Examining the Future of Work and the Digital Workplace

Technology enables us to work anywhere, stay connected continuously, and collaborate endlessly. What does this mean for the enterprise and how do we transform the workplace to yield productivity benefits while making life better for employees?

In this episode of CXOTalk, we speak with Alan Lepofsky, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research. Alan has almost two decades of experience in the software industry. As an analyst, his main areas of research include the evolution of communication and collaboration technologies, especially in how they converge to benefit business.

Transcript

Michael:

(00:03) Collaboration, social software, future of work, the digital workplace. It’s an alphabet soup of terms that sometimes, oftentimes, oftentimes, oftentimes have confused meanings and today on episode number 118, we are here with Alan Lepofsky who is a collaboration expert to talk about it, to untangle it. I’m Michael Krigsman and my co-host is Vala Afshar. Hey Vala

Vala:

(00:36) Michael, how are you?

Michael:

(00:37) I am excellent. Alan give us some sense of your background.

Alan:               

(00:41)Hi everybody first of all, gentlemen thank you for having me. Obvious this is just a phenomenal show, and I’ve been a fan for you know the year and watched many many episodes, and it wonderful to be a participant an be on the other end of the camera.

(00:54)For those of you who don’t know me, Alan Lepofsky, currently and physically in Toronto, Ontario. I’ve been working with collaboration software and the culture and the technology behind how employees work together to get their jobs done for about 20 years now. I started in the Lotus division of IBM, where I worked in all sorts of areas. Product management, product marketing and then finally was working sort of in the research division kind of thinking up the next generation of products that happen as part of the strategy group.

(01:23) I left Big Blue and went from having 400,000 co-workers down to having about 40 co-workers, when I became Director of Marketing at SocialText where I worked for about three years sort of brining collaboration software, Wiki’s and blogs and social networks to the enterprise.

(01:41) About 3½ – 4 years ago, I joined Constellation research, where I help our clients kind of think of the best ways to have their employees work together, both internally and with their you know external clients, customers and things, and I just love helping people focus on better waysto get their jobs done that’s kind of my passion.

Vala:

(02:00) That’s terrific Alan. Alan, tell us a little bit about Constellation Research, what’s different about Constellation, maybe some of the colleagues that you work with. I know there’s a guy there that tweets a lot his name is Ray.

Alan:

(02:13) Yeah, there’s this R Wang guy on Twitter, that you know tweets 23½ hours a day so we give him 30 minutes a day to sleep. But Constellation Research was formed, you know Ray Wang our founder started the company about 4½ - 5 years ago after leaving Forrester Research, and the theme of what we do at Constellation, there’s analyst firm of all sorts of areas, Constellation is very focused on what comes next.

(02:43)There’s firms that do number crunching, there’s firms that help clients with sort of today’s technology. Ray has us all very focused on thought leadership and helping clients skip that gap. They may be behind today and don’t want to catch up to the status quo.

(02:57)We can us terms that are popular today like digital transformation and things like that. but what we do we each focus on various major themes. Not on vendors, not on products. So for example, myself working on the future of work with my colleagues, Holger Muller and Natalie Petouhoff, we have security gurus like Steve Wilson. We have supply chain gurus like Guy Courtin and on and on and on. You know we each kind of focus on product areas and what I like is we all mix together and share each other’s themes. Alan, what are the implications of social and security mixed in?

Michael:

(03:34) So you’re crossing the boundaries, so tell us about the future of work. What is the future of work, it’s a very vague term.

Alan:

(03:41) It is, it absolutely is. You can talk about physical building locations, you can talk about culture, you can talk about technology. You know for me the future of work is focused on what are the collaboration tools that people us to as I mentioned earlier to get their jobs done, that are sort

Michael:

(00:03) Collaboration, social software, future of work, the digital workplace. It’s an alphabet soup of terms that sometimes, oftentimes, oftentimes, oftentimes have confused meanings and today on episode number 118, we are here with Alan Lepofsky who is a collaboration expert to talk about it, to untangle it. I’m Michael Krigsman and my co-host is Vala Afshar. Hey Vala

Vala:

(00:36) Michael, how are you?

Michael:

(00:37) I am excellent. Alan give us some sense of your background.

Alan:               

(00:41)Hi everybody first of all, gentlemen thank you for having me. Obvious this is just a phenomenal show, and I’ve been a fan for you know the year and watched many many episodes, and it wonderful to be a participant an be on the other end of the camera.

(00:54)For those of you who don’t know me, Alan Lepofsky, currently and physically in Toronto, Ontario. I’ve been working with collaboration software and the culture and the technology behind how employees work together to get their jobs done for about 20 years now. I started in the Lotus division of IBM, where I worked in all sorts of areas. Product management, product marketing and then finally was working sort of in the research division kind of thinking up the next generation of products that happen as part of the strategy group.

(01:23) I left Big Blue and went from having 400,000 co-workers down to having about 40 co-workers, when I became Director of Marketing at SocialText where I worked for about three years sort of brining collaboration software, Wiki’s and blogs and social networks to the enterprise.

