Wednesday, November 18, 2009's Chatter: Better Business Collaboration and Customer Care in 2010?

Why is it easier to follow friends or strangers on Twitter or Facebook than it is to keep track of what your colleagues at work do and with whom they communicate? CEO Marc Benioff has been asking himself such questions, and he and the team at his company have come up with a pretty interesting answer – what he calls “our biggest breakthrough ever.” The call it “Salesforce Chatter.”

It’s designed to bring “the magic of Facebook and Twitter” to the enterprise – real-time links among content, applications and people. It’s basically a collaboration cloud – a private social network for businesses, and a platform that can enable any application built and run upon it. This means that business collaborators can communicate, collaborate and keep track of one another more easily and consistently. It also means that custom applications can gain and use social networking features, including real-time feed updates, user profiles and all kinds of interaction.

This is new and different. It’s basically a social cloud, analogous to the Sales Cloud and Service Cloud solutions has introduced previously. It’s got a lot of the dynamic, interactive flow and feel of many of the demos I’ve seen of Google Wave, but it’s focused on business functions. Oh, and it enables applications and content (such as PowerPoint presentations) to “talk” to people as easily as people talk to each other. So things that happen across the enterprise can appear as events in your organization’s Chatter-empowered social cloud.’s Chatter could turn out to be the foundation for bunches of different types of business collaborations and communications. (It’s already at the heart of the most recent versions of’s Sales Cloud and Service Cloud offerings.) If you’re interested in such things, whether you’re a customer or not, you really ought to dig into Chatter, starting at Then, let me know what you think, preferably by joining the conversation about Chatter at Focus, which you can find at

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Microsoft Office Web Applications Arrive: Is It Finally Time for Your “Office in the Cloud(s)?”

Microsoft has begun rolling out something many of us in the punditocracy have long viewed as inevitable but unlikely – Web-based, so-called “lightweight” versions of its flagship Office programs. The debut is so far limited to a subset of the Office suite, and to invitees only, but the implications for collaboration – and for the venerable, nearly ubiquitous Microsoft Office itself – are already significant.

Microsoft is in fact focusing largely on support for collaboration with its Office Web Applications. They’re accessible via Internet Explorer, Firefox or Apple’s Safari Web browser (but not Google’s Chrome, at least so far), and the Web-based version of Excel already supports multi-authoring, or simultaneous editing of the same workbook by multiple collaborators. Users can’t yet create Word documents, but should soon be able to create and collaborate on all types of Office documents.

Microsoft plans to make Office Web Applications available in three different modes. Subscribers to its Windows Live service will have no-cost access. Users of Microsoft Online Services will be able to purchase subscriptions. And companies licensing Microsoft Office 10 will also be able to license and provide access to Office Web Applications.

I expect these Microsoft offerings to be very popular, especially at companies seeking to reduce or halt the growth of their licensing and support contract costs for Microsoft Office. Many such companies have deployed or begun exploring other online alternatives from Adobe, Google, Zoho and elsewhere. However, these all offer mixed bags of interoperability and compatibility with native Office applications and file formats. So an online suite from Microsoft should eventually offer an alternative that does not suffer from such limitations. But those other online office/productivity suite providers aren’t going to stand still either.

Microsoft’s official entry into the online collaboration suite market will definitely make the market more interesting. Whether it will benefit Microsoft as much as or more than its cloud-based competitors remains to be seen. But where users are concerned, more online collaboration choice is definitely better, especially if it comes with more seamless interoperability with all of those Microsoft Office files most of us rely upon every day to do business.

If you want to know more, check out these two Focus Research Briefs – “The Productivity Suites War” (at and “10 Signs that it May be Time to Consider a Web-based Productivity Suite” (at And if you have opinions on where online collaboration and productivity suites are headed, please share them at

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Google Wave: The Future of Collaboration, Unified Communications and Business Intelligence

Note: I originally posted this at ebizQ, but wanted to make sure everyone saw it here, too. If you've already read it, my apologies -- feel free to share with someone who hasn't!

