Monday, December 26, 2011

Looking Back at My Most Popular Blog Posts in 2011

As a technology veteran of twenty plus years, I cannot remember a time more exciting and turbulent than right now. Sure, when the Web first arrived in 1994/95, it was exciting except that there was not much to do on the Web back then. And the dotcom era was exciting except that the irrational exuberance was somehow making people think that was a high tech company. The year 2011 has seen many interesting technology trends convert and deliver measurable benefits to our lives. Sure, we are probably in a bubble with LinkedIn, Groupon, and Zynga having gone public raising huge amounts of money. But have seen some massive changes that are probably real and permanent. Now, this is fun!

And as the year 2011 nears to end, the time has come to take a look at what happened - on this blog. The list below are the articles that have received the most hits in 2011. That alone is a wrong metric, of course, since the articles published in January had much more time to score hits than those published in December. But let’s not get stuck on technicalities - here are the top posts in 2011:

10. Struggles of a Professional iPhone User
Having switched to iPhone from a Blackberry in April, I have described many deficiencies related to business tasks in email, calendar, search, etc. Some of them are still valid but I love my iPhone.

9. BlackBerry PlayBook - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
I got to test the new PlayBook back in May and I wrote a pretty positive review. Some folks apparently didn’t agree with me since PlayBook was not much of a hit in 2011.

8. OpenText Acquires Metastorm
I only rarely write about my employer but people are usually taking interest in acquisitions and my blog allows me to share some insights and so these posts usually score pretty well. This one was published in February.

7. Testing Samsung Omnia Running Windows Phone 7
I don’t consider myself a great tester but as these devices were coming out, people were really interested in the reviews. And so I tested and shared my opinions - which I am good at doing!

6. Practical Gamification Use Case
This is a customer success story, describing the gamification deployment at OpenText. Gamification was a big topic in general and I felt compelled to write about it as I was able to experience it first hand and talk to the developers.

5. Who Will Own Enterprise Social Media?
By March, it was clear that every software company had some sort of social media initiative (‘social media’ was what we used to call ‘social business’ back then). In this post, I argued that we won’t be able to participate in more than a couple and that some of the vendors probably don’t stand a chance.

4. Why Do We Rename Products
In May, I stood up on my virtual soap box and explained the rationale behind some of the marketing decision that follow acquisitions. Lots of folks were interested in the answers and Lee Dallas from EMC even disagreed with me in his counter-post Why Re-Branding Makes Us Crazy.

3. HTML5 vs Native Apps
In this post, I argued that while HTML5 is great and will gain significant adoption, it will not become the panacea that will save the world from the need to develop native apps for multiple operating systems. That was in September and in December I even got to argue this point at the Gilbane Conference in Boston. That was great fun!

2. Why We Acquired Global 360
In July, following the February acquisition of Metastorm, OpenText acquired another BPM vendor Global 360. The title alone compelled many readers to find out what the answer was, not to mention that this was a pretty big acquisition anyway.

1. Content Management Predictions for 2011
This post was a surprising winner by a huge margin. Even more interesting was the fact that it was getting hits throughout the year, sometimes becoming one of the top posts for a given month. Of course that can only mean one thing:

...I will start the year 2012 off with my Content Management Predictions for 2012. Stay tuned and thanks for reading my blog. Happy New Year and all the best in 2012!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Can Social Software Ever Replace Email?

According to Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, the year 2011 was supposed to be the year when email finally died. Or at least the year when email was taken over by social software. Yet it didn’t happen and we all still email today. Sure, there are kids out there sending each other messages via Facebook but nobody has given up their enterprise email in favor of Facebook yet. So, why is it that email isn’t dead?

Well, it is because email has our share of attention. Email offers one-to-one or one-to-many communication which is what enterprises need and we are all programmed to go to our email several times a day to check what’s happening. Our email inbox serves not only as a communication terminal but also as a reminder of what to do next, what to put on our task list,  what meetings to prepare for, and what’s going on. Email is a go-to destination and it gets our share of attention.
Facebook is also a go-to destination. That’s one of the secrets behind Facebook’s success. We go to Facebook often several times a day to see what’s going on. Unfortunately, Facebook is a very consumer-oriented service and does not lend itself for enterprise use outside of marketing communications. In fact, many enterprises are rather paranoid about the possibility of their enterprise communication happening on Facebook.
Twitter too is a go-to destination which gets our share of attention and Twitter has established itself for business use. But due to it’s one-to-all type of communication, it lacks the core concept of security - communication to those I chose and not those who happen to be listening right now.
Is Google+ a go-to-destination? I’m not sure that’s happened yet and the jury seems to be still out. But given the growth in number of users, it is likely to happen. Is LinkedIn a go-to-destination? For some, perhaps. The LinkedIn features such as direct messages and private groups may even meet the one-to-one and one-to-many communication requirements of the enterprise but no company has switched off email in favor of LinkedIn yet. Or in favor of anything else, the recent PR coup by Atos notwithstanding.

