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Can Facebook Be Accountable?

April 23, 2012 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I wrote a guest blog on Harvard Business Review’s Online site. The blog which is linked to below basically explains what happened to me when my Facebook account was hacked.  One day after this article appeared I received the following message from “Barry” at Facebook:

After reviewing this report, we determined that the profile you are reporting violates our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. As a result, we removed this profile from Facebook.

Needless to say, I was relieved that I had my identity back. I still wonder what would have happened had I not had the good fortune of being able to telegraph my tale of woe to thousands of people who read the blog. While I was pleased to have my problem resolved, I do not think that Facebook understands its responsibility to act quickly when security violations happen.

If you are interested in the impact of security breaches in a social networking world, read on:

Can Facebook Remain Faceless?

Lotus redux: a transformation in process

February 3, 2011 1 comment

I have attended Lotusphere for many years so it is very interesting to watch the transition. When Lotus Notes was first introduced in the late 1980s, it was a seminal moment in the evolution of collaborative computing. During those first few years, Lotus was able to establish a rich ecosystem of partners and really define the market for collaborative computing — before the general market even had time to think about the necessity for such a platform.  But a lot has changed.  Fast forward to 2011.  Today the ideas of collaboration platforms is now the norm. Individuals, virtual teams, and big corporations depend on collaboration platforms to get business done. For many years it was clear that Microsoft with its office franchise and SharePoint had captured the market. However, with the advent of cloud computing and Google’s push into Google Apps that the market dynamics were changing. Now, add social networking on top of that with services like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and the world gets a lot more interesting.

So, what does this have to do with Lotus? Actually a lot.  Companies that I have been talking to are frantically looking for ways to combine the spontaneity of social networking platforms with structured collaboration with customers, partners, and prospects. They are looking for new ways to expand their business flexibility and opportunities. This is where Lotus has an interesting opportunity. Lotus has traditionally sold Notes and Domino to the high end of the Mid-market and the enterprise market primarily as a communications platform — i.e. electronic mail.  That is what the typical user sees. But under that interface is complex applications that capture a lot of company intellectual property.  Over time, IBM has added a lot of sophisticated offerings for collaboration such as Quickr and Connections. Now add LotusLive, IBM’s cloud collaboration platform into the mix and things get interesting.  In addition to this new generation platform that brings together the traditional Notes environment with more dynamic collaboration and cloud computing, IBM is enabling analytics on the platform with tools from Cognos.

At the same time, IBM is being realistic this time around. It knows that it cannot displace Microsoft Sharepoint so it is enabling customers to make Sharepoint a component in an IBM driven collaboration environment. Likewise, it is allowing integration with various wireless smartphone environments as well.

But if I were to put a bet on one product that I think will have the greatest potential to bring IBM into the mainstream of social networking — or more specifically social business is LotusLive.  LotusLive in combination with the underlying sophistication of the Notes and Domino platforms, productivity solutions (Symphony), and partnerships and linkages with third party SaaS platforms will drive IBM’s place in the collaboration market.

IBM clearly has challenges getting existing customers comfortable with change and helping them to move their valuable assets to the new world.  But the components are in place. There are also important innovations coming out of the labs that will propel the environment forward.  IBM will have to gather a lot more partners and more adoption from customers who aren’t currently customers. But the opportunity is waiting.

Predictions for 2011: getting ready to compete in real time

December 1, 2010 3 comments

2010 was a transition year for the tech sector. It was the year when cloud suddenly began to look realistic to the large companies that had scorned it. It was the year when social media suddenly became serious business. And it was the year when hardware and software were being united as a platform – something like in the old mainframe days – but different because of high-level interfaces and modularity. There were also important trends starting to emerge like the important of managing information across both the enterprise and among partners and suppliers. Competition for ownership of the enterprise software ecosystem headed up as did the leadership of the emerging cloud computing ecosystem.

So, what do I predict for this coming year? While at the outset it might look like 2011 will be a continuation of what has been happening this year, I think there will be some important changes that will impact the world of enterprise software for the rest of the decade.

First, I think it is going to be a very big year for acquisitions. Now I have said that before and I will say it again. The software market is consolidating around major players that need to fill out their software infrastructure in order to compete. It will come as no surprise if HP begins to purchase software companies if it intends to compete with IBM and Oracle on the software front.  But IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft will not sit still either.  All these companies will purchase the incremental technology companies they need to compete and expand their share of wallet with their customers.

