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Archive for March, 2008

Microsoft SharePoint can’t scale, but people want it anyway.

Posted by Gia Lyons on March 28, 2008

Good article on InfoWorld…

In March, Bill Gates said SharePoint had passed 100 million licenses sold, had attracted 17,000 user companies, and had eclipsed $1 billion in sales for his company.

Many critics dispute the licensing number but not the message that SharePoint is on fire.

SharePoint, however, isn’t without issues that users should consider, including the fact that it does not scale well given the way it stores data in SQL Server, a concern Microsoft is working to answer in the next version likely to ship in 2009.

Or that its social-networking tools are considered rudimentary, that SharePoint’s portal capabilities still don’t measure up to enterprise-class platforms, and that the server takes customizations to make it truly sing.

“I think there is going to be some buyer’s remorse,” Gotta says.

SharePoint does many things, but scaling is not one of them. SharePoint stores everything in SQL Server in what amounts to one universal table, which leads to lots of on-the-wire traffic and a Microsoft recommendation of only 2,000 items per list. By contrast, IBM WebSphere permits hundreds of millions of items per list.

The social-networking tools are uninspiring, and Microsoft is partnering with NewsGator (feed reader) and Atlassian (wiki) to cover bases, which will lead to inevitable feature clashes as SharePoint evolves.  

“Compared to what is out there today, Microsoft’s Web 2.0 tools look old and very static and are clunky and difficult to use,” says Oliver Young, an analyst with Forrester.

But Young says those limitations and others are speed bumps, not show-stoppers.

“I’m not sure I’ve seen anything that has taken off this big, this quickly. SharePoint 2007 has just blown up,” he says.

Microsoft SharePoint taking business by storm | InfoWorld | News | 2008-03-26 | By John Fontana, Network World.

There’s more…

“I think the most interesting trend to watch for this year and next is how IBM/Lotus reacts to this SharePoint phenomenon,” says Harry Wong, CEO and founder of Casahl Technology, which has been helping users migrate either to or from Microsoft and Lotus messaging platforms for years.

Wong says SharePoint is proving to be a powerful leading punch for Microsoft to sell IBM/Lotus users on migration to Exchange and Microsoft’s entire slate of collaboration tools.

IBM/Lotus is countering with a similar product called Quickr, and just like Microsoft with Windows SharePoint Services, is giving users a free version to get started.

To be successful, Wong says Lotus has to sell customers on Quickr vs. SharePoint; on Lotus Notes 8 and its Outlook-like interface and integration with Lotus Sametime and Connections; and convince bigger Domino shops the J2EE version of Quickr will provide the scale that SharePoint lacks

“IBM/Lotus has the weapons to defend against Microsoft SharePoint if IBM/Lotus acts quickly and aggressively,” he says.

The comments on the article are interesting as well…


Posted in Social Software | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

The good and bad of selling to global IT: a primer.

Posted by Gia Lyons on March 28, 2008

Global IT shops – IBM CIO’s office included – have a finite bucket of money to spend. They don’t generate a profit for their company. They are a cost-of-doing-business division. Some, however, have figured out how to operate as an in-house services organization that generates departmental “revenue”, which funds their annual spend, and in a few cases, generates an internal “profit” for their department. But, that’s another discussion.

Gimme payback, and make it snappy.

As a result of their no-revenue-all-cost nature, global IT shops look for a payback period of one year or less for many of their technology spends. That not only includes software licenses, but any required services to deploy it, plus infrastructure, first-year maintenance, and administrator, developer, and help desk employee costs (partial or fully-loaded FTE), plus I don’t know what else.

Now, in many cases, vendors ask customers to spend a crapload of money just for software licenses. And in the case of social networking software licenses, this is a huge spend that WILL NOT pay back within a year in most organizations’ current cultures. It might not even pay back within two years. And even if it did, how do they measure their return?

This is why our corporate IT customers need ROI statements, regardless of whether we think it’s ridiculous or not to try to establish ROI statements for social software. For the record, I think it’s ridiculous, but hey, I’m not spending the money.