Thierry Breton, Atos CEO, recently banned email in his company.
So, how about your enterprise deployment of social software? From what I am seeing, the adoption is very tribal today. There tend to be groups in the enterprise that embrace it and experience a high degree of adoption but also groups that ignore it. And herein lies the challenge of replacing email.
What we like about email and social software is the fact that it enables asynchronous communication. The beauty of asynchronous communication is the fact that it is not disruptive. The challenge with synchronous communication such as the telephone, Skype, or even instant messaging is its disruptive nature that automatically limits the number of conversations possible. When I’m in a meeting, I can’t be on the phone. Email, on the other hand, can wait for me to respond. That works!
For an asynchronous communication tool to be successful, it has to gain a share of our attention and significant adoption. Email not only has our attention, but it has reached a mind-blowing adoption that is nearly 100%. On top of that, email works the same across our professional and personal needs. We may use separate accounts but it works the same and when we make a mistake and cross the boundaries, it is usually forgiving. The share of attention and the high adoption make email a top go-to destination for all of us.
Social software has the possibilities to get there, but it is a long row to hoe. Email didn’t reach its adoption in a day and not even in a year. Not long ago, managers used to have assistants to handle their email. It took our parents or grand-parents years to embrace email. Even today, email is subject to a relatively formal protocol starting with “Hello …” and ending with “Kind regards”. For better of worth, we have established rules about who can email whom and with what degree of urgency. We had to develop pretty solid spam filters to avoid being eaten alive by unwanted email. It took years and we did all of that to get the email adoption where it is today.
On top of that, email has another useful feature. Since the mid 90s when email met the Internet, email addresses became universal identifiers. Your email address is usually a relatively simple derivative of your real name and yet uniquely and unambiguously identifies you. That’s why your email address is used as a login on a myriad of online services - from your bank to Facebook. All that has propelled email’s 100% adoption.
100% adoption, or even 80% adoption is not a small feat. Until any alternative communication technology gets there, we cannot talk about the death of email.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2011 Predictions Scorecard

At the beginning of this year, I published my 2011 Content Management Predictions. I received a lot of good feedback on this article, which has since become by far my most popular post this year. But now, the time has come to see how I did on my predictions. I do believe that it is the responsibility of anyone making predictions to openly review their results. So, here it comes:

1. Mobile devices as a primary interface
I predicted that in 2011, we would see people using their mobile devices as their primary way to access content applications and data. I found my first evidence of this just a few weeks later when I took a picture of my co-worker using his smartphone while sitting at his desk. This prediction has become a reality. Perhaps not as much for smartphones but certainly for the iPad. Many of us started bringing the iPad - and just the iPad - to meetings, conferences and business trips and this trend continues to grow with every additional iPad sold.

I have further predicted that the content management vendors will start building their apps with the “mobile first” principle. This too I see happening now. Many content management vendors now offer mobile apps and increasingly, I am seeing capabilities developed for mobile devices first. In fact many apps are only really valuable when used on mobile devices - file sharing, note-taking, social media, etc. OpenText Tempo is a good example of such an app - secure document sharing and synchronization between multiple devices built as “mobile first”.
Verdict: Hit, Score: 1/1

2. End of MS Office monopoly
Back in January, I predicted that in light of free alternatives, Microsoft would lose its dominance over the office productivity applications. In the course of the year, there has been a lot of Microsoft bashing in the media and indeed, Microsoft is increasingly seen playing defense rather than offence. Google Docs is probably the most tangible threat and I see increasingly people using Google Docs (BTW, I’m writing all my blog posts in Google Docs). However, it would be too soon to declare victory for Google Docs or any other Office alternative. In the enterprise, little has happened this year and Microsoft Office remains strong. I’d say that I was simply wrong on this one.
Verdict: Miss, Score: 1/2