(01:41) About 3½ – 4 years ago, I joined Constellation research, where I help our clients kind of think of the best ways to have their employees work together, both internally and with their you know external clients, customers and things, and I just love helping people focus on better waysto get their jobs done that’s kind of my passion.

Vala:

(02:00) That’s terrific Alan. Alan, tell us a little bit about Constellation Research, what’s different about Constellation, maybe some of the colleagues that you work with. I know there’s a guy there that tweets a lot his name is Ray.

Alan:

(02:13) Yeah, there’s this R Wang guy on Twitter, that you know tweets 23½ hours a day so we give him 30 minutes a day to sleep. But Constellation Research was formed, you know Ray Wang our founder started the company about 4½ - 5 years ago after leaving Forrester Research, and the theme of what we do at Constellation, there’s analyst firm of all sorts of areas, Constellation is very focused on what comes next.

(02:43)There’s firms that do number crunching, there’s firms that help clients with sort of today’s technology. Ray has us all very focused on thought leadership and helping clients skip that gap. They may be behind today and don’t want to catch up to the status quo.

(02:57)We can us terms that are popular today like digital transformation and things like that. but what we do we each focus on various major themes. Not on vendors, not on products. So for example, myself working on the future of work with my colleagues, Holger Muller and Natalie Petouhoff, we have security gurus like Steve Wilson. We have supply chain gurus like Guy Courtin and on and on and on. You know we each kind of focus on product areas and what I like is we all mix together and share each other’s themes. Alan, what are the implications of social and security mixed in?

Michael:

(03:34) So you’re crossing the boundaries, so tell us about the future of work. What is the future of work, it’s a very vague term.

Alan:

(03:41) It is, it absolutely is. You can talk about physical building locations, you can talk about culture, you can talk about technology. You know for me the future of work is focused on what are the collaboration tools that people us to as I mentioned earlier to get their jobs done, that are sort of my main primary area.

(03:59) If we look to the history that sort of led up to here, you look at you know, we started with you know email platforms and then we added instant messaging, blogs, wiki’s social networking, file sharing tools, on and on and on. That’s my coverage are, is where do all those tools mesh with all the people that are using them. So for me, where is the future going it’s actually kind of interesting. I don’t think the future is actually going to be that dramatically different than what we have today.

(04:30) I don’t say that to be a heretic, I don’t say that to worry people like, oh my god I hate the tools that I have today. All I mean by that is employees don’t go to work to be social or to be whatever the next tool is, to be a hologram. They go to work to do sales, or marketing, or engineer, or finance, or be a doctor on and on and on. So the future of work is still functionally job based. We still have things we have to do.

(04:58)  I want people to start thinking about the tools as supporting structures for what people have to do, and instead we get too focused, us and the echo chamber on Twitter and the vendors that make these products. We think the software products are so important to people’s day. They’re not, their just a tool.

(05:20)You know the electricity or plumbing that runs your houses, that’s the way software should be, and I’ve often said the best software is like a special effect in a movie; you don’t even notice it. So the future of work is all going to be about how can we get better at connecting to people. How can we get better at connecting to content, how can we get things done more effectively, how can we get things done more efficiently.

(05:41) So you know, I’m happy over the next you know 40 minutes or so, I think there’s a lot of topics in that, that we can dive into that are going to change and are exciting. But I kind of just wanted to set the stage by saying you know what, five year, 10 years, 20 years from now, we’re all still going to have jobs, we’re all still going to have goals and things that we have to do.

Vala:

(06:01) But Alan, prior to 2007 let’s say or even five years ago, you didn’t have the expectation where on a you know, a mobile device you can access your CRM data, you can collaborate on an internal social collaboration tool. You can video conference with someone, so most people claim today and a lot of the large vendors that they run their entire business on this and that was only seven years ago when this was introduced, or eight years ago. So fast forward to five or 10 years from now, is an example of mobile first, mobile only something that’s going to be potentially dramatically different in how we work today?

Alan:

(06:44)Absolutely so you bring up the two fundamental technology changes that have occurred over the last couple of years are cloud and mobile. I’m not going to through social in there as its own standalone entity. But things have changed the way we work, our cloud accessed information, that’s more behind-the-scenes. The average user doesn’t get the importance of that. They don’t know if the company’s infrastructure is hosted on premises or hosted you know in the cloud. What the end user knows is wow, I can get access to my data you know in more ways now, it doesn’t matter, I don’t have to be logged on, I can share computers and things.

(07:19)For end users are the biggest change is exactly what you just showed, it’s that mobile access. We live of those devices and he no insert statistic here you know, 70% of your mail is read on a mobile device, or most of your interactions for status updates are on mobile devices, that has slowed dramatically change the way we work.

(07:38) But I want to be clear on something about mobile. The term mobile is huge, mobile computing, mobile transformation. You held up the phone, you can hold up you know a tablet. I don’t want the audience to walk away thinking, mobile equals phone or tablet.

