My Thoughts On Jive Software’s Jiveworld 2014

October 27 2014 01:28:53 PM Add/Read Comments [0]
Last week in Las Vegas, Jive Software held their annual JiveWorld conference.  In front of around 1600 people Jive talked about how their products and services enable people to "Work Better Together".

Below is my analysis of some of the key announcements, including:
- Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 integration
- A new view for "Top and Trending" in the newsfeed/activity stream
- The introduction of Jive's WorkTypes tool
- Analytics and insights, including a look at their future "Chord Diagram" feature




Image:My Thoughts On Jive Software’s Jiveworld 2014


My Thoughts On Salesforce Dreamforce 2014

October 17 2014 10:45:55 PM Add/Read Comments [0]
If you've never attended Salesforce.com's annual Dreamforce conference the first thing you need to know is that no single blog post or video recap can properly express the enormity of this event. It's huge. Gigantic. Enormous. For a week more than 100,000 people descend upon every street, hotel, restaurant, art gallery, museum and even movie theatre for blocks around San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center to participate in the spectacle. The event is part technology conference, part fund-raiser and part entertainment. There were talks/performances by Hilary Clinton, will.i.am, Cake, Bruno Mars, MC Hammer, Anthony Robins and many more. On the philanthropy front Dreamforce generated significant contributions to both fighting hunger and improving children's literacy. And by the way, they also managed to squeeze in almost 1500 sessions about Salesforce.com products.

While there were dozens of announcements about products and partnerships, I'm going to focus on 3 things:
- The collaboration products: Chatter, Files and Communities
- The introduction of Salesforce Analytics Cloud, or Wave
- The introduction of Salesforce Lightning, the umbrella name for Salesforce.com's new UI, APIs and visual application developer tools


Collaboration Products: Chatter, Files and Communities

Unfortunately, there was not a lot of major news on the collaboration tools front. While that disappoints me from a product perspective, I'm actually OK with it from a messaging standpoint. While just a few years ago the entire theme of Dreamforce focused on "Social enterprise", today that is unnecessary as a stand-alone message, as Salesforce.com has successfully integrated the collaborative features of Chatter and Files into the various Salesforce.com applications (Sales, Marketing, Support and Community). Now rather than having to specifically discuss "being social", Salesforce.com can instead focus on the business use-case each of their applications while weaving in the benefits that collaboration features provide.

Last year I wrote Salesforce Chatter: The Collaborative Foundation of Salesforce1. At that time I pointed out some of the deficiencies of the Chatter family, none of which have yet to be addressed:
- No long form content creation - While Chatter does allow for posts in the activity stream, it currently lacks any formal document creation tools. The lack of an integrated document editor means people have to switch to another tool (blog, wiki or word processor), changing contexts to create content. In 2012 Salesforce.com acquired online collaborative editor Stypi, but the closest thing we've seen to that is the very simple Notes application avilable in the mobile client of Salesforce1.

- No integrated web-conferencing or video chat - Chatter does provide integrated instant messaging based on Salesforce.com’s 2011 acquisition of DimDim, but the company still has not delivered native web-conferencing features. With the slew of "next generation" web-conferencing services out there (ex: BlueJeans, Fuze, Glance, UberConference) Salesforce.com has plenty of acquisition targets to choose from.

- Chatter does not have a native video library capability. To use video within Chatter, you need to purchase a partner product such as Vidyard.

One significant announcement (which actually came a few weeks before Dreamforce) was the re-branding of Chatter Communities to Salesforce Community Cloud, thus elevating external customer forums to a similar marketing level as Salesforce.com's Sales, Marketing and Service applications. The Community cloud offers: customisation options enabling customers to configure the user experience to match their corporate theme, mobile access, automatic tagging of posts and dashboards for reporting community activity.


Salesforce Files was enhanced with Files Connect, which enables companies to aggregate access to files from multiple sources including Google and Microsoft drives in a single place. Salesforce Files is well integrated with the various Salesforce.com applications, but unfortunately there is no stand-alone or consumer service similar to Box, DropBox, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive or other cloud file-storage services.



While on the topic of collaboration tools, below are the slides from the presentation I gave at Dreamforce on the future of collaboration tools, focusing on the areas of context, sentiment and intelligence.




Salesforce Lightning

At Dreamforce 2013 Salesforce.com introduced us to their new application development platform, Salesforce1. This year they added to this with a visual application development tool aimed at allowing business professionals to build their own applications via drag and drop. The people that build these types of applications are often referred to as Citizen Developers. The concept of drag and drop application development has been around for many years. There are dozens of tools that allow this, and as the Build Your Own Application (BYOA) movement grows new options are popping up all the time.

