Analysis

Analyzing tech trends, products, and developments

Microsoft Convergence Wrap-up: Surprises and new trends

New trends

  1. The Era of Big Government is over back. Since about 1994, I have seen a steady annual move of who is driving technology adoption and innovation — from places like DARPA to the private marketplace. In 2009, the driver has shifted back to the public sector. I met a lot of people who are building large sales and implementations in response to all levels of government — Federal, State and Local. This is not just the uber-sexy social media shift pioneered by the Obama Campaign and Administration. It spans all levels of government transactions (FOIA request processing, licensing and permitting).
  2. It is global world. As I mentioned before, the majority of the Dynamics presenters were international business and technology executives bringing a lot of innovation from countries beyond the US (a great thing to see). However, as I went to the different sessions, I saw this trend at all levels. I met young innovators from Mexico looking at using Dynamics to support municipal transactions, connected via Twitter with implementers from the UK and the Netherlands and met may implementation firms from India. What is clearly emerging is that a large amount of innovation (not just lower-cost implementation) is coming from all over the world.
  3. Dynamics is the next SharePoint. Microsoft made SharePoint the fastest product to reach $1 Billion USD per year in sales. It looks like they are beginning the same push for Dynamics. They are introducing many accelerators to embed Dynamics across the entire enterprise — from front-end portals to business intelligence. Expect new positioning of Dynamics against both SAP and Salesforce.com. It will be curious to see how this works its way out in which technology vendors come together to our offices to pitch the benefits of their combined products (I am remembering that SAP and MSFT vs. SUN and Oracle set of pitches from 2005…)

None of these trends were huge surprises. However they were very prevalent at the Keynote, Session and one-to-one levels. However, I did find a few surprises as well…

Things that surprised me

  1. Dynamics is selling faster than SharePoint — At least in the public sector. We have spent the last few years hearing a lot about SharePoint. I have spent a good amount of time integrating it with a variety of technologies (from Documentum to social media portals). What surprised me to hear was that Dynamics had more public sector sales last quarter than SharePoint. This means we all need to shift or expand our focus to concentrate more on where Dynamics is going
  2. I still don’t know which Dynamics ERP package to use. I had hoped to get some clarity on how Microsoft was going to combine GP, AX, NAV and SL. I still do not have this clarity. I am wondering when Microsoft will do this (Oracle bit the bullet with Fusion — it was painful, but it told me where Siebel was going vis-a-vis Oracle CRM). I was surprise to walk away with no more insight than when I arrived.
  3. CRM — Even though it is “out-numbered” is accelerating faster than ERP: CRM is becoming more broad and competitive — faster than ERP. I saw great plug-ins for Business Intelligence, Social Media, Content Management and other functions. For the most part these were easy for engineers and business people to use (XML and Excel). Don’t get me wrong. There is still a lot of work ahead to supplant large-scale legacy Oracle, Siebel, and Pegasystems implementations. However, Microsoft is benefiting from working from a single CRM product.
  4. The thinking about how technology affects how we live has evolved. I am used to hearing how technology will change our lives in these types of conferences. However, I heard a much more mature and thoughtful conversation on this. For example, I witnessed a conversation as to how open collaboration (through social networking and CRM) will affect the media business (e.g., will it force a shift towards or away from punditry as citizens get more information directly through open government systems?)
  5. People ARE building towards the Azure cloud. I have been hearing about cloud computing for years. Last week, I talked to people who are actively building in this direction. The reason I hear is the same from all: it’s the economy. For a background on this, see my posts on SaaS and Cloud Computing.

A final observation: Less would have been more

Convergence is a HUGE conference. There are hundreds of break out sessions over four days. The Expo also has hundreds of partners. This is rather overwhelming. I recognize Microsoft is balancing the interests of thousands of partners. However, I think having few sessions and booths would have allowed more focus and allowed each of the presented items to have a larger impact.

Nevertheless, I had a great time and met some very creative, innovative people.