Lars and Jens Rasmussen of Australia, the creators of Google Maps, have done it again.

Google Wave is an open platform and open set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that integrates multiple collaboration techniques into logical, flexible and powerful virtual shared conversations, or "waves." You can "jump in" at any point in a wave's existence, play back parts you missed, and determine whether everyone or only certain people receive whatever you decide to share. Waves can feed blogs with minimal coding. Web sites can be wave-enabled with relative ease. You can access and participate in waves from mobile devices. Waves enable consolidated content collaboration and discussion - no need to choose between, for example, an e-mail thread and a wiki.

There's a whole bunch of other cool stuff in Google Wave, but there's no way I could do it justice here - at least not until I download and become conversant with the APIs and relevant other tools. Which isn't happening - not this week, anyway. You should go to and check out the hour-plus presentation and demo, take a shorter "sneak peek" or learn more about the Wave.

And you should expect to be as surrounded by waves as Australia, Tasmania, or your ocean-based land mass. The growth of public, private and hybrid computing clouds is very likely to be mirrored by the growth of public, private and hybrid waves supporting every type of business communication, collaboration or relationship. Which means waves will quickly become essential tools in the service of those pursuing more and better business intelligence (BI).

Why am I so confident? Partly because of what's happened to and with Google Maps - zero to near-ubiquity as the enabler of geographic content and features in Web-based applications in almost no time. Partly because of what's happened and is happening to and with Google Docs & Apps. But mostly because of all of the above, plus it's Google. And because I can't imagine any type of size of business that can't improve communication, collaboration and/or outreach to clients, prospects and partners with the current and likely forthcoming features of Google Wave.

The open APIs and protocols, along with Google Wave's native HTML 5.0 foundations, mean that integration with other online and traditional applications is coming sooner rather than later. And I'm sure that tools for analysis of feature and content access and use patterns are also coming soon. Heck, someone's probably working on direct integration with at least one open source BI tool even as I write this, let alone by the time you read it.

Frankly, I'm hoping to encourage development of more features and integrations among all interested in Google Wave. I am fervently convinced that the delivery of customizable and flexible consolidations of content creation, collaboration and sharing can lead almost directly to greater BI - and more intelligent businesses. And Google has demonstrated its ability to develop and deliver powerful, flexible and open enabling technologies. So I, for one, expect a tsunami of support for Google Wave, and for must of that support to result in new and useful options for those seeking powerful and flexible BI solutions.

Imitation Being the Sincerest Form of Flattery...

...I am borrowing an idea from my former Aberdeen Group colleague and the coolest enterprise mobility analyst I know, Philippe Winthrop, an analyst at Strategy Analytics and the guy behind the most excellent blog "Enterprise Mobility Matters." In his recent posting, "Fireside Chats on Enterprise Mobility," he describes a nifty interviewing methodology he's introduced at his blog.

Quite simply, I'm borrowing -- NOT stealing -- and adapting it for those of you interested in IT-enabled collaboration. (At MIT, where I went to school, they said MIT students never lie, cheat or steal -- they elaborate, collaborate and borrow.)

I'm starting to e-mail questions to some of the people I believe to be the leading lights in the industry, and will share my questions, their answers, and my reactions to them with you here. So stay tuned, and send suggestions for interview subjects and questions you'd like to see them answer. Meanwhile, thank Philippe for me, should you see him or visit his blog, which I strongly urge you to do!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cemaphore: New Cloud-Based Options for Growing, Protecting, and Reducing the Costs of Microsoft Exchange Deployments

Cemaphore is a company that appears to have cracked the code for painless synchronization of multiple editions of Microsoft Exchange with Google's Gmail and Google Apps. This is important because that means Cemaphore's technologies can be used to provide seamless, reliable back-up of business-critical Exchange deployments, whether premises-based or hosted. It also means users seeking to reduce e-mail licensing costs can use hosted Exchange and/or Gmail as alternatives and/or adjuncts to Exchange Server, while providing a seamless experience to all using or managing e-mail at an enterprise.

