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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Oh Vista!!

While Tom Raftery has strong views about Microsoft claims about Vista, I like this one currently doing the rounds.

Vista upgradation is a serious job for enteprises. Read this perspective on issues around upgradation and this chart summaizes neatly when and how to do the upgradation. If you are looking for economic benefits or a number driven logic for upgradation - good luck.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Vision Of Business People Writing Software

Charles Simonyi, the former chief architect of Microsoft, is arguably the most successful pure programmer in the world, with a personal fortune that Forbes magazine estimates at $1 billion. Bill Gates calls Simonyi "one of the great programmers of all time". He is now pushing a new way of developing software.

Now, some background : Research shows that bad software is terrible for business and the economy. Software failures cost several billions a year,and fully 25 percent of commercial software projects are abandoned before completion. Of projects that are finished, 75 percent ship late or over budget. software itself doesn't run very well. Everywhere you look, software is over budget, behind schedule, insecure, unreliable, and hard to use. Anytime an organization attempts to introduce a new system, or upgrade an old one, it takes a colossal risk; today, large information-technology projects are technological tar pits that immobilize institutions. Studies regularly report that two-thirds of such projects encounter major delays, significant cost overruns, or both. Governments haves found it nearly impossible to introduce or upgrade large-scale software systems. Businesses have fared no better. The article points out that McDonald's executives dreamed of a Web-based management system they called Innovate that would track the real-time flow of burgers, fries, and chicken nuggets in every one of their restaurants around the world. By the time they gave up and canceled the project, they had to write off $170 million of its estimated $1 billion total cost.
What ails the technology world : Simonyi acknowledges that he is disappointed that we have been unable to use “our incredible computational ability” to address efficiently “our practical computational problems.” “Software is truly the bottleneck in the high-tech horn of plenty,” He recommends a new approach whereby programmers will stop trying to manage their clients' needs. Instead, for every problem programmer’s are asked to tackle – business, scientific or system applications, they will create generic tools that the computer users themselves can modify to guide the software's future evolution.
His approach(christend as intentional programming) : Anything that can be done could be done meta. Intentional programming would add an entirely new layer of abstraction to the practice of writing software. It would enable programmers to express their intentions without sinking in the mire of so-called implementation details that always threatened to swallow them. As he sees it, Intentional programming has three great advantages: The people who design a program are the ones who understand the task that needs to be automated; that design can be manipulated simply and directly, rather than by rewriting arcane computer code; and human programmers do not generate the final software code, thus reducing bugs and other errors.
But the the real problem, as Bjarne Stroustrup captures is that software developers) are in a permanent state of emergency, grasping at straws to get our work done. We perform many minor miracles through trial and error, excessive use of brute force, and lots and lots of testing, but-so often-it's not enough. Software developers have become adept at the difficult art of building reasonably reliable systems out of unreliable parts.

As I see it, Intentional software looks too grand a scheme – experience suggests that grandiose vision and technology implementation seldom go hand-in-hand. Incremental rather than radical innovations dot the advancements of programming space. Whilst getting the requirements right is blinding obvious is it not more that such specification has to be in terms and language that are common to the business and the "developer"? To achieve this will require the development environment to change and this in turn will require a completely new design philosophy to building business applications. At the core is the need to recognise how business actually works . His idea presupposes that the business and technical world have a good degree of hold on the art of abstraction. The reality is that we are far from that. This also assumes that business people want to generate software on their own.

Project failure rates attributed to poor capture of requirements is seen as a rising curve and today is the single most often cited reason for project failures. The crux of the issue is not inability to develop clean, neat and efficient program –with tools and experience these objectives can be met – instead the challenge is always getting to give a solid shape to fuzzy and evolving requirements. Business configuring applications on the fly dispensing programmers look too far fetched to me to visualize in real world. I see that even in Business Rules/Process management initiatives where business gets empowered, the reluctance of business to take charge of scheduling or enforcing rules on their own and instead they prefer to work through IT specialists. In the lifecycle of applications, several changes and modifications keep happening and these demand significant attention. Various levels of promise of auto code generators that failed to deliver are still haunting the IT World.The key challenge is that many assume that in real life business world there would be homogeneity in application landscape – that never happens . The rise of EAI,Messaging, chron jobs, CICS –SAP interface, rules engines , BPM tools all point to this. So it could well be time to focus on solving the right problem.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Intel's 45nm Wonder

Fab plants are amazing to watch. The cleanroom technology, the big bets that manufacturers take, the technological advances that come with every new plant - all these make it a wonder of its own kind. I have visited a few fab plants around the world and every plant has a story of its own - conveying a perspective of the semiconductor industry. Like that of the pharma industry investing in new molecular formulation, the semicon industry makes lots of investments on every new fab plant. Scoble posted a great video tour of Intel’s 45nm fab and a breakdown of some of the interesting points. Transistors up to now were created using silicon dioxide. Hafnium-based Metal Gates are much harder to manufacture, which is why it took so long. Intel is the first company to do this process. This is a real breakthrough from Intel. Imagine a life without semiconductors and visualise the technological progress clocked centered on the semicon - my admiration for the industry keeps growing.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Presenteeism, Technology Advances & Degrading Quality Of Work Life

“Presenteeism", or going to work when sick, is a persistent problem at more than half of U.S. workplaces and costs U.S. business a whopping $180 billion a year, research shows. The CCH research shows that CCH research shows 56% of human resource executives see "presenteeism" as a problem now, up from 39% making the same complaint two years ago. Like its more notorious counterpart absenteeism, it takes on growing importance as employers try to keep an eye on productivity and the bottom line. Presenteeism costs employers in terms of lowered productivity, prolonged illness by sick workers and the potential spread of illness to colleagues and customers and this can prove elusive to measure, unlike absenteeism. Paradoxically, as a matter of fact, presenteeism is often encouraged, as employees may be honored for perfect attendance. A significant number of workforce suffer from lack of privileges like paid sick leave notes the study.
Combine that with the affliction of continuous partial attention. Our attention bandwidth has been stretched to upper limits. We are in a constant race to beat the bandwidth that tech provides us with. I wrote several months back that email is degrading from productivity wonder to maddening time worsener. Continuous partial attention is motivated by a desire not to miss opportunities. We want to ensure our place as a live node on the network, we feel alive when we're connected. To be busy and to be connected is to be alive. Most people are working hard to maximize opportunities and contacts in our life. So much social networking, so little time. Speed, agility, and connectivity at top of mind. We are so inundated with such thoughts & tune that marketers are humming that for two decades now. Now we're over-stimulated, over-wound, unfulfilled. The next aphrodisiac of attention would be around committed full-attention focus, where experiencing this engaged attention is to feel alive. Trusted filters, trusted protectors, trusted concierge, human or technical, removing distractions and managing boundaries, filtering signal from noise, enabling meaningful connections, that make us feel secure, are the opportunity for the next generation. Technology alone can’t fill in here and do justice. The problem is so acute that this has given raise to a new method for improving the effectiveness of an enterprise's information workers by providing culture, processes, and tools to gain control over the messages sent, received, and discovered by its information workers- enterprise attention management to address these and related issues. This may need other convergent forces - sociological and economical to operate in alignment with this technological advance.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Private Equity & Value Creation