On the surface it may sound like a good idea to allow business professionals to build their own applications, but in most cases application development requires both technical and design skills that business professionals do not possess. For example it's not enough to just know how to drag-and-drop components onto a canvas, developers need to understand user experience and user interface principles in order to make a successful application. That said, business professionals typically understand the details of their business process better than coders. So the best bet is to allow these two groups to work together, perhaps starting with a prototype built via drag and drop which is then finished by a skilled coder.




Salesforce Analytics Cloud (Wave)

Perhaps the worse kept secret before Dreamforce was that they would be introducing a new analytics application. Once the news was out and people could see Wave, many people in the industry got into heated discussions on the differences in reporting, analytics and business intelligence. Rather than continue those debates here, I am just going to comment on Wave with respect to collaboration.

I was pleased to see that even in the first release, sharing reports via Chatter is available. That means people can create a report in Wave, then share it with their colleagues in a post in the Chatter stream, enabling open discussion about the information. This is much more effective than the common practice of creating a spreadsheet or slidedeck and emailing it around to a team. Unfortunately, at this time Wave only provides reports on the Sales, Marketing and Service clouds; meaning reports are not available yet on the usage of Chatter, Files or Communities. I was told these are on the roadmap.




For More Information

For detailed thoughts on Salesforce.com's new reporting (Wave) and application development (Lightning) applications, please watch the following video that my colleagues Holger Mueller, Natalie Petouhoff and I recorded:












Dear Citrix, I Want To Work Here!

October 10 2014 10:26:22 AM Add/Read Comments [1]

Yesterday I attended the opening of Citrix's new office in Raleigh, North Carolina. This new facility was built upon the foundation of an old factory and warehouse and will be used primarily by employees working on the ShareFile product family. But the scope of this building is much larger for community around it. Just a 10-15 minute walk from downtown, this new office is in an area dominated by abandoned warehouses. Citrix has spent more that 3 years working with local, state and federal officials to open this new office, with the hope that this will rejuvenate the area, bringing new businesses, housing and transportation to the area. The Governor, Mayor and other local politicians joined Citrix's executive team in the ribbon cutting ceremony.

MyPOV

In an era where technology is making it easier than ever to work anytime from anywhere, it's still important to create spaces where people want to gather to dream and create. As someone who's worked as a remote employee for more than a decade I can tell you, all the mobile devices and web-conferences in the world don't fully replace human interaction. Much like the cool startup offices found in Silicon Valley, Citrix has created a space where their staff wants to come to work. I candidly interviewed several employees yesterday and they could not be happier about this new facility. They talked about the cost of living in Raleigh compared to places like New York and San Francisco, the weather and walking or biking to work instead of having an hour or longer commute. After touring the high-tech open floor plan with desks that raise and lower, dual monitors, gym, and rooftop cafeteria I can honestly say I'm pretty jealous about their working environment. Right now the only issue is there is not much surrounding the office, but that's the point... this is intended to motivate stores and restaurants to open in the area. I hope Citrix invites me back in a year to see the progress that's been made.

Until then, here are some of my thoughts and pictures from the day.

 



Microsoft Begins Bridging the Worlds of Email and Social Networking

September 25 2014 10:00:00 PM Add/Read Comments [1]
Today Microsoft announced that the group functionality commonly found in social networking tools will now be available right inside the Office 365 Outlook client. As seen below, people can access their normal email Inbox and folders as they always have, but now below that they can navigate to the groups they are part of. A group is a place where people can share messages, files and take advantage of a group calendar.



Now you may be thinking: "Conversations, files and calendars... aren't those features all available today?" Well, yes they are, but spread out across multiple tools making it difficult for people to use. Think back to a few years ago when Microsoft's attempt at collaboration was focused around their on-premises Sharepoint platform. Common industry opinion was that Sharepoint's activity feed, document libraries and Teamsites lagged far behind pure cloud-centric collaboration players such as Yammer, Jive and Box. Fast forward to today and Yammer is owned by Microsoft, SharePoint, Outlook and Office have strong web-based offerings (bundled as Office 365) and OneDrive is a very robust enterprise file-sharing option. So all the pieces are there, but choosing which tool to use and when can be confusing to the average person. But by blending email and enterprise social networking inside a single client, Microsoft could be taking a significant step in helping improve the adoption of enterprise social networking for Microsoft customers.

It's important to note however, this is not the integration of Yammer within Outlook.  The new Office 365 Groups are not mirror images of the groups that currently exist in Yammer. For example, if you're the member of the Marketing group in Yammer, that group will not automatically appear in Office 365. You will need to create a new group and then add the members. When you start using this new Office 365 group, the messages will not be cross posted to Yammer nor vice versa. So why was Yammer not simply integrated? My assumption is that Microsoft has learned a lot from Yammer, but coding similar functionality using the Microsoft stack will provide them a better long term solution than trying to integrate Yammer across the rest of Office. I imagine Office 365 Groups will be rolled into other products such as Lync, Skype and Microsoft Dynamics.