3. eDiscovery has gone SOX
My prediction was that in 2011, the excitement around eDiscovery would fizzle away the same way the Sarbanes-Oxley problem has eventually dwindled after a lot of initial publicity a decade ago. Sure, the problem of presenting electronic evidence upon a subpoena isn’t going away. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act didn’t go away either, even if Senator Paul Sarbanes announced his retirement a few weeks ago. But time has taken the mystery out of the problem and most companies have figured out what they need to do and have moved on to solving the next set of problems. That was my prediction and I maintain that it happened. The problems of the year 2011 included anything from social business and mobility to analytics and big data. eDiscovery isn’t that hot anymore.
Verdict: Hit, Score: 2/3

4. Wikileaks would be the next SOX
My next prediction was related to content security which made headlines when Wikileaks published sensitive government information and pre-announced that the banks would be the next target. This issue has created plenty of concern and publicity, particularly in situations where the weak link wasn’t an external attack but an internal leak instead. In the course of 2011, Wikileaks itself has gone a bit quiet with Julian Assange busy fighting his extradition case instead of stirring up trouble. However, the insurgence of the Arab Spring of 2011 has been widely credited to some of the information Wikileaks published and the sheer consequences of Wikileaks support my prediction. Security is back in the spotlight particularly in the world of mobility, social media and cloud computing. I’m calling it a hit and I’m sure that Mr. Mubarak or the late Mr. Gaddafi would agree.
Verdict: Hit, Score: 3/4

5. Experience will go from browser to apps
In this prediction, I’ve argued that the content management vendors will follow in the footsteps of the consumer market where users have overwhelmingly embraced native apps in favor of web browser-based application. The vendors were expected to start developing apps and just like the consumer apps, the enterprise apps were expected to become more atomic - focused on a relatively narrow functionality or a single task. Well, most vendors started building apps and those apps are for the most part more narrowly focused but I have not seen the kind of atomic functionality yet I had in mind - apps focused on a specific task such as file travel expenses, or submit purchase requisition. I still believe that we are headed towards the “app-tastic” world as the OpenText CTO Eugene Roman likes to call it, but we are not quite there yet. I’d say this one is too soon to call and I give it half a point.
Verdict: Too soon to call, Score: 3.5/5

6. Social media will pass the peak [of inflated expectations]
This was a pretty straight forward prediction about social media following the Gartner hype-cycle model. As a result, we should have passed over the peak of inflated expectations towards the trough of disillusionment. This has happened in 2011. Not in the consumer world where Facebook and Twitter are still growing strong but it is happening in the enterprise. Many enterprises are learning that just because you’ve built a social site, it doesn’t mean that the employees are using it in ways that stimulate corporate effectiveness. The companies are learning that this is more about change management and corporate culture than about the technology. On the technology front, the vendors are not making any money on social software this year. Just check out the S1 filing from Jive which is supposedly the most successful of the social vendors. Sure, Jive has just gone public today and raised a ton of cash but their solution is already becoming obsolete. The customers who want on-premise social software can get it as a feature from their existing vendors (i.e. Salesforce or OpenText) and those who want it in the cloud get it for free from Yammer or Box.
Verdict: Hit, Score: 4.5/6

7. Case Management will catch on
This prediction was about the expected success of case management and how it will differentiate from business process management (BPM). This was probably my least controversial prediction since case management was already happening at the time. And it continues happening with some vendors delivering separate product lines for BPM and for case management. My employer OpenText was probably the best proofpoint for this prediction coming true when we acquired a BPM vendor Metastorm first and a case management vendor Global 360 a few months later. Case management is catching on - not much argument here, I suppose.
Verdict: Hit, Score 5.5/7

8. Web sites and portals need refurbishing
Next, I predicted a strong year for Web content management (WCM). The space has evolved in 2011 by changing its mission from just managing Web content to Web experience management (WEM), and most recently to customer experience management (CEM). I reasoned that this growth would be fueled by the pent up demand of marketing departments who didn’t have the budget for innovation during the recession. That’s very much what I have seen happening in 2011. Most WCM vendors in the space were doing well and even Oracle decided to jump in by acquiring FatWire. In addition, we have seen marketing departments emerge as a key buying audience for WCM software (and WEM and CEM) which is another proofpoint that I was right on this one.
Verdict: Hit, Score: 6.5/8

9. Enterprises won’t rush to public cloud
This prediction was arguing that while the cloud remains a hot trend and we will see a lot of adoption in the consumer space, enterprises won’t rush to the public cloud. Note that I was explicit about public cloud since I consider the adoption of a private cloud a no-brainer. Judging this prediction is a tough call. I believe that what happened in 2011 is that enterprise indeed didn’t rush to the public cloud but at the same time, enterprise users have done so. This is the effect of consumarisation and I see enterprises having to deal with this issue while accepting that you can’t stop the tidal wave.