Private equity firms are raising capital at a record pace, acquiring businesses, and in many cases creating tremendous value for themselves and their investors. And corporate boards of directors, which are meant to manage for the long term, are getting sucked into short-term issues, such as compliance. It is clear that private equity has been giving public ownership a run for its money. No wonder given that more than half of all CFOs say they would cut a project with a positive net present value to hit a short-term earnings target set by the market. KKR’s Johannes Huth highlighted recently that in this efficient markets unlike that existed decades back, private equity can create s value today is by fundamentally changing businesses and driving growth. They do that by making sure that management is a significant participant in value creation and by maintaining our focus.
In a large conglomerate, there is always one business that isn't a priority in terms of capital allocation, but PE folks would run every one of the businesses as a priority and dedicate the necessary capital to them. Strange it may appear, but it is likely that PE management may be more better at corporate governance than a public company. The amount of effort spent on due diligence helps them gain so much insights, that while they sit on the board, they have a detailed understanding of what the company does enabling them to be very good sparring partners for the management team in further driving value. I have also seen that an expert executive can ask for the right data and trends that a company executive with most sophisticated systems and processes might not even be tracking. Most of the publicly held big companies make their executives operate in a zone of comfort that hardly they would be encouraged to look beyond. In developing countries even public companies run by owners/ extended family mostly run in a top-down fashion or a set of cronies run business and the top guy just manages them while watching for growth. A study found that more than three-fourths of the surveyed executives would give up economic value in exchange for smooth earnings. Managers believe that missing an earnings target or reporting volatile earnings reduces the predictability of earnings, which in turn reduces stock price because investors and analysts dislike uncertainty. The Five C’s of private equity are definitely interesting. This note confirms the trend: Boards of professionally sponsored buyouts are typically more informed, more hands-on, and more interventionist than public company boards. There are several reasons for this:
• Private-equity boards typically have the advantage of in-depth due diligence that precedes a buyout, and they use this highly specific knowledge to oversee the ongoing business.
• Private-equity directors typically spend more time with their companies after the buyout than many of their public company counterparts.
• Private-equity boards are typically small working groups composed of individuals with relevant operating and financial knowledge.
• Private-equity boards are typically composed of members with substantial wealth at risk.
• Private-equity boards know how to structure financial incentives that deter reckless gambling and reward profitable growth.
• Private-equity boards rarely rely upon quarterly or monthly meetings alone. They review a continuing flow of detailed monthly earnings reports, and many directors engage in weekly and often daily conversations with management. The idea is to pursue a candid, informal, and continuing dialogue with management.
• Finally, most private-equity boards operate with a time horizon stretching beyond quarterly earnings reports, reflecting the complexity of corporate restructurings and other long-term growth strategies.
As I see it, anything that questions status quo and takes shot at inertia is welcome and more so in this dynamic fast changing world - private equities contribution in changing the nature of business are quite telling. I would like to see them more active with deals(not just activities, while I am fully aware of the various regulatory challenges that they face therein) in more promising parts of the world- emerging economies.

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Resources For Trendwatching

Came across this piece by Leon Ho . He has come with a note equivalent to the beginner’s guide on how to track trends. He centers his advise on a set of online tools and online resources.
- Watch Alexa Stat,
- Track Technorati,
- Look at Google PageRank,
- Read Slashdot/Digg,
- Use news aggregators
- Use Feed readers

Just wanted to emphaise that these are just tools(and as such available to all). Real trend watching needs oodles of insight, experience and the power of deductive reasoning and ability to think inductively. No doubt the tools mentioned here are very powerful resources – they are excellent in their ability to scan wide. They have facilitated the raise of an industry - blogosphere. Mere pointers won’t provide the depth that is needed – that’s the forte of gifted and experienced people.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Software Ecosystem & Buyer Choices

Some quick ramblings before I take the early morning flight. As I am close to finishing the week, working with several teams working on finalizing responses to various opportunities - these cover at least half-a dozen spaces outside of the routine enterprise application arena, I mean these are of the specialized kinds which business plan to have after getting their basic systems in place. Many ask me – colleagues, partners , prospects and customers to help them choose their solutions. I msut say that the choices for the customers are increasing when they consider specialised solutions and not diminishing as generally observed. While every one has specific needs and every situation demands specific methods to determine right fit- I shared some broad outlines of methods to look at a viable technology solution. This assumes that all other parts of the evaluation cycle(presence, pricing, technological fit/elegance etc..) are seen to be equal. I see that every product that I come across claims to score big on its ability to combine new features, enhanced integration capabilities and scaling up to provide improved performance. I see that every one is making efforts to improve on multiple parameters – that includes sales & marketing!! Hidden inside these are a few sizzling winners of tomorrow.

Lets look at the ways the enterprise software companies evolve – they start with basic software – generally a point solution that is aimed at solving a known problem. A well run company with good management , vision and execution capabilities chart out their evolution path. It is fascinating to watch the way these companies evolve – from point solutions they progress towards becoming a platform. With platform status, these companies boast of a related set of capabilities, supplementary and complementary to the core besides leveraging standard architectural and technological standards. Their next point in the evolution cycle –for some stagnation and fading out and for some – evolution into becoming a part of ecosystem, sometimes revolving around other products or alternatively allowing some solutions to evolve and integrate around the product itself. This is where well defined/ semi defined standard software components are leveraged to co-exist with standardized products. There comes the professional service providers – sometimes they succeed in massaging, extending & integrating these into a solidified solution. The foundation of the ecosystem determines its ability from that point to scale up –vertically and horizontally. User conferences, patents, case studies, online presence for support that could facilitate multiple parties to come together all begin to happen at this point of time. Analysts and experts begin to notice the product and come with their own set of assessments. Then management gets the chance to look for buyouts or opt to get bought out. Financial engineering begins to take considerable focus from this point onwards.

From building an effective solution, that can even be a product category winner, upon good reference qualifies to get into the next stage of becoming a platform. The broader it is , all the more better goes the wisdom at this stage. The stage for other players in the enterprise space to notice the product is set here. If the companies manage to survive and grow at this stage –they stumble into the next set of challenge. For them to take on larger players they have to play the game and work towards building an ecosystem Companies like Microsoft and to an extent IBM have set gold standards in terms of how to build a vibrant ecosystem. Going beyond products they envision and invest in building beyond products, focusing on building entire communities of customers, solutions, consultants and services providers. The expectation at this stage is to that they would use their technologies to address business problems with their customers. Companies then focus on enriching this ecosystem making it more wide and deep, then strengthen the product lines further – technical upgrades and functional enhancements. Plan a major release every 18 months. Companies that have thought through and executed well upto this stage usually manage to live long – it is very difficult for them to disappear overnight.

Potential customers seeing such a company/product happily shortlist them (all other things being equal) for their buying considerations. Customers then see an array of players supporting the product and not just a single company. No wonder almost half of the enterprise solutions(barring the ones from the top three) tend to get sold as influenced sales (influenced by their partners). These companies should navigate through a maze of options in every stage of their growth including managing to catch on disruptive innovations. That’s where good management vision counts.

For customers looking at buying new solutions – watch for the evolution of such players and their current standing amongst the ecosystem partners. There are a lot kreo factors to consider - am only mapping one part of the whole equation viz. the evolution of stable and viable vendors. Go beyond the bells and whistles comparison – CIO’s need to have jobs beyond tomorrow- they look for companies and solutions that would continue to support business needs continually.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The CIO, Enterprise & Business Applications

Dave Girouard of Google highlights that technology is leading companies to spend 75% to 80% of IT budgets simply maintaining the systems they have already. Besides a shortage of money, Girouard notes CIOs face strict regulations and an impending brain drain with many CIOs in particular are really in a difficult situation, and innovation isn’t something they can spend the majority of their waking hours talking about. The information technology business as it pertains to large businesses has become a lot of maintenance IT officials approaching retirement. The key point to note here is that a lot of things that people think of as core IT functions need to disappear into the ether so that the IT organization can properly focus on the value-added [activities]. I like the part where Girouard says that the “consumerization of information technology,” describing budding efforts to bring the user-friendly features of consumer products to the workplace is getting center place and this pales the efforts of enterprise technologies makers who tend to add lots of features as a way to improve a product, but instead the extra bells and whistles often make products so complex they detract from the user experience.