Is that a hard ROI, or are you just happy to see me?

You can measure social networking software ROI with before and after surveys, for example. You could measure:

  • increased organizational effectiveness – “I spent one hour less time each week searching for an answer because of user-tagged content in Dogear,” then multiply that by your employee population;
  • enhanced innovation – “I developed a new product idea faster because I read a colleague’s blog and asked her to connect me to the right engineers,” then calculate the potential revenue of that new product getting to market faster;
  • etc.

But, it’s a laborious effort to gather these anecdotal results, and somehow apply them to the rest of your organization. Just because Jeannie in customer service found answers faster doesn’t mean everyone else will. It only works if people contribute content you care about, after all.

Plus, with social networking software, you can’t predict these magical ROI numbers beforehand, which is what global IT people are really asking for. Only by using the software in your culture, will you learn of its potential return.

Ooo, that bears repeating: Only by using the software in your culture, will you learn of its potential return.

Screw it, then. Let’s just ditch global IT and go after the business units!

Interestingly, if a vendor instead sells to lines of business (LOBs), they don’t have to do the full ROI musical – just one or two songs. Why? Because most LOBs have a budget AND generate revenue for their company. They don’t have to prove ROI in many cases, because their projected revenues for a given quarter or year will cover the cost, and by and large, they see the potential benefits immediately without requesting proof. Plus, they’re not buying for the whole company. Smaller spend plus real revenue generation elsewhere in the department equals, “what the hell, let’s try it!”

So, why don’t sellers target LOBs instead of IT, you ask? Because vendors would only sell licenses for that department or division – they wouldn’t get the whole global enchilada, which is the potential when selling to global IT shops.

Also, by selling to LOBs, you’d have to sell to several of them (or one with lots of organizational power) so that they exert pressure on their global IT folks to deploy the solution globally. Assuming they care that the rest of the organization would benefit from it, that is. Speaking from experience, that really pisses global IT off, let me tell you. That’s why they don’t want vendors talking to their LOBs in many cases.

And really, an experienced seller doesn’t want to have to sell the same solution more than once to the same customer. It might take longer to sell to global IT, but once you’re done, you’re done.

Me? I personally prefer selling to one or more LOBs, and working in parallel with global IT to support them, since LOBs usually end up wanting IT to foot the bill anyway.

How it really works today

Today, our global IT customers are conducting free proofs-of-concept with a few users. If they get the response they were looking for, they buy “starter packs” of IBM Lotus Connections licenses and conduct official pilots. Some are doing before and after surveys, educating their pilot users, and addressing corporate culture obstacles as they go. Based on the results, they’ll either buy more in six to twelve months, buy a competitor’s solution, or do nothing.

That’s how it works in emerging enterprise markets. But, when we reach a critical mass of customers using social networking software, who are willing to talk about what it did for their company, then we can go in to global IT shops with blazing ROI statements that will knock their booties off.

So, did I get this right? Did I miss anything? Tell me.

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Individual measurements in a social world – adoption obstacle?

Posted by Gia Lyons on March 24, 2008

When an organization doles out bonuses, raises, awards and promotions based on individual contributions, what’s the carrot for social participation?

I, for example, am mainly measured by my individual efforts: how many customers I work with who go on to buy my software; what leadership roles I fulfill inside and outside the organization; what assets I create for others to reuse. This is all right and good, for how else can an individual be measured? My manager can’t promote or give a raise to an entire community, after all. I contribute socially anyway, because it’s just part of my DNA. But that argument doesn’t fly for the majority. “Do the right thing” is usually somewhat eclipsed by “What’s in it for me?” – otherwise, I doubt humanity would have survived this far.

What’s missing is a measurement of how well I use my network. (I’m barred from using ‘leverage’ ever again, per one of my work pals – he mentally pukes every time that and a few other words appear. Like ‘harness’ and ‘foster’. Blech.)

If we can measure this, it will improve.