Web 2.0: It feels like 1999 all over again

A refresher on the state of Web 1.0 in 1999

I was one of those lucky few to be a part of the explosion of the Internet (not just the dot-com boom but also the earlier DARPA-driven R&D at MIT, CMU, Stanford and Berkeley the 80s). For those of you who do not remember (or — I am sad to remind myself — may be too young to remember) here are some things that were going on in the Web 1.0 world in 1999:

  • The Horsemen of the Internet (Cisco, EMC, Oracle and Sun in the B2B world, Amazon, AOL and Yahoo! in the B2C one) had introduced “new models of doing business that would change everything” to millions of people
  • These models were very technology-centric and focused on “new measures of value” such as click-thru’s, eyeballs, audience, etc. (discarding traditional EPS and PEG values)
  • Lots of “traditional” companies were racing to adopt these models — instead one core to their businesses. (Remember all those tracking stocks like NBCi and Borders Online?)
  • Technology vendors were rushing out tool boxes to build web sites,
  • As same time, analysts were heavily questioning if these models had staying power (the stocks of the horsemen actually dipped heavily at this time — just before rising as part of the last-minute Y2K Technology Gold Rush

The Web 2.0 parallels of today are eerie

This sounds a little familiar what is happening today in the Web 2.0 world (minus the overtones of the current world recession):

  • Thanks to Web 2.0 Horsemen (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter) millions of people now roughly understand what Web 2.0 means — at least in the consumer space
  • Like 1999, the business models in the Web 2.0 space are still largely in the formative stages (just a few minutes on TechCrunch or Silicon Alley Insider will highlight this)
  • Lots of “traditional” companies were racing to add Web 2.0 offerings — with varying degrees of success. (At least we are avoiding Web 2.0 tracking stocks for now)
  • As the analyst reports attest, the Web 2.0 space is becoming filled with companies who offer “toolboxes that can uses to quickly stand up communities”
  • At the same time, many are asking if “there is any there there” in the Web 2.0 business model (and the valuation of Web 2.0 companies have crashed — ahead of the recession)

What happened after 1999 to Web 1.0

Within five years, the Web 1.0 world have moved to a very different place than it was in 1999. Essentially, it integrated with (instead of disrupting) the rest of the business world. Web technology moved from being an end-to-itself to becoming a means to create value. This significantly changed the market space: web-only companies diminished or disappeared (web hosting, domain name services and email are now commodities) while companies who could use web technology to create value-added Business Solutions created whole new markets. Examples easily come to mind:

  • Content Management systems replaced the build-your-own-website tool kits (and pushed these companies aside)
  • eCommerce platforms became a core purchase for every major CPG company
  • Advertising and creative agencies became Interactive Agencies, providing holistic advertising and brand service across all media channels (pushing the ‘webmaster’ back to the IT department)
  • CRM moved from a back office function to an real-time service to manage revenue creation
  • Digital music replaced the experience of going to the record (or CD) store
  • Searching for information online (instead of going to a library or buying a “List of…” book)

We are now ready for this in the Web 2.0 world

I believe Web 2.0 will follow a similar integration path that Web 1.0 did. Those companies who can figure out how to create value-added Business Services using Web 2.0 communication approaches (be them technology firms of consulting and creative groups) will expand and develop new markets. Those enterprises who fold these services into the day-to-day execution of their mission will realize the most benefit.

If you disagree, the perhaps you can answer the following question for me: what is the value of a blog or a forum? I do not think blogs or forums have much intrinsic value in themselves. However they can create value when integrated into a higher value business service or process.

On the other hand, what is the follow of the following services?:

  • Leveraging your customers to tell you what you need to invest in to sell more (would save a lot on Product Development and increase product success rate)
  • Harnessing citizen input to shape more efficient public budgeting (would save a lot on public referenda)
  • Using the the contributions and input of your customers to drive advertising traffic and urge new customers to buy your product (saves on advertising costs and increases sales)

Not only are these services valuable, they are also broadly applicable, easy to understand (from both a business model and end user perspective). The firms that can create these will become the Vignettes, Crispin Porters, Salesforce.coms and Apples of the Web 2.0 world.

Addendum 1: I am not the only person who thinks this

McKinsely & Company recently included a segment “Six Ways to Make Web 2.0 Work” in their last McKinseyQuarterly publication. This article discussed a very similar evolution of adoption of Web 2.0 “tools” that will overlay existing infrastructure to encourage engagement and participation. They included a graph that shows the same ten-year repetitive cycle:

MckinseyQtr-560px
Credit: www.McKinseyQuarterly.com

Addendum 2: Here we go again

IoT is the third big technology ‘wave’ in the last 50 years — and perhaps the biggest