IBM rolls back remote working – does this mean collaboration solutions don’t work

Back in May it was reported how IBM chose to implement moving workers back to offices. Media reports had it due to IBM executives struggling to be agile and thus stay competitive. AWS is kicking their ass in the cloud.

IBM’s thinking that physical proximity will improve agility through collaboration.  Media pointed to the fact this did not work for Yahoo.


Collaboration is critical to agility, but collaboration was ‘improved’ by all the tools, many sold by IBM, right? 

For me collaboration tools requires 3 things.

  1. Combination of meeting, voice, visual, calendar, task and document sharing for scheduled activities
  2. Combination of voice, chat and presence capability for unscheduled activities
  3. Collaborative search – not just for the two combinations above, but all data sources

Clearly all of the above is readily available.    

So, IBM and pretty much everyone else has all the tools to have FANTASTIC collaboration regardless of whether you are in the next cube or country.



Like those not so good Fantastic 4 movies (don’t get me started) –








something is missing.   

Is it this ‘NEW’ work type that IBM states requires a higher degree of collaboration and thus “forcing” them to require workers back to offices so these teams would be more effective?   

Or is it that the tools DO NOT WORK.?  The tools are fine.  Though the missing component is how to lead and manage using the tools.  I see that as a failure of IBM and Yahoo amongst others versus any NEW type of work.

Challenging your workers to both reach and exceed their potential.  Manage the coordinated efforts of teams dealing with emotional ups and downs, unseen obstacles that come with working on tasks/projects over time.  These are fully possible with remote teams.

When a team is physically together the manager can observe body language, overhear conversations (tone, content and frequency of interaction) and get the ‘feel’ of how the team is performing.  A good manager knows when to push, pull or just let things be by seeing, hearing and feeling all of the team interaction.  

This is what IBM wants back.  I won’t go into whether they have ‘good’ managers.  IBM and other companies not effectively using collaboration tools are like pilots who can only fly during day light and in good weather.

Nothing wrong with that – I don’t like flying in storms.  But, REALLY good pilots can fly by instruments and today’s instruments are very good.      


Collaboration tools are just as good as a plane’s instruments.  They can easily show the content and frequency of interaction to give part of the feel needed.  Newer tools provide deeper analytics on tone, measure task effective/efficiency against collaboration metrics.  Is it the same as being physically all together, no.  Not better or worse, just not the same.

As a leader you need to adapt your management style and fully enable the power of the tools to maximize remote teams.  Blaming remote working for your failure is weak.


Who will be Sherlock to IBM’s Watson

IBM Watson  First, bring up the bloody Jeopardy show and I will beat you with  a twitter whip stick.  Yes in full disclosure my job is selling IBM solutions, but mentioning IBM Watson and Jeopardy is like talking how good your mobile device makes phone calls.

Let me make some statements:

  • Watson technology from IBM is today what the Internet was back in 1998.
    • For the majority of people, something they have heard about.
    • For the remaining groups is either those who think it is very interesting with a great deal of potential or the few early adopters who are reaping the rewards of the high level of cognitive capability to drive true innovation and change.
    • 5 years or less from now Watson will be very much like the Internet, as it will be the foundation for innovation that we will look back and say what was life before Watson.

You mean I had to choose what was the best juicer mainly from Amazon and a few on-line reviews.  Not ask Google what is the best and through a short series of questions it recommends the best, the best price and place to buy based on factor of data points that are in comprehensible to consider today that provides me with the highest level of confidence in my purchase.   Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 12.25.54 PM

Back to the title question.  With Watson having all and more of the cognitive capability of the legendary Sherlock Holmes (I actually know someone with that name in real life, smart as he is not Sherlock level).   Sherlock

Who will one up Watson with said Sherlock.  Stop it right now – I know some of you the machines will take over the world people are starting to sweat right now – relax.

For every Yahoo, there is a Google.  My predication it will not be the Microsoft, HP, Oracle or even Googles of the world – not you either Facebook, so sit down.

Anglefish jumping to Big bowl

The garage startup, with a bit of kickstarter funding and then BAM!            The next Job (Wozniak), Zuckerberg (Saverin) or old school Edison (          (Tesla) will bring forward a level of cognitive computing from a bit of          structured, but almost all unstructured data points.

Will the innovation come from the programming and/or the data points that are today not considered possible or even imagined.  Who would have thought in 1998 that a string of online snapchat could predict fashion directions or higher purchases of candy in a small region by work age demographic can predict layoffs of area businesses.     cognitive

Sherlock is out there.  Maybe just a small firing neuron in the back of a couple of peoples brains.  But, is being worked on right now.

Can’t wait!


Everyone is in IT

A business has 1,000 employees and almost all 1,000, repeat almost all 1,000 employees are working in Information Technology.  Yes, it is true.

This is not a technology company.  They distribute paper products, or manufacture clothing or are a restaurant chain.   Yet, it is still true that most of this company that is a company you work for and /or run are working in information technology.   Technology has, to state the most obvious thing in the world, taken over entire companies and most companies don’t even know it.  Well, not knowing it is a bit harse.  Let me clarify by saying that most leaders of these companies are not aware of the massive amount of technologies pervalent in their companies.

