option for the organizations. You can’t hide behind corporate policies if nobody adheres to them. The users have won and organizations have had to change. And so does ECM.

As a result, enterprise content management is going through some profound changes. ECM depends on metadata and so far, the users were the primary source of that. Or at least they were supposed to be. But let’s face it, they won’t do it. Like it or not, that ship has sailed. In the new world of ECM, we can no longer rely on users. From now on, look to content analytics as the source of metadata.

Similarly, most information governance policies used to rely on users properly filing and classifying content assets. Yet again, they won’t do it. If you want the content classified - and you do want to have it classified, trust me - check out auto-classification technologies.

The same thing is true for security. The users will ignore it, not matter how much fear you instill in them. Sure, they will use strong passwords if you force them but when you think that they will be diligently managing access privileges for each document, forget it. If you want security,you need a system that will do it for them.

So, get ready for the new world of information governance. What you need is a content management system that to users looks just like the popular consumer tools such as Dropbox, Evernote or Google. Yet, it needs to be an ECM system that inherently and automatically takes care of user permissions, metadata generation, classification, and even workflows and business policies. That can only be accomplished by heavily leaning on content analytics, process analytics, auto-classification and other smart technologies. The race is on.

Chances are, you have an ECM system today that still relies on users doing the hard work. Or, your employees are using consumer tools without any notion of information governance, corporate data ownership, or data sovereignty. Or perhaps you don’t have an ECM system at all? Either way, you need to re-assess your requirements. If you are lucky, you already have a content management platform that allows you to add the “user-independent functionality”. If not, look for a system that will be able to evolve as the technologies mature. Because, guess what?

The people won.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Welcome to the Internet of Things, Farewell Big Data!

Industry trends can be quite fickle. Sometimes, it is hard to explain when and why they quickly gain momentum and then, all of a sudden, they fade away just as fast. Last year at this time, the media was going all ga-ga about Big Data. Now, a couple of months into 2014, the Big Data buzz appears to be fading. It’s not gone, but certainly tired. But don’t worry, another buzz quickly took the pole position.

The new red-hot trend of 2014 is called the Internet of Things. The term is actually not that new. It was first coined by Kevin Ashton, the father of RFID, back in 2009. The idea behind the Internet of Things is that increasingly, all our devices, appliances, gadgets, cars, meters, and sensors will be connected to the Internet - offering new ways of control and a tremendous wealth of data to optimize our lives.
The term “The Internet of Things” initially received little attention outside a small circle of thought leaders. The mainstream media didn’t discovered it until this January when it became a big topic at the annual CES show in Las Vegas and then, out of the blue, mighty Google decided to purchase Nest for an eye-popping $3.2 billion! There is hardly a better example of an Internet-connected device today than the Nest thermostat.

Nest is a tremendously interesting company. I bought their smart thermostat about six months ago and I love the ability to remotely turn up the heat in our house when returning from a trip. Of course Google’s interest in Nest is not so much for my comfort as it is the data Nest collects today and might possibly collect in the future. For example, Nest knows not only how much energy I use on heating my house, it also knows whether I’m home or not. That information has value for advertisers!
That issue is increasingly the source of an intense debate. On the coattails of the still recent NSA spying scandal, the Internet of Things is perceived as a new threat to our security and privacy. As if it wasn’t enough that the NSA collects data about what I do online, now even my appliances will tell the NSA what I do at home, in my car, and in my office. And if the NSA can get to it, so can the hackers and other bad actors. Not an encouraging thought, really.
Yet as usual, the new technology promises a tremendous advance in our lifestyle and  productivity which seems to always trump consumer security and privacy concerns. The Internet of Things is coming and we can expect that before we know it, we will be surrounded by smart devices connected to the Internet. These devices will generate a lot of data which will be potentially very useful for predicting everything from product demand to energy shortages. Interestingly, this is exactly what Big Data was originally supposed to be about, before the term was hijacked to mean just about everything.

As we are weaning ourselves off of Big Data, the Big Data idea lives on in the form of the Internet of Things. The king is dead… Long live the King!     

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Content Management Predictions for 2014

It’s the first week of January and that means it’s time for my annual predictions for the content management industry. If you have followed my previous predictions or my blog, you know that I take a bit wider view of ECM (enterprise content management). So my predictions span a broader - albeit very relevant - spectrum of technologies. So here they are, my 2014 predictions:
1. Big Data shifts to Big Content
In 2013, ‘Big Data’ seemed to be the universal answer to all problems. Do you want to sell more? Use Big Data! Want to spend less? Use Big Data! Looking for a solution for the Middle East conflict? You guessed it - it’s Big Data! All year long, I have been answering questions about Big Data from which I have concluded that none of us really know what we are talking about. It’s clearly time to move on and I predict that we will move on in 2014 and latch on to a different buzzword.