This will be a transitional year for the up and coming players like Google, Amazon, Netflix, Salesforce.com, and others that haven’t hit the radar yet.  These companies are plotting their own strategies to gain leadership. These companies will continue to push the boundaries in search of dominance.  As they push up market as they grab market share, they will face the familiar problem of being able to support customers who will expect them to act like adults.

Customer support, in fact, will bubble to the top of the issues for emerging as well as established companies in the enterprise space – especially as cloud computing becomes a well-established distribution and delivery platform for computing.  All these companies, whether well established or startups will have to balance the requirements to provide sophisticated customer support with the need to make profit.  This will impact everything from license and maintenance revenue to how companies will charge for consulting and support services.

But what are customers be looking for in 2011? Customers are always looking to reduce their IT expenses – that is a given. However, the major change in 2011 will be the need to innovative based on customer facing initiatives.  Of course, the idea of focusing on customer facing software itself isn’t new there are some subtle changes.  The new initiatives are based on leveraging social networking from a secure perspective to both drive business traffic, anticipate customer needs and issues before they become issues.  Companies will spend money innovating on customer relationships.

Cloud Computing is the other issue in 2011. While it was clearly a major differentiator in 2010, the cloud will take an important leap forward in 2011.  While companies were testing the water this year, next year, companies will be looking at best practices in cloud computing.  2011 will be there year where customers are going to focus on three key issues: data integration across public, private, and data centers, manageability both in terms of workload optimization, security, and overall performance.  The vendors that can demonstrate that they can provide the right level of service across cloud-based services will win significant business. These vendors will increasingly focus on expanding their partner ecosystem as a way to lock in customers to their cloud platform.

Most importantly, 2011 will be the year of analytics.  The technology industry continues to provide data at an accelerated pace never seen before. But what can we do with this data? What does it mean in organizations’ ability to make better business decisions and to prepare for an unpredictable future?  The traditional warehouse simply is too slow to be effective. 2011 will be the year where predictive analytics and information management overall will emerge as among the hottest and most important initiatives.

Now I know that we all like lists, so I will take what I’ve just said and put them into my top ten predictions:

1. Both today’s market leaders and upstarts are going to continue to acquire assets to become more competitive.  Many emerging startups will be scooped up before they see the light of day. At the same time, there will be almost as many startups emerge as we saw in the dot-com era.

2. Hardware will continue to evolve in a new way. The market will move away from hardware as a commodity. The hardware platform in 2010 will be differentiated based on software and packaging. 2010 will be the year of smart hardware packaged with enterprise software, often as appliances.

3. Cloud computing models will put extreme pressure on everything from software license and maintenance pricing to customer support. Integration between different cloud computing models will be front and center. The cloud model is moving out of risk adverse pilots to serious deployments. Best practices will emerge as a major issue for customers that see the cloud as a way to boost innovation and the rate of change.

4. Managing highly distributed services in a compliant and predictable manner will take center stage. Service management and service level agreements across cloud and on-premises environments will become a prerequisite for buyers.

5. Security software will be redefined based on challenges of customer facing initiatives and the need to more aggressively open the corporate environment to support a constantly morphing relationship with customers, partners, and suppliers.

6. The fear of lock in will reach a fever pitch in 2011. SaaS vendors will increasingly add functionality to tighten their grip on customers.  Traditional vendors will purchase more of the components to support the lifecycle needs of customers.  How can everything be integrated from a business process and data integration standpoint and still allow for portability? Today, the answers are not there.

7. The definition of an application is changing. The traditional view that the packaged application is hermetically sealed is going away. More of the new packaged applications will be based on service orientation based on best practices. These applications will be parameter-driven so that they can be changed in real time. And yes, Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) didn’t die after all.

8. Social networking grows up and will be become business social networks. These initiatives will be driven by line of business executives as a way to engage with customers and employees, gain insights into trends, to fix problems before they become widespread. Companies will leverage social networking to enhance agility and new business models.

9. Managing end points will be one of the key technology drivers in 2011. Smart phones, sensors, and tablet computers are refining what computing means. It will drive the requirement for a new approach to role and process based security.