Company leaders are aware of their data center, their back office applications, the desktops, laptops and the network.  Along with the connectivity to the web, smartphones and tablets.  However, it is the land of applications and cloud based data sharing/storage where company leadership is ignorant of the volume of intellectual property, critical business processes and other revenue producing activities.

You would think that there is a department who manages all that.  In most companies it is called the IT Department.

But, what most companies do not realize is that almost all of their employees utilize technology that their IT Department does not control, monitor or support.

In the past these were shadow IT areas, where technology capable employees, but frustrated by IT controls would quietly develop applications, purchase non-standard equipment and so.  

These employees are no longer in the shadows and as such have grown in breath of capability and scope of activities.

Everyone’s an expert in information technology

They code websites, contract with vendors to develop mobile apps and place volumes of data online for sharing to make their work lives easier.  The IT Departments attempt to combat them with policies, standards, risk and cost warnings, but to no avail.  They enlist Finance to grapple control of budgets, but the business units fight back with cries of slow response and behind the times IT technology that is stiffling revenue growth.

So the non-IT part of that business unit continues to research, select, implement, upgrade, replace and leverage technologies of their individual chosing.

The IT Department should stop trying to stop the use of these technologies.  With everyone in IT, the IT Department has to evolve and evolve quickly or there will be a revolution.  With everyone in IT, IT must be come a broker, facilitator and coach.  Let Finance and the auditors along with HR be the heavies when it comes to telling the business they have to stop using a technology.

Welcome this uncontrolled, undisciplined world that can be guided, though not steered (drop that steering committee).  Embrace the fact that your highly skilled, trained and experience IT staff is no longer the single bastion of technology knowledge.  That those 1,000 employees are resources of knowledge, experimentation and exploration of technology.

Think more like IBM in the early days of the PC. They held back, let Commodore, HP and Apple make the breakthroughs.  Then, just like Henry Ford did with the Model-T, IBM put the power of their manfacturing, distribution and marketing know how to take over the PC market for years.  Also, learn from IBM that seeing the end of that domination of PC’s, they left it.   Sold off (outsourced) their PC assets and now have evolved to a primary consulting services.

Everyone is in IT.  If you are business leader, realize the breadth of technologies at your company not controlled or supported by the IT Department and those controlled and supported by all those other IT folks not working in the IT Department.  If you are an IT leader, realize you cannot win that old war you fought for years for standardization.

Mobility is everything

I had been driving my IT team to understand that mobile devices where going to be the only devices we support very soon.  I predicted in 5 years, but with this on display at CES 2011, I may have been too conservative.

This is the way we will all compute going forward.  There will be the rare game/graphics system, but desktops and laptops are on their way out.  The iPad, Kindle and Nook will still have some usefulness based on their size along with other tablets.  But, the main device will be the smart-whatever you want to call it device.

The laptop was to be the desktop replacement, well it will not occur.  The mobile device will be it.

Dell, IBM, HP and all the other PC suppliers.  You competition is Motorola, LG, Apple and Samsung.  Even within Apple will be the debate of when to forget about laptop R&D and move it all to the iPAd and iPhone.

I was at a presentation by Bill Gates in the early 90’s at a Comdex show where he laid out that this would be the future.  It took 5 times as long as I had thought it would from that presentation (I thought Microsoft had all this stuff ready for release), but it is here.

No more wallet

No more laptop case with the extra power adapter

No more forgetting that darn file

It will all be without accessible through that device (size, weight and fashion impact of your choice) you choose.

Will there be haves and have nots, yes.  Those people still on Sprint, enough said.

Now the question is how do IT departments prepare for this change.  One could say, well it is just another platform, we will decide on which one to standardize on and go from there.  I think not.  The minor inconvenience caused by non-standard systems (Apple) making in-roads into your standardized network will be at a larger scale.

Prepare, prepare now for the user owned equipment that management will be badgered to allowing to connect.  Prepare for the security issues, the multiple platforms from Apple, Google, Zoho and oh yeah, Microsoft, I guess.

Start thinking about it.

Start planning for it.

And, unless you are truly the IT Lord of All Things within  your company, start realizing your control over the client side just left the building.

Have a Nice Day!


Microsoft Enterprise Agreements, not fun

Here I am with a need to select a web platform, a possible new ERP, a long term strategic IT plan to develop and oh yeah, that bloody Microsoft EA expiring this December.  While part of the IT strategy will be what will be the future desktop, server, mail, and collaboration platforms which the EA could be a part of the cost efficiency that the strategy can deliver.  But, EA complexity has given birth to a consulting industry.  Managing the EA is not effective.

MS as listed here goes on and on about ‘More choices, more value’.  Really, I doubt it.  As for simplifying my license management get out of here.  For us mid-size companies we are pinched by not being big enough to get the value of 1,000 plus licensing, but too big to just ignore the EA.

