Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nokia OpenSource Symbian ? eh, What?

This is a bit of a technical post, and lets face it, the musings of an outsider. I don't have any special knowledge, just some speculation to offer about why Nokia open-sourced Symbian and what it means for mobile services.

- Someone did the maths and figured out that they might get "linuxed". If they did not open source the developers would have to go elsewhere, eventually (Android, Red Hat, other). By opening up, they stand the chance of being "the developers friend" and retaining "third screen space" on the mobile device. How deeply they open up will be the telling point.

- Nokia need, and want, business users. This doesn't mean becoming "the next blackberry", it means being the "Anyberry", i.e. on any phone, anywhere, completely interoperable with your enterprise software. It also means inventing a whole new bunch of services, and delivering them through the network (nee cloud), to the end user enterprise.

- Hey, if you want to be "Anyberry", that would mean doing something with MSFT, right? I expect that integration with exchange will continue to erode RIM's dominance in business email messaging. MSFT & Nokia are compelling combination in this space. Of course, MSFT & Nortel are also getting very cosy around the Unified Communications space. Oh, and isn't Nortel on some kind of IBM middleware?

- Being interoperable, means middleware, and middleware means Eclipse. Funny how Eclipse was the only environment it was released into isn't it? Not really, IBM just released their big vision of the cloud, the grid, the big thingy in the sky. So IBM would really like to be your "Amazon for Hosted Business Services". Oh, and if you want to provide services to big companies, you better have a background in doing so. mmm... who would Nokia use to offer such services into the enterprise, who might Nokia trust to build their own Hosted Business Services?..... oh, and Dana Gardner points out that " needs a cloud story". Lots to ponder there.

- To do this properly, Nokia also needs to be "Nokia-Network-Inside" (see location based services plays, location based advertising, etc.). To be sure they have some network presence through joint ventures, but nothing as central as Cisco. So, what I would do is look to a hugely influential company, with a massive installed based of communication products, with a network presence and an enterprise footprint. What's going on in Nortel these days? Oh, hold on, aren't Nortel & MSFT doing some nice work together on UC for the Business, and didn't we just say that Nortel is built on some neat IBM middleware?

So the question might be, what part of the overall delivering services through the cloud story does the symbian purchase and outsource release? As many have pointed out, the new apple iPhone 2.0 does a neat side step around the carrier for managing notifications. That's all I'll say. I have to go away and take my medicine now. Upate: As per usual Martin Geddes nails it.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Making Change Matter

In the spirit of new technologies doing things that matter and impact society, the Fast Forward Blog has a project to use public TV to help people make connections around the issue of Mortgage and Debt problems.

For me, there are a couple of brilliant points in the middle of this project: The Public TV acts as "the trusted place" where the conversations can be initiated; to paraphrase earlier posts by Seamus McCauley and Umair Haque it is a trusted place, where people like us can share some opinion and knowledge to make a change. The other thing I find interesting is that they are using Ning to support the service from a social networking point of view.

A central problem in "surfacing this community of interest" is that to date they may not want to "hold their hand up", and go search for a community. But because there is a "mass media" outlet that can centrally direct them to a trusted place, there is the potential for critical mass. These people can "get organised"

My Data or your Data?


Hatip: Geek and Poke:

It does raise an interesting point though. If you are mashing up data, from different sources, and end users can add data sources of their own, who is going to be responsible for overall data integrity?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Enterprise Two-Dot-Oh-Dear....

ReadWriteWeb have a very nice piece on why Enterprise 2.0 has to be different. They list 8 Attributes of E20: I have just posted my inflections on each of these points after each:

(1) Monthly Subscription fees, not upfront perpetual license fees. This means the vendor has to be good to keep earning the $$$. The vendor also gets a predictable revenue line, so they can invest in R&D with confidence.

(A) This is a bit off the mark in my opinion. The value of monthly charging, historically, is that the smaller amount every month, doesn't hurt as much. Smaller numbers also don't draw attention to themselves during review processes. Yet, larger corporate clients look for value, and don't mind paying upfront fees/ forward paying usage, if they get better value. Consider this to be a reflection of your Enterprise customers confidence in the service.

