January 2010


Levi Rocks.

Now go ride your bike.

Cross posted on my Gartner blog.

My colleagues, Ray, Allen, Mike, Mark, Andrew, Mark and Van,  are all over the iPad.  Ray’s posts are particularly thought provoking, as he looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the device. There is also lots of commentary on the web, and the consumer electronics bloggers have discussed its every detail.  I’m not going to talk about how cool or not the device is, how naff the name is or what impact it will have on the media industry, or how Steve Jobs dresses. Yet again, Apple created a Great Expectation, and managed it profoundly well.

I was thinking this morning about what impact this device could and should have on UI design. Most enterprise applications are bound by keyboard centric design thinking, basically what I call  navigation donuts. Almost every enterprise application I see is trapped in the amber of the table layouts that haven’t really fundamentally changed since the first screens appeared over 40 years ago.

Andy Bitterer commented in a recent note. (Gartner clients click here)

What would happen if Apple built a BI product? Users would probably love it and actually use it. There is hardly another company in any IT market that is considered a synonym for great design and usability. While Apple has not been known for going after the enterprise software market and rather focuses on consumer products, Apple could still easily use its visualization know-how to create an “iDecide,” “iReport” or “iAnalyze” product that was at least as attractive as those from the best-in-class vendors today. In fact, other BI vendors could learn from Apple how to build end-user-friendly and intuitive applications.

For all the talk from enterprise application vendors about user centric design and building engaging applications, the enterprise software world could really do with an Apple moment.

Many of the applications I see would not be out of place in Miss Havisham’s Mansion. The Enterprise UI design clocks stopped some time ago, and the usability wedding cake continues to rot.

So unchanging was the dull old house, the yellow light in the darkened room, the faded spectre in the chair by the dressing-table glass, that I felt as if the stopping of the clocks had stopped Time in that mysterious place, and while I and everything else outside it grew older, it stood still….It bewildered me, and under its influence I continued at heart to hate my trade and to be ashamed of home.

image

image from http://chantalpowell.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/miss-havishams-table/  a fascinating blog.

“I began to understand that everything in the room had stopped like the watch and the clock, a long time ago.” “Everything within my view which ought to be white had been white a long time ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow.”

Cross posted from my Gartner blog.

I received a review copy of Andrew McAfee’s Enterprise 2.0 just before Christmas, so I added it to my book pile as an extra Christmas present. Thank you Andrew and the publisher, HBS.

In reviewing books, I have a simple test. Would I spend my own money on a copy? This book passes that test.

There are a goodly number of reviews on the web already, so I’ll keep this review relatively short. I found Jon Ingram’s review to be particularly useful.

The book is clearly written, well structured and it is refreshingly devoid of hype (other than the slightly jarring tagline). McAfee writes well, aiming at a management rather than a geeky audience. It is an easy but nutritious read, there is little technical jargon yet it doesn’t over-simplify or seem condescending when explaining technology. More importantly It isn’t just preaching to the enterprise 2.0 choir, nor it is the Iskra for the Enterprise 2.0 revolutionaries, whomever they may be.

In the same way that technologies and new business practices have changed businesses in the past, so to are new technologies and business practices changing things today. McAfee shows through 4 case studies how collaborative technologies are changing the way we work, and will work.

The term emergence is important to Enterprise 2.0, and McAfee explains this thoroughly. I particularly liked this sentence, Emergence is the appearance of global structure as a result of local interactions.

The section on ROI is also very useful, and not just for Enterprise 2.0 projects. He goes through the limitations of ROI models in some depth, even though he uses baseball examples, it makes sense.

It was also good to see that Argyis and Schön’s Model 1 and Model 2 theory of behaviour, Granovetter’s The Strength of Weak ties, and Burt’s Structural holes were referenced in the book. I’m of the view that we need to be applying more organization design and sociology to business and IT thinking. There are many models in the sociology that we could use to better understand organizations and how they change.

McAfee also references von Hippel and John Allen Paulos. Both are essential reading.

I would have liked to have seen a further reading section. The HBR book site  wasn’t available when I looked today. This book would be well served by a supporting web site, emergent or otherwise.

The final 2-3 pages of the book are key. They link the Enterprise 2.0 proposition back to his broader research (with Brynjolfson, Zhu and Sorell) into IT and competitive difference. He briefly makes the case for how Enterprise 2.0 can improve ERP, and I wish he had made more of this argument in the book.

With regards to the relevance and the extent of emergent technologies and social software in an enterprise context, let me take the liberty of pointing to the blogs and / or research of several Gartner colleagues, for instance Anthony Bradley, Jeff Mann  Andrea DiMaio  Carol Rozwell, Nikos Drakos and Adam Sarner.  For Gartner clients have a look at The Business Impact of Socialization: Real-World Measurable Results. This collection of research highlights 16 examples of social computing that were not open-ended, undefined experiments, but rather were purposeful engagements resulting in actual measurable business benefits. (client access needed)

Somewhat selfishly, I would have liked to see more on the HR implications of enterprise 2.0 in the book. I’m doing a lot of work in this area at the moment. I have recently published a collection of short case studies on social software’s impact in HR as part of 2009 Business Impact series and I field a lot of calls from HR and IT who are looking at the HR implications of social software, both behind and beyond the firewall. In 2008 I published a note, The Business Impact of Social Computing on HR Data. (client access needed) but here is an excerpt.

 Social computing’s impact: With social computing, we’re seeing a new set of HR-relevant data: volunteered data. Employees, managers, executives, applicants and customers share HR-relevant data, but only in ways that suit them, rather than in the structured format that is required by traditional HR processes. People are sharing data to get things done and to socialize. Examples include employees maintaining internal blogs, in which they discuss their skills and interests; workgroups and document sharing via wikis; and social networks. In addition, networks such as Facebook and Xing often offer richer, deeper insights into career history, skills, qualifications and business interests than traditional HR skills and career history databases do. Organizational changes often are reflected in LinkedIn before they appear in the transactional HR management system.

I made this strategic planning assumption then.

By 2012, volunteered, HR-related data will exceed mandatory HR data in volume and value. Leading HR organizations will invest more time and effort in managing and exploiting voluntary data than they spend on mandatory data.

This is similar to the points McAfee makes about imposed, emergent and competitive advantage.

I look forward to reading his next book, and continuing to follow his academic research. As a final aside,  McAfee cites JP Rangaswami in the book. I’d suggest reading his blog. JP is high up on my list of people who I’d like to have write a book.

Thanks again, Andrew, for the copy.

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