Archive for the ‘Enterprise 2.0’ Category

9 reasons why VPN is not the right tool for remote access from Mobile

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Wrote a quick (but long!) post at Bitzer Mobile’s blog on VPN and why it ain’t not the right tool for remote access from mobile device and tablet. Read it here.

Why Enterprise Mobility is important for an entrepreneur?

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

This is an extract from the keynote I gave at TieSmashup 2.0 last Saturday on 8th Sept, 2012  at IIT Mumbai. The goal was to highlight the importance of business apps and why there is an opportunity. The excerpt has been modified to remove the ramblings. The keynote followed a panel discussion with Narayan of Dexetra and Deepak Ravindran of Innoz. The learnings from the panel would be in a future post.

Tie Smashup Information Technology has bestowed us a 10-year pro-creation cycle. Every 10 years comes an opportunity to innovate and recreate things from scratch. We learn from the wisdom of the previous cycle and attempt to make things 10x better than the previous one. Each cycle gives an immense opportunity of wealth creation and to make the world a happier place to live by making us more connected. How do you as an entrepreneur in the audience benefit from this?

Before lunch time, I heard entrepreneurs talk about website, web-presence, social media, etc. To you as an entrepreneur, anything web related is a thing of past. There are too many people solving problems around the web. The freshness is no longer there. You should be looking three years ahead of everybody. Internet is for the connectivity backbone and the web as yet any other channel. Instead, you should be doing things on mobile. When I say mobile, I don’t mean, yet another app for social, local, news.

Going back to the 10 year pro-creation cycle of IT, this started with:

  • 1980s – Gave us mainframe.
  • 1990s – Gave us Personal computers.
  • 2000s – Gave us Internet.
  • 2010s – Now, the Mobile boom beckons.

Each cycle gives us opportunities which were 10x beyond what it was earlier. For example, the number of consumers for mainframes were not more than a million, followed by 100 million units for PCs, followed by 1 billion internet users. Guess what–10 billion mobile phones would be shipped by 2016. The current IT spend combined across hardware, software, mobile, PC, whatever, is around $1.6 trillion worldwide out of which 18% is for mobile.

I think Mobile is huge, much bigger than what Web was. As an entrepreneur, I believe that mobility is going to fundamentally change how people connect with machines and humans. In a small way it is already happening at home. A progressive doctor in a clinic at Bangalore, uses an app on his smartphone for appointments of a day before his day begins and carries an iPad to keep himself in the loop of patients and peers.

Why Enterprise apps or apps for businesses? You as an entrepreneur should be building things where money is made in every transaction and provides utility to the masses. There are close to one million apps on the appstore. However, 50% of them do not have any ratings nor any significant downloads. Why? Because, 100s of similar apps already exist. Instead of focusing on the usual mix of photo sharing, news aggregation, location, social, games, etc. I feel that you should be building apps for businesses. This is a large opportunity and few are paying attention.

That’s the path I chose at Bitzer. We at Bitzer are building some necessary infrastructure which businesses of tomorrow would need. We are building a secure remote access product which enables an enterprise to become mobile. It’s like VPN but much more done for mobile from the ground-up. Right from accessing the business applications in the intranet, files & folders, intranet websites, e-mail and more. I feel that connectivity is the missing piece in employee productivity. What we are attempting is akin to creating some of the well known Internet infrastructure companies during the internet boom of late-90s/early-2000s, which created the back-bone of the internet, gave the necessary tools to large companies to run their business.

To give you some example of how businesses are rapidly moving onto mobile, esp. adopting tablets, one of the largest domestic carriers in US called Alaska Airlines, removed 11kgs of flight manuals from it’s planes and swapped it with a 700 gram iPad with apps on it. Soon other airlines followed. Thanks to the introduction of iPad now the uber-important flight plan is being sent digitally. Another example is–how mobile apps are changing agriculture in America. There are apps which help increase the produce and predict the harvest time, pest infestation, etc. by analyzing the pictures of the farm. A few other apps exist for farming. There is a separate industry being born for connecting the mobile to the real-world in terms of accessories for such businesses.

Another big area for business apps is healthcare. There are apps which check your pulse followed by helping you communicate with a doctor remotely. The day is not far when your diagnosis will start before you reach the doctor’s clinic. In future, a specialized app will be capable of analyzing your ailments based on pulse, temperature and heartbeat. The apps fundamentally change how people would communicate with each other.