(2) Adoption by users, not forced by corporate policies. Users "vote with their mouse", so it has to be good to get traction and bloat gets quickly punished.

(A) I am afraid this is just a clear result of having a clear value focus. Is it useful to the user or not? Remember, there are still corporate issues that have to be addressed no matter how "cool and funky" your user thinks Skype-Conference calls are, if your company operates in a regulated environment, then they may not be a viable option. Dion Hinchcliffe referred to a recent webinar he was on and the main issues raised by CIO's are still, Governance, and Security. Ignore corporate policy at your peril.

(3) Usable without a manual within 30 minutes, still valuable for a sophisticated power use 2 years later. That is the mark of greatness. It is a real art. The great ones make it look simple - it is not simple!

(A) Completely agree with this. And would like to add that the more people use your system or service every day, the more usability issues come to the fore. When trialling a system, you may be quite happy to go through 3-clicks to make a contact request. Using it every day, you want one click. So an emerging E20 rule might be "Usability is more important on day 30, than it is on minute 30".

(4) Hosted SaaS, so that vendors can invest R&D in new features and not in the intricacies of different platforms forced on them by an internal IT department.

(A) Completely agree with this. The caveat of course being that you may have to have broad customisation capabilities versus "the one interface for all". Users want to move things about to suit their work habits, let them. But remember, some of the most useful applications retain their background structure, so that your adaptations don't end up just creating a mess. This also effects how you roll out features (i.e. if they are important to some customers but not others). As far as I know, some of the more successful SaaS apps are standard to all users.

(5) Enabling secure, fine-grained communication across the firewall. This is the big issue for enterprises. Not many vendors do this right yet. Today we see too much binary "you are either inside or outside". The winners will enable security in a much more fine-grained way.

(A) This one is becoming more and more important. You can see that the "100% browser based solution" approach is attractive from a number of perspectives, but the limitations are clear when you have large volumes of data involved. It is also, I believe a reason why the Adobe Air development is so attractive. Perhaps companies will all have their own "iTunes for Applications" strategies.

(6) Loosely coupled, not attempting lock-in, enticing but not forcing use of related modules/products. This is a real biggie. Bringing any new system into a company involves a horrendous amount of co-ordination and interfacing. The one's that say "you can have just this little bit and it takes in data this way and spits out data this way" will win.

(A) Yip. Reduce friction to adoption at all points. One thing VoiceSage has done to address this is to enable you to use as much or as little data integration as you feel comfortable with. This reduces friction in the adoption process. Yet clearly, there are many benefits that can only be driven out with higher levels of data integration from an input point of view, but also from a report generation point of view.

(7) Freemium model, so some early experimentation can be done free of cost. This also reduces the vendor's sales cost, so they can invest more in R&D and/or lower the price enough to drive adoption.

(A) Agree, BUT. People/ Companies that want a free service are not always the people that will move to pay for a premium service. I think its somewhere like 2% move on? What FREE might give you (where there is near zero marginal cost) is more information on what people want from your service, and more usage behavior. The real thing that should be made as free as possible as an experiment that enables experience of benefit/value. Just using the service is nothing, experiencing measurable benefit, that you can put a money value on, is everything. Enabling customer experimentation is rarely truly free to deliver.

(8) Fun, relaxed, not taking itself too seriously. Taking off the suit helps adoption.

(A) Well you know, some customers like to know that you take their business and concerns seriously. If your customer/ client needs to see a suit to feel that, then you have to call it. At VoiceSage we like to think that we help take away the veil of complexity, we like to reveal the simplicity. How you interact with the client needs to reflect that "organisational value", not a notion of "cool", or general cultural trends towards informality.

Friday, June 13, 2008

29% of Agent Time Spent Talking to Customers

From Silicon republic: Independently run, Siemens Enterprise Communications sponsored:

- Employees are finding it too difficult to manage all the different software they have to use, and are spending too much time logging this information at the end of the call.

- As a result, only 29% of an agents time is actually spent conversing with the customer. of that 16% is spend conversing about the query, the remaining 13% is spent building up a rapport.

- The remaining 71% is spent entering notes, entering data, and seeking advice, and looking up screens.

