Tag Archives: management

In Memorium Carl Frappaolo

Carl_FrappaoloLThe Information and Knowledge Management worlds suffered a devastating loss this week. Carl Frappaolo died on Sunday, March 17th after suffering a series of strokes over the previous days. Carl’s untimely passing (he was 59) has left me stunned and in pain, but also deeply appreciative and grateful for having had the chance to work and enjoy life with him.

I first met Carl in 1999, when I interviewed for a job at the Delphi Group, which he had co-founded a few years earlier. Our initial meeting, which was scheduled for an hour, expanded into a conversation that lasted well over five and a half hours. When I left his office that day, I had no doubt that I very much wanted to work for and with Carl. Such was the immediate and overwhelmingly positive effect of his large personality.

I reported directly to Carl during just my first two years at Delphi, but he mentored me throughout my employment there and beyond. In fact, on separate occasions within the last month, I sought out Carl’s guidance on a professional matter, and he presented me with a potential business opportunity. I knew I could always turn to him for not only advice, but also for active assistance.

To say that Carl was a mentor is actually an understatement, because he treated me almost as if I were his son. I was always overjoyed by the pride he displayed when I performed well. On one occasion, I failed a potential client (and Carl, by extension), leading to Carl being so intensely disappointed in me that neither he nor I ever forgot the incident.

After hours, Carl was a delight to be with. I have many fond memories of eating, drinking and laughing with him , mostly while we were on the road serving a client or working a Delphi event. Carl nearly always had a joke or an entertaining story to tell. I will forever remember the two exhausting, exhilerating weeks we spent together in Western Europe, where we worked very long days on behalf of our client, but found time to have fun later in the evening or on a rare day off. Perhaps the best stretch of that trip took place in Milan. Carl always openly and enthusiastically celebrated his Italian heritage, and he was literally in his element while we were in Italy.

Carl was a remarkable man, in the truest sense of the word. The purpose, commitment and tenacity he exhibited in his professional life were exceptional, as were his compassion, caring and desire to help. While the intensity with which he thought, spoke and gestured could be almost frightening at times, few doubted his good intentions. Those who had the privilege of knowing Carl well also saw the other end of his emotional spectrum. Although he was usually boisterous, he could also be very calm, quiet and contemplative.

In fact, Carl was a bundle of contradictions. High strung and easy going. Profound and vulgar. Deeply serious and (more frequently) smiling and laughing. A very active and competent speaker, but also one of the best listeners I have ever encountered. Someone with many insightful answers, but also an unparalleled ability to ask the right questions.

I have learned so much from Carl over the last decade plus. Anyone who is at all concerned with Information or Knowledge Management has. His too-soon passing leaves an enormous hole in those fields and an even bigger void my life. Goodbye, Carl, and thank you for the genuine concern and compassion you displayed to me and everyone you encountered. Thank you for teaching me so much about consulting, business and being a good person. Rest in peace.

If you knew, met or were otherwise impacted by Carl, please consider remembering him by making a donation in his name to the Italian Home for Children, located in Boston.

Lotusphere 2012: IBM Demonstrates the Power of the Platform, Simplified

This entry was cross-posted from Meanders: The Dow Brook Blog.

Software analysts and buyers have historically favored platforms over application suites and stand-alone applications. Why? Because platforms offer both a rich set of pre-integrated functionality and the ability to add or build new features and applications, some of which may be extensively customized for an organization.

IBM has long been considered a platform provider of enterprise software, particularly in the infrastructure and middleware categories. More recently, IBM has evolved from being a vendor of a collaboration suite (Quickr) to a provider of multiple integrated, extensible offerings for enterprise collaboration, social networking, messaging, content sharing and management, and customer- and employee-facing web experience management. IBM’s vision for for this confederation of offerings, codenamed ‘Project Vulcan’, was first articulated at Lotusphere 2010. Last year’s Lotusphere presented initial, limited evidence that the vision was becoming reality.

Lotusphere 2012, held last week, showcased IBM’s latest efforts at unifying its interaction platform. IBM previewed the upcoming releases of its Connections, Notes/Domino, and Customer and Intranet Web Experience offerings. As one would expect from a platform software provider, each of these products works with the others out of the box. However, IBM, has gone beyond merely providing integration between the separate offerings by embedding functionality from each into the others. For example, IBM customers who have licensed both Connections and Notes will soon be able to send and receive email from within Connections, and, conversely, consumers will be able to view and interact with the Connections activity stream from within Notes.

The increasing power of the IBM interaction platform was further underscored by demonstrations of related, integrated and embedded functional services from its Quickr collaboration, Content Manager and FileNet enterprise content management, and Cognos analytics offerings. This extended scope of the Project Vulcan vision is what sets IBM apart from other platform software vendors, and it was good to see IBM articulating and demonstrating that differentiation at Lotusphere.

Death of a Tradeoff

We, as an industry, have assumed the existence of a tradeoff between rich functionality and simple, intuitive user experiences. Conventional wisdom says that as more features are added, the resulting complexity degrades the user experience, forcing software architects and designers to find an optimal balance between functionality and usability. The tradeoff has traditionally been managed in one of two ways: 1) by creating simple, single-purpose applications that are not overloaded with functionality, or 2) by partitioning functionality into multiple, related applications in a suite. Platforms have largely not attempted to manage this tradeoff at all for developers/designers, administrators, or consumers. Not only is the platform’s complexity on full display; it is generally promoted as a benefit.