10. Data management and predictive analytics will explode based on both the need to understand traditional information and the need to manage data coming from new sales and communications channels.

The bottom line is that 2011 will be the year where the seeds that have been planted over the last few years are now ready to become the drivers of a new generation of innovation and business change. Put together everything from the flexibility of service orientation, business process management innovation, the wide-spread impact of social and collaborative networks, the new delivery and deployment models of the cloud. Now apply tools to harness these environments like service management, new security platforms, and analytics. From my view, innovative companies are grabbing the threads of technology and focusing on outcomes. 2011 is going to be an important transition year. The corporations that get this right and transform themselves so that they are ready to change on a dime can win – even if they are smaller than their competitors.

How much should you trust social networking information?

December 9, 2008 9 comments

I never really thought about this question until about a month ago when I got a strange phone call from a a collection agency wanting to know when I pay my bill to a major network services provider.  Naturally, my answer was I don’t do business with that company and I don’t owe anyone any money.  My new friend persisted. Aren’t you Judith Hurwitz — yes, I replied, I am guilty as charged. Then she wanted to confirm that I was indeed the CEO of a company called Changepond Technologies.  Now this was when I stopped pleading guilty. No, I answered, I haven’t even heard of a company called Changepond and I am therefore, not their CEO.

Now, how would this my friend assume that I would be president of a company I never heard of?  She did what we all do; she did a google search and on one of the “social networking sites” called Spoke, it lists me as the CEO of Changepond.  Imagine my surprise (especially since I never got a salary).

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Judith Hurwitz, President Judith Hurwitz was a driving force in the distributed computing movement and was one of the first software industry analysts to recognize and write about important technology changes such as client/server computing, systems and applications management, and e-business practices. In 1992, she founded Hurwitz Group, a software research and consulting organization that quickly became an industry leader. Clients included most of the top technology firms, including IBM, Hewlett Packard, BMC, Compuware, BEA, Tivoli, Computer Associates, and Microsoft. The organization also assisted a long list of start up companies in their transition from technology idea to business product. Judith also held senior positions at Apollo Computer, John Hancock Life Insurance Company, Patricia Seybold’s Group, and International Data Corporation. Judith’s expertise is widely recognized, and she is frequently quoted in major publications. She is currently a columnist for CIO Online and has recently written articles for BioITWorld Magazine. She has authored hundreds of articles and reports, been a frequent keynote speaker at major industry events, and serves on the advisory boards of several corporations. Hurwitz holds a BA and Masters degree from Boston University.

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So, this was what I saw. Needless to say, I was a little surprised. How could this happen? It is easy to understand. First, the company had a local U.S. sales office in the same building that our offices are in. In addition, because we took over the suite of offices that Changepond’s U.S. office had been in, we inherited their old phone number.
Now, you might be asking, so why is this significant.  Basically, people rely increasingly on these social networking sites to find people they want to do business with or just connect with someone you used to know.  These sites serve a valuable purpose.  However, there is a dark side based on identity management.  Many of the sites that help you find people do not have a team of researchers collecting information. Nor do they wait until everyone takes the time to fill in the information about themselves.  You really can’t blame these sites. Until there is critical mass, no one will depend on the site.  Since most of these sites sell ads in order to survive, getting to critical mass is imperative.
Therefore, we are seeing lots and lots of these social networking sites filled with inaccurate information.  Much of this is benign.  Who cases if the wrong president is listed on a social networking site?  However, what happens when that company owes money and the collection agency goes after you? What happens if the company gets a bad reputation and the market thinks that it is your responsibility?  What happens if you are looking for a new job and the personnel office does a background check and notices that you are associated with a company that you never put on your resume?
Our natural inclination is to assume that if we find information through a search, it must be accurate.  In the case I mentioned earlier, the social networking site probably used some sort of automated tool to match company addresses and phone numbers with individuals.  Not a bad methodology to get started but somewhat dangerous.
Now, getting back to my new found presidency of Changepond.  I decided to take some actions to fix the situation.  Here are the three actions I took — I’ll call them the three dead ends:
Dead end #1.   I called the company’s new U.S. headquarters and asked to speak to the person in charge. I was connected to voice mail and guess what, the lovely voice suggested that I could contact the individual by calling the phone number our group had acquired. There was no human that could come to the phone.
Dead end #2.  I sent an email to an executive of this company and told him my problem. He was shocked and promised to look into the situation immediately. I sent a follow up email and this time I got no response.
Dead end #3. I sent an email to support email for the social networking site and asked them to fix this problem.  I never did get an answer and the information is still there.
I am not telling you this story so that you will feel sorry for me.  I want to tell you this because this will become an increasingly difficult problem that will cause unanticipated problems for the social networking community.  I am sure that there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of people who are impacted by inaccurate information.  But I think it is important to put a spotlight on this issue.  We need to hold these companies accountable to the quality of the information that they make public.  If you have had similar experiences, I would like to hear from you.  Start by answering the poll:

