Tag: • Consumer Products

Can the Enterprise Strike Back?

Submitted by Martin Sumner-Smith on Fri, 10/12/2012 – 16:17

Most people have written-off Research in Motion (RIM) and their Blackberry platform. But then most people take a consumer’s perspective in making that assessment.

RIM is making a play to its traditional strength – security. But it is considering security for both enterprises and consumers. Security is a powerful draw for enterprises, but not for consumers in my experience.

I got to think about this when I attended a RIM Blackberry event in Toronto yesterday – the BlackBerry Enterprise Forum 2012. Clearly aimed to the enterprise, as you’d expect, at least half of the attendees were from IT departments. And I estimate 95% were male! This is interesting because the day before I attended a webinar on electronic signatures and all of the questions came from women. In my experience women dominate the business side of records and document management efforts in enterprises. The under-representation of women should have set off alarms.

Toronto-20121011-00110

RIM is responding to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend in many organizations. First they provide tools under the BlackBerry Mobile Fusion banner to help IT departments register and manage Android and iOS (Apple) devices, in addition to RIM devices. This approach recognizes that staff, and most significantly, senior executives, are bringing such devices to work and demanding that they be connected to enterprise resources, starting with email. But it will do nothing to reverse the trend of people investing in Android and iOS devices personally.

“Blackberry Enterprise Server improvements will mean enterprises will have one unified view of their complete mobile infrastructure so IT managers can have control of every mobile device in their company.” – Thorsten Heins quoted

RIM hopes that BlackBerry Balance (video), a key feature that is further built-out in the forthcoming BB10 release, might encourage staff to pick a BlackBerry as their personal device. There is a complete separation of personal and work information on a device into two workspaces. In BB10 users get a unified interface, but are unable to copy information from work to personal areas. Certainly IT departments will like the added security, and this might let them push back on the deployment of non-Blackberry devices, but there is less ‘in it’ for staff. Perhaps the best feature is that IT can delete all work information on a device without touching personal information. I could have benefited from a better separation between work and personal information on my devices earlier this year (blog post). But in the end, for most people, look for the shiniest, coolest, most fashionable device of the moment, and don’t consider their possible future dismissal.

RIM knows this and acknowledged it by highlighting the hot features of the new camera in BB10 devices and the new intelligent keyboard. But I doubt it will be enough.

I was left with the feeling that RIM is trying to do too much in too many arenas. The breadth of their effort was presented as strength: “No other company has as comprehensive a platform as BlackBerry,” said Andrew McLeod, RIM’s managing director of Canada operations and event chair. RIM offers operating systems, enterprise security and device management, cloud services, and handheld devices, while trying to appeal to consumers and enterprises, and also feeding a developer and partner network across all of these. Apple, Microsoft and Google each only do some of this, and they are able to devote far more resources than a diminished RIM. For me, in a fast-paced market, you can only win when you focus sharply. A fully integrated offering wins when there is enough time to complete it, which requires competitors make few changes and that there are no disruptive market entries. That is not the current climate in the mobile device world.

For me the enterprise and cloud security story was the most compelling, and perhaps it will be the ultimate, surviving asset.

The excitement and enthusiasm of the RIM staff at the event was palpable. They are believers and are being tested in ‘the fire.’ I tried to be supportive – I took my BlackBerry and had my Kindle in my pocket (to read on the subway), but refrained from taking my iPad. But even at such an event for hard-core supporters, I saw a number of iPhones in use.

 

Engaging, Syndicated Content Collections

Sometimes providing someone with a simple list of choices is not effective because they’ll find it boring. Users may have been spoiled by the newer, more immersive online experiences. You need to create a more engaging experience.At other times you want to package up content you have in source or original repository and provide it to users through some other website, wiki or blog.These two scenarios are common ones that the OpenText Widget Services (OTWS) solution was designed to address. It also gives control of where the content is used, and more importantly, you don’t have to renounce ownership rights based on an agreement with service provider.A small code snippet is created to be embedded anywhere – much as users have learned for videos with YouTube (and Open Text Video Services) and  presentations with SlideShare. But OTWS supports many formats of content, even in one collection assembled from more than one repository if required. In some ways it is like a dynamic, immersive portal.There’s nothing like an example, so here is a collection of four keynote presentations given at last year’s Content World 2010 – the OpenText global users’ conference. The original files happen to be in PDF converted from PowerPoint, but a wide variety of formats are supported by OTWS as I mentioned. There are a number of different style widget templates – I picked a simple one here.If you’ve never seen this before, here are a few instructions:For the Player