Once the core functionality of Yammer becomes native parts of the Microsoft platform, I can see the Yammer name being depreciated. While early adopters and those of us in the social networking echo chamber may mourn the removal of the name, for the majority of customers the simplification could be a welcome change.  Don't believe me? Look how little Microsoft emphasises the name Sharepoint now. By focusing on Office 365, Microsoft can remove the complication of SharePoint vs. Yammer, Teamsites vs. Office 365 Groups, Yammer groups for Office 365 Groups, Exchange Distribution Lists vs. Office 365 groups, Document Libraries vs. OneDrive, etc.

Ideally Microsoft will make migration tools available to help move customers from all the various products to a single tool, Office 365.  Until then, this gap provides a great opportunity for business partners to write tools and provide services and training.

Kudos to Microsoft for taking this step in bridging email and social networking. I look forward to hearing customer stories about how people now click on a group name and post a message instead of sending an email.


Box Hits Puberty and Starts the Journey From Product to Platform

September 8 2014 09:45:31 PM Add/Read Comments [5]
Remember those awkward teenage years when you were no longer a child but not quite an adult? That is where Box finds itself today, as it matures from a cloud based file storage and sharing company to one that is facing the expectations and challenges of adolescence. Last week at their annual BoxWorks conference, in front of 5000+ customers, partners, press and analysts Box set out to answer the life defining questions, "What do I want to be when I grow up? What do I want to do with my life?"

For Box the answers are starting to take shape, as they work to shed the image of "file sync and share” (which is a very crowded market) by focusing product development and marketing on what they call “content-centric collaboration”.  Below I’ll explain what that means, but if you don’t have to time to read any further then here’s my main take away:  
"Box is no longer simply a product, but instead a platform for building applications that leverage content at the center of their process or workflow."



What We Did Hear


1) Box + Office365:
people will be able to roundtrip edit and store documents between Box and Office365

My Point of View (MyPOV): Box began by promoting themselves as an alternative to Microsoft SharePoint. Back in the old SharePoint on premises days, Box had a very competitive “cloud-alternative” story.  Fast forward to today, and Microsoft has quite a compelling cloud portfolio in Office 365 and Microsoft One Drive. I’m glad to see that Box has realized they need to integrate with, not compete against Microsoft.

2) Box Notes:
usability and feature improvements, including the addition of tables

MyPOV: Box Notes provides a very simple online word processor which enables teams to work on a document at the same time. This is much more effective than having people update a document with their comments or revisions and then upload a new revision. At this time Box Notes is still very simple and not a competitor to Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Still, the addition of tables provides some much needed structure, enabling people to create rows and columns of data which will lead to more advanced uses of Box Notes.

3) Box Preview:
The addition of annotations, meaning you can add comments anywhere on the document, picture or slide.

MyPOV: I’d much rather it be named Box Viewer, but that’s not my call! Annotations are going to be a great addition to the collaborative functionality of Box, as in place comments are much more useful than just having a series of discussions along the side of the page with no link to what they are referring to. Note: this is not unique as products like Convo have had this for a long time. I’d love to see Box acquire a company like Convo and improve not just their annotations capabilities, but their enterprise social networking / newsfeed capabilities as well.

4) Box Workflow:
This is the bringing together of policies, rules and metadata. The simple explanation is that administrators will have the ability to define rules that perform actions when certain events occur. For example, if a file is placed in a certain folder then assign a task. Or, if a file contains a credit card number then place it in a quarantine directory for approval.

MyPOV: The was originally announced at BoxWorks 2013 and after the event I blogged about how significant this is. In this first release the actions and triggers are pretty simple. Box does plan on providing more advanced features like conditional branching in the future. Metadata, or the addition of custom fields to a form is a very significant step in defining the future of Box as a platform for building applications. I will cover this in more detail below, and in even more detail in an upcoming Constellation Research paper.

5) Box for Industries:
Box will be selling solutions tailored for specific industries; starting with Retail, Healthcare and Media and Entertainment.

MyPOV: One of Box’s strengths as a company has been hiring people in sales and product design who have deep understanding of specific industries. That means, when Box engages with customers in industries like Healthcare, Finance, or Legal they are able to understand their needs and propose appropriate solutions. The addition of specific product offerings tailored for industries mirrors the go to market strategies of software giants like IBM, SAP, Oracle and Infor.


What We Didn't Hear


I was disappointed that Box did not make any announcements in the following areas:

1) Analytics and Insight:
Given last year’s acquisition of DLoop, I had hoped to see some features from Box that provide at least the most basic look into the people and content in your network. Currently regular Box users (not admins) can not see things like Most Downloaded files, Most Active Conversations, Most Liked Content, etc.  Box also lacks and recommendation features linking similar type of documents together. For example: If you’re reading this page about bikes, you may also want to read this page. By comparison, Microsoft has put a great deal of work into their Office Graph and Delve products, which enable people to easily see the most important and relevant people and content.