(07:56)Mobile means the ability to work well in transit. Mobile is the ability to work anywhere, anytime, not tethered to your desk. Mobile could be a kiosk, mobile could be on airplanes, mobile can be changed display was in your favorite brands store. Mobile just means we can now work when we are not in those set static locations.

(08:18)That’s huge, and I was at a large innovation center yesterday, where they were showing demos of you know information protected onto your kitchen countertops. So you’re able to swipe information. During the midst of doing something and an important message comes in, and it’s displayed right there. It wasn’t even on a wearable – we haven’t said wearables yet, but it wasn’t on a wearable, it wasn’t on a tablet. It was on the surface of the device that I was currently looking at.

(08:46)Imagine three, five, 10 years from now whenever it happens to be, where the physical structure of the device disappears and we can look at information on anything, whether it is augmented reality information or if our walls and surfaces and curved objects and dashboards in our cars, maybe all of these things are going to become screens for information.

Michael:

(09:07) So Alan, so you’re talking about all of these different technologies which is what everybody talks about, and yet at the same time as you said earlier, technology itself is not really the key thing. Right , so the future of work is not an it that we can simply buy off the shelf, so therefore I come back to what actually is the future of work, what are the components of the future of work? What are we talking about?

Alan:

(09:34) Okay, great question and see I fell into my own trap. We started talking about technology. There is always this battle between technology and culture. People love to get on the Internet and debate academically about which is more important, and culture eats technology for lunch and all of these things.

(09:53)I actually believe it’s not culture, it’s not technology, its purpose. If you don’t have a set reason for doing what you’re doing, let’s look at the two other elements. You don’t have a reason for doing something, but you have the best culture in the world. So all the people who share and collaborate and are open, but they don’t have an end goal so it doesn’t matter.

(10:13)Or you don’t have a purpose for what you’re doing, but you have the world’s greatest holographic, mobile software device, still doesn’t work. If you start with the ‘why’, we are trying to close more sales deals, we are trying to improve customer service, we are trying you know get a product to market faster. The ‘why’ is what I want the future of customers to focus more on, then the supporting elements for the why, are the who and the what. Who being culture, the what being the technology, so why supported by who and what.

(10:51)When we work with our clients that is what we try to start them with at the ground zero, when they say we’re going through a digital transformation project, we want our brand awareness to be better. We want our employee engagement to be better. We want our supply chain to be improved, like whichever element someone comes to Consternation with the first thing we say to them is, let’s define the why. What are we trying to work on own a one, three, and five-year scale. What is the future for work for your employees?

(11:20)Then if we can get that defined, we can figure out how to use the technology and how to improve the culture. Does that make some sense?

Vala:

(11:27) It does, and then we talked about mobile and cloud maybe because the purpose is easier to articulate and demonstrate is that a challenge for social and collaboration technologies in the workplace folks are forgetting to lead with the purpose, and therefore the option perhaps lags behind cloud and mobile

Alan:

(11:50)We’ve had collaboration tools for 20 some odd years, give them whatever name you want to, today we talk about communities. Well there was forums you know, bulletin board systems and things. We’ve had ways to collaborate for 20 years, and as someone who has been marketing those solutions, I look back at the phrases we used to use 20 years ago.

(12:13)You know, seamless, borderless, time zone free experiences, communicate, collaborate, coordinate it was the Lotus saying 20 years ago. The three C’s; communicate, collaborate, coordinate.

(12:26)That’s exactly what vendors are saying today, so why haven’t those tools worked? If I’m sitting here saying we’ve had tools, that’s when people jump on and say well because the cultural side hasn’t been ready, and culture has now shifted, because we have Twitter and Facebook and we all understand sharing.

(12:46)Well no, we still have have got this great sharing feeling, we’ve got better at new more modern mobile and collaboration tools, but we still have a vendor after vendors after analyst survey, after everything saying, adoption is low. How do I improve the usage of these tools? Employee engagement is at a low percentage. Customer engagement is low.

(13:10) Okay, so we’ve improved tools, and we’ve improved culture, but still in 2015 almost every article is about failure. Of course there’s millions of great outliners, we have great case studies. But honestly, if we look at the media everything is about how this stuff doesn’t work.

Michael:

(13:27) Then why all the conversation about tools and what should we actually be talking about if this is the case?

Alan:               

(13:35)We should get back to that concept of purpose. We need upper management to define to the employees what it is that they are a bigger part of. It’s not all about the Kumbaya of if you’re open and transparent the company will benefit. You have to focus back on what it means to the individual employee.

(13:59)If management can explain to employees that you can close a sales deal faster, they’re going to buy into it.

Michael:

(14:05) So business benefit.

Alan:               

(14:07)Business benefits, key outcomes, everybody wants return on investment measurements. They want KPI measurements. You know a buddy of our Sameer Patel, I think is one of the best in the industry about talking to people about how to focus on key business outcomes. As you know, he’s done a great job over at SAP, you know really focusing their social business, not around the tool but around how do you bring it to a business outcome. How do you close the loop at the end of the day?