  1. Scroll through the presentation collection using the arrow tabs on the left and right of the player frame
  2. You can go to full screen mode in the widget through the icon on the lower right of the player. Frankly it’s much better when you do that as I only put a small player here
  3. Also on the lower right is a share icon (two heads) to download the embed code to be used elsewhere

For a Presentation in the Player

  1. If you click on a presentation you can open it in your browser
    • There are then controls on the bottom to advance slides/pages, as well as to change the size and fit on your screen
  2. You can download a specific presentation by clicking on the ‘down-arrow’ icon
  3. You can see metadata of that presentation by clicking on the ‘circling arrow’ icon at the top left of the initial view

Next week there will be another Content World event. I’ll be providing presentations from that event through widgets to supplement the traditional channel OpenText has provided. I’ll use another widget template as well as a thumbnail feature to provide more easily read slide titles.The player here is based on Flash, but HTML5 is supported in the OTWS version to be released in a few weeks.

It still comes down to user adoption

Recently our business process management group (OpenText Global 360) released a survey of SharePoint adoption. It’s actually the third in a series and so some very interesting and clear trends have emerged (see the SlideShare presentation below).

It’s worth a look whether you use SharePoint or not, as the results are very similar for other ECM systems.The importance of business process management solutions to add to many of these SharePoint sites is documented (slide 29).

But what caught my eye are the results of the `What are the challenges question – the largest single challenge is user adoption (slide 16; 25% of respondents) closely followed by strategy (16%), and yet 44% of respondents have no training program! It should come as no surprise then that 63% describe the user experience as only `Somewhat adequate – requires in-house redesign` (slide 25). To me that sounds like a technologists response – if users are having trouble, then redesign the interface rather than training them! That said, most respondents describe their systems as being in the early stages of maturation (slide 49), although I suspect they believe that maturity will come with customization not user training or strategy.

ECM veterans will not be surprised by this – it is true of most implementations, irrespective of the underlying software. But one does wonder why we never seem to learn.

Fuzzy Content for Fuzzy People

Suppose you asked someone to classify some objects such as an ashtray, a painting and a sink, as either “furniture” or “home furnishing”. That would seem to be a straightforward task.

If you also asked them whether the same objects belong in a single group comprised of both “furniture and home furnishings,” you would expect that any object that they classified as either one or the other would belong in the combined or parent group. A logical disjunction. Such assignment tasks are very much like those that we require of enterprise content management system (ECM) users to assign metadata about a content (i.e. digital files) they are adding. Such metadata helps subsequent retrieval through searching and browsing, and potentially supporting dependent business processes (e.g. a triggered workflow).

There’s a problem though. Often people will not make the classification you expect. They may place an object in one of the original categories, but not the larger or parent one if it is the only choice they have! There is a tendency for people to delay making a decision if there might be an outcome they don’t know. Apparently this phenomenon has been documented over two decades by psychologists and is referred to as the ‘disjunction effect’.

I learned about this in a New Scientist article posted yesterday (5 September 2011): Quantum minds: Why we think like quarks.  The article describes one of the first observations of the disjunction effect: “In the early 1990s, for example, psychologists Amos Tversky and Eldar Shafir of Princeton University tested the idea in a simple gambling experiment. Players were told they had an even chance of winning $200 or losing $100, and were then asked to choose whether or not to play the same gamble a second time. When told they had won the first gamble (situation A), 69 per cent of the participants chose to play again. If told they had lost (situation B), only 59 per cent wanted to play again. That’s not surprising. But when they were not told the outcome of the first gamble (situation A or B), only 36 per cent wanted to play again.”

Traditionally in ECM we have held that it is difficult to get users to add metadata to describe the content they are adding; in essence that users are lazy. We have not considered that the choices presented to users, and any concurrent information presented, will actually change whether they provide the necessary data, when they provide the data, or indeed the actual values they choose. ECM taxonomies are built on the assumption that users can make logical decisions to correctly describe content. Typically we present mutually exclusive choices, often organized in hierarchical (parent-child) fashion. But as the New Scientist article notes, people employ a kind of quantum logic that allows for something to be a bit of two exclusive alternatives, and for the context of the classification (the measurement in quantum terms) to affect the outcome. As a result their content classifications are fuzzier then we expect or perhaps need.

Content is often described as unstructured information. Metadata schemes are commonly applied to impart a structured framework to manage that unstructured content, but the fuzziness of human logic may make this doomed to failure.