As I see it, he has got the issues correct – most of his solutions like security managed by third party or SaaS looks too far fetched for CIOs’ to even consider them as a serious option. In general inside large enterprises, application strategy has traditionally been centered around packaged applications; it is becoming broader and open to modification and adaptation. The challenge here is that business change is inevitable, but the application often does not keep up and is certainly not the catalyst for the change. The enlightened business users realize that the interplay of business strategy and application support demands a more-robust application strategy that can help drive tangible business results. From a CIO’s perspectives the ability to stretch applications with no disruption to business is the most likely place for the IT department to show significant value to the business. This is where tech vendors stake their claims that their technologies are the best suited to make this happen. Vendors are generally motivated to tie the user organization to them, making their solutions indispensable and giving them a long-term revenue stream. Add to this that not may people at the top understand technology. The people at the bottom that do are not mature enough to sell it to the top. This results in a discoherent vision of technology. The Fortune 500 companies are very likely to be atleast a decade behind on technology. It is easier for CIO’s to stick with what was done before and works, even if there are better choices out there. Most big companies are very risk averse. The new dynamics of enterprise applications require a dramatic rethinking of business and technology models for sellers. With too many software products and companies looking for a problem to solve, this is the key thing that they should focus on. All these have to be accommodated when we see the boundaries between applications, operating systems and middleware disappearing.

While covering the tumult that is happening in the enterprise software space, I recently wrote, atleast in respect of the enterprise software, which is closer to the heart of CIO’s its clear – as I had always been telling - while vendors are addressing market realities to keep their industry vibrant and with consolidation fever ahead - one could clearly hear the voice :whether customers would benefit a lot because of this, add the need to make more innovation happen and absorb faster. Observers tend to overestimate the creativity and innovation that entrenched technology companies can bring to a particular problem and underestimate the effect of business-model conflicts that lurk behind the scenes ( as applicable to all majors). Innovation need not be always of the disruptive type but every type of Innovation counts. In today’s hypercompetitive world ,simply put innovation is non-negotiable and innovation streak is of very high value to enterprises. As I wrote recently , the enterprise software market players will have to reflect and embark on an important restructuring and transformation to become more vibrant, broad based, innovative and bounce back as a serious contributor to the growth of the industry ecosystem and the business at large.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Business, Leadership & Swing

It is fascinating to read this interview of Wynton Marsalis, artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, who was named one of America's Best Leaders in 2006 by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

His Tips :
• Everything in jazz and business starts with integrity. Listen to others. Respect them. Build trust.
• Groups who work together "swing." They believe "we" is more important than "me," and by doing so, absorb mistakes.
• You can be creative inside or outside of tradition. Inside, you reinvigorate. Outside, you counter-state.
• Creative people dare to be laughed at. They don't act like what they are. They be what they are.
• Embrace opposites. They are, in fact, the same.

I particularly liked this answer of his as well.

Q: What is "swing," and how can a business get it?
A: Swing is a rhythm, an era in American history, and it is a world view. In this world view, there is a belief in the power of a collective ability to absorb mediocre and poor decisions. When a group of people working together trust that all are concerned for the common good, then they continue to be in sync no matter what happens. That is swing. It's the feeling that our way is more important than my way. This philosophy extends to how to treat audiences, consumers, staff or dysfunctional families. This may seem idealistic, but think about how church congregations recite, nearly together and completely unrehearsed. They proceed by feel. Swing is the single objective. It is the core that makes us all want to work together.

Q: On stage, what's the difference between a leader and a follower?
A: Children are only responsible for themselves. As adults, we find ourselves responsible to and for more people, our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, our country, our world. Our ascension to a mature level of citizenship is directly related to the responsibility and size of things we choose to take on. In the arts, this ladder leads from your personal artistry to your art form, then on to all the arts and finally to humanity itself.

Also read this for a better perspective.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Record Corporate Profits, Business Optimism Look Set To Drive Technology Investments Upwards

Surplus cash is building up on corporate balance sheets around the globe because of the tremendous profit boom of recent years. James Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management believes that sooner than later this would find its way into investments and a significant part of this may go towards technology spending. Adjusting for inflation, capital expenditures have increased about 8 per cent in the past year. As noted here, Corporate profits are at their highest level since 1929 in the US. Medium to large privately held businesses around the world are considerably more optimistic about the prospects for their economies in 2007 - with an optimism/pessimism balance percentage of +45%, up from +39% last year, according to International Business Report (IBR) from Grant Thornton International published recently. Oil prices are well below 50$ level . Fund managers report that shareholders would like to have more dividend payouts & leverage more debt to fuel growth. In shore the possibility of higher capital expenses look bright(despite some warnings that adjusting for inflation, profits may be more or less stagnant).

As I wrote recently, almost four years after the publication of Nick Carr’s article, we find that IT investments continue to grow around the world. IDC finds that worldwide spending on Information Technology will reach $1.48 Trillion by 2010 from the current spending levels of $1.16 trillion on information technology in 2006 and this represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.3% to reach such projected levels in 2010. Dig deeper – we find that the investments are planned across the various segments. Lot more emphasis is definitely needed across enterprises in assessing returns on investments made in IT. As a major block of capital expenses, IT procurement indeed needs the application of modern management models. Erik keller warns of a tumultuous year ahead for technology vendors. Have no doubt, the world ishungry for technology and more and more investments and far better returns are sure to happen.

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The Strengthening Offshore Wave

The Sandhill study on Offshoring reported that offshoring is now a widespread business practice in the software industry. Amongst the findings therein :84 percent of software executives surveyed report that their companies are currently engaged in offshoring, and another 4 percent say they plan to move operations offshore.

The Software & Information Industry Association’s latest survey on the trends and current state of global software development find 80% of companies are achieving their expected goals with half reaching 100% of their savings goals in offshore software development, a significant achievement, indeed measured in any whichever way. The survey covered a mixture of executives of firms who currently offshore and those who do not have come with ringing endorsements of offshoring benefits. Some highlights :
- Aside from cost advantages as the primary factor,a significant majority find that the other drivers include the likes of managing global software development in terms of achieving speed to market, productivity gains
- While 1/3rd are engaging/partially engaging captive units, more than a half currently use offshore service providers, a quarter employing a hybrid model of both approaches.
- Most of them have realistic expectations of achieving cost efficiencies. Most of the respondents were looking at over 25% savings by going offshore for software development and the most notable thing is that over 75% confirming that that they have achieved at least 75% of their cost saving goals.
- Fully two-thirds of companies who work offshore claim the quality of work is above average when compared to onshore staff, with 25% rating the quality as “excellent” or “outstanding.”
- Locationwise, India continues to be the favorite location for offshoring and 20% find china as a choice location.
A recent McKinsey study The Emerging Global Labor Market, predicted that more than half of global software employment could theoretically be executed fom offshore. In an year from now, the report predicted that almost 1/5th of the service jobs could be offshored. More than 3/4th of the R&D could potentially be sent to offshore locations, while 2/3rd of support and services could be offshored.
Clearly realistic goals about offshoring are achievable and no wonder offshore project manager is amongst hottest jobs in IT industry.
What’s the tinge of realism here : Conventional ways of measuring productivity may be slightly spotty and hence the emphasis on specific prodictivity metrics for different type of operations. Obviously, different enterprises are taking different routes towards offshoring services.Some keep the differentiating core processes insourced and the commoditized context elements outsourced and offshore and some companies look at retaining high value-add activities onshore while offshoring low value-add activities. Even while offshoring, some enterprises ponder about having captive units while most look at outsourcing partners and a few manage by balancing these options. But increasingly the drivers of offshoring centered on cost, productivity, speed, risk all can be addressed only by collaborative and concerted management attention. Like managing any business, constant attention and means to improve on the results are permanent in the agenda of offshoring. The pioneers and major beneficiaries of offshoring have understood this and are benefiting adequately. Look at the ever increasing numbers of offshore vendors outsourcing multiple millions of work every year - that number is showing a consistent upward trend for several years at a row - one best source of data could be the quarterly/annual reports of Top Tier India headquartered vendors to study this. Like well managed companies managing to reap better returns in business, well managed offshoring strategies shall fetch better returns.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Cash Is King & Options Take A Backseat

