“"Customers are coming to us and saying 'I'd like a Watson,' " says Stephen Gold, IBM's director of worldwide marketing for Watson. Eventually, that might be possible, but first they need to have the right data sets for Watson to operate on. Watson acquires knowledge by digesting piles of text data, and many businesses simply don't have it on hand, or don't have it organized in the right way. Alternatively, a company may not currently operate in a way that would make a question-answering computer very useful. Instead, IBM can offer its more established products and services, such as more basic data storage, processing, and business analytics.”
Seriously after a year of waiting for Watson applications?
Not just picking on IBM, but it sure would be nice to see an enterprise vendor introduce a product which gets 20 million users like Google+ got in its first month, 25 million iPads sold in its first year. Kinect, CityVille, Kindle – take your pick of other successful consumer products.
Instead in enterprise world we get years of hype, drips of early customer adoption, and then forced marches of majorities of customer bases. Oh, and the usual excuse – enterprise stuff is so much more complex.
I was at a restaurant recently which had an every day/all day 2 for 1 happy hour. And it occurred to me how bars and telcos share a common trait: awkward hours for convenient pricing.
Well this restaurant – Chili’s – has the courage to break that silly rule, and as it turns out some telcos may be poised to do something similar.
T-Mobile has an offer of a free 4G mobile hotspot and a $ 19.95 a month plan. Think of the roaming web access, VoIP calls from even an iPod, iPad, laptop and other freedom from current smartphone and wi-fi plans.
Vonage has a new Extensions app which allows my international calls from my smartphone to be accounted of as part of my office unlimited plan.
In contrast, my sister-in-law visiting from Ireland tells me every text she is receiving or sending will cost at least 50c! Dennis Howlett writes about global pricing chaos.
And I think it is a safe bet that come St. Patrick’s Day, that sign at Chili’s will be long gone. What did I say about bars and telcos?
For a while, the annual Leadership Forum in Mumbai was the IT equivalent of a pilgrimage to Mecca – you had to go at least once in your career. But, last week’s event came and went without a whimper.
It has been evolving in the vendors who show up. Used to mostly be Indian vendors – this year the sponsors had names like Accenture, Atos, CSC and Steria. The audience is global – Chinese, Irish, New Zealanders networking with customers accustomed to global delivery. Mercifully, there are many more non-stops to India from most places in the world.
What has not evolved much is the content at the event. Each year, the underlying theme is how great outsourcing is, how innovative, without acknowledging that real innovation is happening at places like Amazon and GE and salesforce.com, not in the outsourcing world. Indian politicians pitch how wonderful the country is, but avoiding substantive discussion on infrastructure or inflationary issues. In that sense, the gathering is incestuous, and risks losing its stature in industry events.
Nasscom could learn from two of its leading members, Cognizant and HCL . Both run events, Community and Unstructure that are unafraid to drift in innovative directions. More importantly, they allow customers plenty to time to mingle and relax, without being bombarded by constant selling. It’s tough to stay awake in an outsourcing pitch even when Larry Ellison is coming up next – it certainly is when you are jetlagged and have had a couple of Kingfishers!
With spring training just around the corner I was talking to a friend about how the Rays and other modest city teams have learned to rely on “small ball”. (If you have seen Rays players like Crawford, Upton, Jennings on first base you know what havoc they can create)
Reading Dennis Howlett’s post on SuccessFactors, I admired how SAP has mastered its own version of “small ball”
a) Get to first base with an acquisition or product announcement
b) Steal second with what Dennis calls “self promotional advertorial coming out of Forbes AdVoice, SAP’s latest propaganda mouthpiece.”
c) Steal third with the invariable buzz in the SAP Community Network
d) Finally, not easy to steal home base, but when you have adept and media savvy partners you get what Dennis calls “Plenty of juicy praise there which is nicely summed up by this from Mark Willford, Global Managing Director, Accenture’s SAP business”
Who cares what customers or independent observers think when you can manufacture good PR on your own? Rinse and repeat, and you have the makings of a darned good season!
In the hundreds of interviews in the upcoming book were a couple of especially fascinating ones with Don Graham, CEO and Vijay Rajandran, Chief Digital Officer of The Washington Post Co. Not about political coverage but how the Post has become a diversified technology company with assets like Kaplan and its on-line education, CableOne and a bunch of social media properties.