News on OpenText Online – a new journey blog

Some time ago we started to use OpenText Online as an umbrella description for a number of external Open Text sites: http://online.opentext.com/. While that name stuck for Communities, it didn’t for the Knowledge Center, My Tickets (Customer Self Serve or CSS), and Solutions Central (since been retired).I’m glad to say the pace has picked up again. Now we’ll be merging the Communities and the Knowledge Center sites, and linking them more tightly with our WWW site. You may have seen the new look of the My Tickets site if you have a support account.There are many ‘moving parts’ to this project. One of these is to merge user accounts and convert the usernames to email addresses.

  • The first phase of this work, linking download rights from WWW to Communities accounts, has already been completed
  • Soon the Knowledge Center accounts will be merged as well

From that point on you should only have one account with OpenText.There’s lots more that will be happening and we thought you’d like to follow along.  You’ll be able to get the best out of the sites when you understand what’s happening. You may also learn a few content management tricks along our journey  ;-)So we created a new blog:The OpenText Online BlogPresently you can find it here: http://blogs.opentext.com/blogslist/resolver.vcarp/blog/1.11.722/OpenText_Online#, but it will soon be syndicated elsewhere.There will be many contributors and content will be added on a regular basis.Oh – there’ll be lots of videos. I think you’ll enjoy the first one from my colleagues Karen Weir in her first post:

I’ve been emailing

I’ve been emailing around a few references which I believe form a corpus of the subject of Cloud Computing. Some might look and have some dated references but are still relevant IMHO.

Technology Review Cloud Computing Briefing: very well written and defines the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS layers of cloud computing, reused by US CIO. US CIO Cloud Computing Strategy: when the largest buyer of IT defines a cloud-first policy, requires of every agency that they migrate 3 applications to the cloud rapidly, you can only underestimate what the IT industry impact will be. An estimated $20 billion of the Federal Government’s $80 billion in IT spending is a potential target for migration to cloud computing solutions.

The Big Switch: Does IT matter? author and former Harvard Business Review editor at large Jonathan Carr book on how cloud computing is reshaping IT the same way the grid reshaped electricity production in late 19th century.

Google Container Datacenter tour: if you believe you can still internally match cloud providers when economy of scale and pure engineering is applied to IT infrastructure by upgrading to what infrastructure vendors call a private cloud, take a look, it’s game over for most of the internal datacenter.

More to come…

How Coupons led to Social Commerce

A colleague asked me for my take on Social Commerce. This seemed like a good reason to delve into very a hot area.I decided to look from a historic perspective – what preceded modern social commerce? A very good case can be made that social commerce had its origin with the first coupons. The story involves both technological changes in how content is presented, as well as how various types of social interactions are enabled. There are fascinating parallels with the rise Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and the interplay between push and pull models of distribution. I’ll likely make several more posts on these topics.First the historic perspective.Coupons Appear for Physical StoresThe vast majority of today’s coupons are paper and therefore distributed by print media and mass mailings, typically by manufacturers of consumer packaged goods and by retailers. Asa Griggs Candler who acquired Coca-Cola (Coke) in 1888, is credited with the invention of the modern coupon. In its first year, only nine glasses of Coke were sold on average each day. By 1913, Coca-Cola had redeemed 8.5 million “free drink” coupons.

pl_prototype_cocacola2_fCoupons are a way for manufacturers and retailers to selectively offer discounts to price sensitive shoppers who might otherwise go elsewhere. Price sensitive shoppers are those most likely to make an extra effort to receive a discount. The distribution of coupons also enables the list price, which will be paid by less price-sensitive shoppers, to be increased! It is sobering to realize that if you don’t use coupons then on average your purchase costs will be higher because you have been identified as someone prepared to pay more!Coupons also enable various forms of market research and segmentation.The ubiquity of coupons today is demonstrated by Extreme Couponing, a popular television series that profiles people who manage to pyramid coupons to acquire merchandise with little or no cash outlay.DistributionInitially all coupons were distributed in paper form, typically in periodicals and mass mailings. The Internet created a new distribution channel enabling the downloading and printing of electronic coupons to paper. From that point on though the printed coupon is treated in the same way as any other paper coupon and taken to the physical point of purchase.With the recent widespread adoption of mobile devices, it has become possible to carry an electronic image of a coupon to the point of sale and have that scanned, obviating the need for paper coupons. For this to be effective, widespread ownership of mobile devices such as smart phones, even among price-sensitive shopper, is obviously required.Tying Coupons to Commerce Systems in StoresWhether in paper form or electronic images, coupons to be used in physical stores are tied to electronic commerce systems by scanned bar codes. Products have UPC bar codes, as do the coupons that can provide discounts. Product and coupon UPC bar codes are similar, but not identical. At the time of purchase the point-of-sale (POS) computer decodes a product family code from the coupon bar code and matches it to any item purchased from that product family (identified by the product bar code), derives a value and sends a discount amount to the cash register (details).