I also predict that we will hear quite a bit about the Big Content problem in 2014. That is a very real problem to solve - as most of our information resides in the content files and all of them are a mess, starting with your digital photos and iTunes library - all the way to your sales library. Cleaning up that mess automatically is the goal of the Big Content solutions and this will be one of the big trends in 2014.

2. ECM stays
The debate about the future of ECM has been raging over the last years. Many consider the term obsolete or at least tired and believe that it doesn’t capture some of the new hip technologies such as social media, cloud computing, and mobility. Since the term ECM was coined back in 2001 (with many self-proclaimed authors), it has to stand only for a traditional, boring, on-premises software. Right? Basically, ECM is dead and it has to be replaced by a new term.

Well, my prediction is that while the calls for its demise will continue, ECM will live happily on through 2014. Sure, there are some issues with the definition of ECM. Just look at Gartner - the ECM Magic Quadrant attributes significant score to adjacent technologies such as BPM (22% of the ECM score) and WCM (7%), which actually have their own magic quadrants. Yet the WCM Magic Quadrant pays no attention to ECM and the BPM Magic Quadrant doesn’t attribute any score to even having a content repository.

The bottom line is - ECM will be around and well by the end of 2014.

3. BPM market looking for direction
Mentioning BPM, I have another prediction. I consider BPM so highly adjacent to ECM that it is probably one and the same - but that’s yet another topic of a discussion for a later blog post. My prediction is that the BPM market will continue to look for a future direction. Little has happened in the last few years. At the core of BPM is the ability to analyze and optimize business processes, to orchestrate them, to integrate with other systems, to monitor their status, and to analyze the process activity across a period of time.

Well, everyone is doing that. Sure, there has been a lot of talk about leveraging some of the new trends such as social collaboration, mobility, and the cloud but let’s face it - every software does that by now. Not much has happened since the last true innovative thought which was case management. Even the analysts have been struggling to articulate innovation by introducing concepts such as Intelligent BPM Systems (iBPMS) and Smart Process Applications. Those are compelling discussions but they don’t really introduce much in terms of technology innovation. Instead, these concepts basically package existing technologies into a larger bucket.

I predict that BPM will continue looking for a new direction in 2014, without finding it. In the longer term (beyond 2014), BPM technologies will become a feature of other software including ECM, ERP, CRM, etc.

4. Digital marketing meets compliance
In the customer experience management (CEM) market, which is another market highly adjacent to ECM, we have been very focused on digital marketing this year. Indeed, the ability to provide a targeted and compelling experience across any communication channel combined with integration to the marketing back-end systems such as Marketing Automation Management and Customer Relationship Management is very compelling.

Yet the more personalized we want to get, the more personal data we have to use. Using personal data for marketing purposes raises all kinds of privacy and security concerns and it will be more and more subject to regulations. We will see that the digital marketing discussion will increasingly include compliance concerns and compliance will become a standard part of the digital marketing feature set in 2014.

5. Mobile market
My annual prediction for the mobile market introduces a perhaps unexpected turn from all my previous predictions. Sure, Google Android will continue dominating the market share as all the people still using feature phones will eventually upgrade to the cheapest smartphones which all happen to run Android. Apple iOS will continue making a killing on revenue and margin and will be pushing the envelope on innovation. BlackBerry is going nowhere.

But the surprise will come from Microsoft. No, it won’t be the Nokia phones, which still offer little over their iOS and Android counterparts, but the tablets will start getting meaningful traction. I predict that 10% of the tablets selling by the end of 2014 will have the Microsoft Windows 8 operating system (or whatever number will be current at the time). The idea of a tablet that is the same as a laptop is simply too compelling and many will upgrade their laptops to a Surface or a similar Windows 8 tablet.

6. Spying will continue
The NSA spying will continue. FBI, CIA, and police will join in on the fun. We will all be upset for a day or two, post flaming notes on Twitter and Facebook and then we will go and focus on the playoffs. There will be a high profile case again - something of the Wikileaks or Edward Snowden proportion and the media will write about it for a few days, until Kobe or Angelina offer more “important” news.