I had a dinner meeting with a CTO of a startup from the valley yesterday- few years back he had started his own venture and closed it down in the early part of the decade and joined this startup. While discussing various points one thing that came out clearly was that the valley is getting hot again. Amy Vernetti, an executive recruiter reports, "We are now seeing the inevitable return of rising cash compensation packages, candidates with multiple offers and yes, ¦the signing bonus is back!!! The bonus was popular during the silly period of the late 1999, but universally hated by employers and investors. It's surprising to see it come back, but the good news is, we haven't seen too many of them - yet." She also has some interesting lessons learnt in high tech companies recent struggles for talent. Some of the things highlighted by her:
- Candidates are far savvier this time around about equity compensation but cash is now equally important.
- Candidates know the market for talent is heating up and the best ones aren’t in the mood to negotiate,
- Reference checking must be done discreetly and quickly

Clearly the war for talent is heating up.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Startups, Cash Burn & Success

Startups tend to spend less and conserve more cash these days says this WSJ article. Today's start-ups,says the article, “hoard their cash and find inexpensive ways to attract attention resulting in reduced start-ups' "burn rates". This way the current tech boom may play out differently than the dot-com frenzy. As start-ups aren't going through cash at such a blistering pace, that gives companies more time to figure out what works in their business. Many venture capitalists right now are flush with cash to invest, so some are giving bigger-than-needed chunks to start-ups. They also like to give more so start-ups have enough socked away in case of an emergency. The start-ups that save are also finding their cash cushion gives them more time to tweak their products and business model.
All these are fine, but I would personally like to see startups focus better on business models, go after innovation, push new frontiers and more importantly get revenue going – this is the time they can take more bold steps given that additional rounds of funding can be got more easily. As I see it,startups are very essential for the growth of the business ecosystem. By definition, startups have a different velocity, rhythm and in the course of its growth, may have to make multiple decisions – therefore the team matters a lot. Funding is not the be all and end all - while it is certainly the NO.1 issue in any stratup, the execution strength, speed and innovation would matter a lot more.Bigger organizations could do with more heterogeneity and capability spread in a wide band but startups are different. As the Friendster story shows, execution strength, sense of timing and exit strategies would be very important. Clearly all through, key people in startups need to stay hungry and foolish.I think clarity of idea, robust business model, flawless execution, customer and market focus, constantly reprioritizing and realigning , transparency, clear thinking, quick decision making, retaining the risk propensity, growth focus, full involvement and a bias for action amongst the founders and key employees all would make the difference between winners and wannabe’s.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Art Laffer Speak

Arthur Laffer, known for his Laffer Curve is always interesting to read when he talks about a range of issues:
Art Laffer expects oil price to fall down below US$35(oil just dropped under 50$ levels yesterday),in the next two years and has interesting views on a variety of topics – he thinks SOX is good for the business, he expects the dollar to get stronger, less bullish on china & india - contrarian to the core. Mark Skousen the interviewer notes that he’s also known as a brilliant money manager and economic forecaster, and since 2000, his Macro 100 stock portfolio is 48 percentage points ahead of the S&P 500 Index.
MS: Are you still bullish on China and India like most analysts?
AL: Yes, but not as much as I used to be. I was bullish on Japan a year ago, but not so much now. We look at every country’s monetary policy, tax policy, etc.
MS: Do you envision the dollar crashing?
AL: No! It’s going to rise. When oil prices decline, the trade deficit – what I call the capital surplus – is going to come way down. These are all cases of a reversal to the mean.
MS: Aren’t you worried by the regulatory stranglehold of Sarbanes Oxley?
AL: I think Sarbanes Oxley is great! Yeah, it’s added a layer of regulation that has hurt small business, but I’m on a lot of company boards, and a lot of companies have found Sarbox to be highly beneficial because they’ve learned a lot more about their companies, the good and the bad.
MS: Are you concerned at all about worldwide terrorism and the war in the Middle East?
AL: I really don’t see much of a problem. I think the Middle East is terrible, but it’s always been terrible. Iran and Iraq need the oil money badly, but when the oil price drops sharply, as it will, it will be the best foreign policy we ever had, and we’ll get rid of those tyrants in Iran and Venezuela. Sure, terrorism is a problem, but I lived through an era in the 1950s and 1960s under the fear of Soviet attack, and that was much more scary.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Private Equity Hype

Airlines, Casinos, Newspapers – unexpected industries and candidates are hit by the private equity wave. For sometime there is an expectation that private equity players shall make big moves in the tech sector. Intergraph got acquired by private equity players recently. This article believes that companies like EMC, Yahoo, Dell could be up for grabs and the current marketcaps? Hold your breadth – EMC @29.6 billion, Dell @58.5 billion & Yahoo @ 34.6 billion. Limited debt, healthy cashflows, businesses that can be spun-off/isolated for sale or further growth are all common reasons.

I agree with the reasoning & logic – mouthwatering for private equity biggies. Sometime back even Intel was considered a potential candidate for private equity play. My take : unlikely as things stand – except in the case of Yahoo, which could get caught in some takeover talks – private equity or otherwise. What’s your take?

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The Elusive IT –Business Alignment

IT alignment to business is the cardinal principle that CIO’s hold close to their heart. The results of this year's "State of the CIO" survey concludes: Alignment brings the money!No matter what investment are being absorbed bywhichever technology.
In simple terms this means that if you match what you are doing in the IT department to the goals of your business—whether it be growth, building brand loyalty or entering new markets—you will, most assuredly, increase your chances for success as a CIO. Amongst the key findings:
CIOs who said they were aligned with the business reported that
- IT had enabled a new revenue stream more than twice as often as those CIOs who said they were not aligned (24 percent versus 11 percent).
- They had used IT to create a competitive advantage for the company than unaligned CIOs (38 percent versus 23 percent
How do IT processes & business strategy align ? The answer lays in how CIO’s communicate with C-level colleagues. This is not an easy task – only 1 in 5 CIO’s are able to make this happen. Aligned CIO’s put a high degree of importance to innovation and related activities.

