Saturday, September 25, 2010

Global 'IT debt' hits $500 billion, on the way to $1 trillion

A backlog of maintenance needed to bring all applications up to date poses a serious risk to business systems, Gartner says

By Jon Brodkin | Network World

Global "IT debt" will reach $500 billion this year and could rise to $1 trillion by 2015, Gartner analysts have estimated.
IT debt is essentially the cost of maintenance needed to bring all applications up to date. Five-hundred billion dollars would be needed to clear "the backlog of maintenance … required to bringthe corporate applications portfolio to a fully supported current release state," Gartner says.

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IT debt as Gartner defines it is unlikely to be wiped out completely, even in stronger economic times, because technology departments will always prioritize certain applications over others. But Gartner -- which also recently advised CIOs to plan for a second recession -- claims the debt is higher than ever before and that the maintenance backlog represents a serious risk to business systems.

Over the last decade, IT budget cuts have "fallen disproportionately on maintenance activities -- the upgrades that keep the application portfolio up-to-date and fully supported," Gartner says. "There is little problem if this is done in one year, or even in two years, but year after year of deferred maintenance means that the application portfolio risks getting dangerously out of date."

"While it is true that there has never been an IT organization without a backlog of maintenance activity, the scale of the problem is significantly greater than it has ever been," the analyst firm also says.
Perhaps understandably, IT departments have been focusing on projects that "deliver new functionality to the rest of the business," rather than keeping all old systems fully up-to-date, according to the analyst firm.
This is an interesting counterpoint to another oft-complained-about problem, that IT departments have been unable to innovate because they devote the vast majority of their budgets to maintaining existing systems.
IT departments can seemingly never win, because even when they focus on building new systems, they are potentially boosting the IT debt "because the additional functionality and complexity will need to be maintained and upgraded to a more-reliable state at some point in the future," Gartner says.While the entire IT debt, or maintenance backlog, isn't likely to grow much smaller IT departments could at least do a better job cataloguing the problem. Gartner recommends producing annual status reports on the state of the application portfolio, "detailing the number of applications in use, the number acquired, the number decommissioned, and the current and projected costs of both operating and sustaining or improving the integrity of the application assets."
"The issue is not just that maintenance keeps on getting deferred, it is that the lack of an application inventory and the absence of a structured review process for the application portfolio," Gartner says. "This means the IT management team is simply never aware of the true scale of the problem. This problem, hidden from sight, is getting bigger every year and more difficult to deal with every year."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Windows 7 users will have to upgrade to SP1 when IE9 goes final next year