Spying will continue and we will not change our behavior as consumers in 2014.

7. Data privacy will become the new code of business conduct
Our employers, however, will act upon the backlash from privacy issues. The lawyers and HR will translate it into a new set of corporate policies and mandatory employee training classes. These measures will serve, as so often, to protect the organization from a rogue you. Should you go Snowden and start letting the world onto corporate secrets, you have done it on your own and your company has the right to declare you crazy.

That will also create an interesting dilemma for the whistleblower policies - which are ironically required by law today. We will see companies trying to limit the whistleblower freedom. After all, Edward Snowden could be seen as a whistleblower...or traitor - depending on where you stand on the issue. All in all, we will lose more data privacy in the enterprise in 2014, even though it will be a big topic.

8. The end of corporate social software
There is more to making a company social than just deploying social software. No amount of software will help when the organization fails to create a culture of sharing. If employees didn’t share their ideas, insights, and knowledge before the deployment of social software, they are not going to do it just because we have put a piece of software in front of them. In most organizations, “knowledge is power” and that concept is contrary to what social software is supposed to accomplish in the enterprise. The new corporate attitudes towards information security and data privacy I’ve described in my previous point won’t help either.

My prediction is that most companies will give up on building the generic “Facebook for the enterprise”. They will move on and lose interest in social platforms. Most likely, they will replace their social projects with file sharing and synchronization which coincidentally also promotes a culture of sharing. But sharing a file is much easier for most people than sharing a thought. Social software won’t go away completely. There are some legitimate uses, mostly as part of a specific application. But in this scenario, there is a clear focus and the community of people involved is coming together for a specific purpose. Social software will become a feature.

9. Cloud will go through a reality check
Cloud-based software is becoming hugely popular - to the point that many are predicting a quick demise of traditional on-premises software. While I consider enterprise cloud software hugely beneficial to the customers, I am not quite convinced that it is a sustainable business model for many of the vendors. I see over-hyped startups going through one round of financing after another – clearly operating at a deficit. I see the big public companies, Salesforce, NetSuite, and Workday, all operating at a loss. I see companies like Microsoft pouring billions into their cloud efforts with little to show for it.

In 2014, I expect that we will see a couple of enterprise cloud failures on a high scale. Some enterprise cloud companies will fail, they will be forced to scale back their offering, or they will have to raise their prices drastically and face the market’s backlash. Cloud customers will start asking questions about viability again.

10. Cars will beat wearable devices
In 2013, everybody got excited about wearable computing devices and yet not much happened. Google Glass became an overpriced prototype, Apple failed to release the iWatch, and while Fitbit is cool, it doesn’t do much. My Garmin watch is still way ahead as the most sophisticated wearable device with a practical use.

The wearable devices will continue to evolve in 2014, but I predict the emergence of another class of devices – devices for cars. I recently bought a new family car after many years and one of the big selling features was “Bluetooth” for – well, just about everything. But let me tell you, this is not the Apple experience. This is more like SAP running on a mainframe emulator back in 1990. That will change and quickly. In 2014, we will see the first mass production cars (read: not Tesla or Ferrari) to release interfaces that will seamlessly connect with our mobile device. The car manufacturers will also start releasing sophisticated apps that will handle everything from the car’s entertainment, navigation, and climate control to maintenance status. Tesla is showing the way with their new app.

So that’s it. These are my predictions for 2014. I will review them in December and assess my score – just like I did in previous years.

Until then – Happy New Year!  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My 2013 Predictions Scorecard

What? It’s mid-December already? I barely blinked twice and the year has flashed by. That means it’s time to think about my predictions for the upcoming year. Yes, yes, I’m working on them already. But, as is my custom, I will do the right and honorable thing first and review here publicly how I did on my predictions for 2013. OK, taking a deep breath and here we go:
1. Facebook hits rocky ground
I predicted in January that Facebook would experience a slowdown. The company is of course doing well financially and the stock has recovered. Yet the year has passed without any major uproar about Facebook changing something, which is a sign that innovation has started tapering off. On the privacy front, the NSA became the top villain replacing Facebook. Since Facebook hit the magical mark of 1 billion users back in October 2012, there has not been much talk about user numbers. In fact, most media started reporting that teenagers are no longer hanging out on Facebook anymore since their grandparents befriended them. Things have definitely slowed down at Facebook.
I call this point for me: 1/1