Open Value

Open Value Subscription

Select Plus

Enterprise Agreement

Which one to choose, which one to choose?  Are you going to grow over the next few years?  Will you be committing to MS solutions primarily during the same time span?  Will you upgrade to 2010 and Windows 7?  What is the value of those two upgrades – know one knows for sure?Microsoft monopoly

The questions go on and on and the variables are — well too damn many. 

 You have the stories about the ‘looming Windows 7 disaster’  from IBM and the similar looming story from Infoworld.  So what are my choices?  Stay with MS and spend weeks trying to ensure you make the right decision.  Than worse than that time spent, you have to explain it to your Finance group so they understand it. 

Or as this blog entry about moving away from MS by Nari Kannan is it time to plan that move away from the MS operating system.  Gartner talks about

‘Windows is Broken’ and I have been wondering for a few years about whether the reason for Windows is maintaining the majority  it enjoys simply because of a combination of complacency by both IT and business along

with a fear of failing with something new. 

Is it time to take a long, long look at moving to a Linux based OS with using Open Office?  There is that mail problem that is not quite fully solved by the available clients.  Ah, but that is for another blog entry.  What about just giving up on the homogeneous desktop and server platform and accept that you will need to take on the additional support staffing to offset the lower cost of OS and open source applications.  And than there is Google Chrome. MS vs Google

 Again, more on this in a future entry.

The focus here is the ineffective licensing process that Microsoft has put in place. What other vendor do you work with that you continue to stay with that makes your IT group less effective.  The only good thing is it is every few years versus every year.  We won’t go into the non-effective activities every Tuesday getting the latest patches from MS.  Because to be fair, if Linux or Apple had MS’s install base, the bored hacking community would be focused on them instead. 

From my perspective, if I give MS another 6 figure check for my next EA agreement.  I am buying the right to decide 12 to 18 months from now whether I want to upgrade to Windows 7 and other products.  Somehow the MS EA seems anti-nimble.  The solution is simple, but time consuming.  Do the homework to do a full evaluation of leaving MS.  That is just as Gartner puts it, the only way to get MS to start acting in the best interest of their customers, not just their shareholders.

MS tools parody 2

Why the cloud is not for everyone.

This is the year of the cloud, right. That is what 2009 is been hyped up to be. Forget about data centers and those virtualization projects. Move everything – applications, data, and security – all of it to the cloud. Data centers are a utility just like power and water. You don’t produce your own power and water, do you? For certain number of businesses this is the case. Their IT is mostly a utility which uses the phrase ‘keeping the lights on’ more often than not when describing many of their activities. If that is your IT, stop reading now and please enjoy one of my other entries.

However, for those who leverage their IT applications and infrastructure to not only drive their internal performance, but to deliver products and services to their customers. Well, the cloud could be a problem. After all, part of the reason your customers purchases your products and services is their trust in your ability to deliver that product or service. That trust is build from a variety of factors, but one is your customer’s desiring to verify your ability to deliver. If you are signing a contract to purchase 1,000,000 tires, you would like to see either the warehouse with 1,000,000 tires or the plant that has the equipment lined up to produce 1,000,000 tires.

Instead, if you are pulling content or having it pushed to your business, you will want to see that stack of servers, network hardware and system administrators that will provide that content. If your business offers a service evolving highly confidential data, than add to that physical and logical security measures. After all, have you ever opened a bank account where they did not have a vault visible. You went to the bank because you trusted the name (aka the brand). However, when you walk in and see that it is an actually building (normally made with brick, go figure), people working there processing transactions and yes, there where you can see it, with a nice thick metal door.

Can you deliver most services utilizing a cloud model? Without a doubt you can and there are business’s that are making a strong success out of that structure. However, if your brand of the products and services rely heavily on a trust and verify of your customers due to a highly confidential nature of your product or services let’s make sure you have all the bells and whistles to allow your customers to verify that a reliable and secure business transaction will occur.

Yet, those whose business model does not support a movement to the cloud, can still learn greatly from the cloud. Effective cloud services revolve around a pay as you go model. Not only adding storage, processing and bandwidth as you need it for your business, but also subtracting when you don’t. You have a sudden surge in storage needs, with the cloud you may send a email to request additional space or just start using additional space and next months bill will be somewhat more costly. Use less, well than less costly.

If your business has your own data center, you can without too much struggle add capacity with good agreements with your vendors to quickly supply equipment. With a strong virtualization model design you can also remove that capacity when the requirement has ebbed. There would be a minimum use time (likely 30 days) for the use of the equipment, but your annual cost would be more closely matched to your business utilization and therefore leading to a stronger profit level.

If that is not fast enough for your business to both add and subtract capacity, a hybrid cloud/data center model would be effective way to balance out costs while maintaining a strong brand protection for your products and/or services.

Give Cisco, Checkpoint, Dell, HP and/or IBM a call and ask them about making their infrastructure more cloud like and lowering your TCO while driving higher performance and reliability. Put pressure on them to develop a strategy that allows your business to utilize all of your infrastructure at peak levels and add or subtract components as your business needs on a monthly basis.