But, how do we measure a person’s prowess at making their individual contributions better because they knew who knew what, and had a relationship with them such that they could tap their expertise (there’s another blech phrase), whether directly or through their social contributions, at a moment’s notice?

To network, one must be social, must participate in online communities as well as offline, must spend time getting to know others and letting others know them.

Aha. Being social requires a stiff price: spending our most precious commodity, Time.

So really, we are asking people to spend precious time to do something for which they are not measured.

Fix this, and you will have removed a major obstacle to the inside-the-firewall business adoption of social networking and productivity behavior.

Posted in Social Software | Tagged: , | 16 Comments »

Business problems and solutions from my customer

Posted by Gia Lyons on March 19, 2008

I just finished presenting to the eBusiness team at a large consumer goods manufacturer. It was mostly communications and marketing folks, sprinkled with a few of their business partners (nice change from the usual IT-only suspects I present to!) Their IT group also talked to them about their upgrade timeline throughout 2008. Quickr 8.1, Sametime 8, and Notes 8.0.1, plus Connections 1.0.2/2.0. Busy busy busy!

The best part? I actually got to listen to them! I typically never get a chance to collaborate with my customers, so I felt extra special that they asked me to stick around and help them brainstorm about how to solve some problems that the eBusiness division had identified. What’s more, we needed to solve them within the current business constraints, as well as the current and near-future IT environment.

It was like I was back in consulting services for a few hours!

Here are a few:

Problem #1: “I get invited to too many meetings where I cannot provide value.”

R2profiles_myprofile_overview_2They described how many in their eBusiness group get invited to internal meetings when they shouldn’t be. They wished the people asking them to attend could first figure out IF they should invite someone from eBusiness, and if so, WHO in particular would provide the most value during the meeting.

Idea for #1: Add a rich-text field to their Lotus Connections Profile“Invite me to collaborate when:“ (obviously, this could be done with other profiling solutions as well). Each person could then describe situations in which they would provide the most value. Of course, for people who will never fill out a profile, seekers would need to make a judgment call based on the person’s organizational position, “frolleagues”, how others have tagged their profile, and social contributions (blog, social bookmarks, shared files, community participation, projects they’ve worked on in the past, etc.). Or, perhaps the group could use a wiki to describe how each individual contributes to the organization (assuming seekers take the time to read it, of course).

Problem #2: “I work with external business partners who do not understand us.”

They described how they frequently partner with external organizations to get work done, and continually spend time getting each organization up to speed about what they are all about before they can even begin to collaborate on a project.

Business constraint: They have not used their existing Lotus Quickplace extranet deployment to collaborate with outside folks, because the internal process to request an external team site is not an easy one (legal and security compliance constraints make collaborating externally a laborious undertaking). And frankly, sending email will always be easier than visiting a website to share documents and other information with external folks. Why? Because that’s what the majority of people out there know how to do, and won’t take time to learn anything new.

Quickr8.1Idea for #2: Set up a single external Quickr place, with general public reader access, and create “this is what we’re all about” content to which they can point their partners. Then, they could create inner rooms that can be locked down to only those partners they want to share private information with (this is a feature of Quickr). The point here is that they don’t need to request a team site for each partner; the site manager (a business user) only needs to create an inner room whenever the need arises, and invite the partner.

Once they have the Quickr site set up, they’ll still use email. How? Well, when they are about to send an email with an attachment, a box will pop up and ask if they’d like to save the attachment in a Quickr site, and just email a link to it (you can do that with Notes 7 and Quickr 8.0, too). So, they don’t have to change the way they work today, which is critical to the success of any type of new collaboration or social networking solution, IMO. They can add/delete/check in/out/version documents to the external site in Windows Explorer, since each site shows up in Windows Explorer as “just another drive”. They can also do all of this within MS Office.

Clearly, the value of Lotus Quickr (and really, any collaboration/social networking solution) lies in how it integrates with existing tools.

