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Poor Yammer, Lost and Now Found – We Think

Yammer was acquired by Microsoft back in 2012, for the mere paltry sum of $1.2 billion dollars. The reason given was to compete with, Oracle, and IBM. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet. Big hoopla followed the announcement and everyone was on the Yammer bandwagon. Then silence. Somehow Yammer was being overshadowed by other Office 365 products. Where did it go and why? It appears it’s back again, but with not as much hoopla now. Many classify Yammer as a micro-blogging tool, Microsoft decided (June 2015) to call it a ‘team collaboration tool’. I’m not sure I know the difference. Subtle I guess. Clear as mud.

The issues with Yammer, and Delve for that matter, is that user acceptance is a problem, despite management support. That applies to all social business applications, not just Microsoft. According to usage, Yammer uptake is fast and then dwindles because users can’t seem to absorb it into their daily routine. Organizations such as ours, use it as the corporate post-a-note and post everything on Yammer – as a result, I don’t use it as 99% of the information is irrelevant. For a social business application to be a success, there has to be some value to the end user that makes their job easier, faster, more productive. Or, they just won’t use it. There are some highly sophisticated and robust social business applications available that do just that. Although, in Microsoft’s defense they recently did add a few features to Yammer, and I may add, business features.

In an excellent review of business social applications, in which Yammer is included, Real Story Group found, “Yammer tends to focus on microblogging for its own sake, rather than more advanced applications; thus it does not solve SharePoint’s application problems. Functional thinness and siloed streams means that many customers have seen a drop off in adoption after making the initial connection. Yammer usage can explode (at least initially) within an organization. However, be prepared for Yammer usage to become a kind of siloed stream within your broader digital workplace. Yammer is good for what it does, but after initial connections are made, sometimes usage drops off as employees struggle to place the service within the regular workflow of their daily work.”

The Enterprise Collaboration & Social Software Evaluation Report

Real Story Group

The problem described above, despite the industry problem of user acceptance, is the business benefits are not clearly articulated. For Yammer, it didn’t turn out to be as ‘intuitive’ as Microsoft first claimed. I remember months ago, Microsoft actually ran a contest that Yammer end users (a primarily Microsoft Yammer group) had to use the product correctly and they could win a prize. Not surprisingly I got quite a chuckle about that one. If a highly technical audience couldn’t figure out how to use it, who to use it to, and when to respond to whom, how are the rest of us?

I guess we’ll just wait and see what Yammer is to become next month. Unless it gets lost again.

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Keeping the Problem People Out of the System – Possible?

It’s widely documented that most security breaches are caused by internal staff, either by accident or on purpose. Training can help in the accidents, but what about a disgruntled employee who deliberately causes a data breach? Think it won’t happen to you? Think again.

In an article on ZDNet, ‘After OPM breach, Manning and Snowden are just the beginning’, the author, David Gewirtz commented on the basic problem of people and security, “It is impossible to separate individual decision-making and action from the national security apparatus of any nation. Sure, we can carefully vet individuals, subject them to background checks and psychological tests. We can interview friends and neighbors. We can examine financial records and elicit stories about what they were like in college. We can certainly weed out the obvious problem cases. But we can’t keep all the problem people out of the system.”

Ok, you may say well, that’s the government and the staff can deal with highly secure information that impacts the country. That’s true. According to Mr. Gewirtz, “While some very misguided individuals celebrate Snowden’s actions, I submit that any individual who harms the American economy to the tune of at least 47 billion dollars and costs nearly a million jobs is no hero.” I hardly think that most organizations are in the same position as the government.

But, what if a data breach happened in your organization? Chances are it isn’t going to jeopardize national security – but your organization is in for some hefty fines, potential loss of brand and customers.

How do you protect your organization from the enemy within?

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Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks

Microsoft recently made senior executive changes, which I can’t comment on. According to the press release: “In an email to employees Wednesday (June 17th), Microsoft Corp. announced changes to its Senior Leadership Team to drive engineering alignment against the company’s core ambitions: reinvent productivity and business processes, build the intelligent cloud platform, and create more personal computing.