Don’t look at building apps which make our lives incrementally better, rather take on things which are orthogonal to the current trend. I urge you to build apps for business, which look unsexy but these are much bigger opportunities.

Updated Sep 17. Edited and many fixes.

Interview with Rajeev Suri

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Here’s a short interview Rajeev Suri did at the NASSCOM Emerge venue in Gurgaon.

Why Web 2.0? Why now?

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

A friend-of-a-friend (“SJ”) and I were talking about Web 2.0 as part of his research for a major London based VC. He asked me, “Why Web 2.0? And Why now?” In large part for Silicon Valley geeks, Web 2.0 is nothing new and it’s an old topic. Guess what, rest of the world and the enterprise are waking up to Web 2.0 now.
Here’s a summary of what I explained to him:
1. Web 2.0 is an attempt to fulfill the promises made during the Web 1.0 days. Office on the web, online calendar, utility Computing for the masses, content sharing, collaboration, anywhere/anytime on-demand storage, one-click publishing, etc. are some of the examples, where we heard lot of chatter during the late 90s but we are seeing real applications only now.
2. Growth of user-created content. Simply put, blogs and wikis are allowing non-geek crowd to participate in the 2-way web. The surge of tools, commoditization of CMS, 1-click publishing and new methods of monetization are pushing the limits and expectations of both consumers and innovative startups.
3. Money is no longer just waiting on the sidelines (it has started talking lately). Web 1.0 bust is now digested and pooped from our intestines. At a recent New Tech Meetup in Palo Alto, I overheard couple of angel investors introducing themselves to the companies demoing over there.
4. Browser as a platform has matured. I gave him a very simple example, of rectangles with smooth/rounded edges rendered on web pages. During the 1.0 days it was quite a hack doing that using tables and images. In 2.0, it is done by a few lines of CSS. And then there is AJAX, which has made the browser a much more mature platform.
All of the 4 are the necessary ingredients in that order of decreasing priority, for making Web 2.0 happen. More than that and contrary to a popular notion, Web 2.0 is not just about the advancements of browser as a platform, or social networking at large, or raw bandwidth/storage for video at cheap prices, or just the sheer volume of user-created content, but it’s the ideas around simple applications which are now being done right (of course, technology has helped). It’s the simple applications which everybody wanted to reduce their drudgery while working with computing devices. That’s why it’s happening now and has a new version number.
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Facebook for the Enterprise

Monday, December 18th, 2006

It is totally amazing how large corporations “engulf” 1000s of employees; minimal existence as an employee id or an e-mail address, contributing from a small cubicle in a functional department. I was talking to a few people over at my day-job — these are the people who have at least 100+ connections on LinkedIn. A lot of these connections are also from the work buddies. When I asked them about connections at work beyond the 1st-degree, very few existed.
Doesn’t it make sense to have connections beyond 1st degree at work, except for the ones coming through the bosses? More than that, doesn’t it makes sense to ‘show and tell’ the life at work and beyond work? One of the challenges within the enterprise is finding people who could do the job, but managers hire external consultants, spend time and money on external recruiting efforts to get it done.
A Facebook for the enterprise could be the answer. People would know what you do, who do you interact with and projects you are working on.
Sure, this would raise the “heckles” of the management, even more of the immediate managers — They would be worried as ever, thwarting further moves allowing employees to promote the brand YOU. What the heck, You have been successful in establishing 100s of connections on LinkedIn, have been writing a blog which the recruiters are reading and have been posting videos on YouTube and have made friends across the atlantic.
What a typical implementation of a Enterprise Facebook would have?
1. A Profile Page
2. A Project Page
3. A Friends Page
4. A Message Page
5. A Musings/Moods/Notes Page
6. A Groups Page
Organizations are pathetic in having Groups for intra-company discussions. Think about it. Knowledge is not contained in a department — it cuts across functional boundaries.
However, don’t do the following if you want the Enterprise Facebook to succeed:
1. Do not have implicit connections between manager and the employee. Have a “boss connection” only if the employee chooses to do so (Great HR exercise here to figure out the bosses who are disliked!)
2. Do not let this project ever, ever be run by HR
3. Do not moderate the content. People within the firewall are more responsible than outside
And yeah, if your Enterprise Facebook experiment becomes successful, open it up outside the corporate firewall and hand over an alumni account to every departing employee.
Doing the above, might improve your rankings by couple of notches in Fortune’s Most Admired Companies.
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Enterprise Tagging: How Sales & Marketing can exchange information