Clearly this needs a radical simplification. 15 different solutions to solve one customer query? Wrong question I'd say. It doesn't matter how many apps are involved, what matters is your User Interface (single log on, customer and agent, dynamic context dashboard). OMG Paul, have you any idea how hard that is?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Some Observations on Customers and Technology Use

With the talk of GoogleLabs (gmail) last week, it was obvious that Google was launching products based on actual observed consumer behavior. Compared to Microsoft, they also seemed to have a much much smaller development team. These are the result of being a completely hosted service. There are no legacy software to manage, no partnership / software alliances that have to be supported. The web is the platform and the it is a liveweb.

It's possible to look at this another way: Google's very broad base of users give it the capability of sensing and seeing user behavior in near-realtime. Google can also track the rate of "launch success" against other factors it now has at its disposal: "do early adopter lessons cross over to the main stream for this type of application"?

While everyone has being looking at GooData as being "the best advertising information in the history of the world", perhaps the behavioral and profiling information coupled with expertise in discerning "intent", have made Google the most formidable "product development company" in history. After all we all buy products and services "to achieve an intent", be that latent or overtly expressed.

Now before everyone goes crazy on me, (all two of you) and says the obvious ("Google is a one trick pony, with a a dodgy hind leg, i.e. applications), let me posit that Google is learning how to use this information to build products, because to date, Google has not been a "product development company", but an "advertising platform". It will launch and fail, launch and fail again, but it will learn better than anyone else, how to fail successfully and how to incorporate the information into the next iteration. It won't approach this like an old school Proctor and Gamble, and I ultimately, I think they will make these kinds of "use-case-scenario-analysis" available as an API. Why not?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

It's Out There, They Are Evolving, They Are In Your Browser :)


(1) Thomas Otter at Vendorprisey has a great idea: link to the conference call waiting space: dialing into a conference, why not hear something you actually like ? :)

(2) Want to use your mobile phone to keep track of what you've just read, or where you are in that book? Bkkeepr allows you input some simple commands against an ISBN number. It uses a twitter channel feature. (HT: Damien Mulley)

(3) Hey, a number of people in your business are using Twitter to comment or micro-publish, why not get them into a company directory and let people in the company connect to each other and share, or even let customers connect directly to the employees? (HT: FastForward Blog).

These examples have a number of points related to them IMHO :)

- They understand fragmentation, and the power of widgetization (i.e. a widget on your blog, on your website, on your phone). Like a beer add might say "widgets reach those parts that other beers just can't reach.

- Many products are actually platforms: Twitter is a pipe powering Bkkeeper,, and it will empower many others. Right now, good reliable API's are key to any product. (My predication is that GetSatisfaction will become a platform for managing customer conversations).

- The granularity of interaction between your company and your customers will increase; and this interaction is not private and is not owned by your company (Jeff Jarvis has a twitter today asking people do they know of companies that have come out and been honest about a screw up, and come out stronger, i.e. been authentic. This is a natural outcome of being scrutinized, as they say in politics, "sunlight cleanses".) And oh, god, as if to prove the point yet again, that you don't own the conversation with the customer, check out Paul Greenberg's response to Sony misrepresenting their product offer.

- Companies that become "magnets for conversation" will become very, very successful. Conversation are magnets for collaboration. Collaboration creates Actions & Information. In turn, these create Insights. Insights are very very rare, and good insight has the potential to create massive value creation. (note: not value shift along the value chain, but real value creation).

The Telco2 Guys today have an interesting point around products being extended, enhanced and differentiated by service. Yes, people talking to people, people interacting (well) with others. And they give a nice hat-tip to VoiceSage, so thank you very much.

Conversation, Collaboration, Community... mmm.... the force is strong with this one....

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Outstanding Debtor Days

Not that it should be any news to anyone, but Intrum Justita find that the average outstanding debtor days just went up from 14.3 days over the due date, to 16.4. 54 Days is the average payment duration in Ireland. Not bad, I think, if you actually do get paid. The problem is, that the longer it's out there, the less likely you are to get paid, and the more likely your debt is competing with someone else's debt.

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