I had considered including photos in the book for the major case studies and I collected some really nice ones. In the end the publisher decided not to include them in the print version but I have been profiling them in the excerpts here. The Post sent me a still from a video they produced of Bob Woodward and Ben Bradlee of Watergate fame as part of their iPad app launch.
I felt honored. No, not because of political leanings, but the Watergate coverage showcased the bravery of journalists and the amazing protection the First Amendment provides them.
Seriously, is that we have come to? Are there no great stories in tech to profile? No investigations to pursue? No dragons to slay?
Here’s my offer. Every one of my book chapters and case studies deserves a longer story or book unto itself. If you are a journalist or blogger pick one and I will be happy to send you a digital copy of that section of the book to help you get started. The table of contents is available here and in the PDF attached below.
That’s about 50 story ideas right there. Of course there are so many more. Ours is a great industry. It deserves a great fourth estate.
While the feedback to The New Polymath was overwhelmingly positive, I was a bit surprised what prompted some of the negative comments. A few software companies bitched about the Salesforce case study. More than a few outsourcing firms complained about the Cognizant case study. A cleantech VC told me I was too generous to Kleiner Perkins in the book. I actually took that as a compliment – most of those people were actually telling me they should have been in the book:)
So, with over a 100 case studies and cameos in my upcoming book, I am bracing for questions from competitors like what is so special about HP’s supply chain? Virgin America’s design principles? 3M’s portfolio of technology products? Google’s green initiatives?
My good friend Dennis Howlett got one of the few early review copies and kindly took the time to read it. Read his full review here, but if I can paraphrase, he wonders “why not more on enterprise software?”
There is quite a bit on enterprise software spread across the book – Flextronics’ global Workday project, Groupon’s global NetSuite project, various aspects of Salesforce’s social assets like Chatter and Radian6, SAP’s changing definition of sustainability.
But the major themes in the book are a) the consumerization of enterprise tech – how enterprises in every industry are embedding technology in their products and services from satellites in cars to sensors in shoes and b) the enterprising of consumer tech – how Amazon’s logistics and Apple’s retail stores and EBay’s PayPal banking capabilities are world class. These two powerful trends are changing what defines today’s technology elite and those 12 elite attributes make up the meat of the book.
If many of these companies I profile had sung praises of SAP or IBM, I would have given them more ink. But most of them discussed specialized technology vendors. Roosevelt Island talked about Streetline’s smart parking technology, Valence Health about SAS analytics, Virgin America about Tibco’s Loyalty Labs, Boeing about HCL’s product engineering services, UPS about devices from Symbol and Honeywell.
As Dennis observes “In the book, he cites company after company that are continuing to invest heavily in technology but not in the way most tech pundits see the world. We bemoan the apparently stagnant levels of visible technology spending yet are blind to the real investments that are making a demonstrable difference to our lives.”
And many of the elite attributes I profile have little to do with underlying technology. The chapter on Elegance focuses on aesthetics and design excellence. The chapter on Pragmatism focuses on smart technology attorneys.
Back to enterprise software. It is one tool in a growing technology toolbox. Use that hammer too often and it hurts companies as we have seen over and over in the last decade. And it certainly does not help Mercedes with its Gloria avatar or Facebook with its hyper efficient Prineville center profiled in the book.
My favorite part of Dennis’s review was “I was struck by the almost child like wonder and excitement that oozes from Vinnie’s analysis.” I was clearly inspired by the elite companies I profile in the book.
And I hope the book inspires, more than annoys, a wide cross section of readers – even those who wish I had more on enterprise software.
In The New Polymath, I was generous to the auto industry for innovating UI “with new approaches involving haptics, voice, and location.” Reading Consumer Reports over the last year, I may have been premature.
The MyFord Touch interface in particular has come under scrutiny “We have found that the voice commands don’t always work, and the busy touch screen can be awkward and complicated to use. We’ve also had problems with slow response time and, once, the system rebooting itself while driving.”
In the enterprise software world, we likely will say “welcome to the club – we have long put up with poor UI”
The big difference is year after year, release after release we wait in enterprise software. Ford is already working on revamping the interface and its competitors are blazing newer trails like Mercedes with its Gloria.
My book had also singled out Sonos for praise for its UI. No stumbling there. Last week the New York Times had a feature “How Sonos Outshines Apple in Home Audio”.