IBM’s implementation of its Project Vulcan vision has, for perhaps the first time, obviated the long-held tradeoff between functionality and ease-of-use at the platform level. The versions of Connections, Notes/Domino, and the Web Experience offerings that where announced and demonstrated at Lotusphere 2012 (and will be released over the course of this year) are both feature-rich and highly usable. Each offering has had its user interface redesigned, yielding a cleaner look that is more consistent across the interaction platform. Additionally, the new user interface designs are simpler than their predecessors and, in effect, minimize the complexity created by IBM’s extended integration and embedding of functionality from related software offerings.

This harmonious co-existence of broad, advanced functionality and a consumer-friendly computing experience is what makes IBM’s interaction platform really different and powerful. The first public glimpse of this next-generation enterprise software came during the Lotusphere 2012 Opening General Session, when Connections Next was demonstrated by its Lead Project Manager, Suzanne Livingston. My reaction, a tweet that was later displayed before the beginning of the Closing General Session, sums up the impact of IBM’s work on its interaction platform over the last year:

Dow Brook’s Point-Of-View

While there is more work to be done, IBM should be proud of the next-generation interaction platform it is bringing to market. Lotusphere 2012 demonstrated that IBM is in good position to be a provider of choice for social business software. The work that they’ve done over the last year strongly differentiates their interaction platform and should positively affect its adoption by customers. IBM’s refusal to acknowledge the old, limiting tradeoff between platform complexity and user experience should accelerate the consolidation of the Enterprise Social Software market in the second half of 2012. It may also more firmly establish IBM as a leader in the Web Experience software category and spark renewed interest in its Notes/Domino messaging and Sametime unified communications offerings.

Disclosure: IBM is a client of Dow Brook’s Insight OnDemand subscription advisory service and paid the author’s registration and hotel expenses related to Lotusphere 2012 attendance.

Thoughts on the 2011 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium

This entry was cross-posted from Meanders: The Dow Brook Blog

The annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium was held earlier this week. I live-tweeted heavily from the event, but also wanted to share some thoughts in this more structured blog post.

CIOs are, as a whole, a conservative group. They are attuned to identifying and minimizing risk in their organizations’ information environments. Most CIOs experiment with emerging information technologies while observing what other, more progressive, organizations do with those same tools. Once the majority of CIOs in large companies are comfortable embracing a new technology, the market for it rapidly expands.

Speaking with and listening to a number of CIOs attending the MIT Symposium made one thing clear — markets for technologies enabling more agile business decision making at a lower cost are about to explode. Most of the CIOs in attendance agreed that they must implement cloud, mobile, social, and analytics technologies now to support rapidly evolving strategic imperatives in their organizations. The mantra “do more faster and at lower cost” surfaced in nearly every session I attended.

What does this mean for enterprise software providers? First, their offerings must be architected and include functionality to support multi-tenant cloud hosting and delivery, mobile access, social interaction, and the identification of patterns resident in large data sets. These capabilities are quickly becoming table stakes necessary to successfully compete in the enterprise software market.

Second, we are about to see a new, large wave of investment in enterprise software. The combination of the business imperatives noted above and pent-up demand from the last few years of recessionary cost-cutting focus within enterprise IT departments has led CIOs to declare that now is the time to retool, if it isn’t already too late. Hubspot’s CEO, Brian Halligan, noted during the opening keynote panel that cloud and mobile “are not the future”; they are technologies we all should have adopted two years ago.

Comments from various CIOs attending the event underscored the limited ability that enterprise software providers have to enable signifiant, beneficial transformation in the way their customers run their businesses. Many panelists noted that they already have helpful technical tools in-hand, but that they aren’t being used to optimal advantage because of existing cultural and leadership roadblocks in their organizations. On the subject of leveraging big data, Rob Stefanic, CIO at Sensata, presented supporting examples from work they’ve done with their customers. Many organizations they’ve worked with collect voluminous amounts of data, but do little to make sense of it, much less adjust the business accordingly. He also spoke of one customer that had a handful of employees doing potentially meaningful analysis of operating data, but no one else in the organization was aware of their efforts or the insights generated. Stefanic neatly made the point that pattern mining and recognition is a big shift for his organization and it’s customers, which will require changing from a reactionary culture to one that values the ability to predict the future with reasonable accuracy.

In the end, there were few new ideas presented at the 2011 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. Instead, I left the event with a sense that there will soon be a large increase in spending on next-generation enterprise software, but that investment will be largely wasted, because the buyers won’t be able to make the systemic cultural and organizational changes necessary for the new tools to make a measurable difference. The missing piece for success is experienced management consultants that can help organizations review and revise their core beliefs, behaviors, and policies to really transform how they operate. Until that void is filled, vendors will sell more software, but organizations will continue to realize minimal benefits from investments in those tools. Even if normally conservative CIOs support their use.