Quickr_sidebar_dragLinktoEmailSince they’ll be upgrading their external Lotus Quickr deployment to 8.1 (shipping March 28), and they’re deploying Lotus Notes 8.0.1 later this year, they will eventually be able to ignore the website almost completely. This is because they’ll have a Quickr sidebar in the Notes 8.0.1 client (available for Outlook clients also). They’ll be able to easily drag a document link from the external site into an email. So, they can still keep emailing with their partners, and just send links to the documents. And, they’ll be able to right-click an email and add it to the site. Great way to keep all correspondence in one spot.

The partners will be able to use the Quickr sidebar, too, if they have Notes 8.0.1 or Outlook 2003+ (I think – might need 2007, not sure). How? They’ll download the Connectors (an .msi file) from the Quickr site, and install it if they have appropriate rights to their desktop. If they can’t do this, they can always email content and documents directly to the Quickr site, since it has its own email address.

IBM Lotus Quickr 8.1 sidebar in Microsoft Outlook

They also thought that they might create a profile for each individual at the partner that they work with, so that others can get a better idea of what to expect when they collaborate with him/her. Since they won’t be deploying Connections Profiles externally this year, the idea was to allow each partner to create a profile page within the Quickr site. And of course, lock down who can see which profile, or just create them within the inner rooms that are already locked down to the appropriate people.

This idea, of course, led to creating profiles for each project they work on with their partners, using Quickr’s wiki component. This would help partners get up to speed more quickly about what the project is all about, and because it’d be a wiki page, any internal team member can keep it current. This reminded me of Microsoft’s internal Micropedia effort (which I think is a very cool idea).

And then there’s Lotus Bluehouse, a SaaS offering currently in beta.

I know of another vendor that has focused primarily on external community solutions. I hear they’re adding project-focused features in a future release – it’ll be interesting to see how their, our, and other external-facing collaboration solutions play within customers’ existing business constraints, while satisfying their needs. (god, that sounded so markety and salesy, didn’t it?)

Gotta open it up, but lock it down, and work in my existing IT environment and existing user tools. All at the same time. Fun!

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“Mommy, let’s make a crap.”

Posted by Gia Lyons on March 17, 2008

Last night, my daughter asked my husband, Chris, and I to help her “make a crap.” She was holding colored paper (we used to call it construction paper back in my day), her safety scissors, and some purple yarn.

Ah, a craft!

Chris and I had just had a celebratory dram of Jameson’s, so we had a bit of fun…

Chris: “How about we make a family crap?”

Her: “Yeah!… What do I do for the fam’ly crap?”

Me: “Eat more fiber.”

Chris (suppressing giggles): “You can thread this yarn through the holes I made in this paper.”

Her: “Ok!…” (threading yarn for a bit)… “Now, I’m going to cut this.” (picks up her safety scissors)

Chris: “You’re going to cut the crap? Great idea!”

And so it went for about 30 minutes.

We ended up ditching the yarn, and instead built this Kite Store:


Tags: , ,

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 13 Comments »

Snowy St. Paddy’s Day in Minnesota, but it’s my anniversary anyway!

Posted by Gia Lyons on March 17, 2008

It’s snowing (whimper) this St. Patrick’s day in my backyard. I vaguely remember what spring looks like, and eagerly await its arrival. Thoroughly sick of looking at snirt.

Anyway, today, I have been married for seven years to my husband, Chris. Yay for us! There are a few of you who actually attended – or almost attended – our wedding on the beach on the East Side of Grand Cayman Island, and enjoyed the sweet air and people of the Cayman Dive Lodge (which looks to be on its way to “fully restored” after Hurricane Ivan all but obliterated it in 2004). Heck, we even met an IBMer on holiday there at the time.

I’d link to the pictures of all of us diving back in 2001 (no, we didn’t get married underwater), but I can’t find them on their site anymore. Here’s what you can see at the Dive Lodge. I remember seeing a spotted eagle ray (TOTALLY thought of the theme to Batman the whole time!), about six thousand spiny lobsters, lots of eels, blue tangs, etc etc etc. You know, the stuff you expect to find in gorgeous Caribbean waters. I, of course, completely missed the hammerhead that everyone else saw.