2. Everything will be digital
I’ve predicted that 3D printing will trigger a major boom in CAD drawings and the management of CAD files. Yeah, I said back then that I might be pushing my luck on the timeline and sure enough, this hasn’t happened. Not yet. The 3D printing pioneer Chris Anderson has published a great new book called Makers and has given a bunch of inspiring speeches but the 3D printers are still used mostly to create lame plastic toys, albeit sometimes very creative ones.
This was definitely a miss and the score is now: 1/2
3. The rise of intellectual property management
My prediction was that the CAD boom will stir a debate about intellectual property as the CAD files are easy to pirate. Well, since the CAD boom didn’t happen, this one hasn’t played the way I predicted either and I won’t score a full point here. Yet, intellectual property management has become a huge issue behind managing rich media, particularly in the media and entertainment industry. IP rights management and the business processes related to securing, monitoring, renewing, and enforcing IP rights are a huge topic. Interestingly, Gartner just published a report called Gartner Top Predictions 2014: Plan for a Disruptive, but Constructive Future and the very same 3D-printing related IP security issue has been listed as one of the 10 predictions. Some Gartner analysts apparently read my blog :-)
I think I deserve a half point here.
Score: 1.5/3

4. Internet of iPhone things
The set of Wi-Fi connected gadgets that can be controlled with mobile devices has started growing like crazy. I love, love, love my Nest thermostat which allows me to come home to a warm house after a few days away. I use several WeMo power outlets and my Withings scale uploads my data straight into my Endomondo profile for precise calculation of calories burned. On my Christmas list are a Wi-Fi connected weather station, a WeMo light switch, and a hot tub thermometer (gotta have one of those!!!). I’m still looking for a good Wi-Fi controlled hot tub switch and a sprinkler switch if you know of any. And we are only just getting started.
This is a hit: 2.5/4
5. Mobile market predictions
I predicted that Apple would continue making a killing on margins while Google would keep going after revenue; there would be a price war among Android suppliers and RIM would keep struggling while hanging on to a small group of keyboard loyalists; Microsoft would not make a dent into the market and that would go multi-platform. Most of it happened. iPhone is the high-end status symbol while Android is going after market share. The Android phone vendors are killing each other with Samsung emerging as a big winner of this war. Blackberry is in trouble. Microsoft is still nowhere and if Stephen Elop takes over before the year’s end, we may even see some Microsoft products on iOS.
I’d say this was worth a point: 3.5/5

6. Censorship will succeed
I’ve predicted that after the barrage of government attempts to enact laws regulating the Internet, one of them actually passes. This has not happened but the government got most of what it wanted: tax income and access to everything. The tax income came since Amazon capitulated to California pressure to tax online purchases - a precedence that will likely lead to more taxation on the Internet. The access to everything came courtesy of the NSA that actually already had access to all the data on the Internet worldwide for years but we’ve only now learned about it thanks to the disclosures by Edward Snowden. Knowing that the government is watching will impact what we share on the Internet, which is effectively a form of censorship. Sadly, I score a point.
Score: 4.5/6
7. New wave of computers
I wrote last January that we will start seeing a broad adoption of wearable computers. Well, I might have been a bit too aggressive on my visioneering. Google pre-released the Glass but we can’t talk about a whole lot of adoption. In fact, it got kind of quiet around it for now. Pebble released its watch but as there are no useful apps, the excitement has also cooled off. Perhaps the only wearables that became popular are the fitness bands such as the FitBit or Nike FuelBand. I still believe that the wearable computers are coming but they haven’t made much of a dent yet in 2013. No point for me.
Score: 4.5/7
8. Responsive web design will become the buzz
My prediction was that there will be a lot of buzz about responsive web design. Its promise is to make web experiences look best on any device, no matter the screen size and form-factor. Responsive design has become a significant topic in the customer experience management and the digital marketing space. There has hardly been a conference where several sessions haven’t been dedicated to this subject. But I won’t pretend that this subject has reached the level of buzz of big data or NSA spying. Half a point will have to do.
Score: 5/8
9. Security finally becomes a market
Here, I predicted that customers finally start taking security seriously in the content management context and that convenience will not always win over security. The NSA spying scandal certainly sparked some heavy discussions and security and privacy have become a huge topic. People are waking up to the dire need for security – both at work and at home. The discussion is moving beyond just strong passwords. People understand the need for security and privacy. In fact, in some European countries, they are quite obsessed by it. We may not have all the answers today, but security and privacy are huge.
Score: 6/9