“We are aligning our engineering efforts and capabilities to deliver on our strategy and, in particular, our three core ambitions,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “This change will enable us to deliver better products and services that our customers love at a more rapid pace.”

That’s all well and good, and I will assume the changes were needed. Here’s where I have somewhat of a problem with Microsoft. I don’t understand their marketing message, except that every product is ‘better than sliced bread’. For example, Yammer is a micro-blogging tool, a couple of weeks ago, they decided it is now a ‘team collaboration tool’. Ok. Office Graph is promised to be their leading edge search product. Machine learning and artificial intelligence, around for the past 60 years hasn’t had much success so why is it better? Will I be able to find what I am looking for? They keep pushing Delve and right now, it’s reach is too small to be a true productivity tool (not to mention some of the negatives), so why the push? Delve, right now is not a compelling reason for anyone to move to Office 365.

In the SPTechReport newsletter dated June 24th (free registration required), Dave Rubinstein wrote a polite, but to the point article and I quote, “Chris Johnson, a group product manager on the Office 365 team at Microsoft, told attendees at today’s SPTechCon Developer Days keynote that the company expected users to adopt the new technology simply because Microsoft said it’s the shiny new thing. Microsoft hadn’t done a good job of explaining why people should adopt the new technology.

When Microsoft bought Yammer, everything people understood and used for SharePoint social went away in like a minute,” he said. “Everything became about Yammer, simply because Microsoft bought it.” There was no messaging from Microsoft as to why Yammer would be a better social alternative.

The same could be said about Office 365 itself. Microsoft released it, and “encouraged” (to put it gently) users to move off the SharePoint servers they loved, used and understood simply because Microsoft said the cloud was the future.”

Perhaps the change in executive staff will help. I wish Microsoft would take a step back and look at the big picture of Office 365. Perhaps ask customers what they would like to see in the cloud? Novel idea. Decide if it delivers business value? Piling up products through acquisition or development and throwing them against the wall to see what sticks is not a viable marketing strategy. Maybe I am old school, but where are the business returns?

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Walking the Tightrope of Cloud Security

Interesting article, To Err Is Human; to Indemnify, Divine?: Human Foibles in the Cloud, authored by Tanya Forsheit, and published in Data Privacy Monitor, that looked at both the enterprise and the cloud provider for owning responsibility of security in the cloud. Security is still an issue of reluctance for organizations thinking about adopting the cloud. And rightly so, with the dramatic rise of data breaches and hacking, organizations should be confident that their information is safe.

Although the cloud adds additional concerns, many of the same issues exist in on-premise only environments. so I’m not sure why the ‘let’s throw up our hands attitude’ is so prevalent. Back to the article. It is well reported by both the Ponemon Institute, and now BakerHostetler’s inaugural ‘Data Security Incident Response Report‘ (the “Report”) that concluded employee negligence and theft were two of the top five causes of data security incidents for the more than 200 incidents that they handled in 2014. Nothing new, except to confirm findings from the past several years.

The viewpoint expressed was an atypical response. That there is risk both for the organization and for the cloud provider. The author broke down the two perspectives as follows:

  • “If I am an enterprise customer and my cloud provider disclaims all liability or indemnification obligations for data security breaches except those resulting from the provider’s own willful misconduct or gross negligence, how can my company protect itself from plain old negligence (not just willful misconduct or gross negligence) of employees of the cloud provider?
  • If I am a cloud service provider, how can I agree to accept unlimited liability for the mere negligence or wrongful conduct of employees and still provide cloud services at a low price point to thousands of enterprise customers?”

Obviously both perspectives are sound, if not logical. As far as I am concerned, the organization has to clean up its own house (errgh – cloud) first. Why on earth would a cloud service provider accept unlimited liability, as the ‘human’ element is one of the greatest sources of data breaches? But, how then does the cloud service provider more or less, test the organization’s environment so the cloud provider is willing to take more risk? Or do they just say, ‘sorry, we’ll do what we can, but you’re on your own’.