This week, Cemaphore announced a new combination of Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite offerings with Cemaphore's MailShadow OnLine e-mail migration and synchronization solution. Editions include Microsoft Exchange Online Deskless Worker (Outlook Web Access Light plus a 500-megabyte mailbox) combined with MailShadow OnLine for $7 per user per month, and Exchange Online (Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 plus a 5-gigabyte mailbox) combined with MailShadow OnLine for $13.24 per user per month through June 30, 2009. Other plans also available, Cemaphore said.

Business technology decision-makers have frequently faced frustrating and unsatisfying choices when trying to choose among Exchange Server, some hosted Exchange alternative, and cloud-based e-mail and collaboration solutions other than Exchange. Cemaphore gives those decision-makers and the users they support greater flexibility to mix and match multiple alternatives, without imposing undue inconsistencies upon collaboration users or managers. Anyone pursuing or considering new or expanded Microsoft Exchange deployments should look closely at Cemaphore's offerings, for opportunities to improve reliability and availability of collaboration tools while lowering deployment and management costs and complexities. And once you have looked at Cemaphore and its solutions, do please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

MobileTribe: One Way “Unified Communications” Becomes “Unbridled Collaboration?”

So. This whole “social media” thing. Hmm.

I mean, I get it on a personal, visceral level. But for business, only a little so far. Not so much. I keep waiting for things to move forward a bit further.

I think as good a map as any is the blog post “10 Ways Social Media Will Change in 2009,” by Ravit Lichtenberg, founder and chief strategist of, “a boutique consultancy focusing on helping startups succeed,” according to the founder herself. I'm particularly focused on the following ways cited by Ms. Lichtenberg (although I agree with all 10 of them and urge you to read them all):

2. Creating Meaning and Value;
3. Enabling Convergence;
5. Creating Relevant Social Networks;
6. Innovating in the Advertising Space;
7. Helping People Organize Their "Old" Social Media Ecosystem; and
10. Making Money.

I believe that those companies and services that focus on the above imperatives will not only help me to understand more completely what all the fuss is about, but will actually make money and deliver value. And I believe there are candidates already among us.

One matched pair of such candidates is the combination of iSkoot and INQ, featured in a clear and well-written article by Marguerite Reardon of CNET News on Mar. 11, 2009, the two companies are working together to enable inexpensive mobile telephones to access Web-based social media and collaboration features akin to those supported by more expensive “smart phones” and monthly data plans. iSkoot will supply software development tools and support to incumbent telephone-makers, while INQ focuses on delivering new, low-cost phones incorporating the iSkoot features, according to the article. Since iSkoot pioneered bringing the low-cost Internet-based Skype telephone service to mobile phones, I'm at least guardedly optimistic here.

Another worthy candidate, and my personal favorite to date, is MobileTribe. The company just announced version 2.0 of its software, which now supports access to Facebook, Google, MySpace, Orkut, Plaxo, and Yahoo! collaboration and social media features via a single application. And since MobileTribe can re-format (or “transcode”) streaming content on the fly, users can share pictures and videos from, for example, YouTube or MySpace through that same application. There is even integration with the JaJah Web-based telephony service, for inexpensive voice communications with your consolidated friends. (I've played with the MobileTribe 2.0 software, and the user interface is pretty nifty – it's easy to switch from one service to another, and to select among address books, blogs, e-mail, friends, pictures, and videos.)

MobileTribe currently supports BlackBerry devices and a growing range of smart phones. Also, I'm told that support for more business-oriented social networks such as LinkedIn are coming. I'm thinking that a “business class” version of the software focused on consolidating business users' access to FaceBook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, other so-called “professional networks” and perhaps internal corporate networking and collaboration features has got to be in the offing as well.