barcode4

Internet Coupons for Online StoresWhen the point of sale is not a physical environment, but rather an online store, then an alternate approach is commonly used – Internet coupons. These are typically numeric or text strings entered by the customer in a web form at the time of sale. They are referred to by a variety of names such as “promotional codes”, “discount codes”, “key codes” or something similar. In this case the electronic commerce system is an integral part of the online store.Once coupons and coupon codes became available online, an opportunity was created to consolidate them on coupon services sites like Coupon Craze (video overview). The top ten coupon services sites have recently been reviewed. Couponers can see a very large variety of available printable coupons and/or online coupon codes from many stores, pick up the necessary coupon code and be redirected to the appropriate online store. These sites are generally centered on individual consumers, but do have limited social support – for example by providing a link to send an offer to friends by traditional email or social networks.Social/CollaborationAt times there have been attempts to limit the trading of coupons, but these have generally failed. Since coupons have inherent value to those prepared to go to extra effort, and this value can be exchanged or traded, people committed to using coupons (i.e. “couponers”) have formed coupon exchange clubs – typically meeting in residences, churches, club facilities, etc. to exchange physical coupons. These coupon clubs are prevalent in geographic regions where coupons are especially heavily distributed and build off existing in-person, social networks. They also have the potential to create new social relationships based on shared goals.The differences between societies often manifest themselves in online social communities. For example, Tuangou, is a shopping strategy that originated in China. People connect over the Internet in order to haggle with a vendor as a group. They benefit from group leverage to get a larger discount and the vendor increases their volume. Haggling is of course a Chinese shopping tradition. There is no intermediary in the transaction and the social bartering groups have to organize themselves, typically using online forums.In contrast, in Europe and North America, where consumers expect most prices are fixed (with the notable exception of automobiles and houses) unless a coupon can be used, intermediaries are the norm. The group-buy, or “deal a day” leaders are Groupon, LivingSocial and BuyWithMe. In essence a special price is offered for a limited time on one product or service to an entire group in a given geographic location. While deals are distributed by RSS feeds and email, an essential social element of these sites is the targeted use of online forums which encourage consumers the share their questions, opinions and experiences with the product or service on offer.

Groupon

While services like Groupon were preceded by other deal-a-day sites, such as Woot, those only supported online transactions. The newer sites appeal to a much wider range of merchants as they are able to offer deals for any type of product or service (i.e. not just consumer packaged goods), especially tailored to specific geographies. They are of interest to smaller merchants and local services like restaurants, sports activities and spas. It should be noted that group members actually purchase a coupon or voucher that is redeemable with the merchant, typically at a physical location (i.e. not usually online). Deal sharing using email and social media outside the subscribed group is actively encouraged, and there are direct benefits for assisting in recruiting others (i.e. referral rewards).The success of Groupon has both attracted suitors to buy the company at elevated prices of up to $6 billion (e.g. Yahoo! and Google), as well as motivating existing major Internet players to replicate it – notably Google offers and Facebook Deals.Parallels to Enterprise Content ManagementContent – In many ways coupons have followed the same historical path as more classical content types such as documents, moving from paper form to electronic – first on PCs and later on mobile devices. However, whereas documents are key elements in business-to-business (B2B) commercial transactions, coupons support business-to-consumer (B2C) interactions, where the business party may be a manufacturer or retailer, as already noted.Collaboration/Social – In a similar fashion, for much of their history, the primary coupon-related interactions were pushes from the vendor or manufacturer to individual consumers – much as business have interacted with employees (B2E – see an earlier post). But consumers have discovered that they can realize greater benefits if they work together using both generic social tools as well as purpose-built tools. Given the flood of coupon and discount opportunities consumers have also started to favour pull instead of push mechanisms – which are increasingly perceived as spam.

