• There’s a Reason It’s Free – Get Over It…


    I’ve been mulling this post around in my head for quite some time now – an eight hour flight across the great Australian Desert seemed as good a time as any to finally put pen to paper (fingers to keys?) and write this post.

    We’ve been hearing much lately about privacy concerns with free services – hardly a day goes by that we’re not regaled with tales of the dastardly deeds of Facebook, Magnolia, Blippy or some other service that is free-to-customers.

    It seems people are carefully avoiding making the only distinction that makes any sense to me: that of paid vs free services. While I know it’s seriously uncool to question the cool kids who build applications with no idea of how monetization will occur, but I can’t resist. Yes, building an application in the cloud is cheaper/easier than in the old days. Yes, scaling an application is quick and easy. Yes, pre configured “building blocks” can be bought off the shelf.

    But having said all of that – this stuff still costs money. Quite simply – an application that is scaling in terms of users or load, and that has no source of dollar, is facing a complete disconnect. Sometimes some things are either purposely or accidentally omitted in that case.

    Some cases in point…

    People are surprised when Google (via Buzz) or Facebook socialize information about us that we didn’t think would be socialized. Go figure? Both these services have a business model that (at least in part) is fueled by the aggregation and dissemination of bulk information about users. While particular cases can be written off as mistakes – fundamentally these guys are about making information pervasive – don’t believe that YOUR information is excluded from this aim.

    Blippy, the somewhat bizarre site where people can link their purchases via credit card. Recently Blippy had a privacy issue where some people’s credit card became searchable and turned up on Google. It gives an interesting twist to the view of one of the founders of Blippy, Philip Kaplan who says:

    We think that many things used to be private only because there was no way to share them

    Interestingly enough in the Blippy case, recently as reported in the NY Times:

    Amazon actively blocked people from linking their Amazon accounts to the Blippy site, citing security concerns. Blippy recently offered a workaround, asking users to link their Gmail accounts, so it can skim their inboxes for Amazon receipts. Amazingly, Blippy says that thousands of users took this step.

    Don’t mistake – their is fundamentally a difference between a paid, and an unpaid application. There is fundamentally a difference between an application targeted for business users and one for the consumer market. Forget this differentiation at your peril.




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  • Booz Allen Hamilton Mk2- Enterprise 2.0 in Action


    Hello Booz Allen stats

    Booz Allen Hamilton is one of those organizations that pops up every time Enterprise 2.0 is mentioned. I’ve attended at least three Enterprise 2.0 events where they were highlighted. It seems they must be the only large business doing stuff in the E20 space!

    Anyway – BAH just flicked the switch on the next generation of their intranet, hello.bah.com. According to a release from one of the technology providers (this is a collaboration between Microsoft and MindTouch (see disclosure)), the next generation Hello includes a bunch of new functionality for BAH users, including rich user profiles, an integrated user experience (e.g. connection to PeopleSoft), more powerful search, and better contextual information so that content and people can more easily be found.  It’s also made use of user-centric dashboards and a content rating system.

    MindTouch provided the infographic below to explain about BAH and the Hello.bah.com application itself;

    I’d kind of disagree that the intranet is a major factor in BAH’s #52 rank in fortune’s top places to work – there are a lot of factors that go up to making a good workplace – it’s seldom that I hear of the quality of the corporate intranet being a major factor, but whatever.

    According to Walton Smith, who headed up the project for BAH, Hello has created operational client delivery efficiencies and increased sales.  Further, because of Hello, Booz Allen is seen as a progressive leader by top government institutions, which is leading to increased business opportunities for the company. The first is a positive result, the second is a short term aberration caused by BAH being an early adopter of E20, other organizations are unlikely to see these benefits.

    Smith sees the value in Hello as coming from the ability to link subject matter experts with knowledge consumers, as he says:

    From my experience in the consulting industry, relating consulting engagements to people and to work product was always a major challenge.  Who were the experts? Where were the client deliverables? How can we win new accounts by leveraging what has already been created in the firm? I rarely found the answer to all three questions.  Moreover, scheduling time with the subject matter experts was a difficult task.  They were either engaged with a new client half-way around the globe or had left the firm.  Now, with Hello, content and people are linked contextually.  Simply do a subject search and the results map out the relationships to content and people. That’s powerful stuff.

    MindTouch are keen to use Smith as an example to other people within enterprise who might be toying with the idea of deploying E20 solutions. Apparently because of his efforts with hello.bah, Walton was recently promoted to Principal.  MindTouch herald this saying that:

    The firm recognized his contributions and rewarded him accordingly.  He took a chance and changed everything.

