This post was collaboratively written on a wiki by Jeremiah Owyang, who maintains a focus on Customer Strategy and Ray Wang, who maintains a focus on Enterprise Strategy. Together, we’re covering the convergence of emerging technology, Ray has cross-posted on his blog.
Microsoft gets serious about collaboration using the web and it’s office products by offering Microsoft Office Web Apps. On the consumer side, it’s just catching up to Google Docs, Zoho, and whatever collaboration start-up emerges. On the enterprise side, this could give internal teams real-time collaboration tools –and close security gaps through an on-premise solution. Regardless, IT must develop a collaboration strategy or run the risk of being blind-sided by business units developing it without them.
Microsoft Office Now Web-Based
Enterprises seek unified solutions for web-based applications that complement their desktop productivity tools. Today’s tools often do not work seamlessly across on-premise, on-demand, mobile, and disconnected scenarios. The delivery of Microsoft Desktop Apps just under a year after the October 28th, 2008 PDC announcement in LA puts Microsoft back in contention among corporate user who have been actively piloting alternative solutions from Google, Zoho, and others. Microsoft Office Web apps includes web-based versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote. In addition, Microsoft delivers an online document management system with permissions called SkyDrive, which is advertising supported. These set of features are available to both consumers who have Windows Live accounts as well as to enterprises who have purchased the Office Volume License, who can install an on-premise version on internal serves for intranet usage.
Jeremiah’s Take: For the CMO
CMOs should be aware of the broad ranging changes of consumer behavior, but should recognize this is just catch up to Google docs which has beginnings as far back as 2006. Despite this “me too” there’s a few distinguishing points that make this announcement stand out:
- Gives consumers the option over Google Docs. Consumers and certainly stakeholders in B2B prefer the no-nonsence experience of corporate issued Microsoft office. The upside for Microsoft is the spreadsheets appear to have more features than Google sheets, although some of the advanced functionality of web-based excel is not available. As a result, users will have to use the desktop client to perform advanced features like pivot tables.
- May have better performance –attracting consumers. Microsoft makes claims its service will be faster than the somewhat slow Google docs products, which we believe as we’ve noticed latency in real-time collaboration in Google Docs. (which we’re using for this blog post)
- Microsoft’s big footprint will accelerate adoption. A research survey conducted over a year ago suggests that Google Docs was used by just a 1% of the US consumer base, and Microsoft Word had over 51% adoption. Expect Microsoft’s large footprint in enterprise combined with over 375 million users of Hotmail and Live to push these web based apps to the mainstream –expect integration into other MS web products.
Ray’s Take: For the CIO
Enterprises will benefit from a familiar solution that delivers enterprise security and collaboration. For intranet deployments and mobile, there are three key use cases that standout:
- Secured experience behind the firewall. Microsoft delivers an on-premise install that does not expose corporate data to consumer products such as Google docs.
- Improved real-time collaboration. Consumer teams can now use these light weight web-based tools for near-real time collaboration. Apparently, this is Microsoft’s first real time collaboration tool, as we know Sharepoint often acts more like an asynchronous DMS and CMS.
- Lighter mobile footprint. Browser based docs give the mobile warrior less resource limitations on laptops or other mobile devices.
IT Must Develop A Collaboration Strategy –Or Business Units Will Do It Without You
Enterprise IT must develop a collaboration program, as the advent of consumer collaboration tools will quickly outpace ITs ability to play catch up. As employees continue to create collaborative workspace in the public web, data can become mishandled, not accounted for, or orphaned. To avoid these risks, we recommend that:
- Enterprises should take inventory of the vast teams using consumer based collaboration tools, evaluate their usage and decide if an enterprise solution should be available for internal collaboration features.
- IT leadership shouldn’t shut down the firewall and block third-party collaboration tools, as work is often being done at the edges of the company with business units working with partners, customers, and prospects. Instead, focus on providing secure tools within the enterprise for collaboration, then roll-out proper awareness campaigns, training, and ongoing support for company supported technologies.
- IT departments should be proactive resources to business units and provide them with the right tools, training, and resources. IT departments that are reactive or clamp down on business units needs for collaboration will find employees finding work-arounds on consumer collaboration tools.