I do think it is a valid dilemma. Although, I do believe there is a certain amount of fear expressed by organizations but I am not sure if they really understand the issues.

What do you think?

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Is your web site mobile ready? Do you care?

On April 21st, Google made changes to its mobile search algorithm that Google feels are mobile friendly sites and will promote them with more weight than a non-mobile site. I suppose the giant is allowed to decide if all the web sites in the world are up to snuff. Anyway, it appears that Brad Ewald, Principal and Founder of Boulder Marketing Technology decided to put Fortune 500 companies to the test. The result was 44% of Fortune 500 sites failed and another 4% did not respond. Is this a big deal? Probably not, as one reader pointed out, the Fortune 500 would probably suffer no damage to brand and probably didn’t care that they weren’t necessarily mobile friendly.

Interesting conundrum. I suppose all of us must cave to Google’s new rules. I don’t necessarily disagree that mobile is the way of the future and sites should be mobile friendly. I’m sure (at least I hope I am) that Google did quite a bit of research before making this change. Currently on our web site, less than 15% of site visitors typically access the site via mobile. Not that I would like to lose any visitor, it is not an overwhelming number, at least not right now. On the other hand, as a technology company our site should be mobile friendly, simply because of what we do.

My opinion, is it should be the decision of the organization, not Google, and depends greatly on the individual marketing strategy. IBM did not fare well in the above test. Does it need to? Probably not. Wal-Mart was number one in the mobile friendly sites listing. Does that make sense, yes as business to consumer sites would rate mobile friendly as a decisive marketing advantage.

But what is the real issue? The problem is of course money, 90% of Google sales come from on-line advertising, annual revenue growth has dipped to 10%, and expenses have grown to 75% of sales. The consumer shift to mobile is hurting Google’s on-line advertising. The three reasons provided by Steve Tobak in his article, ‘What the heck happened to Google?’ he states the following as the real issues:

1. Search advertising, where Google is strong, is becoming more and more fragmented as users migrate to searches within mobile apps as opposed to search engines.
2. Display advertising, where Google is weak, is a far bigger piece of the advertising pie on mobile devices than on desktop computers.
3. Advertisers pay less per mobile ad click.

I guess we are at the mercy of Google until they figure out a different way to make money. Is your site mobile ready? Does your organization care?

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Is Microsoft Complicating Matters with SharePoint On-line?

We just wrapped up our annual Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 Survey, and one of my thoughts was to question if Microsoft has complicated their positioning with SharePoint 2016 On-line. They are by far the leader in cloud collaboration tools and would have to make a huge blunder to erase their market share. They have sent several jumbled marketing messages including SharePoint going away (since retracted) which didn’t sit well with their very loyal SharePoint on-premises customers. Obviously continuing down that road could potentially be a disaster, hence some backtracking and voila, SharePoint 2016.

Despite the often negative opinion expressed in independent SharePoint surveys, SharePoint organizations, for better or worse, are wed to SharePoint and reluctant to change. The inclusion of SharePoint Online, in many ways, muddies the waters as organizations must now evaluate their long terms plans for SharePoint and Office 365, as opposed to making a cloud based application decision that will address the organizations specific need, such as collaboration, document management, or enterprise social applications. In many cases, these organizations don’t need, or want, the full functionality of Office 365.

Microsoft has made the decision to develop Office 365 as the most comprehensive solution for the cloud, in other words, be all things to all people. Based on our survey responses, savvy organizations are, and apparently will, continue to evaluate non-Microsoft cloud solutions to meet very specific needs, as opposed to buying into the all-inclusive approach Microsoft has now undertaken. Organizations may just remove SharePoint 2016 On-line from the decision making process to achieve an ‘apple to apple’ comparison of competitive cloud products. This is evident in the growing number of responses we received in our survey from organizations who are seeking alternative enterprise search options outside of SharePoint, an approach that has definitely changed from last year.

It will be interesting to watch how, or if, the landscape will change.

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