    A little over the top perhaps and I’m sure the enterprise 2.0 world is looking forward to seeing some case studies from someone OTHER than Booz Allen Hamilton, but nevertheless Smith, and BAH should be proud of being true innovators in this space.


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  • Banking 2.0, The Cloud and Safety in Numbers


    A while ago, Alex Williams posted about a consortium made up of three banks – Bank of America, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Deutsche Bank – that was specifically set up as a buying alliance to source cloud infrastructure.…

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  • Cloud Sherpas – Raising Money and Enhancing GAPE Admin


    Capture I’ve written before about Cloud Sherpas, a cloud computing systems integrator and application developer. They’re a Google Apps reseller that also created SherpaTools for Google Apps, a free app that gives more administrator functionality to Google Apps users.

    Only a few days ago, Cloud Sherpas raised $1 million in funding from Hallett Capital and other investors and, somewhat unusually, one of the investors in the round has taken over the CEO role from Michael Cohn who is becoming VP Product and Marketing.

    The focus of the funding is an acceleration of Google Apps enterprise adoption and a release today will help with that. The enhanced version of SherpaTools is focused on helping enterprises protect and preserve end user data.  Google Apps admins can now delegate access to fellow IT staff, such as help desk workers, without providing the company’s master username and password credentials.  Using a dedicated pin number, a help desk worker can reset an end user’s password, for example, but he or she would not have access to a broader spectrum of employee data. While a seemingly minor improvement, this gives a degree of granularity of user control that is important to enterprise users.

    An interesting new feature, and one that I’ve previously had a real need for, involves the ability to quickly and easily preserve the data of terminated employees.  Usually with Google Apps, all of an employee’s data (spreadsheets, presentations, emails, etc.) are deleted once they’re removed from the system.  In our case, when an employee left we’ve got around the issue by suspending rather than deleting a user from the system.  We then went into the account and manually removed/archived/reassigned the data files we wanted to keep.  Not at all user friendly!  With the new release of SherpaTools, IT admins can automatically delegate all of a terminated employee’s files to his or her manager or another user in the system. 

    Cloud Sherpas is moving beyond it’s free tool and will soon introduce a paid version. In an interesting twist however, users who buy their Google Apps licences directly from Cloud Sherpas will get all the SherpaTools premium features for free – a nice little inducement if ever I saw one!

    In terms of where Cloud Sherpas are at now, they’re reporting around 2100 businesses users serving nearly 300,000 workers. I’ve said before that I think tool like this serve a dual purpose – firstly to drive customers to CloudSherpas service offerings (deployment and migration to Google apps) and secondly to get the attention of folks like Google for a potential future trade sale – let’s watch and see what happens in Cloud Sherpas’ case.

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  • Integration is Good… When You Actually Do It


    Recently at the SuiteCloud event (see disclosure) I attended a presentation looking at the NetSuite integration with Google apps. At the session a development company, Daston, showed off its custom built functionality that allowed for a one way creation of calendar and mail events hin NetSuite, from within Google applications.

    I watched the demonstration and was waiting for the secret sauce… only it didn’t come. When the demo was over I couldn’t help myself and asked the presenter, Mark Hill from Daston if perhaps that wasn’t a half done (or less) solution and whether it wouldn’t make a whole lot more sense to simply embed Google calendars or mail within NetSuite. The developer’s answer? “Could we do that?”

    I raised my eyebrows in the general direction of Scott McMullan who was presenting in his role of Enterprise Lead for Google Apps – McMullan diplomatically looked away – he knows me well enough to realize what I thought of that so-called “integration”. Anyway, McMullan proceeded to tell those present what the Google Apps Marketplace can mean for developers and end user customers – there were some good questions from the flow in relation to administration rights and data flows – nothing that regular readers of this blog would find surprising. McMullan did quietly admit that, despite being one of the launch partners for the marketplace over a month ago, NetSuite hadn’t actually yet finished its integration with the marketplace – a little depressing given the development that they have compared to other marketplace partners. Anyway…

    Later on the NetSuite staffer responsible for the Google Apps Marketplace integration was discussing the roadmap for that project. All he could tell me was that “at this stage” the integration was for no more than the Single Sign On aspects of the marketplace.

    I guess there’s a couple of aspects to all of this – firstly what is NetSuite’s rationale for being a part of the marketplace. Unfortunately is it was purely a marketing angle, they’ve missed the boat, it was the integrated partners on launch night who got the initial buzz of this product.