Friday, November 24th, 2006

Tagging on the internet has allowed discovery of information from individual blog posts, to stories, to stock tickers, to photos, all of which has given rise to Folksonomy. Large corporations have Marketing departments spend millions of dollars in marketing material which never get shared with the sales department — event if they do, it’s after spending tonnes of money in building/buying some proprietary software to automate the process.
The reality is:
* Marketing is global, so are sales
* Marketing material is produced by different teams viz. marcom, product marketing, channel marketing, event people, etc. etc.
* Sales department sits in their own silo — esp. in large organization, Marketing material never reaches sales, even if it does, either it’s not timely or not in it’s entirety or maybe after spending thousands of dollars for a software to properly tag the proprietary meta-data
* Meta-data is a moving target — If a system is used for storing the attributes in an RDBMS — any change in meta-data either renders the content undiscoverable or leaves it with incorrect attributes.
Come tagging to the rescue, being flexible, tags can be defined on the go — however good idea to have some high-level tags; as in product names, business units, etc. The second level tags could be platforms, customer names, companies, etc. How the information can be exchanged? Marketing runs a blog with the single objective of exchanging information with sales (in this case say marketing collateral). Every post is tagged with the product the collateral belongs to, the second level tags being platform, industry vertical, target audience, etc. etc. Sales can receive this information by either subscribing to the feeds or by searching for the tags on the blogs. WordPress supports category level feeds.
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Enterprise Tagging: How Sales & Marketing can exchange information

Friday, November 24th, 2006

Tagging on the internet has allowed discovery of information from individual blog posts, to stories, to stock tickers, to photos, all of which has given rise to Folksonomy. Large corporations have Marketing departments spend millions of dollars in marketing material which never get shared with the sales department — event if they do, it’s after spending tonnes of money in building/buying some proprietary software to automate the process.

The reality is:
* Marketing is global, so are sales
* Marketing material is produced by different teams viz. marcom, product marketing, channel marketing, event people, etc. etc.
* Sales department sits in their own silo — esp. in large organization, Marketing material never reaches sales, even if it does, either it’s not timely or not in it’s entirety or maybe after spending thousands of dollars for a software to properly tag the proprietary meta-data
* Meta-data is a moving target — If a system is used for storing the attributes in an RDBMS — any change in meta-data either renders the content undiscoverable or leaves it with incorrect attributes.

Come tagging to the rescue, being flexible, tags can be defined on the go — however good idea to have some high-level tags; as in product names, business units, etc. The second level tags could be platforms, customer names, companies, etc. How the information can be exchanged? Marketing runs a blog with the single objective of exchanging information with sales (in this case say marketing collateral). Every post is tagged with the product the collateral belongs to, the second level tags being platform, industry vertical, target audience, etc. etc. Sales can receive this information by either subscribing to the feeds or by searching for the tags on the blogs. WordPress supports category level feeds.

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Why the Hiring Process sucks and How Writable Intranet can fix it

Friday, August 4th, 2006

One of the biggest roadblocks in hiring process is (absence of) collaboration. Again, email and word documents are used for accepting resumes, screening, providing feedback and managing the queue, prioritization, etc. There are multiple parties involved for a single job opening viz. Hiring Manager, Recruiter, HR Manager, HR Specialist (the lady who schedules the interviews!), the interview team, Hiring Manager’s boss, etc.
All the parties involved use e-mail and word documents buried in e-mail to gather feedback and collect data points, which sucks big time. It’s a pain managing the approval process, why a candidate is good on resume, who was phone-screened and rejected/approved. This whole workflow is a mess in most large and small companies. There are vendors however who have software/services for automating this; some are focused on resume management, others are geared towards candidate management, while others specialize in managing the job descriptions. A good software costs at least $200K-$500K in TCO, including license fees, software costs, hardware costs, people costs, training, etc. On top of that, in my experience, HR is last in the queue to get IT support to create an infrastructure to manage the workflow.
What’s needed bare minimum is a collaboration tool for the Hiring Managers where they can track resumes, annotate them as needed and capture feedback from the interview team. I think the Writable Intranet in the form of Wikis could be a great platform. Here are some ideas:

  1. Create a centralized Wiki run/managed by the HR department.
  2. Each page on the Wiki corresponds to a an open position within an organization. As the pool of resumes comes in, the resumes are attached as a file and an entry is made as a section for each candidate. The interview team provides individual feedback by entering their feedback directly into the Wiki under the candidate’s section. Thus all the data gets collected in one single place and is visible to everybody
  3. Security issues? The major thing is reducing visibilty to other people who are not part of the hiring process for a job; depends on the policy as well. Turning off “special pages” and features like “Random Pages” would prevent people from accidentally jumping onto a page.