As I see it, the key thing to note here is that, it is "less and less of technology and more and more of social relationships!" – Collaboration between IT & business has to be part of a Business Leader's DNA. its all about communication, commitment and trust. I want to emphasise this – it’s a to way street. Sometimes, I do see that many CIO’s may not be even in a position to list the top three priorities of business in non-technical terms and more often than not many business units look at IT as something that can be bulldozed. This won’t work overall and that’s where the organizational DNA matters. The good part of it is that seeing the benefits of demonstrated results, enterprises can get towards getting there. IT alignment can be evolved & nurtured. Whichever organization does it better, faster and cheaper would stand to gain lot more out of technology investments.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The 2007 IT Spend Pattern

A recent Mckinsey survey pointed to the advent of two trends in information technology that will become increasingly important to CIOs in 2007:
- A migration to service-oriented architectures and
- The introduction of lean-manufacturing principles to data center operations.
An Alinean study of IT spending finds that Across the 37 industries in the study group, innovation investments were up sharply in several segments – a point correlated well by Saugatuck finding that IT spending priorities can shift significantly from year to year.

In its latest study on IT spending, Saugatuck sees a strong pattern emerging from the data . At least eight of the top ten spending priorities for 2007 will result in improved integration and availability of data and/or applications, enabling enterprises to better leverage existing IT and to improve business and IT operations and efficiencies. The research believes that we may be seeing the beginnings of a gradual shift back toward larger and “big bang”-oriented IT investment strategies.

The significance : The 2007 IT spending themes of integration, efficiency and effectiveness suggest a continued user investment focus on project-based IT, and imply a continuation of strict financial controls over IT spending for user firms – and continuation of a tough sales environment for IT vendors. Vendors need to continue to improve margins even as they face smaller opportunities – although, more opportunities are likely to emerge based on the broad range of investment priorities. For 2007, IT executives need to continue to align IT investments to achieve key business goals and initiatives to assure that performance improvements continue. This puts increased responsibility on the IT solution provider to assure that proposed projects are aligned with corporate goals as well.
The dynamism, more than anything else proves that IT Does Matter!!

Image Courtesy :Saugatuck

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Social Media & Big Consulting Firms

I recently wrote, blogs are becoming more international than could have been expected. In summary, blogging takes time, commitment, and honesty. In return connections are made that are personal and strong. Blogs are not a fad. They are no longer even an option. Those businesses that choose to remain outside this online conversation, will be sidelined. Eventually they will become extinct. The hype is real. Well here’s a ringing endorsement that I came across.Watson Wyatt is starting a social media practice ,points out Gautam Ghosh. Michael Rudnick, Watson Wyatt’s national intranet and portal leader, writes in Strategic HR Review, giving examples of some success factors for employers to succeed in social media. Calling it a new wave, he advocates that one needs to embrace social media quickly. The thrust here is on user generated content and suggest that easy collaboration and not control as the best enabler for success. Some interesting findings cited therein:
- Watson Wyatt’s research found that during the last three years there’s been a 400% increase in social media behavior.
- Watson Wyatt expects that nearly 50% of the employee population will soon prefer – and expect – collaborative and interactive methods of communication with their employers.
It recommends amongst other things to start introducing social-media tools using a small group of employees whose profile fits the Web 2.0 criteria.
This is a ringing endorsement and we may soon see other blue blooded consulting forms to follow suit with similar insights/recommendations.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

The 2007 Top Ten Intranet(s)

I follow Jakob Nielsen quite regularly. I find him as the most consistent web usability guru , a rare thing given the fast changing nature of the web. He writes about the award winning 2007 top ten intranets and shares some trends noted around the world.
1. Intranets are definitely getting bigger. Across the first three Design Annuals (2001-2003), the average intranet contained 200,000 pages; across the three most recent Annuals (2005-2007), the average intranet contained 6 million pages.
2. Intranet budgets are also getting bigger, though we had one winner this year with an annual budget of only $8,000, so it's still possible to design a great intranet on a shoestring. Mainly, though, the winning intranets have gained substantial management support and have reasonably big budgets.
3. Averaged across the winners, there was one intranet team member for every thousand employees. This ratio means that intranet team efforts are magnified a thousand times. For example, Microsoft's intranet homepage is viewed 5 million times each month Such a high degree of leverage is why intranet design can have such a tremendously high return on investment (ROI) when done well.
4. Contrary to last year, when most of the winners hailed from outside the US, this year 6 of 10 winners are American. Of the four winners from other countries, three come from countries that have generated many past winners: Germany, Sweden, and the UK.

Key Trends:

A. India finds a representation in the list this year. Jakob explains that although the World Bank Group used an Indian design agency when it won in 2002, the bank itself is a multinational organization headquartered in the US, so we counted its intranet as US-based. Thus, Infosys is the first winner truly based in India. Having India join the ranks of winning countries is a clear symbol of its growing might as a software superpower.
B. Rise of Usability in Manufacturing
C. Multimedia, News, and Ratings
D. Multinational Intranets
E. Standard UI, No Standard CMS
F. Pragmatic view about Web 2.O
Read the article and the report. Fully recommended.

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Findory To Fade Away

Greg Linden writes,

development on Findory now will slow to a crawl. There may be new features, but they will be rare. I no longer will spend time exploring funding, biz dev deals, or recruiting. Findory appears to have sufficient resources to run on autopilot through most of 2007. Findory will eventually fade away.

He explains that Findory built around the idea of applying Amazon.com-style personalization and recommendations to information as against search, personalization helps one discover things that could not have found on one’s own. Findory would have been a great tool, for it is aimed at addressing the most critical need of the times –information overload. I like Greg Linden’s writings and love reading his amazing insights into the search and personalization space. But somehow I was never able to find specific results out of Findory which I could not find elsewhere nor was it the first to show up such results.(Techmeme scores very high on this). Findory’s neighbour ranking did not appeal to me all that well. The number of sources from which Findory synthesized information were quite less. Sad to see Findory go down like this. A few months back PubSub took a simialr decision.(Findory was miles ahead - no doubt, when compared with PubSub). The ideas behind Findory are really good. I still think that there may be some out in the world who may find findory to be good, and invest in building and extending it.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

IT Does Matter

As Nick Carr recaps his 2003 work –“IT doesn’t matter”, it makes interesting reading but in my view fails to cut much ice. His key theme was that as information technology becomes more powerful and ubiquitous, it is increasingly a shared resource that everyone has access to. He repeats this and claims as a result, it's getting harder and harder to use IT to gain any kind of edge over competitors. The standardization & commodization of IT while increasing its usage across different business makes it difficult to be used in unique ways by business to maintain competitive advantage.

As I see it,standardization and commoditization of a technology don't always mean that innovation stops. Once products become commodities, they can serve as components for further innovation. The automobile, light engineering, home offering industries all were overwhelmed with innovative offerings when standardization become the norm. While desktop PC's, Web servers, databases and scripting languages have become components in larger, more complex systems, these help immensely in creating complex and groundbreaking applications. It can’t be ignored that as these components got more standardized, the opportunities to create innovations have multiplied. Even if Carr's thesis is partly right, new technologies keep floating that are yet to be commoditized and business needs to be pursuing those and the others on the anvil that will help them keep strategically relevant by enabling them to be continually successful. Social media is now invading Inc.500 invading Inc.500 companies ( the traditional laggards in IT investments) with a vengeance. In this competitive world, companies cannot afford to ignore information technology, or relegate it to the back burner.
Lets examine the issue that IT has become commoditized. Generally speaking today, fewer than 50% IT projects manage to meet their budgets and more often than not miss their schedules as well. Ask any service provider - despite the claims of simplification of certain aspects of IT, it's still miles away from the point where setting up a content management or HRMS system is as simple as setting up a household appliance, despite big vendor’s public claims to the contrary. The fact is that each and every IT environment is different( and the range of difference can be very high). The availability of cheap commodity servers, system software and other hardware doesn't mean that IT strategy is any easier to implement and there is nothing to suggest that all users would benefit the same way on IT investments.
The real world understands this better. Almost four years after the publication of Nick Carr’s article, we find that IT investments continue to grow around the world. IDC finds that Worldwide Spending on Information Technology Will Reach $1.48 Trillion by 2010 from the current spending levels of $1.16 trillion on information technology in 2006 and this represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.3% to reach such projected levels in 2010. Dig deeper – we find that the investments are planned across the various segments. Vinnie makes the case for better vendor management. While agreeing with him, I find that more emphasis is definitely needed across enterprises in assessing returns on investments made in IT. As a major block of capital expenses, IT procurement indeed needs the application of modern management models. Have no doubt, the world is hungry for technology and more and more investments and far better returns are sure to happen.