    Secondly it would be interesting to know if NetSuite actually sees value for its customers in the marketplace – clearly it’s been moving up the food chain in recent months, looking for bigger customers as it does – the Google Marketplace is primarily a SMB play and hence potentially irrelevant to NetSuite’s target market, secondly it could even be seen as damaging for NetSuite to be aligned with a marketplace such as this – it may harm their enterprise image somewhat.

    I put these questions to David Downing, CMO, NetSuite in particular the delay in getting the integration completed – his response was that “There’s no great mystery here.  We simply have other projects ahead of the Google integration and we will deliver support for OpenID-based single sign on in our next major release. 

    He reiterated that both the calendar and mail integrations have been done through the Daston group, mentioning that they’re a NetSuite SuiteCloud partner. This raises a few questions about the forced loyalty that netSuite has to its partner organizations – I came away less than impressed by Daston’s implementation and am sure NetSuite themselves could do much better – but it’s not a good look to be eating your partner’s lunch.

    It’s a really interesting tension – that of the end user experience, keeping partners happy and balancing internal development work. It’s an area that these new cloud players who are now embracing the channel fully, will need to contend with in the months ahead – under the on-premise model with it’s glacial rate of product innovation it wasn’t so much of an issue – today, the advent of web apps and broad APIs makes it a critical one.

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  • SucessFactors Buys CubeTree – It’s a Defensive Move


    I wrote about CubeTree last October when they were finalist (and eventual winner) in the Enterprise 2.0 LaunchPad. News just out today that they’re to be acquired by SuccessFactors for $20 million with a three year, $30 million earn out clause.

    There’s been a flurry of commentary around this deal – here’s a quick analysis from my perspective.

    Salesforce.com have got significant exposure of late with Chatter – despite it being beta (at best) there has been a huge flurry of interest from third parties too either integrate chatter into their applications, or built on top of chatter. Salesforce’s strategy seems to be one of land-and-expand – with Chatter being the tool to build adoption further up it’s product offering.

    SuccessFactors (and other vendors for that matter) has remained somewhat silent through all of this. At the recent SuiteCloud conference (see disclosure) I took part in a session where CEP Zach Nelson was questioned about the role of social in what they do – he made it clear it’s a area of huge interest for them, but one they haven’t got anything concrete to offer at this stage.

    With this acquisition, SuccessFactors get’s an already built and inherently social offering that they can then backend into their own application to find a way to use a similar approach as that taken by Salesforce with Chatter.

    In terms of the numbers, the extreme long length of the earn out clause means that, for all intents and purposes, this is a $20 million acquisition. Not bad for a company that’s only had a product for six months or so but chump change to SuccessFactors and worth spending if for no other reason than to head off any competitors from making a similar acquisition.

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  • Financial Force gets Chatter(ing)


    Right about now, Jeremy Roche the CEO of SaaS Accounting vendor FinancialForce (more on them here) is on stage at CloudForce in New York telling the world about the integration they’ve made with Salesforce’s chatter functionality. I had an opportunity to speak with Roche a week or so ago under a strict embargo about the integration – it seems FinancialForce were particularly worried that any leak of the announcement might jeopardize their chances to speak at the event. Apparently salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is getting close to Apple CEO Steve Jobs in terms of exerting control over every little thing. But anyway, I digress.

    Firstly a bit of an update on FinancialForce – they’ve now got customers in over 40 countries and are seeing something of a polarization among their users – with many utilizing the entire accounting functionality, but many larger customers using FinancialForce as a kind of accounting “middleware” – facilitating the integration between large enterprise systems such as SAP, and smaller divisional systems. In fact FinancialForce recently showcased their integration with SAP, allowing sales data from a business unit using FinancialForce to be populated through to the SAP ledgers – see the diagram below:


    According to their PR blurb, FinancialForce:

    want(s) to help finance reach the whole (or part) of sales which as we know is a pain in the real world when wrangling via email. We are giving them the ability to initiate and be part of conversations that they wouldn’t normally be included in until a problem occurs or questions need answering. We think there’s real value in this and that it creates a different sense of where finance sits in the organization that can drive longer term value. The collaborative finance function – bringing accountants from the back office into the heart of the business. Since everything in business comes back to a financial transaction, the opportunities both internally and externally are compelling

