Friday, January 30, 2009

The Problem With Communications Mashups - In the Media At Least

IBM Business Model Transformation

IBM have a lovely new report on Telco2 (oops, Telco with a Focus on Web 2.0) and they immediately draw our attention to the imperative for innovation around the actual core business model of the Telco/ enterprise. Revenue growth also shares significant top of mind, while cost take out takes a back seat.

This is followed up in the media (CNN Money no less) by a joint IBM - Avaya story around the IBM Mashup Centre Capability.

As demonstrated by Avaya, a mashup prototype for field engineering managers enables them to check for new customer problems, assign field engineers, review status of ongoing problems, and, if necessary, contact the assigned engineer or customer using e-mail, short message service (SMS) or click-to-call, all from a single Web page. When contacting the customer by phone, the engineering manager can then click the "add" button to quickly bring other participants into a conference call.

Now I am not blowing our own horn by saying that you can do all this with VoiceSage right now, but what is definitely interesting is that they make such a big deal out of "getting at the enterprise data", previously, so cleverly locked away, (sorry locked down), buy (sorry 'by') the software vendors. They also, clearly "get" that enterprise data, and web-native data, will need to mind-meld. They also "get" that enterprise mashups are going to have "security" front and centre. It all sounds good. Oh, and if you think any of this is divorced from happenings in the world of the iPhone, Nuance and IBM have done a deal in relation to speech recognition and IVR etc. so watch speech recognition and speech navigation enter the on-demand, enterprise mashup toolkit.

Now here's the take away: To do this well IBM-Avaya-Other ecosystem has to completely seek to break out of the silo - websphere support strategy (IHMH). Go to and look at what people are building: let me give you a clue, it involves Google maps and little else. Something is wrong in the world of Mashups and nobody has quite cracked it yet. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says "I really feel like a mashup today", a fry maybe, but not a mashup.

VoiceSage does this Customer Logistics 2.0 piece day in day out, and I can tell you that our customers are definitely concerned with issues such as "number of late deliveries", "number of no shows", but at the end of the day, you do very well indeed to point out 10 fold reduction in costs. Cost Take Out is way, way more important right now than using Enterprise 2.0 for potential revenue generation. I like the idea of integration of enterprise data with web data and I for one look forward to seeing examples of companies going from "no IBM enterprise software", and "No integration partner" in the mainstream media. The IBM approach presented in these instances above seems to me to be more "Enterprise Forklift Upgrade - Engagement Strategy" to be sold to CIO's, than true "E2.0 Thinking".

For a different perspective, and one I think has merit, see WIPRO white paper on it here.

Meanwhile, Somewhere Else in The Cloud

Dion Hinchcliffe (big time HT's this week) points us towards CloudMQ, an enterprise class messaging (queuing) service. Interestingly it sits entirely in Amazon cloud, but I am guessing that like Joyent, these guys are looking to be cloud-platform-agnostic (for complete data and application portability). 

Jim Courtney over at SkypeJournal reports that Lotus Live and Skype partner up for collaboration in the cloud, part of the 'Skype everywhere' strategy. What was neat about this (for me) is that Skype point out that Skype is a great way of working with outsourcers and subcontractors globally. Indeed it is. This makes the integration very interesting. Companies have already adapted their behaviour now all IBM has to do is make Lotus relevant to that workflow. Jim goes on to quote Andy Abramson that  this is "being embedded into an offering that is key to IBM's future success in delivering cloud-based outsourced business services".  Lets look at that again: Skype being embedded into IBM is key to IBM's outsourcing success. On a conference call from eComm09 this week, Skype pointed out that over 10% of their users now use it for Conference calling. That's huge.

So Is Any of This IBM Stuff Actually E2.0-Cool?

C'mon, it's IBM and Avaya and their are very smart cookies working there (sic). Bruce McVarish points out to "IBM's Social Networks & Discovery (SaND) research and their focus on filter improvements to identify contextually relevant people, documents and expertise within the enterprise". Basically, the system enables you to see the relationships between people, tags, and documents (i.e. is socially aware). More here. So imagine you are on a Skype call to India with a software contractor, and you can hover over the name, and see others in your social network that have recommended that person, or hover over the link to the document they are sending you to see other documents or presentations that might be useful to you? Oh, yeah you can already do some of that through the LinkedIn integration but its all that stuff locked up behind the firewall that you are trying to get at (if you are a big organisation). So all this "context" stuff and "sensing" is going to be important? :)

And Back To The Business Model

So where did we start this, oh yeah, Business Model Innovation. To be truly innovative companies need to find new ways of generating value, not of shifting value along the value chain (in the case of developer channel decimation in the face of mashup potential, and for Telco's minutes calling revenues in the case of international calling). If you are an integrator, you will not be able to charge what you were charging before. The "value proposition" was in the fact that their was friction between systems, and you had to be trained, and experienced in dealing with them. I suspect Integrators will extract 1/10th of the value they previously did from enterprise integrations. So this is value destruction for Systems Integrators. Calling from Skype to Skype, SkypeOut, Skype Conference Calling is value destruction for Telco's, premier Conferencing providers, and potentially for Unified Communications Providers. There is no longer "special sauce" involved in making all these systems gel together.

Generating new value is where the real strategic challenge is, and this means tapping into global social change. Here's some companies that are in strategic decay because they are demonstrating a lack of purpose. Here's one example from that list - The Swiss company Roche makes a range of HIV-related drugs:

Roche charges $25,000 a year for Fuzeon. It does not offer a discount price for developing countries. Like most industrialized countries, South Korea maintains a form of price controls. The national health insurance program sets prices for medicines, and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs listed Fuzeon at $18,000 a year. South Korea’s per capita income is roughly half that of the United States. Instead of providing Fuzeon at South Korea’s listed level—and still turning a profit—Roche refuses to make the drug available in South Korea. South Korean activists report that the head of Roche Korea told them, “We are not in business to save lives, but to make money. Saving lives is not our business.”

Lovely. And guess what, we Trust companies, governments and institutions less than ever. A "catastrophic decline" in the USA, but higher levels of trust emerging in the developing economics (BRIC). In Europe Finance, Auto, Utilities are particularly badly hit. Perhaps, activities designed to build trust relationships will be the true corporate asset of the future, and perhaps, how we use technology and communications to build these trust relationships, would be an interesting starting place.

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