MobileTribe may represent the most advanced current vision of how that long-desired Holy Grail, “unified communications,” actually works and makes money in real life. As new advertising and other revenue-generating models join the party, users should increasingly gain new abilities to decide with whom, how, and when to communicate and collaborate, from wherever they are, using the devices most convenient for them at the time. This is the kind of unified communications that can enable the broadest possible range of ad hoc, yet well-managed collaboration choices, for the broadest range of users, business and otherwise.

Might even make me get this whole social networking thing...and finally break down and get one o'them smart phones...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 Government Accessibility, Responsiveness, and Transparency, By the People, For the People!

I've embarked on yet another little project I feel is a great emerging example of how modern technologies can enable new and better collaborations -- such as those between government and the governed. The relevant news release appears below. Please visit and participate!

Edison Innovations Launches, a Web-Based Platform for Creating Better Government

Public “Wiki” Designed to Enable New Government Accessibility, Responsiveness, and Transparency Seeks Content, Ideas, and Funds

KENWOOD, Calif., March 2009 – Edison Innovations, a company focused on delivery of “innovation as a service,” announced today an open testing and collaborative development initiative for its project., an evolving online resource designed to help build new, citizen-controlled bridges and communications channels linking government with the governed, in any locality and nation-wide. is a public “wiki” for which any interested citizen can contribute, edit, or comment upon content. is much like Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia, and is based on the same supporting technologies and principles. Citizens, employees of government agencies, politicians, and others interested in increased government accessibility, responsiveness, and transparency are invited to visit the Web site (at, and to contribute to its features, development, and support.

“Wikipedia has evolved from a Web-enabled experiment and curiosity to perhaps the preeminent collaborative information source in the world,” said Michael Dortch,'s chief evangelist and 30-year information technology (IT) industry veteran. “Similarly, modern 'social media' tools are evolving into essential enablers of communication and collaboration. will leverage these technologies and trends, to provide new connections between and among those in government and those they govern.

“Our situation as a species, as a nation, and as distinct communities has changed and requires new models for the relationship between our civil servants and the civic body,” said Cliff Figallo, an Edison Innovations and advisor and a founder and coordinator of SociALCHEMY, an expert network focused on transforming how groups think and the media they use to do so. “Governments and the citizens that elect them must be more communicative and coordinated about who takes responsibility for what actions, because there will be more to do than either can do alone. is not an adversarial play – it's a collaborative play.”

“With, we can bring the wisdom, experience, and creativity of millions to bear on solving the problems President Obama is so clearly bringing to the forefront of our collective consciousness,” said Larry MacDonald, founder of Edison Innovations. “These resources have always been there, but almost never well utilized. The ability to collect and focus them is America’s secret weapon, and one with global reach. Just as America played a major part in ending World War II, it will do the same with this economic war, thanks to, a strong example of the types of needs-driven, opportunity-rich projects Edison Innovations pursues.” is open now to any and all interested contributors of content, funds, or ideas. Functionality will be expanded during the next few months, as user input is received and integrated. For more information about, contact Michael Dortch at or at (US) +415/310-6480.

About Edison Innovations, Inc.

Edison Innovations is a company that combines unique intellectual property, real-world experience, modern technologies, and the intuition of crowds to provide smart solutions to address significant market needs. The company provides “innovation as a service” via outsourced research and development (R&D) services, focused on identifying and selecting high-potential market needs and pains, then developing and bringing to market solutions to those pains. Founder and CEO Larry MacDonald, founder/CEO, brings strategic direction, innovation and vision to the company, based on 40 years of experience across multiple industries and services. Larry hosted the world’s first online entrepreneur’s conference for ten years. More information is available at, or through, or at (US) +707/833-2280.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Twitter: Next Stop, Some "Tweet" Revenues?

Sitting on a $50-million cash reserve, how should Twitter generate revenues? Targeted ads like Google? Job ads like LinkedIn? Enterprise editions with private labeling, enhanced security, performance guarantees and service level agreement (SLA) support, and fee-based support? I'm just free-styling here, but they've got to do something, so what should it be? E-mail me at, tweet me publicly or @dortchonit, and/or leave a comment here, and let's see if we're as clever as Twitter management or Twitter's investors.