Stingray_cityI remember getting accosted by a small male stingray at Stingray City. That greedy little bugger was not content to let me simply feed him my handful of squid. NO. He had to beat me up for it first. The ray ladies knew the drill, though. Typical.

I also remember the dog, Lucky, who sat at our feet throughout most of our wedding ceremony. This dog had been run over by cars several times, but could still run and jump and play. Thus, his name. I took his presence as a good omen, and seven years later, I still feel lucky (awww!). We felt honored to include him in our wedding pictures.

So, today, as I watch the latest snowfall cover four months of yuck outside, I will be playing Legend and thinking of the day I got married.

(Hmmm. I see a dive trip in my future…)

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Nickelodean Universe is here, complete with giant pineapple.

Posted by Gia Lyons on March 15, 2008

Today was the grand opening of Nickelodean Universe, or as my preschooler calls it, “inside play park.” It’s at the Mall of America, or as my hubs and I call it, “the BFM.”

I was so proud of my kiddo. She jumped inside the giant pineapple – “Mom, what’s that big sponge?” (we don’t watch The Squared One) – without any adults! She’s a clinger, so we’re thrilled with any of her rare displays of independence.

Another observation: I’ve never seen a bigger Dora head than I did today. And for those of you who know Dora, that’s saying something.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

The downside to sharing – lazy networks

Posted by Gia Lyons on March 14, 2008

Ok. My name is not Google, it’s not even Dogear. I know it’s easier to just ping or email someone you know and ask a question than it is to spend.. what?… 30 seconds to type it into a search engine?

You say: “Sure, works fine if you’re searching external sites, but internal sites? Another story.”

At IBM, we are expected to do our research first, unless we have no time. I understand, for example, the whole, “I’m about to catch a plane to Mumbai and the connection here at the airport is slow, but my angry customer needs an answer NOW and I know you can help, so here’s my question” occurrances, but please, if you’re spending the time to write the email or IM, or dial a phone number, you can spend less time typing it into IBM’s intranet search, W3 Search, and get this: FINDING an answer. Fast.

IBM W3 Search ain’t your grandaddy’s search anymore.

I understand that we’ve lost faith in search engines over the years, but now it’s time to come back. Things like user-tagged content from Lotus Connections Dogear have made a night-into-day difference in IBM W3 Search relevancy ratings. And you can get results from a bajillion internal social sources now.

Look at these tabs (the results of which are also available along the right side of the main search page):



And if an IBMer just wants to find the stuff other IBMers have found useful – both inside AND outside the firewall – click the Tagged Pages tab:


In fact, 50% of all W3 Searches at IBM now end with a click on user-tagged content.

I wonder what the next IBM search satisfaction survey will tell us?

Since W3 Search uses IBM Omnifind as our federated search solution, brokering search requests to all of these social sources is easier. And the newly introduced IBM Omnifind 8.5 includes a connector for Lotus Connections (and Lotus Quickr) content! Yay.

So, if you want to “bring search back” in your organization, try adding user-tagged content into the mix.

Heck, you can save the integration with your existing search environment for a later phase, and just use the Lotus Connections Dogear search browser plugin, or the Lotus Connections Search page, or the Dogear UI itself right away:


And then, pass it on: stop pinging and emailing people. Start searching for yourself, you lazy bum.


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Why aren’t you blogging on an IBM Lotus product?

Posted by Gia Lyons on March 12, 2008

My prime directive is to communicate with as many people as possible. So, I picked an extremely well-known public blog service in order to reach as many people as possible out of the gate.

Also, I realized that, had I decided to blog on an IBM Lotus product, I would probably immediately lose many potential readers due to technoligious beliefs. And really, even though IBM funds my shoe addiction, I’m all about using the right tool for the job, the right tool for the purpose.

So sue me.

Posted in Social Software | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Customer Q&A about Connections and SharePoint

Posted by Gia Lyons on March 11, 2008

Check out Suzanne Minassian’s responses to a recent customer’s questions about Connections. Methinks they were almost coached by someone from Microsoft (that never happens, I’m sure. )

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