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The Challengers Of Traditional Media

The other day , I saw in an Indian magazine – Business Today, a full page ad from Google India advertising for a position – I was for a moment curious about the choice of the media given the reach and pull that Google enjoys. Infosys finds that financial services company attract talent with better salaries and higher glamour quotient, much to its chagrin. The war for talent is intensifying. As I wrote earlier, after all winning the people war is a crucial determinant of success for any organization. In most of the knowledge business, the future value of enterprises are centered on building seemingly intangible assets vs the conventional measures of capital assets. Thats where good, capable people, well aligned team, well conceived strategy and top quality leadership matters. So it makes sense for online majors and category winners to leverage conventional media for its advances.
Its in this context, I found outsell inc’s the 20 company to watch list very interesting. Outsell Inc’s list has within it – far more companies than ever tat belong to the the search and technology categories . This, goes the claim demonstrates where valid, new challengers to traditional media will emerge. The second annual “20 to Watch” report shows who is presenting competition and threats to traditional publishing companies’ leadership, and how the landscape of information delivery continues to be rocked. This year’s 20 fall into six categories:
Search and data mining—Endeca, Eurekster, GlobalSpec, Snap.com and ZoomInfo.
Social networking and communities—Facebook, ITtoolbox, Last.fm and YouTube.
Bookmarking and tagging—Digg.
Business models—edgeio, Simply Hired and Zillow.com.
Virtual worlds—Second Life.
Technologies—Dapper, Fronter, Mozilla Firefox, RuleBurst, Salesforce and
Wait for the time, when the 100billion revenue earning companies begin to use online media aggressively when they plan to staff their CEO’s position. The online intersections with the traditional media is indeed getting stronger and more innovation and investments are going to make this transition faster, stronger and deeper.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Bridge Between Vision & Execution

Ram Charan has come out with a new book, Know How, focused on leadership. Charan who earlier wrote the book titled –“Execution” essentially brings out the linkages between being a visionary, articulate and moving "leaders," and those who are great doers – who actually get things done. He brings out "the eight skills that separate people who perform from people who don't," and some of the relatively widely publicized summaries of its high points are worth reading.

Ram Charan's insight into the real content of leadership provides you with the eight fundamental skills needed for success in the twenty-first century:
- Positioning (and when necessary, repositioning) your business by zeroing in on the central idea that meets customer needs and makes money
- Connecting the dots by pinpointing patterns of external change ahead of others
- Shaping the way people work together by leading the social system of your business
- Judging people by getting to the truth of a person
- Molding high-energy, high-powered, high-ego people into a working team of leaders in which they equal more than the sum of their parts
- Knowing the destination where you want to take your business by developing goals that balance what the business can become with what it can realistically achieve
- Setting laser-sharp priorities that become the road map for meeting your goals
- Dealing creatively and positively with societal pressures that go beyond the economic value creation activities of your business

Know-How is the missing link of leadership. Ram says that these eight know-hows link to, interact with, and reinforce personal and psychological traits and helps make people better leaders. He further elaborates these ideas in an interview, in terms of how this can be applied to current day business.
Q: You identify 8 know-hows. Can you take us through one of them?
A: In this time of continual change, money making or business models are becoming obsolete more frequently than ever before. It wasn't that long ago when AOL was king of the hill. That leadership was taken over by Yahoo. Now Yahoo is at a crossroads and the leadership has been taken over by Google. So far Google is ahead. It has the central recipe to increase its revenues via advertising because it knows how to measure advertising effectiveness better than anybody else. Leaders at both AOL and Yahoo must be scratching their heads trying to figure out how to reposition the company to make money in the new context. Repositioning is a know-how. It's hard work, and it requires imagination. We will have an opportunity to see about the decision made by Time Warner top brass to summarily replace Jim Miller with Randy Falco of NBC Universal. Randy has a distinguished record. He will have to demonstrate one of the most crucial know-hows in this book: Can he reposition AOL for the new game, and in time? Cost cutting is not the answer.

Citing case studies from his consulting practice, Charan identifies personal traits of leaders that help or interfere with the know-hows.

1. Ambition. The drive to accomplish something but not win at all costs.
2. Tenacity. The drive to search, persist and follow through, but not too long.
3. Self-confidence. The drive to overcome the fear of failure and response, or the need to be liked and use power judiciously but not become arrogant and narcissistic.
4. Psychological Openness. The ability to be receptive to new and different ideas but not shut other people down.
5. Realism. The ability to see what can be accomplished and not gloss over problems or assume the worst.
6. Appetite for Learning. The ability to grown and improve know-hows and not repeat the same mistakes.

Too often, there are people who focus on envisioning, strategizing & planning look down on those who make things . Obviously while running an enterprise, such compartmentalization would not work and in this dynamic world, where dynamism is the order of the day, what is seen as entrepreneurial shall be required of corporate executives as well. Ram Charan helps organization and people to develop and nurture such talents.

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New Twist In The iPhone Trademark Tussle

While it appeared initially that Cisco(Linksys) owned the iPhone trademark, it now appears that Cisco does not own the mark as claimed in their recent lawsuit. This is based on publicly available information from the US Patent and Trademark office, as well as public reviews of Cisco products over the past year. The trademark was apparently abandoned in late 2005/early 2006 because Cisco was not using it. Ed Burnette over at ZDNet asks a question we haven't seen anywhere else. Has Cisco already lost its right to the iPhone trademark? Several specialists in trademark law describe how Cisco's trademark was registered back in '99 and may not have been properly renewed or used within the 6 years (plus 6 month grace period) span allowed.

According to Jay Behmke, a partner at CMPR who specializes in trademark law,

The Cisco iPhone trademark was registered 11/16/1999 (Reg. No. 2293011). In order to keep a trademark registration active, you have to file a Declaration of Use on or before the sixth anniversary of the registration date, in which you state, under penalty of perjury, that you have been using the trademark continuously during that period. The sixth anniversary would have been 11/16/2005.Cisco did not file the Declaration of Use by 11/16/2005, which if they had been using the trademark would seemingly have been easy to do.

A search of product reviews of the Linksys CIT200 shows no mention of the word iPhone. The first mention appeared in December 2006 when Cisco unveiled a series of new products bearing the iPhone name. It was not until then that the CIT200 was rebranded under the iPhone moniker!! Read the number of articles/links paraded in support of this argument. Clearly,Cisco claims look lot more weak. The case is getting more and more curious.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Telecom : The Convergence Effect

With advances in technology leading t the tearing down of walls, the telecom industry is poised to become a sectorless industry and is poised for
massive changes. The sector looks like all set to change more and more. Imran Shah of IBB Consulting has an insightful view of the developments in the US telecom space.He thinks that fixed-mobile convergence is an area that is going to be taking off but expects that this is going to be a very, very different situation than what happened in the long distance arena or in submarine cables, transatlantic submarine cables, which was hyper-competition, in which eventually everybody kind of pulled each other down. He adds,

What we are moving toward is a duopoly. The telcos don’t compete with each other, the cable companies don’t compete with each other, but they compete amongst each other. Telcos don’t compete with telcos and cable companies don’t compete with cable companies. So, in each market, there are two major full-service providers that have all four services: broadband, video, phone, and mobile. So it’s a perfect duopoly, which means that there has to be a lot of innovation without the hyper-competition and the price erosion that comes with it, which is kind of a great breeding ground for very good, healthy growth because none of them can outprice and kill the other one. It’s not like having two companies and one of them is bigger, and you can price-cut them. Nobody’s going to make Comcast bankrupt by price-cutting them, and vice versa.