Easy?

Writable Intranet

Monday, July 10th, 2006

“Writable Intranet” is the corporate intranet of the future where employees collaborate using Wikis, Blogs and applications interoperate using RSS. The Writable Intranet does not have series of static pages where information is disseminated “top down”. It is the place where employees collaborate, exchange thoughts, create plans, capture meeting notes, track projects, create documents (not word documents but documents which are web pages and have version control). The Writable Intranet marks the end of e-mail as the collaboration platform. The Writable Intranet means that enterprise knowledge is “free” and searchable by anybody. The “freedom” implies that knowledge is neither in e-mails and nor in documents but in easily accessible and searchable repositories. The Writable Intranet means information which is a constant source of data to other people who make modifications at will.

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Collaboration in the Intranet: The existing ways are fundamentally flawed

Saturday, July 1st, 2006

Fundamentally flawed? Ye, right. Do you remember that the last document you created for your project plan is in the folder //HD4567Share/CorpDocuments/Plan/? Worse, an updated copy of the document is in Sue’s e-mail. Even worse, Sally has updated with her 2 cents and uploaded it on Notes. Go figure!
Mostly collaboration within the intranet is built on top of two technologies viz. e-mail and documents (and documents within your e-mail). Most communication around e-mail is 1:1 or 1:Many or Many:Many, everybody keeps adding their “stuff” on top of the original thread with corrections, clarifications, modifications to the original. A way too many times you have to scroll/wade through to figure out which is the most important e-mail with the most up-to-date/accurate content. And then that e-mail gets archived in one of the “folders” somewhere. Imagine a discussion on a Sales strategy or a Marketing plan. Yeah, you may have had face-to-face meetings, but the little oh-so-forgotten meeting minutes are still in e-mail. Imagine looking for the outcome of such a meeting 6 months down the road — It would be an exercise in vain.
Why this mess? Two-fold, collaboration platforms are draconian and proprietary. Wrote in word, can’t edit in HTML, your word document in e-mail is outdated the moment someone opens up and hits save. Using e-mail as the default publishing mechanism and document repository is killing the organizational knowledge. My exchanges with a former colleague are now in my mailbox. Good or bad, my boss doesn’t event know what ideas we exchanged for that product roadmap! Organizations are not to be blamed for this, there was no one-click publish platform to enable collaboration and knowledge exchange before e-mail. The over reliance is troublesome. Bob Sutor suggests PDF is good until no one wants to edit the document. Not bad, but how about few people collaboratively editing a document before it is published to a larger audience. We’re not there yet, at least not without paying a large fortune.
Come Wikis, Blogs, RSS, JotSpot and other platform. Don’t get this wrong, MediaWiki, the defacto Wiki platform and most of the other wikis still store the content in a data store which is not tuned for harvesting, publishing using other
tools except MediaWiki — All presentable content on Wikis are still HTML. The challenge as David Berlind puts it is “interoperability” of proprietary applications, their protocols. It’s the “walled” systems for content management, document management and e-mail management which are guarding collaboration. David points out that RSS alone can rescue us there:

With RSS as both the notification mechanism and the content subscription mechanism, you basically have a single technology that takes e-mail, e-mail attachments, and far too many round-trips (of email, to fully facilitate the collaboration) completely out of the equation.

Wikis by themselves have the power to change the way corporate intranets disseminate and share knowledge. It’s not a surprise it is easier to find a place to host a webpage and edit it’s content (or maybe even run a Wiki) on the public internet. Have you ever tried hosting a page in your intranet, if you were successful; how easy it was? Even if there are a few companies listening, the future of “Writable Intranet” is here. What I fear most? The whole story of Wikis, Blogs, etc. getting diluted by vendors like Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, InterWoven, etc. by claiming that “yeah, we also do Wikis, Blogs, RSS” and then locking that information down in their proprietary store (a la import all formats but export none!). Keeping a close tab on this one.
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