(14:41) you know, Jive Software does a great job with their purposeful places, you know building templates for things. You have vendor’s like Salesforce and SAP and Oracle who are building a social into their tools. IBM that’s building analytics into everything, so you can measure how stuff gets done, that’s where I’m excited about because I think we are at the cusp of a brand new era in productivity software where we are finally going to start really looking at how does it help us get our job done.

(15:14) For the last five years, 10 years, all we’ve done is layered it additional tools on and told people how much more productive they’re going to be. Do you remember how many times we’ve told people there going to be productive? You know blocks are going to make you more productive, Wiki’s are going to make you more productive, social networks are going to make you more productive. Thankfully, that’s not the marketing story anymore.

(15:35) Right now, the marketing story is, Vala, how do you connect to your customers better? How do you create multichannel communications, or you know, customer support people how do you make sure that customers feel listened to? Employees, how do you feel you can get your job done?

(15:51) I love it, I think we’re finally at a start of a time where people are getting the business value of all of this, which is exciting.

Vala:

(16:00) Alan, I read a Forbes tech article this week that said, average college students in the classroom, which is typically 50 minutes checks their device 10½ times, so pretty much every four minutes they’re checking their device, that’s the future of work. You know, 50% of work for millennial younger, is it easier to adopt where you are now part of a where I guess Ray calls it a digital native, not a digital immigrant you and I, where it’s expected that you communicate, you share, and you’re transparent and you know you’re sharing your experiences whether it’s in the customer support with a customer, or marketing, sales, or engineering. Do you think the enterprise will see greater adoption because of the explosion of digital natives in the work force?

Alan:

(16:49) Well there’s a couple of really important points that you brought up there, so you’re talking about people that are more comfortable with sharing. Now the interesting thing about that what Ray and I do a lot of talk about, is that is actually not based on age. So we talk about this concept about millennial verse gen wise, there’s boomers and on and on. What you’re talking about is this digital native or digital immigrant. I’m going to venture a guess without offending anyone, none of the three of us has birthdays that start with a two or a three. You know I think we are probably somewhere, and guess what…

Vala:

(17:21) Michael, is that true?

Michael:

(17:24) Yeah, speak for yourself

Alan:

(17:26)I’m just guessing, just guessing. We’re pretty digitally active, although there is not many more digitally informed CMO’s out there than yourself.

(17:35)So what we talk about at Constellation it’s based on your digital proficiency not your age, and digital proficiency is really easy for you guys to understand and t’s he audience out there, let me give you the 30 second crash course on it.

(17:49)It’s just two vectors. Your skill level with technology, and your comfort level with technology, and what that means is that you can not be very skilled with something, like you know you don’t know how to do it yet, but you’re really anxious to do it. Your comfort level is really high so you’re like I want to get in there and use the greatest new software, but I’m just not trained on it yet, but I’m eager.

(18:12)Or you can be super skilled with something, but really afraid to use it and an example of that is people that really understand security. They get it, they know how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, everything but because they are so knowledgeable, their comfort level is actually lower because they can know what can happen.

(18:33) So what we do is we take that matrix of skill level and comfort level, and map where employees are, and we figure out for them, you know what this percentage of your employee base are going to be the best sharers. These are the people that aren’t going to be connectors, they are going to be working in silos on their own. And we try to help our clients figure out how do we move those people amongst those categories. How do we get people that are eager to share, but don’t know how yet, to team up with the people that are you know more skilled but aren’t doing it as much. And we sort of map people together and formed these mutual relationships. You know, we’ve run some great workshops with companies to get to the point that you’re asking for. How do we get everybody internally being open, being transparent, and sharing?

(19:23)Now, the second half – I apologize if I keep going here, I’ll pause for a second to get your feedback. But once you’ve got these digital proficiency is mapped, you say you know are things going to be better when everybody is comfortable in sharing, and I actually question that.

(19:38) I think all information should be available, meaning I don’t want it locked away in an inbox that nobody else can get access to. But there is a difference between available and actually displayed. So I think if we do everything in a status update, where we post everything to a blog and we are constantly flooding each other with information, which actually become less productive.

(20:02) I actually like that information is created and shared in a way that should be searchable, it should be discoverable, but it shouldn’t always be visually displayed. I think that’s the next generation of nirvana.

(20:15) Today, we have email that everyone loves to talk about hating, and then we have social tools where everybody says put it in the stream. I think we need something that in between. I mean something that’s not siloed, but not in your face. It’s shared, but it’s shared by being searchable, not shared by being in your face. Does that make sense?

Michael:

(20:36) Yeah, okay so Alan does everything that you’re talking about, how does that ultimately lead to adoption. Because we were talking about the business benefits before, so if I’m a business executive and I am sponsoring a collaboration project I want adoption and then I want to realize those benefits. So how does everything that you’re describing lead into adoption and at the same time, I guess the bottom line question is, how do you drive adoption?