The users - their employees - are using cloud based services from Dropbox and Skydrive to Yammer. The enterprises - the enterprise IT and legal departments - are not happy with that and are looking for alternatives. This is a volatile situation and the data suggests that the corporate world is divided about 50:50 on this issue. Half of the companies want to be draconian and put the end to this while the other half is looking for a peaceful way to let the users decide without compromising enterprise security and legal concerns. This is perhaps another prediction that is too soon to call.
Verdict: Too soon to call, Score 7/ 9

10. There will be more consolidation in ECM
Boy was I right on this one. Just consider some of the companies that were acquired in 2011: FatWire, Endeca, ATG, Iron Mountain (ECM assets), CA Technologies (ECM assets), Autonomy, Metastorm, Global 360, weComm, Operitel, Alterian, EchoSign, and many others. This was perhaps the busiest year the ECM market has ever seen.
Verdict: Hit, Score: 8/10

I wish I had predicted the power of consumerization back in January. That is the most glaring trend that happened in 2011 and I didn’t predict it. Consumerisation impacts mostly mobility which I had on my list but also includes the adoption of apps and cloud based services which I didn’t have on it.

But, 8 out of 10 hits isn’t bad even if two of them were too early to call. What do you think? Of course you may see some of the results differently but that’s the beauty of qualitative predictions. If you do, please do comment. In the mean time, I will write my Content Management Predictions for 2012.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Amazing Accessories for iPhone and iPad

The other day, I found myself in an electronic section of a department store and I noticed an entire shelf of accessories for the iPad and iPhone. Since we are in the middle of the Christmas shopping season, I have decided to devote my blog post to the lighter topic of amazing things you can use your iPad or iPhone for.

Most iPad and iPhone owners already have all kinds of chargers, docks, mounts, cases, speakers and keyboards and I will not be discussing those. Instead, I want to feature a bunch of interesting hardware add-ons that truly extend the use cases of the platform into previously unexpected applications.

- Heart Monitor
Wahoo makes an ANT+ add-on (hardware) that communicates with the chest strap and monitors your heart rate while running. Wahoo also makes a similar monitor for biking.
- Blood Pressure Monitor
iHealth makes a blood pressure measuring system that keeps your history in an iPhone app.
- Scale
The scale from Withings gathers info such as weight, fat, muscle and body mass index and sends it to your iPhone via wi-fi network.
- Photo accessories
An amazing set of accessories from Photojojo can add filters and lenses to the iPhone camera and some of them can even turn it into an SLR camera.
- Microscope
This contraption by Brando feels like a square peg in a round hole but, it promises to turn your iPhone into a microscope at a very reasonable price.

- RC toys
The HELO TC helicopter by Griffin Technology uses the iPad as the remote control. Not bad, actually.
- Baby monitor
The baby monitor by iBaby allows you to see the baby on an iPad or iPhone.
- iPad toys
Disney produced a series of toys called AppMATes that interact with a iPad application. They look like the characters from Cars 2 which alone makes this game pretty cool.

- iRig
This amazing gadget connects your electric guitar with an iPad and an amplifier and produces sound effects like a whole set of sound distortion pedals.
- Piano
The Piano Apprentice by ION turns your iPad into a pretty smart musical instrument.
- Scratch Mixer
Feeling like mixing some tunes for your next party? The Jensen DJ Scratch Mixer will help! I should perhaps also mention the Soulo karaoke system and the ION iCade at this time.
- Arcade
A gizmo that turns an iPad into an Arcade game machine? Atari!
- Square
Credit card payments for everyone! Since receiving payments is still surprisingly difficult in the US, the Square solution s finally giving the little man a chance to solve this problem.

- Pico Projector
If you make your living by giving presentations to small groups of people - i.e. customer meetings - the combination of iPhone with Keynote and any of the pico projectors is something to consider!
- Radar detector
Cobra iRadar uses the iPhone as a display. Well, what can I say? Drive safely, folks!
You must admit these things are cool aren't they? What's amazing is that they all take the iPhone and iPad into new areas of applications which Apple has perhaps never envisioned. That's the sign of a true platform.

Merry Christmas!