2) No Improvements In the Activity Stream (social) or a Welcome Page/Dashboard:
One of my biggest complaints about the Box User Experience is that it is very hard to see what is happening in your network. For the most part, Box’s UI is just a series of folders and files. When I log onto Box (web or mobile) I’d like to be presented with a personal dashboard that shows me what my colleagues are doing, events that have taken place around my content, what new content is available, and a whole lot more. This dashboard should offer a variety of sorting, filtering and notification options. Today Box is essentially just File Manager (Window) or Finder (Mac) in the cloud. I’d like to see it be much more of a destination for getting work done.

3) No Improvement In Task Management:
Box enables people to assign to-dos to files, but the task management features pretty much end there.  They do partner with several Task Management tools such as Asana, AtTask, Azendoo, Clarizen, LiquidPlanner, Wrike and others but I’d like to see more native functionality.  At a minimum, show me a view of my tasks, with the ability to sort on date and status.  Ideally, purchase one of these vendors and offer great project management capabilities.


The Road Ahead. Platform, Not Product.


More important than any one product announcement is the larger picture of Box’s overall goal. To discuss that, let’s start with looking at what Box does:  

In the most simple form Box enables people to store files on the internet so that they are accessible at any time from a variety of devices.  

While simply storing and sharing files on the internet instead of on a local hard-drive has value, the true benefits become more apparent when those files are shared as part of a business process. Some examples includes: Sharing an RFP contract between a customer and a company; doctors discussing an X-ray; Marketing sharing product images; or Finance collaborating on invoicing data.  

But what if instead of Box being a part of a process, Box actually became the platform for building the application that handles the entire process?  That’s what Box is hoping to become. In this scenario, instead of an insurance company using an application that simply links to a claims form that is stored in Box, the insurance company would develop an web or mobile application that uses the file storage and display capabilities of Box. Similarly, instead of using medical software and then linking to a file stored in Box, imagine doctors and clinicians collaborating on medical images or videos using a web or mobile applications that leveraged Box’s security, storage, sharing and collaboration features.

That is precisely what Box Business Partner Novacoast has done with Full Resolution Health, an application that parents and clinicians can use to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of autism. Via a mobile application, parents can upload videos of their children, and then clinicians access and assess those videos on the web. At no time does either party know that they are using Box.

Image:Box Hits Puberty and Starts the Journey From Product to Platform


MyPOV: I’m glad to see Box looking at a much broader market than just storing, sharing and syncing files. Box is building a large ecosystem of business partners and independent developers, which is a good sign of a growing and popular platform, as these folks tend to go with the opportunity (i.e. money) is.

For the time being, competitors like Google Drive and Microsoft One Drive are not focusing their go to market strategies on a similar application development story. However, Box is not alone in this space. Salesforce offers a compelling platform in SalesForce1 and Salesforce Files and Amazon’s Web Services a dominant platform for developers has recently announced their own integrated file sharing service named Zocalo. Microsoft has a huge partner ecosystem that could start to take advantage of OneDrive. Box’s main startup competitor DropBox also had a large partner ecosystem, and is starting to convert some of their massive consumer following into enterprise (business) customers. Finally, IBM should not be discounted with their BlueMix development platform, SoftLayer cloud infrastructure and Connections collaboration and file sharing capabilities.

In an upcoming Constellation Research Report we’ll be taking a deeper look at Box’s workflow features including Policies and Automation, and metadata.



Connected Enterprise Innovation Summit

September 4 2014 11:49:53 AM Add/Read Comments [0]
Image:Connected Enterprise Innovation Summit

Next month, Constellation Research is holding our annual conference, Connected Enterprise, an immersive innovation summit for senior business leaders. The theme of this year’s event is Dominate Digital Disruption. Join 200+ other early adopters to learn and share how digital business can transform your company and improve the way you work.


This 3-day executive retreat includes mind expanding keynotes from visionaries, interactive best practices panels, deep 1:1 interviews with market makers, new technology demos, The Constellation SuperNova Awards Gala Dinner, a golf outing, and an immersive networking event.


Register before September 30 to take advantage of early bird pricing. Use code BBLG14 for VIP privileges throughout the event.


Register today.





   
   

42 Really Was the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life

September 2 2014 12:40:45 AM Add/Read Comments [4]
As I start my 44th revolution around the sun I reflect upon the variety of highs and lows that my 43rd trip brought me. While unfortunately there were sad events, there was also the best day of my life. I love you Samara, thank you for making my life so amazing. Ok 43, bring it on!

Image:42 Really Was the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life