10. IT strikes back
Back in January, when everyone was still claiming that IT is dead and that the line of business managers will be buying their own software in the cloud as they please, I wrote that IT will re-gain power and importance again. After all, someone has to run all those systems, whether on the premises or in the cloud. Did that happen? Oh yes! The number one topic today is the CIO-CMO relationship and the overall sentiment is that the CIO is not only alive but needed more than ever before.
Score: 7/10
Scoring seven out of ten predictions is not quite a Nate Silver quality of clairvoyance but it is not bad. OK, there were a bunch of half points in there, which might suggest that I wasn’t quite right…but close enough. Predictions have to be bold enough to be wrong sometimes. Otherwise, where is the fun in that?
I plan to write my predictions again, and to be wrong sometimes. Stay tuned, I will publish them right after the holidays.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New Era of Digital Marketing

Over the last decade, marketing has been all about segmentation. The key to success was to communicate the most compelling message to the most relevant market segment.  That segmentation started first with some basic demographics such as age, gender, and location and eventually progressed to many more data points gathered about a potential buyer over time: company, role, title, income level, decision-making power, team size, purchase-influencing power, etc. The more the better! The principles are the same in B2C and B2B marketing.

Over time, the gathered data was analyzed and correlated with actual buying behavior which resulted in a more and more granular segmentation. You see the result of that every time you visit a grocery store. The data gathering happens using the “value card” which the clerks at the cash register insist you swipe every time you buy something. The card allows the marketers to collect the data about the mix of products you buy. With that, they can learn that you are buying, say, frozen pizza and beer on a work day at 9 pm. Such data gets correlated over a large data pool which then results in definition of a micro-segment of “personas” such as “stressed and overworked single males with poor nutritional habits”. As a result, they may try to place some healthy looking frozen vegetables next to that pizza to suggest you add some vitamins to your diet and to ultimately make you buy more products.

In the online world, data gathering is simple, there is always a digital trail from purchase requisitions and invoices. Therefore, online marketing has been based on segmentation from its early days. When you look at a book on dogs on Amazon, you will start getting suggestions about other books on dogs because ‘interested in dogs’ has been added to your profile as a result of your action. The system now has you tagged as a dog lover and assumes you need more dog-related products. It won’t stop until you look up a few other items which triggers new cross-promotions that eventually crowd out the books on puppies.

Obviously, this method is effective until the gathered data misguides the marketer. The software doesn’t know that it was really my young child checking out the book on dogs while still logged in as me. I may actually not at all be interested in dogs myself. Yet the “dog interest” tag is taking up space at the cost of my real interests - skiing, race cars, iguanas...whatever it is. The software tries to target me as a member of the smallest possible market segment, but the software doesn’t know me at all.

But that’s changing now. With the advent of digital marketing and software solutions such as customer experience management (CEM), customer relationship management (CRM), and marketing automation, the targeting is done not for a market segment but for a named individual. That individual is known by name and the software collects specific personal and professional information about that individual. This is not the fabled “market segment of one” - that approach was still following the path of finer and finer granularity by adding tags and metadata. The new era of online marketing is about knowing you and addressing you with messages and products that are relevant to you specifically.

This new approach to online marketing is promising to be much more effective for both, the marketers and the customers. The marketer only gets a shot or two before being banned into the spam penalty box and addressing you with the right message is crucial. You, on the other hand, only get exposed to messages and products that really could be of interest. Even if you are not shopping for a new sports car, hearing about the new model is actually fun if sports cars are your thing.

But collecting this kind of personal data is not without some challenges. Security and privacy come to mind right away. When the retailer gets hacked and segmentation data is compromised, the damage is relatively limited. OK, so I belong to the ‘interested in dogs’ market segment. That may or may not be a big deal. But if the compromised data includes the names and ages of my children and my home address, that could be a big deal. It sure would be for me!

Of course that’s why the gathering and use of such personal data is usually regulated by law or by compliance rules. Just think about all the regulations related to selling insurance, cars, or investment securities! The marketers, therefore, have to satisfy the regulators that they adhere to all the compliance rules and regulations that they are subject to. This is new territory for most marketing organizations. Remember how hard it was to comply with the do-not-call list and the double opt-in subscriptions? Satisfying the regulators about how we collect, analyse, and use personal data is a necessary requirement for digital marketing today.