The tipping point for social and push technologies in the enterprise

“I don’t have time for social media at work!” A colleague made that comment to me recently.My response was: “You have to replace something you already do. It isn’t about squeezing yet more time out of an already busy work day, but of finding when a social media tool better suits some task you are already performing.”Some people have suggested that one or more social media tools will replace email in the workplace. Unfortunately a direct one-for-one technology exchange is not always possible. This becomes clear when you consider the range of use cases for which an existing technology is used.Here’s a common business use case:

  • You want to share an interesting webpage or video that you have found with colleagues. It may be about a competitor, a market trend, a new technology, a new regulation, etc. and you expect that it may be useful to the recipients.

In recent years a typical approach would have been to email a link (or even an attachment) to the six people you think might be interested. Likely you will forget three others who would have been interested, and maybe there are a couple of others you didn’t know would be interested. So the approach would always have been flawed since you could not or did not completely predict who would value the information.In addition, another problem has grown in recent years: namely email overload and developing user resistance. In the above example, of the six actual recipients, maybe two will resent the intrusion and consider your email spam. The issue here with email is that it is a Push technology – recipients get it whether they want to or not – and it also has a narrow reach, going initially only to those people you define.So if the original solution always had a limitation, and over time is becoming less effective, is there a better alternative? Currently the best technological alternative for this example use is a Pull technology. You post the information and users decide whether they want to follow you and/or a specific topic.

  • A good example of a Pull approach is social bookmarking. To share an interesting website, you could instead have used a bookmarklet installed in your browser to automatically post the link and your comments to an internal collaboration site.

While this approach is effective in reducing the perception of span, it is limited because others might not be aware that you are someone they should follow, or may not yet have learned and adopted the technology.Pull technologies have an inherent entry barrier that limits their usefulness and can be hard to overcome. Most social media are pull technologies. This is a critical problem for organizations looking to use social media tools effectively.In the above use case there is an expectation of benefit if the information is shared widely, but it is seldom critical. What if the aim is circulate ‘critical’ information to the widest possible audience?In most current enterprises, if the organization wants everyone to be informed about something they will send an email to ‘all staff’ on the assumption that it will reach everyone and be read. In reality this assumption is increasingly false for a growing proportion of staff – they don’t bother to read, don’t have time or have even set email filters so they don’t see such emails! An alternative is to post the same information to a stream that users can watch, but in most organizations usage has not yet achieved a level that the post will reach most staff.So email pushes are increasingly ineffective, while social pulls have yet to achieve sufficient adoption to take their place as workplace tools. It seems there is a growing communications chasm which will create a tipping point to drive adoption of social media in enterprises at some time in the future.

Attacking ECM complexity

In my last post I discussed the inherent complexity that develops as ECM systems are used for an increasing range of business applications, and more importantly, as they are shaped by growing numbers of users and groups with differing perspectives. Another source of complexity is technology itself.The term ‘Enterprise Content Management’ was developed to try to describe the result of the convergence of a wide range of previously distinct technologies – document scanning, records management, document management, workflow, collaboration, archiving, etc. This convergence was a result of technology and market maturation, and the fact that these technologies generally addressed common business needs and dealt with the key digital files (i.e. content) that have value to enterprises.Enterprises need to treat content in standard ways and make it available to their users irrespective of technology. Since all of the component technologies cannot realistically be re-written, they must be made to work together. This need was the genesis of the Open Text ECM Suite released today.On the face of it, adding more features increases complexity. However, sharing resources and services counters that. Making available a better tool also reduces the necessity of warping a simpler application to serve a requirement for which it is not suited.ECM Suite not only provides a wider range of capabilities, but also updates the interfaces of some core elements, especially including the new version of Open Text Content Server – version 10. This version (of a product once called Livelink) includes a modernized interface, which is simpler. When you are trying to drive user adoption, simpler interfaces are better if they enable users to learn how to use a system quicker. But simplification can remove things that veteran users have come to rely on, and you need to guide them through the changes as I discussed previously.I’m looking forward to the new things that are now enabled with the Suite. I’ll be embracing reduced technical complexity while accepting potentially greater operational complexity. Other people have other perspectives (video).Syndicated at http://conversations.opentext.com/

Some Thoughts on Effective Enterprise Taxonomies for Content

While discussions of content management are usually referred to in the context of the needs of enterprises (i.e. Enterprise Content Management, ECM) in reality most ECM deployments start at the departmental level. This is not bad – on the contrary departmental deployments typically address specific business needs thereby sharpening their focus to improve their chances of success. However, over time as an enterprise begins to deploy ECM technologies in many departments, the benefits of an enterprise strategy to support cross-enterprise deployment become apparent.