- Enterprises will want to reevaluate how Microsoft Web Apps work within existing volume licensing agreements and enterprise agreements, especially as many have considered alternatives during contract negotiations.
Below are screenshots provided by Microsoft to us of the web-based applications: Word, Powerpoint, OneNote and Excel. It’s not clear if the infamous “Clippy 2.0” will re-emerge –we hope not.
Silicon valley based Altimeter Group is a strategy consulting firm focused on providing companies with a pragmatic approach to emerging technologies..
I guess I’ll start with a brief introduction. My name is Mitch Canter, and I’ve been doing graphic design on and off for about 5 years. I started my company, studionashvegas, about a year and three months ago. I bought a domain name and started a twitter account, having very little idea of what twitter even was at the time. A year and three months later, I have spent 0 dollars in advertising money and happily pay the bills for my wife (a professional blogger) and our eight month old (who has more Flickr pictures on his account than I do).
For Jeremiah’s blog, we wanted to do a few specific things. Above all, we wanted a fresh design that would be modern, yet have timeless design principles that could withstand the rapid pace of the internet. We wanted to clean his sidebar and focus color and typography to the content in the middle, but still allow Jeremiah to have his “fun elements” right beside his professional writings. Lastly, we wanted to integrate Jeremiah’s other social networks into his blog to tie his conversations into the blog.
We also wanted to implement a few “social features” that were missing in his old design:
- Twitter Integration (latest tweet and “tweet this”) capability
- Friendfeed Integration (both comments and “likes”)
- Facebook Connect (coming soon!)
- Other social networking icons located in a more prominent position
When I start a design, I start with Photoshop. I quickly sketch the outline of the site and start laying some pixels down. Staring at a blank 960 Grid template (the framework on which Jeremiah’s design is based) is the most daunting task I face, and putting something down allows me to overcome that first hurdle and focus in on the real objective.
As you can see by the first comp, this design has come quite a ways:
Colors have been changed, as well as the header, but the main idea remains the same.
The next thing is to take the comp, set it aside, and focus on the markup (the actual HTML/CSS). I start there because I don’t want to force design into the markup; I want to allow the markup to define the design.
One special compliment to this design is that there are only 7 images total. OK, that’s only half true; there are more images, but there are only 7 “image tags” – the rest are created using A List Apart’s “image replacement”. This is much better for Search Engine Optimization because actual text, not alternate-text, is indexed by the search engines. If you were to disable the stylesheets, you’d see text, unordered lists with navigation links, social networking links, and a headline tag where the logo is supposed to be.
The header markup, for example, looks something like this:
<h2 class=”floatLeft”><a href=”/” class=”logo” >Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang</a></h2>
<ul id=”navigation” class=”floatRight”>
<li><a href=”/” class=”homeButton”>Home</a></li>
<li><a href=”/popular-posts/” class=”button”>Popular Posts</a></li>
<li><a href=”/about/” class=”button”>About</a></li>
<li><a href=”/contact/” class=”contactButton”>Contact</a></li>
In the comp, those are images. In the code; text.
And with the stylesheets disabled:
Note the content title is bigger than the blog title. Jeremiah’s name isn’t what brings him here; it’s his content. Therefore, it has the most important headline tag.
Once the markup is finished, I start at the top and style the various elements of the design. Images are simulated using the ALA technique mentioned above, text is given sizing, color, and font attributes, and the layout is floated, sized, and positioned as need-be. I do employ a CSS Reset, which allows for a bit more consistency between the various browsers, although I do end up having to put in some Internet Explorer 6 specific styles (the reset does most of the heavy lifting and strips the various browsers of their default styles).
Once the markup is finished, and the styles embedded, I start taking the static content out and replacing it with the dynamic tags WordPress uses. WordPress is built on PHP, and uses a lot of specialized tags, so it’s just a matter of finding what tags control what elements (title, tags, categories, and the content).
After adding in some default WordPress information (stylesheet calls, RSS information, blog name and description tags, etc.), I copied the theme to Jeremiah’s server and employed a “Theme Test Drive” plug-in that allows me to see the theme and make necessary changes without disrupting the natural flow of the current site. We made our necessary changes, and the theme went live once everything was ready.