That’s serendipitous, because this is where the worlds of CEM and enterprise content management (ECM) meet again. Giving up on the idea of a single platform for all content applications, web content management (WCM) has split from ECM a few years ago and eventually evolved into what we call today CEM. ECM remained focused on its core strengths - employee productivity and information governance. Yet exactly those information governance capabilities are needed to address the compliance requirements in the new world of digital marketing today. And so the two friends are meeting again to usher in a new era of digital marketing - with compliance.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What I Would Do As the New CEO of Microsoft

No, I have not received the call yet. Alan Mulally, the CEO of Ford, apparently has. So have a bunch of insiders including Stephen Elop of Burning Platform fame and Tony Bates, the former CEO of Skype - the only Microsoft product I still like to use today. Bill Gates apparently got the call but he said “no”. But as Steve Ballmer's era nears its announced end, the search for the new CEO is heating up. And when they call me, here is what I would do to fix Microsoft:

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO
First, let’s figure out why Microsoft got itself into trouble. Their problems are clearly not related to financial performance. Microsoft is still making money hand-over-fist. The problem is the company’s perception. Microsoft is seen to be lacking innovation and relevance. Not that Microsoft has ever been considered a big innovator - in fact, entire books have been written documenting how pretty much every Microsoft product has been a reverse engineering of someone else’s innovation: Word was a remake of WordPerfect, Excel a copy of Lotus 1-2-3, Windows was inspired by Mac OS, Active Directory was 'stolen' from Novell NDS, XBox from Sony Playstation, Bing from Google...should I keep going?

So perhaps the lack of innovation is not the root cause of the Microsoft problem. Or at least not a new cause. But if not, what is? Well, I am convinced that it is Microsoft’s maniacal obsession with their single vendor stack. Back in the heydays when all the hardware vendors decided to try to copy IBM’s success in the PC business and they all started making PCs, this strategy was perfect. Everybody had the same PC architecture that came preloaded with a Microsoft Windows operating system and so every computer was able to run Microsoft software. To their credit, Microsoft made all that software pretty well integrated and the IT departments had to support homogeneous environments where every employee had the same system. Everybody was happy. What computer we used at home didn’t really matter because it was usually a generation or two behind and we couldn’t bring it to work anyway.

Today, all of that changed. Thanks to the success of Apple and Google, the computer landscape is much more heterogenous. Operating systems such as iOS and Android have a significant market share and Windows is no longer the only game in town. The devices we use at home are better than the ones we have at work and it is easy to bring them to work and to use them for work. The ultimate Microsoft nightmare is that they don’t run Windows. As a result, all that Microsoft software doesn’t run on many of the computers we use. There are a few exceptions such as Microsoft Office for Mac and my trusted Skype which ran pretty much on everything already before Microsoft acquired the company.

Yet Microsoft continues insisting on the no longer existent Microsoft-only world. For example: SharePoint only has a Windows client, Office doesn’t run on iOS or Android, and every Microsoft online service requires a Microsoft Hotmail email address...seriously?

If I were to become the new Microsoft CEO, I would change one main thing. I would stop the Microsoft myopia madness. I would make the different company divisions accountable for their revenue independent of the concerns for any other division. If the Office group wants to port their applications to iOS or Android, let’s have a go at it! If the Windows group decides to make their OS available on a Mac or iPad, let’s do it! If the Nokia team can make a case for offering an Android based device, don’t stop them! Let the XBox group make their games available on other consoles such as Sony Playstation or Nintendo Wii. Embrace tablets that people actually use - not just the ones from Microsoft. Stop playing defense! Stop always worrying about how does your move impact the “cash cow”, the installed base. Open up your strategy, open your software, open your imagination!

If Microsoft needs to defend anything, it is not their profits, not the revenue, and not the installed base. It needs to defend their market share. That’s not an easy play for a company that has been used to 95% market share for a couple of decades. Talk about being out of the comfort zone… The market share I’m talking about is the market share of all eyeballs at all times. Not just the PCs. It includes business users just as consumers. It includes desktops, smart phones, tablets, game consoles, TVs, and now also home security systems, thermostats, and wearable computers. That’s the game that Apple and Google are playing and Microsoft has to engage them on their turf. Even books, newspapers, and movie theaters are the competition!

That’s the market share that matters. Expecting that someone would ever buy all these products from a single vendor, even one as big and strong as Microsoft, is simply foolish. The world of the Internet of Things cannot be based on a single vendor’s stack. There are simply too many “things” out there. Microsoft has no choice but to open itself up on every layer of the stack.

That is the key thing that I would change if I were the new CEO of Microsoft.