His prediction for the future: There will be two healthy duopolies, and then there will be a couple of pure plays. Satellite is a pure play, and a company like T-Mobile and others like it are pure plays, which will be mainly price plays.

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Attention Economy & Enterprise Attention Management

The attention economy is the new economy. This is an age where Presenteeism is plaguing corporates around the world and continuous partial attention fast becoming the norm.

Burton Group’s Craig Roth finds that we are in an information economy, you are what you know, and not knowing what you think you should know causes stress. With e-mail overload, instant messages popping up at an increasing rate, and interruptions following you through Blackberrys and cell phones, it is becoming increasingly difficult to pick the important information out of the noise. The solution – Enterprise Attention Management – a method for improving the effectiveness of an enterprise's information workers by providing culture, processes, and tools to gain control over the messages sent, received, and discovered by its information workers. EAM provides a common model and vocabulary for technologies that help harried information workers to pull important messages forward to get the attention they deserve and push less important messages backward to avoid distraction.

The upside to deploying this: EAM is not how to make attention grabbers more effective, but is how to make an organization's information workers as a whole more effective. The problems causing "info-stress" are growing exponentially. Enterprises that address corporate cultural and behavior by implementing capabilities available in existing platforms will be ahead of the curve. Examples include using "attentional" technologies that pull the correct messages forward as along with "attention shielding" technologies that push unwanted messages back.
Attentional technologies include:

- Personalization
- Search (saved)
- Social networking
- Portals
- XML syndication (RSS and Atom)
Attention shielding technologies include:
- E-mail and IM filtering and rules
- Presence status indicators
- Enterprise automatic call distributor routing

Forget if these technologies also find place in other emerging frameworks. It’s also a good problem to solve. First create the infrastructure & methods to create a new model economy – then work on managing it!!.As I wrote before, full attention focus is essential as experiencing engaged attention is to feel alive. Trusted filters, trusted protectors, trusted concierge, human or technical, removing distractions and managing boundaries, filtering signal from noise, enabling meaningful connections, that make us feel secure, are the opportunity for the next generation. Opportunity will be the tools and technologies to take our power back. This may need other convergent forces - sociological and economical to operate in alignment with this technological advances. While the collaborative tools provide the technological support, social intelligence binds them together for effectiveness.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Social Media Invades the Inc. 500

The Inc. 500 are thoroughly involved in social media at an adoption rate more than twice that of the Fortune 500. This is the finding based on Inc.500 survey & follows the earlier report, released several months back. Research from The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Center for Marketing Research shows increased awareness and perceived importance of six prominent social media (blogging, podcasting, online video, social networking, wikis). Eric Mattson & Nora Ganim Barnes find that social media is the most familiar to the Inc.
Amongst the other key findings:
A clear trend is emerging.The social media revolution is coming to the business world.. Already there have been even the most fervent believer in social media. They indicate that corporate familiarity and usage of social media is racing far ahead of what many have predicted. The Inc. 500 knows far more about social media than one might predict The survey finds that all six forms of social media are far more widespread than anticipated.

Not only is this widespread adoption being driven by strong familiarity but also from the recognized critical role of social media to a company's future success in today’s online world. From familiarity to usage to importance, social media is far more prevalent in the Inc. 500 than previous research would predict. And where these fast-growing, innovative companies lead certainly the corporate world will follow. The social media revolution is here. That opens up more opportunities for the entire ecosystem.

It must also be noted that blogs are becoming more international than could have been expected. In summary, blogging takes time, commitment, and honesty. In return connections are made that are personal and strong. Blogs are not a fad. They are no longer even an option. Those businesses that choose to remain outside this online conversation, will be sidelined. Eventually they will become extinct. The hype is real.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The iPhone Mania

Smartphones are now becoming not just the teens or corporate executive companions. They are becoming objects of possession and the latest and sleekest always tops the list of great to show category. A phone from Apple is indeed an excellent add to the list. David Pogue has an excellent coverage on the iPhone.

It feels amazing in your hand. Not like an iPod, not like a Treo — but something new. It’s so thin, and the rounded stainless-steel edges are so smooth, you can excuse its larger-than-Treo façade. When you’re on a call, it’s so cool how the screen turns off to save power, thanks to its proximity sensor.
* You operate the iPhone with your fingertips. Apart from buttons that appear on the touch screen, the only physical buttons are volume up/down, ringer on/off, sleep/wake and a Home button

So what exactly is the iPone: Weighing less than a half –inch thin – the IPhone is slimmer than almost every other phone on the market. It comes with a built-in, 2-megapixel digital camera, as well as a slot for headphones and a SIM card. Add to the attraction, the phone automatically synchs the user’s media - movies, music, photos - through iTunes on computers running either Mac OS X or Microsoft’s Windows. The device also synchs e-mail, Web bookmarks and nearly any type of digital content stored on a PC.

The touch-screen-controlled device plays music, surfs the internet and delivers voice mail and e-mail differently than any other cell phone. The phone supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless technology and can detect location from Global Positioning System satellites. It also can send and display e-mail and text messages. Apple is partnering with Yahoo on web-based e-mail and Google on maps. It is tempting to demand a few other features to be added in the planned june release to the market:

- A built in video-conferencing with iChat – If this can be done in laptop displayes, easily this can be integrated into the super smart phone.
- GPS integration ( sender side integration)
- Voice recognition
- Third party software/device integration
- Extended battery life
- Flash Memory
- On-the-fly-downloads
- 3G Killer phone

This is a high spend category – I am seeing people are changing their handsets very often with the arrival of smartphones. I see that the Blackberry is now about to become a part of large enteprise but is falling short in terms of third party applications and integration features. If Apple moves in the enterprise space with determination besides catering to teens and fashion conscious people, it is in for a huge success. It is amazing to see the planning and secrecy that was maintained for such a ling time – while involving major partners. Phones are on track to become the largest platform for digital music playback, and Apple needed to make this move to help defend their iPod franchise as well as extend it beyond a dedicated music environment.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

SOA Promise & Adoption : A Reality Check

SOA as a management discipline,is yet to be realized, says saugatuck in their new research finding- SOA Reality Check : Three Waves Of Adoption through 2012“.

Saugatuck has come with a lovely report on the state of the SOA adoption and the direction in which it is evolving, based on detailed survey & discussions. Confirming the view that SOA is experiencing slow, but steady, adoption among large and mid-sized enterprises, it finds that SOA is still in very early deployment cycles. The report based on extensive structured survey finds that the early implementers of SOA are primarily taking a technology-led approach to SOA deployment as against the widely held belief that many early adopters were viewing SOA as needing to be a business-led initiative and many initiatives are at early planning stage or at trial deployment around legacy application integration. This is surprising as it goes against the grain of the expectations of SOA deployments. After all SOA’s promise is to provide organizations with improved ability to execute and manage business in a flexible & agile manner at reduced costs.

