Posted tagged ‘Syncplicity’

When the Disrupted Become the Disruptors

September 19, 2013

Conventional wisdom holds that the consumerization of IT is going to take over virtually every market and that the entrenched enterprise vendors are in big trouble. This is no more apparent than in file sync and share where it is suggested that the new kids on the block are going to own the market at the expense of the establishment and that the needs of end users will trump those of enterprise IT.

However, as someone who is in the trenches of this market every day, it is obvious that this is an overly simplistic view and ignores a number of truisms of enterprise user and IT requirements that aren’t going away.

Our view is that strategic and trusted enterprise technology vendors not only have a role in the future of end user computing, but that their customers are asking that we help drive this transformation for them. This takes innovation and risk-taking, but before I expand on that, a little background.

The Reports that Enterprise IT is Dead are Greatly Exaggerated

Some vendors in this market are trying to be all things to all people, pursuing a one-size-fits-all approach. This assumes that users will simply adopt what they want and IT will be helpless to reverse the trend. In reality, enterprise IT is alive, well, and very much aware of what is occurring in the file sync and share market. And they are increasingly controlling the selection and usage of the services, which cannot be defined in singular or generic terms. Consumers, SMBs and enterprises have different requirements and success requires focus— it is practically impossible to serve the needs of all of these markets in the long term. In fact, end users have greatly different requirements – the needs of an individual that wants to share photos is very different from one who is sharing business-critical files.

The enterprise might be the trickiest market to solve because you are essentially going after two audiences – end users and IT – whose needs seem to always be in diametric opposition to each other. To succeed, you need to achieve a critical balance.

1. To be considered for enterprise deployments, you MUST have the blessing of IT. As the gatekeepers of technology deployments, they are never going to evaluate and bless solutions that touch a company’s most important asset – its information – without thorough compliance and security testing.

2. Getting 25 users in a small department in a Fortune 100 company to use your solution does not make you an enterprise solution or even make it easier to become the standard in a large company. The iPhone didn’t become an accepted enterprise device until it satisfied IT’s security concerns with email.

3. That said, enterprise IT knows that it needs to adapt and evolve. Users must love the enterprise file sync and share solution and have it become part of their work routine. If your IT department blesses the solution and no one uses it, then you have wasted your time and resources.  

Disrupt but Don’t Break

While enterprise file sync and share has emerged as a critical service, for it to be embraced in the enterprise, it must disrupt old, inefficient ways of doing business, but not break either your IT infrastructure or your employees’ work habits.

1. Frictionless user experiences trump feature bloat. You cannot change the way people normally send, access, edit and save files – from any device on which they are working. File sync and share has to be an easy extension of what they are already doing on their laptop, tablet or smartphone, not a completely new paradigm.

2. Enterprises have spent billions of dollars on SharePoint, file servers, and other technologies to store content. Enterprises won’t solve the “silo problem” by spending billions more creating a new silo and assuming their customers will move everything there. That approach is the reason why we have so many silos to begin with! Any new solution must be an easy overlay to your existing systems – IT departments will not rip out and replace their existing investments.

3. Enterprises have an enormous IT and legal risk in meeting regulatory and security compliance. You must be able to support the compliance, data residency and security policies of the enterprise—and that means giving IT the flexibility to work within the existing security and compliance infrastructure they’ve already established. Do not force a new one on them. If you do, strike the word enterprise out of your product name.

With these rules in mind, how do existing enterprise vendors lead the way? Simply put, to avoid being disrupted they need to be willing to drive the disruption themselves. While clearly a consumer example, Apple did just that by releasing iTunes on the iPhone even though they had a significant franchise with the iPod. And it worked.

For file sync and share market, disruption means providing your customers flexibility. It means supporting and integrating with a wide range of cloud-based and on premise storage solutions. It means adopting business practices that are very different from the traditional enterprise technology approach, such as deploying key services in the cloud to maintain a high pace of innovation, pricing on a consumption model to better align with customer adoption, and making an inordinate investment in mobile apps and the end user experience.

For those of us who have been and remain completely focused on the enterprise, this is a very exciting time. We are demonstrating that IT gets what they need and can serve the needs of the business user. The result: the incumbents have a legitimate chance to drive the disruption in the market.

Three Rules for Building Highly Usable Enterprise SaaS Solutions

August 30, 2013

Although SaaS companies like Netsuite and Salesforce.com have been around awhile, the market is still in the early stages of delivering software as a service to enterprises. There are two schools of thought on this.

One common mindset is that enterprise IT organizations will eventually have to move in the direction of SaaS as users dictate how software gets consumed.

Another view is that consumer-originated SaaS companies have the user interface down, but don’t understand the enterprise. And that large enterprises will never accept this model.

I believe reality is somewhere in between. The challenge will be giving enterprise users consumer-grade ease of use with enterprise-grade security and compliance.

At Syncplicity we have formulated three ways vendors can successfully offer highly usable—in fact beautiful—applications for the enterprise with zero compromise.