The latest tweet is called using a plug-in, as is the Friendfeed integration. My philosophy when it comes to functionality in WordPress is to search for a plug-in to see if it does what I need. If not, then I write it myself, but there are so many great plug-ins that do what I need it makes sense to use what’s already out there.
Also, for those of you who like to print articles for your colleagues or peers to look at, I’ve employed a print-specific stylesheet that will allow the sidebars, comments, and other unnecessary items to disappear. You’ll get the article title, the content, and the footer.
One final thing I’ll be implementing is Facebook Connect, which will allow you to post articles (along with your comments) directly to your Facebook status. It’ll also automatically put in your profile picture as a gravatar (for those of you who don’t wish to use Facebook, but want a profile picture, you can sign up at Gravatar’s site to have one show up when you leave a comment).
I’ve been very honored to work with Jeremiah, and I can’t wait to see what other projects or work that he does. He’s got a sincere look at the social media sphere, minus a lot of the fluff that other bloggers have (I would expect nothing less from an analyst, after all).
If you want to follow my work, I do blog (not nearly as much as I should; I like to think I am so busy doing the work I neglect talking about it!) on my company site, as well as my personal blog. If you have other questions, or want to talk about Jeremiah’s design, head over and leave me a comment on my comment form.
I hope you all enjoy Jeremiah’s new design!
Embrace your Customers
At Forrester, we use the term Embracing as a social strategy where customers and employees work together using social tools to build next-generation products. Quite a change for the strong headed product manager, who now has to set the roadmap, while in collaboration with customers.
Popular Examples: Dell and Starbucks
We’re all familiar with the popular Dell “Idea Storm” website that let customers vote for which features and products they wanted to be bore to the marketplace. In Dell’s case, the linux community asked for a UBUNTU box, which was created and launched and sold. I wish I was a fly on the wall when Dell’s strategic partners at Microsoft found out about this.
Recently, Starbucks has launched My Starbucks Ideas, where customers are voting for improved services or products in each of the stores. Looking at the site, the request for free wireless or ‘punchcards’ for frequent customers is under consideration or has been improved.
Both powered by SalesForce
Both of these sites are powered by Salesforce’s product, Ideas. Move on over, there’s a new player in town called UserVoice that offers the same features right on their site.
UserVoice, a new kid on the block
I’ve played around with UserVoice and even created a version for my own Web Strategy blog, the simple features made it easy to setup and let others submit ideas. I’ve not stress tested this service to see if it can withstand enterprise activity like SalesForce can, but it’s a nod to a common feature (voting) that we should start to expect to see in white label social networks. (in fact, I know of a few that are going to launch this)
Reporting, Query features, and easy to setup
Other UserVoice features to include Google Analytics, and the ability to collect demographic information and let owners know of suggestions. Owners of voting sites can also segment their customers by different purchasing sizes, in order to help prioritize. Also, polling features will help to put color around suggestions from users, and other conduits to improve the connectivity between employees and customers.
For example, I created this own Web Strategy UserVoice page where you can go and make suggestions on how I can improve this website.
If you’re a small company or individual blogger, or run a niche product, I encourage you to try out UserVoice, test to see how it scales, and come back and leave comments on your experience on this post. If you’re from a large company that has thousands or millions of customers, start with SalesForce and also trial UserVoice. Anyone that wants a fully custom user experience should start with SalesForce.
Update: I’ve received some tweets and comments also suggesting IdeaScale (which I think is the same as this product of the same name), I’ve not looked at it, please leave a comment if you’ve a review. Also, passionate CEO Matt from BrightIdea left a comment about his enterprise class competitor to SalesForce, I look forward to a formal Forrester briefing from him, let’s take a closer look at this growing segment.
What to Expect
UserVoice would make for a good partner for any of those white label social networks, and could even be an acquisition target for a vendor that’s not up to speed in this emerging feature set.
Expect other White Label Social Networking vendors to offer this feature, soon it will be on the ‘checklist’, of features. Customer voting? “Yup we got that.”
