Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Setting the Record Straight on Apple Macs vs PCs. User Experience Trumps all

While at Gartner, in December 2006, I started talking about the shift I made on the home front from Dell PCs to Macs. There was a simple reason I made the shift. My Dell PCs were great, but I was spending too much time maintaining them. Too much tinkering. Another reason was that I wanted an easier way to manage photos and videos of our kids without going to the extreme of Photoshop.

The home shift to Macs was easy and we never looked back. Of course, I have many friends that just love to tinker with PCs and Windows. They won't admit it, but it is a borderline hobby. For many IT people, they have made it a career of keeping PCs tweaked and running.

Jump ahead to 2010 and why are so many Apple Macs showing up in Corporate settings, often paid for by the employee? There must be a reason for it and there is. It is called user experience.  In fact, the user experience on a Mac is so good and relatively trouble free, that when faced with the need to support Apple Macs, most IT Departments only offer a user supported Wiki (community support). What, no dedicated IT people to tinker with the MacOS? Nope. The latest generations of Macs just work. No tinkering required.

For the most part, Windows requires lots of tinkering (note, this is an opinion). Windows 7 may fix that, but right now that is still an unknown. It is also important to point out that Microsoft knows all about user experience. Just look at MS Office and Outlook, both gold standards on user experience. Ask any Mac user what they run on their machine for creating documents and presentations and 9 out of 10 will quickly answer "Microsoft Office".

Going forward, users will decide how they want to consume information and what types of devices they want to use to do so. This will go far beyond the current Mac vs PC discussion. Tablets appear poised to make a comeback and a majority of end-users around the world have a mobile device, not a PC. There too, it is about a positive user experience.

If you have any doubt about the importance of User experience, let's talk about the device that has taken the world by storm: the Apple iPhone.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Unstoppable Force Called Users

A blog post from earlier this year, republished here for all to see:

The Unstoppable Force called Users

There is an unstoppable force at work (in enterprises) called users. Users are deciding how they want to use technology to solve problems and they are taking action. In a previous blog post, I discussed three CIOs who are beginning to adapt to this. Today, I will briefly discuss users.
Yesterday was a major day for Apple users all over the world: an updated OS Release called Snow Leopard. While there is news about this release (see Gartner First Take), what is more interesting is how users are dealing with these and other related technology issues.
In many companies around the world, bands of users are supporting each other regarding how they use their Macs at work. Besides the fact that many of these users feel so strongly that they purchased their own Mac, the real story is how they support each other through discussion forums, wikis and even short emails.
In the last 24 hours, the story that has surfaced with a few of my co-workers is how easy it was to connect their Snow Leopard enabled Macs to our Email Server (Microsoft Exchange) with no help from anyone within IT.
There are also even more examples of users who jumped the gun and migrated to Vista themselves and those users support each other. Now it is happening with Windows 7 as well. See a related blog post from Gartner Fellow David Mitchell Smith.
This is signaling a trend with users. Technology like computers, OSs and applications are becoming less complicated and users are no longer afraid (to take risks). Savvy CIOs are getting in front of this trend (the empowered user) and are adapting their workplace policies (giving up some control, but also, by being more flexible, gaining some back).
Macs may not overtake Windows in enterprises anytime soon, but the iPhone 3G and 3Gs have exploded into the enterprise, because of demand by users. As I stated to some of my former co-workers who use Macs,may the force be with you.

Instant Classic: What I said about eBooks in 2000

Ho, Ho Ho, my old firm deleted my great blog post on eBooks (because I'm no longer there). Thanks to Google, I got it before it disappeared into the ether. Here it is.