Is there a Link Between Social Computing and Business Networks?

January 22, 2008 3 comments

While there were many interesting product announcements at Lotusphere, I was intrigued by some of the innovations and experimentation in collaboration. One example is a project that comes out of a IBM research. I attended an interesting talk by Irene Greif, IBM Fellow and Director, of and Joan DiMicco, Research Staff Member of the Collaborative User Experience Group. Their session focused on the future of gaining business value from social computing. This is a very interesting group within IBM combining software designers, developers, computer and social scientists.

The focus of this talk centered on collaborative visualization. In other words, how do you combine some of the interesting technologies from virtual worlds (like Second Life). This work has been going on within IBM for the past several years. Now, IBM research is working to apply this virtual world technology to social computing and the way people collaborate in the business world. How can you create the same level of collaboration in a virtual world that happens when people are co-located? Indeed with so many companies creating collaborations across the globe.

One of the interesting project profiled during the session is called Beehive. In essence, this is a social computing system intended to make it fun to keep profiles updated. Rather than focusing on the public facing sites like FaceBook, Beehives is an intranet focused social network. In general, the more you know about people, the more you trust those people. So, if you apply this to the business world, what happens? The theory is that within a safe (i.e., not exposed to the entire Internet) environment the more connected you are with colleagues the more likely you are to trust those people and therefore collaborate more effectively. This is what this group is focused on understanding.

 

With the Beehive project, the users choose to join. Users establish their own categories for what they want to share with their colleagues — what Irene and Joan call “soft branding”. Users might decide to share everything from family photographs, lists of ideas, and comments on technical topics. The goal with Beehive is to create a destination site for conversation and collaboration. So far the experiment has been running for about eight months with very positive results. So far 6500 people from within IBM have created profiles that are a blend of personal and professional content. Because Beehive is an Intranet based social network, it provides a safe environment for IBMers to share opinions about emerging technologies and product evolution.

It will be interesting to watch the progress of projects like Beehive. Bringing the innovation of the virtual world together with an expert virtual network could have dramatic implications for businesses looking to innovate in tough economic times.

 

 

Twitter: Does the emperor have no clothes?

January 5, 2008 3 comments

I decided the other day that I would be cool and sign up for a Twitter account. OK, so I did it. I even added a few entries and looked at some entries of people I know. So, here is my question: why? Maybe I am too old to get this. In essence, Twitter is instant messaging that adds some multi-media splash. It is also a sort of micro-blogging tool. But I wanted to make sure that I was being fair. So, I did some checking to see how people are using this new tool. Here is where I think that Twitter does work. You are a very social person who creates a network of a few dozen of your close friends. One of the best examples of an interesting Twitter network is James Governer’s blog site that lives up to the hype by creating a broad network of chatters. Michael Krigsman in his blog has some interesting observations on Twitter.

I will continue to play around with Twitter and see how it evolves over time. Here is my take. It is an interesting idea that might be the germ of something for the future. I am not really sure where this Twitter social computing idea will go. Do you really want to know that I ate a pizza 2 minutes ago and regret that I ate the whole thing? Do I care that your electricity went out last night and you had to sit in the dark for an hour? Maybe I do care if I am working on a project with a highly distributed team and want to communicate in real time without picking up the phone or rushing to the computer.

Maybe we just don’t know yet. Remember when the first personal computers were entering the market in the late 1970s no one knew what in the world you would use one for? Those discussions seen quite silly now. But in those days there were no word processors or spreadsheets and no email for those devices. There was simply a notion that there is something that could evolve into something pretty important. Do I think that Twitter is in the same category? Probably not. I do think there is something there about real time, unified communication and real time access that has potential — but not right now and not in this form.