Alan:

(21:09)Great question and everybody want to feel that their project is validated and worthy and useful. There is a simple way to drive adoption, you don’t goal from a number between zero and hope to have 30, 40, 50, 60% adoption. What tool inside a company has 100% adoption? The payroll system. Everybody has to use it.

(21:29)Collaboration tools need to reach that same level, where you’re not aiming for 40, 50, 60% adoption. There’s no happy medium. For something to be successful you need 100% adoption, and to accomplish that it has to be a part of the workflow. It has to be the way that that process is done, not an optional way.

(21:49)So if you are working with your team on an RFP to win a sales deal, it can’t be that some of us rely on email, and a few of us post it on IBM connections or SharePoint, or Chatter and then you are kind of confused. You know, is Michael one of those people that like email, and Vala is one of those people that lights collaboration tools? The process your company follows has to become an open and shared tool. It has to be the way you get to do it.

(22:17)Then there’s no choice in the matter, if I’m looking for information about how to close a deal, or where that presentation is on the latest features coming up, it can’t be that some people will email it and some people post it in Box or Dropbox, or Ignite or one of these other…

Michael:

(22:35) Sorry of interrupting, so if I’m the business manager, I see, now I get it, you want me to be a policeman. You want me to like walk around like in some movie where the guy like walks around to every desk.

Alan:

(22:46) I want you to instill the process that is used and then ensure that all of the people following it by self-policing themselves. You need to make it simple enough that people see a benefit for themselves. You need to teach them that they will benefit and not the company will benefit.

(23:08) Too many adoption projects fail because I see posters on the wall about you know, the company is going to become open and transparent and everybody is going to be able to share. I think you need to attack people’s minds at an individual level. I think you need to say, guess what, you’ll get your job done better, more efficient, more effective if you follow the following rules.

(23:31) Once a person gets that epiphany of you know what, I was stuck, I didn’t know how to translate this into another language. I went on to our social network and I asked somebody for help and I got feedback immediately. Wow, I couldn’t have done this five years ago. You know what, I’ll start giving back.

(23:47)I think people have to have the epiphany for themselves, and then they will start giving back as well so it takes a little while to get there.

Michael:

(23:54) So fundamentally then what you’re saying is, as adoption becomes a leadership issue in which you are helping link the personal interest in each of the employees with whatever the business strategy and business objectives and goals are?

Alan:

(24:15)Absolutely, don’t humans love being, you know personalized, they don’t want to be a cog in the machine. And the best run HR firms and companies you always hear about how they put people first not the business first. And if you care about your employees, your employees are going to make your company better. If you focus on your company at the highest level, and the employees are just cogs in that wheel then none of them care.

(24:45) If you make their lives, their jobs, their success, their reward, their recognition better, they’re going to be more efficient and effective employees. And I think putting the tools in place to do that is important, and I think putting the culture and you know, like we said culture and tools is driven by purpose.

(25:03) Lead by telling these people what it is that you are trying to accomplish. Hey guys, we are number two in customer satisfaction. I want to become number one.

(25:12)You know, I look at some of the Canadian banks and how they’ve implemented tools like an IBM connection for example and they did it with the mission of not becoming more social, or not becoming happy IBM customer reference stories. Their mission was to become number one in customer satisfaction for Canadian banks.

(25:31)You know, look at airlines, airlines need to challenge themselves to become better at customer satisfaction. The tool is just a piece of doing that.

Vala:

(25:41) So is there a particular line of business or executive that in your experience has demonstrated business benefits best in terms of championing collaboration tools

Alan:

(25:55) Great question and I think collaboration tools, it’s very interesting. You have the age of all question of do you go bottom up or top-down. Collaboration tools tend to work best when they start at a departmental solution, like the marketing manager wants to use this, or the engineers are using you know that lasting confluence to make engineering better, and then that tool organically grows throughout the organisation.

(26:24) It reaches the point that IT gets a little angry. IT goals, hold on we’ve got all these little organic tools that are happening. We want to take control of it, and so you want line of business and IT to work together.

(26:34) You know, Ray gives a great kind of demonstration about when he’s live on stage and one of my favorite things he says is raise your hand if you’re in IT, and half the room raises their hand. Raise your hand if you’re in the business organizations, and half the room raises their hands. And he says, okay now all of you shake hands, stop hating each other.

(26:51)You know, we need line of business to make their needs known to IT, and the age old story of IT restricting what can be done because of cost and because of complexity, because of security. Those things are shifting so much now because of the cloud. Cloud is making it so much easier to adopt a tool. If the world’s greatest collaboration software comes out next year, it’s not an 18 to 24 months roll out, where we upgrade our servers and then make sure we have bandwidth on the network and we roll out a 12 week pilot program – no. You pop up a URL on everybody’s homepage and now they have access to it 30 seconds later.