They aren’t the only ones to watch, Get Satisfaction, a support site for any product, anywhere, (no reason to go to that irrelvant corporate website) has launched, and customers are self-supporting each other, and some savvy companies have their employees there participating. Without surprise, I’m there representing Forrester, although there’s been no activity. Satisfaction is still very startup focused, I hope to see some Fortune 1000 companies appear on their site.
Lastly, UserVoice itself is, “eating their own dog food” so to speak, using their own service to improve their product, there’s already a small flurry of votes happening.
Above: For those using a feedreader or email subscription, See video interview with Shankar Iyer, VP of Strategic Initiatives at WebEx
The trend for companies to use Gadgets and Widgets is not uncommon, Google and CapGemini are in partnership to reach the enterprise market as CapGemini has links to Microsoft’s Vista’s product.
I had morning coffee with Shankar Iyer, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives of WebEx, they use PodTech (where I’m employed for another week) for Audio and Video podcasting solutions. A few years ago, Webex purchased intranets.com an internal collaboration tool they’ve started to fold into their platform. A few years ago, they released a secure IM tool, which a scaled down version has been used by AOl’s AIM product.
Most recently, WebEx has been putting resources into it’s WebEx Connect platform, which Shankar described as a “Business mashup collaboration platform”. Think widgets on top of a communication platform for extranet and intranet. There’s two major elements of this platform, one is a server side platform and the second is a client based widget platform. Inside of the client platform is a web based and desktop based program, each will quickly integrate widgets from third parties.
A practical use case of their platform could be for internal sales teams to collaborate build documents, proposals and plans, they could then work with prospects, sharing data, bringing the process to the close, then pass on to delivery and fulfillment teams. The toolset could comprise of video, IM, synchronous tools like persistent chat, document sharing, and even the dreaded email. Existing CRMs could create widgets that could deploy, making the process seamless. I’m somehow reminded of the portal movement in the late 90s which I was deploying at Exodus.
I asked Shankar a few other questions, and found out that this is part of the overall corporate strategy of WebEx, and also their recently new parent company, Cisco. In the future they will align with Cisco’s “Unified Communications” strategy, and integrate other products. I asked about Five Across, Tribes, and other acquistions, but he didn’t give me any hard answers. The Widget framework should be able to support widgets from other platforms, like NetVibes, Google Desktop and Google Widgets, Facebook and Microsoft Gadgets. “Do you have Live Video?” Shankar responded that they have partners like Veodia who are building a widget.
Web Strategy Recommendations
For companies wanting to reach the enterprise web space, I highly recommend you take a closer look at the WebEx Connect platform, they may already have the install base, corporate footprint in SMB, and may offer yet another distribution platform for your web service.
On a personal note, anything we can do to make meetings less painful or time consuming, let’s do it.
Need to build an online community that collaborates?
I get asked by a lot of folks to provide recommendations for products, often there’s too many companies to keep analyze, so I make these lists and refer folks to them. One of my most popular index lists is the list of companies that provide White Label Social Networking solutions, in fact there’s over 60 in that space.
Here’s a list of companies that provide collaboration platforms with turn-key social features for ‘instant’ community.
Collaboration tools and social features
Common features, but are not limited to, include: forums, wikis, blogs, media, rss, aggregation homepages, presence, instant messaging, and ability to connect to identity systems such as LDAP/Active Directory.
These tools may have social networking features, that’s optional, but should certainly scale to it.
These platforms can be used in intranets, extranets, or public communities.
Limitations: I am NOT seeking platforms which you could build these features on top of it, I’m really seeking a ready-to-go community suite. I’m seeking solutions to build community, not ERP systems (but if they have both, that could be included). See my list of web-based CRMs.
List of companies that provide collaboration platforms
“Alfresco is the leading open source alternative for enterprise content management. The open source model allows Alfresco to use best-of-breed open source technologies and contributions from the open source community to get higher quality software produced more quickly at much lower cost. Our goal is to not only provide an open source offering but to surpass commercial offerings in terms of features, functionality and benefits to the user community. Alfresco is built by a team of leading members from Documentum® and Interwoven® with 15 years experience in Enterprise Content Management (ECM), including the co-founder of Documentum. ”
“Blogtronix is a social media platform for Enterprise 2.0 communication. We provide a single, unified system that includes blogs, wikis, and social networking. Unlike other companies, we are able to offer a product that’s easy to use, scalable and can be delivered either on-demand or as a software. We’re equipped with a rich feature set that includes vlogging, podcasting, flash as well as a fully customizable interface. Our applications range from corporate in-house collaboration to global user created networks. ”
“Central Desktop provides simple project collaboration tools for business teams.