How come one of the most talked about tech wave failing to reach maturity of adoption? The reality is that many believe that SOA will not reach its full potential to transform businesses. Governance, resource management & funding models all have to change contends this well researched report to change the prevailing sentiments. Saugatuck has summarized the impact of these drivers and inhibitors, which shows a typical SOA adoption framework constructed around three "waves" of activity.
- Wave I: Departmental initiatives, Project-based
- Wave II: Cross-departmental initiatives, Process-based
- Wave III: Enterprise-wide initiatives, Program-based

The timing and duration of each wave varies by user enterprise, but the waves themselves are clearly evident in each enterprise claims the report. The net result of this three-wave trend is that SOA adoption is best accomplished through a series of planned and governed escalating activities, each of which yields technology, knowledge and skills that enable further progress, and new challenges in ascending to the next wave. Success in SOA passes through the gate of governance.Every enterprise looking at SOA needs to understand this framework and calibrate their present and future SOA centric initiatives.

The report hits the nail on its head, when it summarizes that the real benefits of SOA are unlikely to be realized unless:
- Users are willing to take on the serious challenges of implementing SOA as a
wholesale change in the way business units work together and develop systems,
- Vendors do a better job matching their rhetoric and roadmaps to users’ short-term
goals, rather than to the grandiose, longer-term goal of improving business agility

Saugatuck research are becoming the CIO’s best friends and this report is no exception –in fact this addresses the issues and opportunities centered around one of the most promising technology advancement. Order the report here.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Traffic Analysis : Google Blog Search Vs Technorati

Few days back LeeAnn Prescott of Hitwise wrote about Google blogsearch surpassing technorati in terms of traffic. I blogged about it and pointed out that my web traffic analyzer showed more traffic coming from blogsearch compared to Technorati. Well, it appears that the case may not be that easily established. Andy Kazeniac of compete.com pointed out to me that their analysis found that this finding does not align with Compete.com data. Compete.com analysis shows that Technorati continues to hold a significant advantage over Blog Search.

I checked with yet another source – Quantcast and find that Technorati’s unique search numbers exceed that of Google blogsearch but lacks behind Tehnorati in relative growth (Quantcast data relates to November end data only unlike the decemeber end data used by the other two players). A feature by feature comparison would put Technorati ahead of google blogsearch (assuming all technorati features work well - for example tagging mechanisms are still not fully fine). I do know that measurement methodologies may vary between agencies and after a complete study of data available thus far, I shall far now go with compete.com Ryan Carigg’s assessment to be more objective, while I await Hitwise response on the matter. Objectivity and judgement is needed even in looking at trend graphs.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Technology, Attention & Social Intelligence

Call it the great paradox. This is an age where Presenteeism is plaguing corporates around the world and continuous partial attention fast becoming the norm. Courtesy of Manish saw this excellent interview with Daniel Goleman, well known amongst other things for his work on Emotional Intelligence. Mr. Goleman holds the view that social intelligence (this is a term being discussed for more than seven decades) is a composite of many abilities. You can also read his latest book, titled Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships,released recently on this topic. Some people might be fantastic at recognizing what clients need - that’s a form of empathy. Some people might be very good at feeling the mood of a room and tracking that moment-to-moment. Some people might be very skilled at making new connections, have extensive networks. Other people might be very good at understanding the political dynamics of a company. If you’re at a high level in business, odds are you’re pretty good at many of those. So how do the rest of us get better? The answer, Daniel Goleman says, is very simple: by listening.

“Listening poorly is the common cold of social intelligence. And it’s being made worse by technology. To have a human moment, you need to be fully present. You have to be away from your laptop, you put down your BlackBerry, you end your daydream and you pay full attention to the person you’re with. It may sound rudimentary, but think about how often we just keep multitasking and half pay attention. You can overcome that by becoming mindful of what is happening.”

How true – I can vouch that this malaise of attention deficit is getting more grave around the world – engaging people in an involved discussion is becoming more and more difficult.

Mr. Goleman adds,

Social intelligence is being smart about relationships, it’s the interpersonal part of intelligence. The brain is wired to acquire social intelligence from birth on. Just as the first time a mother and baby meet eyes, that baby has started to lay down a blueprint for interaction, it happens naturally through what are called mirroring neurons. These mirroring neurons are a class of brain cell that operate like an internal wi-fi - tracking the emotional flow and intentions of the interacting personalities.
He goes on to add,
Humankind are constantly engaged in a “neural ballet” that connects people - brain to brain - with those around . An enormous amount of learning from infancy and childhood goes on through modelling - through observing how others act - and bringing that into the brain as part of a potential repertoire for behavior and then using it in the right situations. The brain is designed to do that, it’s very efficient.…..

So how does it exactly matter in the fast paced life : The more rapport you have in a business setting, the quicker the deal will go down and the better people will work together as a team. It’s very important to attune to that and to realise that the inner states of people as they work together matter. A work environment that is emotionally toxic is also a great detriment to effectiveness. Socially intelligent leaders recognise that part of their world is to help other people be at their best - which is to be motivated, be enthused and be interested.

As I wrote before, full attention focus is essential as experiencing engaged attention is to feel alive. Trusted filters, trusted protectors, trusted concierge, human or technical, removing distractions and managing boundaries, filtering signal from noise, enabling meaningful connections, that make us feel secure, are the opportunity for the next generation. Opportunity will be the tools and technologies to take our power back. This may need other convergent forces - sociological and economical to operate in alignment with this technological advances. While the collaborative tools provide the technological support, social intelligence binds them together for effectiveness – what a neat combination!!

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Coming Change In Enterprise & Technology

Robert Metcalfe has an interesting uptake :
To the question what surprises are in store for IT users in 2007? Bob responds:

From my point of view, there's little new in IT, particularly in enterprise software. Video might take Computerworld readers by surprise. There are three major forces - video, mobility and embedded - all three of which are nipping at the edge of IT. Video burdens IP networks, and they haven't quite seen the value proposition, but CIOs will eventually have to embrace it instead of fighting it. For mobility, the platform of choice is increasingly cell phones and less desktops. Cell phones are now a platform for enterprise applications. Embedded software, such as RFID, hasn't quite made it yet. To make enterprise applications more aware of inventory or the supply chain through RFID and sensor networks - of the three things, this is the furthest away from impacting CIOs.

I also like EDS’s Charles Feld’s view about opportunities in IT –
“There's been a huge gap between business owners and IT in terms of knowledge, passion, etc. That gap is narrowly closing in companies where CIOs and the rest of the CXOs really come together in a shared vision of what needs to happen. It's going to happen in more than one in 10 companies; it's starting to happen now. I'm very optimistic that more and more stories will be told about how they're fused together to create a 21st-century company”.

Almost everyone in the industry is pointing to YouTube acquisition by Google as a harbinger of things to come, Bob Cringley thinks that Feedburner is hot.
While covering the tumult that is happening in the enterprise software space, I recently wrote, atleast in respect of the enterprise software, which is closer to the heart of CIO’s its clear – as I had always been telling - while vendors are addressing market realities to keep their industry vibrant and with consolidation fever ahead - one could clearly hear the voice :whether customers would benefit a lot because of this, add the need to make more innovation happen and absorb faster. No,I am not talking about Marc Benioff finding SAP innovation free, while I certainly agree with his perspective that observers tend to overestimate the creativity and innovation that entrenched technology companies can bring to a particular problem and underestimate the effect of business-model conflicts that lurk behind the scenes ( as applicable to all majors). Innovation need not not be always of the disruptive type but every type of Innovation counts. In today’s hypercompetitive world ,simply put innovation is non-negotiable and innovation streak is of very high value to enterprises.

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