Conference report: Constellation Research Connected Enterprise

Making Waves’ CTO Asbjørn Vølstad attended the Constellation Research Connected Enterprise conference, held November 9th – 11th in Dana Point, south of Los Angeles.

Here, you get the highlights from the conference with Asbjørn’s resumes of presentations from Microsoft, SAP, Box, Ideo, Yammer and others, on subjects ranging from globalization, matrix commerce, design thinking and innovation, data driven design, technology optimization, future of work, love and more.

Constellation Research is a new research and analysis firm focusing on disruptive technologies and their possible impact on the enterprise. This years Connected Enterprise conference was only the second one ever held, but got my attention since I’m more than a little interested in how innovations in disruptive technologies can affect enterprises. The speaker list was pretty impressive, but I also like the focus on real customer experiences. Sessions were a mix of panel debates and presentations, with plenty of time for networking. The intimate format was a nice contrast to the SharePoint conference I attended the following week in Las Vegas, with 10 000 attendees. But more on that later.


From the many interesting presentations and panel discussions, I pick the following key take-aways:

  • Brands must be loved by their customers if they want to stand out and win in the digital age. Loved, not liked. This is about emotions and values. Love can’t be bought, it must be earned.
  • Companies must be loved by their employees: Lovable products and services are created by employees who are not in it just for the money, but who really love their work and the company they work for. Creating such a work-place is an important mission for leaders.
  • Data-driven design and development: It is time to stop thinking that you’re smart enough to get away with spending a year in design and development of a new service before testing on real users – use insights from statistics in order to optimize services through continuous delivery of new versions;  product development never ends because the world is changing and what worked well last year may not cut it this year. All seem to agree on this: Traditional powerhouses such as Microsoft and SAP; Silicon Valley startups; CTOs, CIOs, CMOs and other C-level executives in enterprises. And me.
  • Rapid development cycles: Even traditional power-houses such as Microsoft and SAP are now delivering new versions of software, continuously, in the same way as SaaS (Software as a Service) startups such as Yammer and Box. Release cycles of Microsoft products used to be  three years (SharePoint 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013), but will be continuous (SharePoint Online and Office 365). Rapid development cycles means ability to learn from quick feedback given by real users, and with a large customers base, you can make design decisions based on massive user feedback
  • Globalization is not just a buzz word: The emerging markets are no longer just copy-cats, real innovation is happening there – we should expect to see more global winners from Brazil, Indonesia, India etc. in the next few years. People are also increasingly willing to travel for work, we have an increasingly global work-force within our industry.
  • Customer focus was the common denominator for all case studies presented, where enterprises either succeed because C-level management really has bought into what customer focus means, or because innovation labs have been given protection from C-level interference; allowing them to disrupt from within.

Now a summary of some of the sessions:

asbjørn 2 Conference report: Constellation Research Connected Enterprise

Love Goel, ( profiled investor, speaker and author, lauded as «the father of multi-channel retail», talked about the «Future of Matrix Commerce». He describes a dramatic change in the power balance between buyer and seller. Today, customers often have more information available than the people they talk to at point of purchase, and the cost of switching to a better service provider is often close to zero.

Therefore, in this digital age, customers tend to converge around one service provider, there are no silver medals. There is no room for a Coca Cola and a Pepsi, the winner takes it all. Google (search) and Facebook (social network) are of course famous examples, but Goel is convinced that we will see the same tendency in all industries (health, education, retail ++); since all industries have entered the digital age. Those who deliver best of breed customer experiences will prevail. So the best strategy is to make sure you are loved by your customers.

Gold medals are not for keeps; many of the leading players today will be eradicated in the near future because competition is fierce. Many of the future winners are now developing in the new emerging economies in South America, Asia and Eastern Europe. That’s where Love Goel invests these days.

asbjørn 3 Conference report: Constellation Research Connected Enterprise

Tom Kelley, General Manager of Ideo, spoke on the subject «Beyond Design Thinking and Innovation». Ideo will not stop focusing on design thinking, but they increasingly shift their focus from «innovation» to «innovators». How might one help organizations to innovate?

