Jul 28, 2009

Gauging the Real Value of SaaS E-mail

I'm pleased to announce the publication of "Gauging the Real Value of Software as a Service (SaaS) E-mail for Small and Medium Businesses," a Collaborative Strategy Guild white paper on SaaS E-mail and productivity. You can download the paper via the CSG site. Here's the abstract:

The e-mail market is rapidly evolving as new business-grade software as a service (SaaS) e-mail options become a viable alternative to the traditional on-site e-mail by competing on price and value. Information Technology (IT) decision makers are pressured to reduce costs, so they’re considering a move to SaaS e-mail solutions, which is driving businesses to scrutinize current e-mail strategies. Making a SaaS e-mail decision depends upon the unique needs of the business and how available options not only offer cost savings, but also productivity value.

In this paper, Collaborative Strategy Guild founding member, Karen Hobert, focuses on the SaaS e-mail market, its impact on small and medium businesses (SMBs), and how to find the real value in different product offerings.

Jul 20, 2009

Spam Works

Wondering why you get so much spam? Because it works. A recent Register article reports the following from a Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) survey on email usage and spam:

Almost a third of consumers admit responding to messages that might be spam emails. Some acted out of curiosity or by mistake but a puzzling 96 from a sample of 800 (12 per cent) said they clicked because they interested in the product or service advertised in junk mail messages.

Filtering helps, a lot, but accordingly people would rather slog through the spam than prevent it:

While half of those surveyed said they never click on suspected spam, around one in five (21 per cent) fail to use email filtering software or services.

For more interesting facts on email usage and spam see the MAAWG study, "A Look at Consumers' Awareness of Email Security and Practices, " Part I and Part II

Jul 14, 2009

Google Beachhead

Google continues to bolster its beachhead on the enterprise email market. Today it announced it is providing free of charge to Google Apps Premier and Education customers a "plug-in" that will migrate Notes mail and personal directory information to Google Apps.

The new tool lets customers migrate mail, calendar and contacts from Notes to Google Apps. The syncing tool, which Google says is a native Notes application, can be installed and configured in less than 30 minutes, for multiple users at once. The tool has already been tested with 40 of Google’s enterprise clients, including JohnsonDiversey (10K users) and Valeo (32K users). The tool is free for Google Apps Premier and Edu customers. 

The aggressive ramp up to enterprise-grade solutions hasn't always been as successful as Google has hoped. Changing the mind-set of enterprise IT decision makers who tend to follow established software delivery methods and practices is still a hard practice. In recent weeks Google has capitulated to some of these customer attitudes such as removing the "beta" label from the Google Apps tools.  The more clumsy release of the Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook connector has been met with criticism for not offering pair-wise functionality with Outlook and disabling Microsoft Desktop Search, the search mechanism for Outlook. A July 10, 2009 PC World (IDG News Service) article puts it this way:

So Google embarked -- probably grudgingly -- down the path that other e-mail vendors have traveled with little success: trying to replicate the Outlook-Exchange experience with their back-end e-mail server and Outlook. Here was Google apparently getting dragged into the Microsoft way of doing things, creating -- gasp! -- a piece of PC software: an Outlook plug-in. The problems and complaints started immediately.

Right away, industry analysts cautioned CIOs and IT managers to examine the Google tool closely, warning them that it couldn't fully replicate in Gmail the functionality of the Outlook-Exchange combination, lacking basic features like the ability to synchronize Outlook notes and tasks, for example.

A tough market indeed. Clearly Google wants it enough to put so much effort into lowering the barriers to enterprise interest. In its campaign to grease the migration skids and polish the consumer-come-enterprise perception Google is waging a fierce battle that will require formidable reinforcements to back up.

Jul 7, 2009

What's in a word?

Google has lifted the "beta" label from Gmail and other Google Apps, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk. Google makes it clear in its Official Google Blog announcement that they are making the move because enterprises are having a hard time getting around the "traditional definition" of the "beta" software label.

We're often asked why so many Google applications seem to be perpetually in beta. For example, Gmail has worn the beta tag more than five years. We realize this situation puzzles some people, particularly those who subscribe to the traditional definition of "beta" software as not being yet ready for prime time.

I'm not sure Google ever did a good enough job of telling us what the non-traditional definition of beta is. Apparently it wasn't all that hard to remove but I'm wondering why with so much press-bashing on the label it took Google so long to draw the line and say things are done. Google isn't being as transparent on how it determined that the code is final, for now.

Of course this brings up the argument that I think Google has been trying to convince us of all along. That traditional software development cycles are impossible to keep with such rapid evolution of code and to draw a line in the sand would be ironic if they kept releasing new features on an ongoing basis. If that's the case then "beta" should never have ended up in the logo to begin with. One of the benefits of a leased SaaS software delivery model is that the customer has the power to stay or go with little penalty. The onus is on the provider to continue to innovate to add more value for the customer at the same price. Google has embraced this concept by continually reminding its customers it can, and should, apply patches, changes, and upgrades whenever it feels the need. It's "beta" cause the work is never done. Still convincing a market that is accustomed to "beta" meaning "test code" was harder than expected.

Oh, BTW, if you're not comfortable without the "beta" (depending on how you define "beta") you can put it back on the logo via the Gmail Labs settings:

Jul 6, 2009

Media in the 21st Century

June 2009 TED video of Clay Shirky on the transformation of media in the 21st Century. I like the way he makes these ideas so clear and understandable.

Things don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.