    What Financial Force is releasing is an integration of their core accounting product with Chatter and a continuation of the interaction between the front and back office functions of an organizations. This leverages the ability of Chatter to follow all types of objects, be they people, opportunities, cases, customers etc. FinancialForce is enabling their “Chatterbox” a rules builder for chatter that Roche pointed out a couple of use cases for:

    • A financial manager, concerned about cashflow, might create a rule that shows them progress relating to every opportunity about (for example) $50000 that will be closing in the current quarter
    • A service manager may create a rule that allows them to follow all service cases with no progress activity for a certain number of days

    Check out the video below which gives an example business scenario for chatter:

    “;” alt=””>

    I’ve always been cautious about social tools that promise to revolutionize the enterprise – but I have to say that an integration between chatter and a third party force.com application really shows the promise these social tools can bring – dragging information kicking and screaming out of the app and to where a user needs it.

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  • OneLogin – Single Sign On for the Enterprise


    After my recent post about LastPass,  Thomas Pedersen, a Zendesk alumnus and founder of SaaS password management tool OneLogin flicked me an email with an invitation to try out their product. OneLogin works via a browser extension which effectively pastes the credentials into your application and logs you in. OneLogin supports all major browsers – IE, Chrome, Firefox and Safari.onelogin

    Using OneLogin is simple – you click on the extension, and you’re presented with a dashboard displaying all the applications you have access to. From there you simply click on the particular app you want and it logs you straight in. For even higher level protection, you can use two factor authentication with a yubikey. And, unsurprisingly considering it’s enterprise focus, OneLogin supports Active Directory and LDAP

    apps OneLogin supports a huge number of apps – and more are being added all the time based on customer demand.

    For organizations that use a number of SaaS apps, OneLogin gives administrators the ability to centrally manage application access for their users.

    Of course OneLogin can only be used (out of the box) with the applications it’s currently integrated with, I put this to Pedersen, suggesting that tools like LastPass would lessen the broad appeal of OneLogin. His response:

    LastPass (saw your post by the way) is definitely consumer and doesn’t address many of the issues we do. The big difference is that OneLogin deals with apps as structured entities that have logical properties (such does this app support SAML? Does this app support OpenID? Do we require an extra auth step for this app?), while LastPass is still just a form-filler.

    I went on to suggest that the recently announced Google Apps Marketplace, with it’s out of the box SSO offering, would also eat into OneLogin’s addressable market. Again Pedersen countered with an argument saying:

    I think it’s natural to conclude as you did, but I don’t think SSO is really Google‘s focus. It’s just something that makes their marketplace work better… there are many apps that will never be on Google’s marketplace and we provide functionality that they don’t. Many of our customers use 15-25 different apps, most of which will never be there.

    Pedersen went on to name a slew of use-cases that Google’s Marketplace approach would not work for:

    • Multiple logins to the same app (we have customers with multiple different logins per app)
    • Shared logins (for FedEx, GoToMeeting, Twitter etc)
    • Active Directory integration
    • Integration with in-house, behind-the-firewall apps
    • Two-factor authentication
    • SAML

    Anyway – as a service OneLogin works fine. For my own use LastPass suits me fine but remember that I’m not an enterprise user – those working with large numbers of users that need lots of apps provisioned at once, and attracted to a central application dashboard would do well to give OneLogin a look over – the fact that it can be used with on-premise applications really plays into the hands of it becoming a powerful complete application management offering.

     Update – Scott McMullan from Google contact me to clarify that:

    Marketplace apps that SSO to Google Apps using OpenID DO work in the following scenarios:
    1) company is using LDAP/Active Directory (this is because Google Apps supports SAML integration in to these dirs, which the Marketplace apps then “pick up for free”)

    2) SAML (see above) 




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  • Google and Resellers? – How Happy is the Relationship?


    Recently Google announced a new tool that would allow users to migrate email, contacts and calendar data from on-premise and hosted Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps. The tool would specifically:

    • Perform a centrally managed bulk migration of users
    • Selectively migrate email, calendar or contacts (or any combination thereof)
    • Migrate in phases for very large migrations

    Sounds great huh? Self service, a degree of automation and easing the on-ramp for adoption. But I wonder…

    You see Google, the company that always prided itself on a direct to consumer channel strategy, has in recent months embarked on a strong reseller program – understanding that, at least when selling into larger enterprise, there is simply no avoiding customers preference for a local VAR, and near unanimous need for a services offering on top of the software itself.