 What I said about Books in 2000

eBooks are no longer a dream of the future. I peered into the past and dug out some of the research we wrote about eBooks and digital paper back in the year 2000.
In Digital Paper: Is It Paper, a Display or Both?, Gartner Fellow Jackie Fenn and I wrote about the new medium that readers like the Kindle use. Here is what we said: “D-paper bridges the gap between traditional paper and display technologies. It has the potential to change the publishing industry, eliminating the huge barriers to entry in newspaper, magazine and book publishing. For the short term, signage will be the primary application. Web and hard copy content providers need to develop architectures that allow for content distribution via D-paper technology.”
The predictions from that Research note were:
By year-end 2004, electronic books will be the primary application for active D-paper (0.8 probability).
By year-end 2003, D-paper will be commercially available for a variety of output uses (0.8 probability).
The two vendors we mentioned in the Research note were Xerox (Gyricon Media Inc., which was spun out of Xerox PARC) and E INK, which is now the defacto leader in this display technology.
In E-Book Proliferation: Critical FactorsRita Knox, Alan Weintraub (former Gartner Analyst) and I wrote about: “Publishers’ worst fears about e-books are that the books will be downloaded to an array of electronic devices, reducing sales of traditional books. These fears may not materialize. The revenue generated from e-books may not only offset a possible decline in paper sales, but may cause an increase in sales by expanding the potential audience for books delivered in any medium.”
The things we said about Devices, Software and Content:
“Devices:  E-book devices include not just e-book readers (e.g., NuvoMedia’s Rocket eBook and the SoftBook Reader) but any output device that can present e-book content — personal digital assistants, digital audio, interactive TV, audio and Braille devices (e.g., the Blazie 2000 Braille display) — to multiple senses (visual, auditory, tactile and multimedia).
E-book devices must supersede the familiarity and simplicity of paper books. Content vendors must rethink what electronic content delivery can do for readers. The answers to this challenge will determine the relative value of different delivery devices. The advantage of electronic content is that it makes delivery of content much more flexible, since it can be formatted for different output devices. This flexibility will allow consumers to read (or listen to) a book conveniently in different situations (e.g., at home, in the office, traveling or driving) and in different environments, so that e-books can better match individual lifestyles, preferences and limitations.
Software: Software is the major aspect of e-books that Microsoft has targeted (see Note 2). E-book software serves content to the various output devices. The most successful software will offer the greatest flexibility, allowing a reader not only to access the content from different devices, but also to access the same content at different times and places as the opportunities arise (e.g., from a handheld device at home, to a car’s audio system and then on an office PC).
Software vendors must overcome an array of challenges centered around the management of digital rights. The ease with which electronic content can be copied and transformed threatens publishers and authors. E-book software must support various pricing models, give access only to authorized users and prevent theft of the content (i.e., unauthorized copying). These protections should not unduly limit the flexibility and convenience that will make e-book delivery more attractive than paper.
Content: Before e-books become widely available, publishers and authors must be comfortable making their works available in digital format. Unfortunately, this issue lies farthest from a satisfactory resolution. Publishers remain nervous because appropriate rules (e.g., for reuse) have not been formulated, so the required theft-proof technologies are not defined, much less implemented. The content providers (e.g., publishers) must define the rules for pricing and reuse.”
In general we got it right and we predicted the future. However, it took longer for eBook Readers to become popular, partially because of the lack of digital content available them. The one thing we didn’t predict was that Amazon and Google would be players in this space….The good news now is that newspapers and magazines are finally realizing that paper is just one way of displaying content. For some content publishers it is too late, for others, it is just the beginning.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Third Wave

Last night I took my Gartner ID Badge and put it in my drawer, right next to the Xerox badge I wore for 15 years. December 8th marked 11.5 years to the day of my time at Gartner and it was a great run. I leave behind many great times and some incredible people and incredible clients. As with everything though, times change.

I've worked with many CEOs in my time at Gartner. One of them that I've worked with the longest is Bobby Yazdani, Chairman and CEO of Saba Software. Today I start at Saba, where I'll be taking Collaboration to the next level as VP/GM of Collaboration.

Saba is primarily known in the Human Capital and e-Learning markets, but they have some formidable Collaboration capabilities. Rest assured, you'll be hearing more about that shortly.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

People Can Tell if You are Real or Fake

A post by a friend on Facebook got me thinking about real and digital personas and what it all means. The FB post started out like this:

    FB Post: If you're a jerk in real life, your a jerk on Facebook....uh Karen.....(not the person's real name)

    Later, Karen responded with something like: "I guess i'll never introduce you to your future husband...."

    My friend responded with a short comment: "I rest my case."

So what does this mean?  Increasingly, people are seeking out others they work with to find out if they are real (are you really a friend) or if they are fake (you're my friend as long as it helps me get ahead). The funny thing is that this sort of analysis has always gone on, but now it is easier and faster to perform a sentiment analysis on someone. It is becoming harder for people to hide who they really are.

We all got a peek into the private life of Tiger Woods over the last week. His sentiment analysis dropped 20 points in a week. That said, how can you tell if someone you work with is really your friend or not?  How can you tell if you can trust them? The historical answer has always been "only after they burn you".

A client asked me earlier in the year if I was really going to be their friend. The question really was: 'can I trust you'. I responded with an affirmative and months later I proved to be trustworthy after something happened. There is a lesson here for everyone.