Rule #1 – Build Beautiful and Frictionless Applications

Everyone knows it’s important to delight the user. When you build a great app, user engagement will be high and measurable.

At Syncplicity, these are our guiding principles for driving usage through design:

  • Use modern UI paradigms. Users expect apps to look sharp and modern. Incorporate best-in-class design: clean and simple fonts, clever scrolling, and motion. Your apps will go viral.
  • Inherent personality of the OS. Users adopt different devices because they love the UI. They aren’t interested in a generic or atypical experience.
  • Eliminate extra steps. Our goal is for users to take “no extra steps” to get the job done with our service. We adapt to the way they work rather than forcing artificial change.
  • Obsess over use cases. Clearly define specific use cases before designing new features. Ask questions about who is using the app, under what conditions, and what they are trying to accomplish. If the feature doesn’t align, it shouldn’t make it into the app.
  • De-featuring is a feature. Offering too many features actually discourages usage. Monitoring tools assess what features are being used. Eliminate the rest.

Rule #2 – Don’t compromise security

The best enterprise apps provide security and compliance without over-burdening the user. Sometimes, they can even enhance the experience.

The Syncplicity approach:

  • Protection can be seamless. Single Sign On is an easy way to enhance security while accommodating users. Try to leverage customers’ existing security infrastructure rather than replicate it.
  • Set it and forget it. Using centralized policies offers security and compliance without requiring users or IT to take extra steps. We recommend setting a policy for external folder sharing rather than asking admins to set up secure workspaces.
  • Policy-driven compliance. Policy-driven approaches to data location ensure compliance without impacting user experience.
  • Protect by enabling (and monitoring). When users bring their own device to work, data is at risk, often without IT’s knowledge. Controls and meaningful and automatic reporting let IT manage the unmanageable.
  • Hands off the data. One of the biggest inhibitors to cloud adoption: questions about who owns, or has access to, customer data. SaaS vendors need to clearly state that they don’t own customer data and can’t use or even see customer data.
  • Trust but verify. It is critical for SaaS vendors to go through the appropriate certification process to make customers comfortable with their selection.

Rule #3 – If it doesn’t get deployed (properly), it won’t get used

The proliferation of consumer tools in the enterprise has convinced some in IT that they don’t need to focus on deployment anymore. That may be true at the individual, team, or even departmental level. But enterprise vendors need to focus on “deployment at scale” as much as on user features. Here are our recommendations:

  • Make deployment easier. Then users can get started right away. For IT, this ranges from making it easy to provision and pre-configure user accounts to working with existing infrastructure such as authentication and storage.
  • Not all users are alike. Different groups require different configurations and policies. Highly usable enterprise apps need to accommodate all without creating a burden on the user or IT.
  • There’s no such thing as “no training needed.” No matter how simple the app, when deployed at scale, guidance is needed. Be prepared to offer users best practices to drive adoption.
  • Monitor and adjust. It’s important to give users (and IT) the tools they need to monitor and ultimately optimize and promote proper system usage.

The age of delivering consumer-grade experiences within enterprise-grade apps is a relatively new phenomenon, and I expect these rules will keep evolving. But the trend is here to stay. The way we design, build, and deploy enterprise apps has been permanently, and positively, transformed forever. And that’s a great thing for users, IT, and vendors alike!

Enterprise Software: 5 Ways SaaS Changes Everything & 3 Ways It Doesn’t

March 27, 2013

Originally Published on: http://bitly.com/10wfvga

As enterprise software moves into the world of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and consumer technology innovations invade the workplace, how companies evaluate enterprise software vendor changes dramatically in many way. Yet, in some ways, it remains the same.

First, five things that SaaS changes forever:

1. Quality User Experience Drives Adoption

Gone are the days when IT could mandate software solutions with a less than stellar user experience. Today, users will go rogue and adopt consumer apps over enterprise-approved software if it makes them more productive and more mobile. Before you select an enterprise SaaS solution, put yourself in the users’ seat and compare the experience to leading consumer apps. Do they match up? If not, you better keep looking.

2. Simplicity Trumps Feature-Rich

For decades, enterprise software providers have jammed features into their products to meet every IT and user need. The mobile first, cloud-computing world is all about apps that do one thing really, really well. A portfolio of simple, elegant products that are easy to use and easy to implement makes more sense than a complex, comprehensive solution with a long roll-out time and a steep learning curve.

3. Continuous Improvement Is Expected

The 18-month product release cycle is a thing of the past. Today’s users demand constant improvements to the way they work – without radical changes that require retraining or disrupt productivity. And you’ll find it’s a great advantage to have your vendor improve features without having to install any software updates. Ask your SaaS providers how they maintain their products with regular releases that streamline and bring the best to the top. What is their pace of innovation?