A recent survey by IBM documented that a majority of CEOs around the world single out the new complexity as their most important challenge, and that innovation culture is the most important leadership competency needed. Adobe’s recent State of Creativity Survey documents that over 80 percent of respondents think that unlocking creativity is key to economic growth, but only 25 percent of them feel that they have a chance to live up to their creative potential at work. There is clearly a need to help develop creative leadership which helps foster new ideas.

Ideo has helped Stanford establish the «d-school», an institute where students can learn about design thinking. Multi-disciplinary teams learn how creative methods are used to find new solutions to complex problems. All people are creative, but most need help unlocking their creative selves. Kelley defined Creative Confidence as «the natural human ability to come up with new approaches and breakthroughs, coupled with the courage to act upon it». He is working on a book with interviews of 100 d-school students on their experiences.

Kelley ended by summarizing the essence of design thinking

  • Always start with empathy – understanding people’s needs increases the chance of solving the right problem
  • Take time to day dream every day – new ideas normally surface when the brain disengages (in the shower, right after you wake up or when you let your brain wander off)
  • Defer judgement and self critique – if you are a leader, do not shoot down half baked ideas, because your employees will quickly learn that they need to spend a lot of time polishing their ideas. Learn to squint so that you see the shape of an idea, not the unfinished details

Sikka1 Conference report: Constellation Research Connected Enterprise

Dr. Vishal Sikka, CTO of SAP, talked about the direction of SAP, and how they respond to the mega trends of Consumerization and Big Data. He also described a major turnaround regarding SAP’s innovation culture.

Consumerization: Users increasingly bring their own devices to work; SAP wants to provide tools on the device of your choice. SAP’s new apps development is done in innovation labs which deliver new applications a lot faster than traditional SAP release cycles. They have made important innovations in their core architecture to make this possible, specifically with Hana (see below).

Big Data: Hana is SAP’s in-memory database which can be used as a replacement of the old SQL database backend of SAP. Hana enables much more powerful and responsive processing of queries into big business data. SAP’s goal is to replace thousands of batch jobs real time online queries. Mr. Sikka gave an example from a customer case in China, where a report which previously took 25 hours to generate now is delivered in a few seconds.

When front-line staff has access to up-to-date information, they can provide a better service to their customers and make better and earlier business decisions. Hana is an important component in many of the new applications shipped from SAP, but also as a licensed component in third-party applications such as the SaaS startup, a personalized marketing platform.

Ehrenberg Conference report: Constellation Research Connected Enterprise

Michael Ehrenberg, Technical Fellow and CTO of Microsoft Business Solutions, talked about innovation at Microsoft. It has been a big year for Microsoft regarding new releases of products; Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Windows Server 2012, SharePoint 2013, Office 2013, Surface etc. I had a chance to sit down with Ehrenberg to ask about Microsoft’s plans for supporting multi-channel commerce. They sold their Microsoft Commerce product over a year ago, and have not replaced this with another commerce product. They also do not provide adequate tools support for web content management, which they seem happy to leave to technology partners such as EPiServer and SiteCore.

Ehrenberg said that the Dynamics products now support multi-channel commerce well, in the sense that Product Inventory Management should be handled within the ERP system, including typical ERP data, product pricing, definition of campaigns, but also rich media product descriptions. Using SharePoint 13’s new search capabilities, based on the integration of FAST search technology, the online platform can create dynamic product listings based on structured metadata in the Dynamics product catalog (such as category, price). But the search platform also keeps track of click patterns and usage statistics, and can thus present best bet recommendations.

So, according to Ehrenberg, with Dynamics and SharePoint Search, you can get a long way. I still think that there is room for products such as EPiServer Commerce, because of specialized tools support given to shop owners and marketing people letting them work on optimizing their online shop.

Pisoni Conference report: Constellation Research Connected Enterprise

Adam Pisoni, the CTO of Yammer talked about the future of Yammer within Microsoft. Yammer was acquired by Microsoft about four months ago, and Pisoni said that they have found soul mates within Microsoft regarding innovation. Yammer’s goal is to become the enterprise social hub. So from Yammer’s side, a main driver for joining Microsoft was the chance to make a bigger impact because of the reach that Microsoft has within enterprise computing.

Experience shows that adoption of Yammer  is viral, but that this is culture dependent. A corporate culture where people do not want to share will not embrace Yammer. They often see viral adoption within some divisions or departments. Full effect of a collaboration platform requires more than just new technology.