Online behavior can sometimes make it easier to tell who is really a friend and who is not (or who you can trust). People can immediately rank or comment on what you do. However, that doesn't prevent someone from faking it. That said, people can still tell (and they do talk), but now sentiment analysis will be a growing part of who the real you really is. Sentiment Analysis is part of the growing area called Social Media Monitoring which in turn is part of what is called Social Network Analysis.

The fact that so many managers will be undone (via Social Network Analysis tools) is the reason why they are afraid of the implications of Social Networking. A Social Network Analysis of their online actions at work will show that many of them spend most of their time managing upward, not actually managing people (because of limited interactions with the common worker).

People that want to get ahead in the workplace often think that the only way to do that is to burn (e.g. deceive) others. It doesn't have to be that way, but today that is often the case. So, the next time you friend someone from work on Facebook, take a second to think about whether they are really your friend.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I was CEO at a Non-Profit

During my last 1.5 years at Xerox and for my first 4.5 years at Gartner, I was the CEO of a non-profit. It wasn't something I sought out, it sought me. My college fraternity was in trouble, so I took over has head of the alumni corporation (e.g. often referred to as a House Corporation).

It was daunting at first, because many alumni presidents are glorified fraternity house landlords. Gradually, I rebuilt the House Corporation Board of Directors. My CFO, Scott Cassara, was incredible, particularly because when we took over, we were broke. Scott is currently SVP and CFO at DynCorp International. My other board member who stuck with me through all the tough times was Jeff Painter, who was also my college roommate. There were also other critical board members who contributed like Wil Woodrum, Joe Conaty, Dave Heatwole and others.

Running a non-profit corporation is really no different than running a for-profit firm. There are multiple things to worry about and it all has to be coordinated and seamless.  If you do a good job, people give back (buy). If you don't, they run away. We did a great job and alumni started contributing and giving back. They also come back, as we have the longest running alumni weekend of any alumni group at Penn State (the PSU-Sigma Chi Golf Classic, now in its 20th year).

In fact, after my stint as CEO, Jeff Painter and I helped launch a major capital campaign and remodeled the awesome physical plant we have at Penn State.  One of the best things we did as a board though was to hire and install a live-in House Mother who is still there. The Penn State Greek System would be better if all fraternity houses had House Mothers (like they do in the Mid-West and the South).

I'm proud of my time as CEO of Alpha Chi House Corporation. I put a lot into it and as I head back into Industry, I'll tap those experiences.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Friend of Sales

In my farewell note that I sent to Gartner colleagues yesterday, I copied a whole bunch of sales execs in addition to all my friends in research. I said that I'd miss my friends in Sales because Sales is part of my DNA (in addition to marketing, I was a District Manager of Sales at Xerox).

After moving from Upstate NY to California in the second half of 2008, I got to know the whole Gartner Sales Office in San Jose, because I took the time to do so. The Managing VP, Pat Hoey and his Region Manager Dennis O'Malley and I became friends. When I was in the San Jose office (and I was there a lot), I would walk around and greet people. We'd talk about client facing issues. I helped a few client teams with their strategy, mainly because they asked for help. We also grew the business because we helped clients (large and small) solve some of their problems.

In so many firms today, Sales is viewed as a necessary evil. Marketing is not well connected with Sales and many marketing people don't understand the sales process. It sounds strange, but it is true in so many cases. Many functional managers don't view it as their role to help sales. That is wrong. In the old days at firms like Xerox and IBM, everyone in the company participated in a blitz day.

When you look at many firms today, leadership starts at the top. Companies that are growing are doing so because they are focused on customers. They listen to their customers and take actions based on the feedback.  Think about that the next time someone from sales asks for your help.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Time at Gartner

My time at Gartner is coming to an end.  I submitted my resignation last week and will be leaving to go back into Industry. Moving back to the Bay Area last year and doing all the work that I did with clients this year, made me yearn to get back into the saddle (for those that don't know, I was an Executive at Xerox for 15 years prior to joining Gartner).

It has been a tremendous honor to work with all of my clients over the last 11.5 years.  It is never easy to say farewell, and I leave with fond memories of all the great things that have been accomplished. I was honored to serve as a Trusted Advisor to both end-users and technology providers.

I will also note that I was a Gartner client before I came to Gartner and I will be a Gartner client in my new role.

I'll be back here next week to talk about what I'll be doing....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

AMR is not the only News

Gartner is buying AMR and that is big news, but it is not the only news. Tune in tomorrow for some more big news.....about yours truly.