(27:34) That has so dramatically changed IT’s mission. IT can now be the friend of line of business as opposed to the evil gatekeeper. So I think we are seeing some great shifts.

(27:46) When you ask about departments are responsible for these, two of the most interesting that used to not be on the table are communications and HR. It’s pretty cool that the HR Department actually has a stake in it these days. Why? Because of the people aspect if these tools are working, guess what? People are getting rewarded and recognise, and part of social is the humans involved and who better to manage that aspect of the business than HR Department. And so they actually have a lot more stake in the game than they had a decade ago.

Michael:

(28:20) So Alan, we’ve spoken very clearly about the role of business leadership and rolling out a collaboration initiative, and the fact that it’s a business project and that the only way to get adoption is to link employee self-interest to the larger business objectives around which that program is being assembled and rolled out. At the same time, there are lots of vendors who are putting together in selling various types of tools, and I know you’ve been studying the market. So maybe give us a sense of the market landscape, you know we have Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, Jive, many other companies develop collaboration tools. What’s the difference between these tools, what’s the shape of the market like?

Alan:

(29:18)That’s a great question, so if we go back, go back say, let’s say go backwards 10 years. The collaboration market was a battle between IBM and Microsoft. It was primarily focused around their two main email platforms. You had Microsoft exchange shops and you had IBM Domino shops or Lotus Domino shops, and those two would kind of someone would migrate one way and someone would migrate the other way and the vendors would battle back and forth.

(29:44) Collaboration started to kind of pick up and a whole bunch of small start-ups saw a niche, they saw a gap that the big guys weren’t filling. So you had companies like Yammer and Box and these others sort of say Jive and say, we are going to fill a space that the large software vendors are not providing.

(30:08) So that was great for a few years, companies started to augment their email platforms with niche tools from all those other vendors. Well then what has happened over the last decade is the big enterprise software incumbents, Microsoft, IBM, add Google now to the mix, Google wasn’t really around 10 years ago. For all intent and purposes enterprise software, but Google has worked their way into that equation very firmly. And then you have the large enterprise software companies like Oracle, SAP, Infor etc. all buildings social into their business platforms. So where does that leave the niche players today?

(30:50)The same place it left them a decade ago. The big enterprise software companies caught up. In many ways they have surpassed some of the things that small niche vendor’s are doing. They have larger research divisions. They have more go to market strategy with huge sales department. They have huge cloud infrastructures for scalability and things. The big guys have caught up.

(31:13)So now it’s exciting for the small guys to start doing the filling the gap again. So we look at things like filling the gap in real time communication, the blending of video chat and instant messaging into collaboration. So you get this whole new breed of vendors that people like to talk about like Slack, Flowdock, Convo, Hipchat, you know that breed of conversation is really big.

(31:42) File sharing vendor’s Box, Dropbox, Ignite, Intralinks, all of these companies why they differentiate is that they’re not just file manager in the cloud, they are used case specific for industries. All of the winners in those cases Citric, Sharefile, Box, Dropbox, what they’ve done they’ve said, you know what, we understand medical records better than anybody else. We understand financial disclosure documents better than anybody else. So they have seen that the big guys have caught up and just made file sharing available in their platforms. So the niche vendors have said, we’re going to take it to the next level.

(32:26) Chat clients, so mobile messaging, we all in our personal lives use Facebook messenger, we use Whatap we use you know, all these different text messaging apps. So guess what? We’re starting to see an evolution of enterprise version of those, Cotap, Talko, some others. So you know, I do so much work with start-ups and they get mad when I say things like the big guys have caught up. That’s not a problem. There is always opportunity for the smart small vendor’s to sort of catch up.

(32:59) Task management tools, absolutely one of the hottest you know pieces in this market. The Sonos, and Riks and Trello’s, Wonderlist was just acquired by Microsoft. You know, Workfront just got double digit millions in funding, and Rik just got double-digit millions in funding. So task management tools incredibly hot. Why? Because with the overflow of information that we’re all getting today, you need to bring some structure.

(33:34) Structure doesn’t mean the old Microsoft Project way of doing things, but it means assignments and milestones, and some order to all of the things that we’re doing. So these project management tools are absolutely one of the hottest things that I cover right now.

Michael:

(33:51) Can you give us some differentiation between IBM, Microsoft, Goole, just how do they fit together, just very briefly.

Alan:

(34:01)That’s a great question. Let’s look at the big three IBM, Microsoft, Google. IBM’s strength these days I would say has firmly revolved around the analytics capabilities of what the IBM portfolio can do. You look at kind of their catchphrase names like IBM Watson. IBM is looking at how can we implement analytics into everything that we do? How can we make email more intelligent? How can we make social collaboration tools more intelligent? How can we bring data mining to the average employee with IBM Watson and analytics?

(34:32) So IBM strength is sort of you know really intelligent based and I’ll get back to where I think that is key to the future of Oracle and we are going to come back to intelligence.