4. You’re In The Driver’s Seat

One big change in enterprise software is the shift from perpetual licensing that hits capital expense budgets to subscription-based pricing that hits the operational expense budget. Software in the cloud requires no capital investment, expensive roll out or prolonged training. With relatively low initial investements, if a service doesn’t solve the problem or users don’t adopt it, cancel your subscription and move on.

5. Your Success Is Critical To The SaaS Vendor’s Success

Because there are no huge upfront costs, SaaS vendors have to keep customers happy on an ongoing basis. Enterprises have no problem paying good money for software that delivers value, they just have a problem paying upfront for technology that they are not likely to use.

And now, three fundamental ways your relationship with your vendor doesnot change.

1. You Still Want To know And Trust Your Provider

No matter how much digitization permeates our lives, people will continue to make large software or Software-as-a-Service purchases from people they know and trust. But this is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to partner with vendor in it for the long haul and are accountable beyond any one product or service.

2. Security, Compliance And Management Still Matter

IT technology restrictions may not seem logical to users, but the need to mitigate risk and comply with requirements remains and enterprise reality. A SaaS provider may be highly secure and have a terrific consumer following, but if it doesn’t meet the compliance bar, it doesn’t belong in the enterprise.

3. You Still Need To Know What’s Coming

SaaS companies that cater to the consumer market often introduce new features by rolling them out to users even before they tell them. Enterprises need predictability and a transparency about upcoming changes. Updates may have important implications for security, compliance, compatibility and workflow. Make sure your SaaS vendors communicate proactively.

Gone are the days when IT could mandate which tools were used where. People want to work as efficiently as possible, anywhere, on any device. That dramatically affects how enterprises choose and buy their software, but some things never change.

The ABC’s of Enterprise SaaS

January 9, 2013

Originally posted on VentureBeat: http://bitly.com/10fZIrz

By now, it is abundantly clear that the old world of enterprise software is changing materially. The problem is well known by all who have spent any time in corporate IT: enterprise software has become too complex to deploy and use.

As we move into delivering software-as-a-service, several fundamental assumptions made with enterprise software are no longer valid. An entirely new set of assumptions must be followed to achieve success. Below are three cardinal rules of SaaS. I like to call them the “ABC”s.

Adoption

SaaS changes the business model for technology providers as the the customer gets to pay by the drip. If you don’t use services, don’t pay for them. If there isn’t adoption, the technology provider won’t make a profit. The sooner that IT departments and technology providers accept this reality about SaaS, the sooner the users start to benefit.

The first step of adoption is activating the user base and enabling them to use the service, which should be just as easy for enterprise software as it is with consumer services like Facebook.

The second step is engagement. It is in the vendor and the customer’s mutual interest to drive user-engagement to garner sustained value from the service purchased. Therefore, incentives must be in the DNA of the service to ensure they stay engaged.

Next comes penetration to a broad user base, where network effects are a critical contributor of success and more value or productivity is driven from the usage of the service, followed by sustained usage, which is how providers make money.

If and only if the first four occur will the vendor have earned the right to a reference, which creates more energy in the project, and a new wave of users who want to try it.

Behavioral Analysis

The second essential ingredient of a successful SaaS implementation is continuous monitoring and behavioral analysis on how the service gets used. SaaS behavioral usage instrumentation and analysis will be one of the most talked about Big Data applications in the next three to five years.

Enterprise software is ridden with complexity. Complexity deters adoption. And as we just discussed, lack of adoption is lack of success in SaaS for both the buyer and seller.

While this concept is intuitive, few software outfits have a way of knowing quantitatively whether the millions they spent on building features are actually getting utilized. When it comes to SaaS, success is predicated on the technology being consumable.

Return on investment for a feature is only meaningful when the feature is used, not when it is made available. This is why behavioral analysis of usage patterns is extremely important. De-featuring is as important an exercise as building features in the SaaS world. Simplicity must trump functionality.

Customer Success

The third and most important aspect of ensuring success in SaaS is that neither the technology provider nor IT win if the user doesn’t win.

In any successful SaaS company, one of the most important roles that should work directly for the CEO is the “Customer Success Officer”. Luckily, the SaaS business model is built in such a way that the technology provider only succeeds when the customer is satisfied. Start with small pilots, show user value, expand user base, and repeat. The customer succeeds when there is sustained user engagement.

Day one of a software sale in the SaaS world is no longer a profitable venture for the vendor. Rather, when customers get broad usage and continue to derive value by the use of the service, profitability kicks in for the technology provider.

Don’t doubt it, the world of software will be completely transformed with SaaS.  To survive, remember these simple guidelines.

Access and Share Content – Anytime, Anywhere, Any Device

July 16, 2012

In my last post, I started a theme I will continue to address on helping individuals be more productive while ensuring IT’s requirements for security and compliance – what I call, “trust.”

As you know EMC completed the acquisition to acquire Syncplicity to help us truly enable Productivity to meet trust for serious business transformation.

Check out this interview with Chris Preston to learn more.

Offer: Try a 30-day Free Trial of Syncplicity Business Edition


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