The Yammer product development team is now very busy doing integration work with many different product teams within Microsoft. At the SharePoint conference in Las Vegas recently, the Dynamics team showed an integration of Yammer with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, where a customer record becomes addressable in Yammer; the team working on this customer case can soon engage in a Yammer dialog on the «customer wall» from within the CRM tool, or in the traditional Yammer client. In addition, all data updates (new contact, new sales offer) can be fed into the Yammer activity feed for the benefit of those who «follow» this customer.

Yammer and the SharePoint social features have overlapping functionality. Eventually, these will be merged. There will be a migration path to the new merged solution, so you should be fine no matter which platform you base your solution on. But if you have a choice, you should go with Yammer.

Levie Conference report: Constellation Research Connected Enterprise

Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, opened by saying that they started out in 2005 doing what Microsoft should have done with SharePoint. Box is a social enterprise file-sharing and collaboration service. The main differentiator with traditional enterprise file sharing solutions (file server, SharePoint, document management solutions) is the speed of development made possible by the SaaS model. Rapid development of new features in response to customer requirements is a key success-factor. The freemium-model is also key to adoption; customers can verify ease of use and stability before buying in to the commercial package.

On a side note, Microsoft’s Office 365 solution with SharePoint Online and SkyDrive Pro seems to have all the same qualities, but more on that on a later post on experiences from the SharePoint conference in Las Vegas in november.

I asked Levie if they have any plans to advocate public open standards for integration scenarios; there is SAML 2.0 and oauth for single sign-on and authorization scenarios, how about focusing on standards for meta data management, federated search and such for easier integration with other systems and services? His reply: Not on the agenda.

Rottenberg Conference report: Constellation Research Connected Enterprise

Linda Rottenberg, CEO and co-founder of Endeavor, talked enthusiastically about the power of high-impact entrepreneurship. Endeavor screens, selects, mentors and accelerates high impact entrepreneurs, and they focus on the emerging markets. In the 90s, nobody in Latin America thought they could be entrepreneurs, but this has changed dramatically. In Argentina, the top three startups have connections with 80 percent of the other startup companies. A key take-away is that networking is important for economic growth; finding the entrepreneurs that can have a strong impact in their network and offering them support and mentorship is key to economic growth.

Endeavor currently focuses on Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey. Up until now, startups in the emerging markets have been copy-cats, creating local versions of leading global (US) services. Now, Rottenberg sees real innovation happening, and the emergence of E2E business, meaning «Emerging market to emerging market». Startups do not necessarily look to the US or Western Europe, they look to other emerging markets for further growth.

Rottenberg also talked about modern leadership and management: Modern leaders make culture their business. «Psychic equity» has more value than financial equity in building employee satisfaction. Employees all over the world value transparency, sense of control/influence and social responsibility. But do not run Corporate Social Responsibility as a project, says Rottenberg, make it part of your core identity if you want to engage your employees. Leadership is about vision and inspiration, not about telling people what to do. Employees should be inspired to love their company.

Kjaer Conference report: Constellation Research Connected Enterprise

Anne Lise Kjær, a fellow Scandinavian from Denmark, talked about «Understanding Tomorrow’s Emotional Consumers». Only 20 percent of brands are perceived to be important for meaning and value in the U.S, and customers would not care if 80 percent of the brands would disappear. So should we care if customers do not care?

Kjær discussed some key society drivers, which are important to understand in order to prepare for the future:

  • Total transparency: brand promise and customer experience must be completely aligned – if you do not keep your promises, your bluff will be called (and cost of switching is close to zero, remember?)
  • Technology is getting smarter – the physical and virtual boundaries will dissolve, and people will want seamless transitions and self-defined boundaries in all areas of life – both customers and employees will want to be in control of all aspects of their lives
  • cloud computing inspires new leadership styles and dialog driven business models, where agility and scalability rule
  • the millennians are global citizens, new standards in all walks of life: expect that people will be mobile
  • female factor: key to inclusive future, societies must let women work
  • social capital – «we» may be a more important word than «me», company culture must reflect this

In response to these society drivers, Kjær proposes a new business model where companies focus on the four P’s: People, Planet, Pleasure and Profit. Brands should make sure to treat people right, take care of the environment, build emotional relationships and thus make a profit.

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