(34:43) Microsoft’s strength is still around and this isn’t a knock on them but it’s still around that core office environment. We all live off of Word and PowerPoint and Excel still, and that runs businesses as much as we want to say it doesn’t. So Microsoft hasn’t rested on their laurels. They haven’t just said, we’re going to sit back and let our cash cow of Office run the company.

(35:07)They have completely evolved Office to be (a) primarily cloud-based. So Office 365 is absolutely the hottest thing you know customers are asking me about and it’s the number one thing that we are probably getting queries about, you know what should we be doing you know from our Office and our Windows environment, how do we go to Office 365? But they haven’t just sat back and let Office 365 be the products that we know and love today. They’ve introduced new products like Delve for finding information, it’s the new conceptual search tool. They’ve added Sway, which is the next generation way of creating – I don’t want to call it power points, but creating content.

(35:45)You know, so Microsoft is still focusing their business on creating content and creating the information we need. And then Yammer, and Skype, and email allows us to share, but let’s say Microsoft’s strength is still the core sort of belief of creating content.

(36:03) Googles strength is sort of around that we are the next generation, you know email, cloud-based, android you know, running on mobile device. We are cloud only, there is no such thing as a Google server on premises. So they really gel with companies that are thinking, you know we’re going to go 100% cloud. Google has done a phenomenal job at seeding their future customer base by being very strong in universities and school systems and charities.

(36:36) So Google has done a very good job in that medium business space, at seeding future executives that are going to want to use Google products. They are doing lots of things that we live in our everyday life. Who doesn’t use Google for search? Who doesn’t use Google maps to find their way around? They’re implementing the best of Google’s tools, into Google for work.

(37:00) So imagine if you’re familiar with Seree on IOS, you may know Google now on android. Imagine if you have Google now capabilities, but in Google for work. And so we are starting to see some really cool things there.

(37:14)So I think each of the three big vendor’s has a strength and a differentiation. I think we don’t see mass migrations from one to the other. I think if your own Microsoft shop, your 90% going to stay in Microsoft shop. If you’re in Google shop you’re going to stay there. If you’re in IBM shop you’re going to stay there. Of course there are outliers that go back and forth between them, but I think one of the things I should say is that it is far more interesting than it was 10 years ago, is that you can use all three of those and they can mix and match in ways that they never used to.

(37:46) And I think the cloud has empowered those tools to mix and match. So companies like Box, you know and Aaron Levies vision of the cloud being the operating system has really change things. I’d say Microsoft more than anybody else, the new Microsoft, my God you know five years ago you never thought there would have been million.

Michael:

(38:07) Yes they really know how to piece the market together. Vala we are just about running out of time, why don’t you take the last question.

Vala:              

(38:13) Well you know, we started the show and Alan talked about constellation mission is to think about what’s next, so let’s fast forward five to 10 years from now.      

Alan:                Happy to.

Vala:              

(38:27) Happy to. What is – I don’t want to use the word disruptive because it’s so overused. Is it going to be intelligence and analytics everywhere? Is it going to be gamification and using wearables and IoT, what going to be really a game changer in terms of digital workplace or future of work if we’re talking about 2020?

Alan:               

(38:50) Love it. So let’s end on the exciting oracle of what is going to happen. Picture the future.

Vala:              

(38:57) We’re going to have to revisit this your answer by the way five years from now.

Alan:               

(39:01)That’s going to be really fun to do actually. I think, more so wearables as they exist today are a fad. A watch, glasses, a belt buckle – whatever it happens to be, five years from now it’s not going to be a device. It’s going to be woven into everything that we do. So I’m not going to sit here and talk about wearable being the future.

(39:19)The future is going to be the ability to make decisions on what to do and what not to do based on all of this analytical information that’s at our disposal. So what do I mean by that? I mean how do we look at the project management or our email inbox or our collaboration tools far more intelligently than what we’re doing today.

(39:42)If you watch any of these future sci-fi movies, you look at Ironman, you know Tony Stark. He’s got this computer system called Jarvis that helps him decide what to do. I always lecture, where is Jarvis for the enterprise, and that’s coming. You look at Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, IBM Watson, Google Now. We’re going to have these personal digital assistants, maybe we need a better name for those because PDA are what tablets used to be 20 years ago we called them PDA’s.

(40:14) But we’re going to have these personal digital assistants that are going to help us figure out what it is that we should be working on. They’re not going to be fully automated. They’re not going to be responding for you, and they’re not going to be doing your job for you. Computers are not going to take over. But imagine if you could prioritize your inbox or prioritize your calendar based on far more information that you can kind of mentally do on your own.

(40:41)So what if I could look at my inbox based on CRM data? I don’t mean look at my inbox based on priority or based on sender name. what if my inbox sorted itself, that highest priority customers linked to my CRM system. That’s something that’s hard for a person to do, but an algorithm can do that, so I think we’re going to have a lot more intelligence built into our software tools.

Vala:

(41:09) Is Watson in healthcare an example of that, because there’s been talks over the last 12 months where you’re starting to see that super computing capabilities integrated into the day-to-day job of healthcare providers with IBM?