Our tools help your business organize and share information efficiently, communicate with others and collaborate on projects.”
CommunityZero by Ramius
“CommunityZero’s many features simplify community management and support group communication by making it easy for users to share information and knowledge online. Read on to learn more about these features.”
“Drupal.org is the official website of Drupal, an open source content management platform. Equipped with a powerful blend of features, Drupal supports a variety of websites ranging from personal weblogs to large community-driven websites.”
“iUpload enables Internet-based business communities for the purpose of improving communications, enhancing customer relationships, driving sales opportunities and gathering marketing data.”
“We develop award-winning collaboration software that improves a company’s productivity through open collaboration among employees, partners and customers. We’re located in downtown Portland, Oregon.”
Lotus Connections, IBM
“IBM Lotus® Connections is social software for business that empowers you to be more innovative and helps you execute more quickly by using dynamic networks of coworkers, partners and customers.”
“A leader in social media software solutions , Pluck helps transform how publishers, media sites and major brands engage their audiences and customers to discover, create and distribute information online. Providing the technologies for content generation, syndication, social networking and news personalization, Pluck helps its customers more easily consume and leverage the new open content model that has emerged as the cornerstone of Web 2.0.”
“SharePoint Products and Technologies provide enterprise-scale capabilities to meet business-critical needs like managing content and business processes, simplifying how people find and share information across boundaries, and enabling better informed decisions. Using the combined collaboration features of Windows SharePoint Services and Office SharePoint Server 2007, plus the design and customization capabilities of Office SharePoint Designer 2007, organizations can enable their users to create, manage, and easily build their own SharePoint sites, and enable these sites to be discovered throughout the organization.”
Social Networking with Enterprise 2.0 Collaboration As the Enterprise 2.0 leader, Socialtext applies Web 2.0 technologies to the critical challenges facing businesses.
ThoughtFarmer (For Intranets)
“Capture intellectual capital and strengthen workplace community with ThoughtFarmer social software for enterprise intranets. ThoughtFarmer combines the best of wikis, blogs, and social networking into an attractive, easy-to-use intranet solution for Windows server environments.”
“Founded in 1996, Traction® Software, Inc. (formerly Twisted Systems, Inc.) set out to eliminate the frustrating and costly inefficiencies in team communications and information management by creating a revolutionary web-based end-user hypertext journaling system. Traction TeamPage was first released in 1999 and, after commerical launch in July 2002, is the industry’s first and leading Enterprise Blog software. The software is deployed in leading enterprises, universities and many branches of the U.S. Government.”
“Zoho is one of the brands from AdventNet, a software company started in 1996 focusing on building affordable software for businesses. AdventNet has served a diverse range of enterprise IT, networking and telecom customers. We know our customers have a choice of many vendors, and we want to earn their business and their trust by working hard for it. And having earned their business, we want to keep them happy so they will choose to do business with us again. These simple ideas have served us well, during good times and bad. AdventNet has achieved impressive growth, and has emerged as a rock-solid supplier and partner, with sound financials.”
Sosius is an online workspace, accessible from any PC, that lets you create and collaborate. No software to buy and set up. Powerful and flexible yet easy to use.
“Simple, secure and powerful web-based workspace to help your project teams, workgroups, committees, partners, and others quickly and easily connect, share and collaborate.”
“six groups enables you to start your own community for free, about every topic, available to everyone: Start immediately with a fully-enabled community, Define the data fields for your members’ profiles, Choose your design from a large variety of templates, Benefit from the six groups community.”
“Web Crossing helps companies strengthen brands and build relationships. We are the innovative leader in Internet collaboration solutions used by online communities and project teams.”
“Create your own secure collaboration communities branded & customized for your company, school or organization.”
There’s a bunch of companies that provide document management or email type systems, this isn’t that. If you know of other companies that should be on this list, please leave a comment.
Check out my other industry indexes for the modern and evolving web.