    Resellers have been a little nervous, at least in part due to doubts about Google’s commitment to them as a channel – after all when you’re used to great revenue from implementing an on-premise solution, the more paltry sums involved in a cloud product look decidedly shabby. It struck me that already nervous resellers would be even more nervous with this move by Google, a move that – at least to a certain extent – would see Google eat their own reseller’s lunch.

    I put this to Scott McMullan, Google Apps lead within the Googleplex for his take on this. Unsurprisingly he dismissed my contention directly, saying that:

    This gives both customers and VARs a reliable (and free) tool to move bits from one system to another.  Our VARs want this — they sell services around the use of this tool.

    What better way to test my contention than to ask the resellers themselves. I spoke to Stuart Maxwell from Amanzi, a small IT shop, as well as Dave Livesey from Wave Adept (who specialize almost exclusively in Google apps implementations). I asked them:


    Their replies were interesting:




    Now a cynic would say that this is a case of self-interest with these particular VARs keen to publicly be seen to support Google – but knowing these two particular businesses personally, that’s almost definitely not the case. Looks like this is much more a case of Google providing a useful tool that its VARs can put to good use…

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  • Google Docs Meets Outlook? – Yes, You Read That Right!


    Let’s face it – despite significant hand-waving to the contrary, Microsoft Outlook is the default email client for the vast majority of the enterprise world. No matter how much people love to hate the fact, Outlook is both widely understood and the accepted norm. I’ve talked to a number of people involved in deploying Google apps into enterprise sites and often the case is that this is in fact an infrastructure play – the organization uses Google as an exchange replacement but maintains its existing desktop clients.

    This situation is a huge barrier to Google apps proper gaining traction – users are unlikely to edit a Google apps document, only to have to jump through hoops in order to collaborate on that document with others – as vendor MainSoft asks, what happens when you use Microsoft Outlook for e-mail, and you’re interested in using Google Docs?  Is SharePoint + Google Docs:  An Oxymoron? Not anymore, and this is an announcement that even I, jaded as I am from product pitches, am getting excited about.

    Harmony for Google Docs

    Effective today, Mainsoft is offering full-featured access to Google Docs documents directly from within Microsoft Outlook.  Their belief is that e-mail and document collaboration sites need to work together seamlessly – so end users can be more productive. They’re also planning to give away software that offers full-featured access to SharePoint document libraries, within Microsoft Outlook. So to reiterate – full use of Google docs within Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft SharePoint – tools enterprise users are used to, with the significant benefits that the cloud brings.

    The Mainsoft product is called Harmony and will be a free product and has been built using SharePoint Web Services interfaces and Google Docs open APIs, giving full-featured access to Google Docs or SharePoint documents from an Outlook sidebar.  Users can

    share, locate, and manage centralized documents directly from their e-mail client.

      A brief overview of the features that are available for Outlook and SharePoint users:

    From within Outlook, people can:

    • Publish and share document links:
    • Drag documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and PDF files to the Harmony sidebar to upload them to Google Docs.

    Harmony for Google Docs Sharing dialog

    • Share documents automatically.  Drag Google document links to a new e-mail message, and Harmony will automatically share it with recipients listed in the user’s Outlook or Gmail address books. The email sender decides whether each email recipient gets read or editing rights to the online documents.  Recipients can view and edit the documents on Google Docs, using a free Google account.

    Harmony for Google Docs Replace Attachments

    • Replace attachments with links and send e-mail, in one step. When composing or forwarding an e-mail with attachments, Harmony prompts the user to publish the documents online and send a link instead.
    • Find documents from the convenience of e-mail:
    • Search the contents of users’ entire collection of Google Docs documents from the Harmony search bar.
    • Locate documents users have permission to access using views, folders, sorting, and starred documents.
    • Work on Google Docs documents:
    • Organize documents in folders; star, share, rename, or hide them.
    • Open and edit Google Docs documents in Outlook, including Microsoft Office, PDF, and Open Office formats.

    Of course the question this raises is why on earth this is a free product. This would seem to solve such a pain point (at least for Google resellers and, I’d imagine, for Google also although they’re unlikely to admit it) that Mainsoft should have people more than willing to pay for the product. Mainsoft CEO Yaacov Cohen told me that their strategy is a freemium one – the current product is free but future products that will include functionality that IT departments want (granular control, permissioning, central admin etc) will potentially be paid. I’m not sure if I’m convinced about this approach – Harmony provides significant value today (heck, the saving in traffic by not emailing attachments alone is significant for a large organization) that I believe they’d be able to monetize from day one.

    Either way I’m really impressed by what Mainsoft have created with Harmony and I’m marking them as a company to watch.


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