Alan:

(41:23) It’s a perfect example and for those who aren’t familiar with it, you know, you take IBM’s supercomputer Watson, this computer that’s able to process huge amounts of information and they’ve applied it to healthcare and the first thing people say is, ‘oh, we don’t want to replace doctors.’ Go read about what IBM’s doing. It’s not about replacing doctors at all, it’s about giving doctors the ability to at their fingertips have every clinical study, every report, every research project ever done instantly helping them do their job.

(41:56) No human being can keep up with that amount of information. Extrapolate that down to our day-to-day job. We’re not doctors but we’re all information workers, but we can’t keep up with social media, email, blog entries, how many great CXO-Talks are happening you know blah, blah, blah.

(42:12)We can’t keep up with that. So if the same way Watson can help doctors distil information down, wouldn’t it be great if our personal digital assistants could find the you know, the golden nuggets in that huge vast amount of information and help us make the right decisions on what we should be working on and what we shouldn’t be working on.

(42:34)You know, maybe right now I need to ignore that email from Ray because there’s a more important email from a customer. Well, my software currently doesn’t do that for me, and I hope one, three, five years from now it actually will do that for me.

Michael:

(42:50) So predictive analytics applied to prioritizing what matters to us based on what has mattered in the past, and even more importantly what the system thinks is going to matter in the future and the immediate future like three seconds from now.

Alan:

(43:07) Well imagine and let me tie two things together here real quick – I know we’re running out of time, but imagine that it wasn’t just based on things that have happened in the past, or what we think is important. What if, let’s bring that IoT talk that Vala mentioned a minute ago. Let’s talk about wearable and IoT. What if my system could filter information for me based on my current biomedical data? What if I was wearing you know, a Fitbit in 2018 or and Apple watch in 2018 and it knew that I was extremely stressed right now, and it looked at my calendar and it said, you have an important meeting on your calendar in 30 minutes. I can tell that your heart rate is elevated, and for the next 20 minutes I’m going to pause on delivering you any new email.

(43:49) What if our computers knew about us. That is such personalized, tailoring at the moment, based on location, based on healthcare data, that would be super cool and I’m looking forward to seeing that.

Vala:

(44:06) I can totally see human resource organizations in a company that has the right culture even gamify their employee wellness programs based on wearable, integrated, SaaS, I’ll say monitoring tools that will give you a reward, an incentive, a badge if you got up from your desk and walked around a little bit, because a healthy employee is a healthy company you know.

Alan:

(44:32) It is and for devices for example you know, these devices need to know if we’re in motion or not. When I’m on a bus or on an airplane, it’s not the best time to deliver more content to me. just let me deal with the content I have. things like that, I think intelligence and sensor data, medical data, and fitness data and all of these things are going to come together and we’re going to have this really cool personalized work experience. Right now software doesn’t personalize. Imagine if software could personalize.

Michal:

(45:03) Personalization, context and data, that’ll be our next show.

Alan:

Sounds great!

Michael:

(45:08) Thank you for joining us. You have been watching episode number 118 of CXO-Talk, with Alan Lepofsky, who is a future of work analyst with constellation Research. I’m Michael Krigsman and my co-host is Vala Afshar and Vala it’s been a very interesting discussion.

Vala:   

(45:32) Alandropped a lot of science on us. We could have talked about this topic for another two hours. Thank you so much Alan.

Alan:

(45:39)You welcome guys it’s been a pleasure.

Michael:

(45:41) Thank you so much and on Friday, we have another CXO-Talk, episode number 119 with Liza Donnelly who is a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine. So please join us on Friday at 3 o’clock Eastern time. Thank you very much, bye bye.

Apple:                                                www.apple.com

Box:                                                   www.box.com

Citri:                                                  www.citrix.com

Constellation Research:                www.constellationr.com

Convo                                               www.convo.com

Dropbox:                                          www.dropbox.com

Facebook:                                        www.facebook.com

Flowdock                                          www.flowdock.com

Fileshare                                           https://fileshare.symantec.com

Forrester Research:                        www.forrester.com

Google:                                             www.google.com

Hipchat:                                            www.hipchat.com

IBM:                                                   www.ibm.com

Ignite:                                                www.ignite.com

Infor:                                                  www.infor.com

Intralinks:                                          www.intralinks.com

LinkedIn:                                           www.linkedIn.com

Microsoft:                                          www.microsoft.com

Riks:

SAP:                                                    www.sap.com

SocialText:                                         www.socialtext.com

Sonos:                                                www.sonos.com

Skype:                                                 www.skype.com

Slack                                                    https://slack.com

Trello:                                                  https://trello.com

Twitter:                                                www.twitter.com

Jive Software:                                     www.jivesoftware.com

Salesforce:                                          www.salesforce.com

Oracle:                                                 www.oracle.com

Whatsapp:                                           www.whatsapp.com

Workfront:                                           www.workfront.com

Yammer:                                              www.yammer.com