By Gregg Keizer | Computerworld

Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) browser will require Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), a not-yet-released major update to the operating system, the company said today.
According to a FAQ posted on the company's site, Windows 7 users will need to install SP1 prior to adding IE9. People running Windows Vista must have that operating system's SP2 in place.
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The Ars Technica technology site first reported on the Windows 7 SP1 requirement Thursday.
Microsoft has not divulged the release dates of Windows 7 SP1 or IE9, but both are expected to appear in the first half of 2011. That six-month window covers Microsoft's current plans for Windows 7 SP1, while many experts believe the company will ship the final of IE9 in April 2011 to coincide with its annual MIX conference.
The FAQ suggests that the final versions of both two products will ship simultaneously, or nearly so.
The beta of IE9 that launched Sept. 15 requires four already-available Windows 7 updates -- two published in June, the others in August -- that are primarily graphics-related bug fixes or that add support for IE9 functionality.
But the final will apparently demand more, a curious move since Microsoft has repeatedly characterized Windows 7 SP1 as nothing more than a collection of previously-released security patches and other fixes. Unlike 2004's Windows XP SP2, Windows 7 SP1 will not include new features.
"Organizations must plan, pilot and deploy Internet Explorer 9 as part of or after a Windows 7 SP1 deployment," Microsoft maintained in the FAQ.
The SP1 requirement may be derived from the four updates already available -- they would be packaged in SP1 -- or from future, not-yet-released updates -- or a combination of the two.
This isn't the first time Microsoft has blocked some users from running IE9. The new browser willnot run on Windows XP , the still-dominant nine-year-old OS.
Earlier this week, Microsoft urged companies not to wait for IE9 to migrate their PCs to Windows 7, a recommendation the FAQ repeated. "Microsoft recommends that organizations do not disrupt ongoing deployment projects but continue deploying Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8," the FAQ stated.
Pushing enterprises to upgrade to Windows 7 now, not at some point after IE9's launch, is to Microsoft's benefit, of course, since the sooner it gets customers onto the new operating system, the sooner it reaps revenue from the OS and associated products, such as Windows Server 2008 R2 and SharePoint 2010.
Microsoft made a point to stress that even though companies moving to the Windows 7/IE8 combination may use that browser for only a limited time, the work would not be wasted.
"Your Internet Explorer 8 migration investments will be preserved when you are ready to deploy Internet Explorer 9," argued Rich Reynolds , Microsoft's chief Windows marketing executive, in a post to a company blog Tuesday.
Even so, Microsoft doesn't want to dissuade users from trying out IE9.
"Regardless of your organization's stage of Windows 7 deployment plans, we still encourage you to explore the Internet Explorer 9 Beta," added Reynolds.
The IE9 FAQ also said that Microsoft will release the usual array of deployment tools for IE9, including a blocking utility to prevent Windows Update from automatically downloading and installing the new browser. Microsoft has released such blocking tools for other browsers, including IE8 in 2009 and IE7 in 2006.
Microsoft did not immediately reply to questions on the IE9-Windows 7 SP1 ties, including why SP1 is necessary to run the new browser.
The IE9 beta can be downloaded from Microsoft's site.

30 Fast Facts on Facebook at Work

1. Microsoft is the leading corporate user of Facebook and other social media, based on membership and frequency of posts at Fortune 1000 companies.
2. Others in the top five, ranked by NetProspex: Amazon, eBay, Google, and Walt Disney. Apple was number 10.
3. Hiring managers are more likely to use Facebook to research prospects than LinkedIn, which is designed for job-related networking.
4. More than one-third of those managers find content that causes them to pass up on the job seeker.
5. The top disqualifier: posting of inappropriate or provocative photos or information
6. Facebook consumes 4.5 percent of corporate bandwidth, according to a recent Network Box survey, accounting for 7 percent of all outward business traffic.
7. 77% of workers who have a Facebook account use it during work, according to Nucleus Research.
8. Among those active at work, 87 percent said they had no clear business reason for using the site.
9. Nucleus estimates that companies that allow users to access Facebook in the workplace lose an average of 1.5 percent in employee productivity.
10. 54 percent of US companies say they've banned workers from using Facebook while on the job, according to Robert Half Technology.
11. 19 percent of companies allow social networking for business purposes only; 16 percent allow limited personal use; 10 percent allow full access.
12. 31 percent of consumers say they check out retailers Facebook fan pages, almost twice the number from 2009.
13. 63% percent of marketers and agency pros have already implemented social media programs, according to The Pivot Conference.
14. Significant additional investment in social media marketing programs is coming in the next 12 months, according to The Pivot Conference.
15. 30 percent of brand marketers don't think that building customer loyalty has become easier because of social networking.
16. 41 percent of brand marketers don't think social media's impact is serious enough to lead to a change in brand strategy.
17. Over 150 million of Facebook’s 500 million+ users access the service through their mobile devices.
18. People using mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users.
19. Half of Facebook's active users log on to Facebook on any given day; 35 million users update their statuses each day.
20. Two-thirds of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and half of comScore’s Global Top 100 websites have integrated with Facebook.
21. There are more than 200 mobile operators in 60 countries working to deploy and promote Facebook mobile products.
22. More than one million websites have integrated with the Facebook Platform.
23. More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook each month.
24. More than 1.5 million local businesses have active pages.
25. 13 percent of US traffic to web portals Yahoo, Bing and AOL come from Facebook, according to analytics firm Compete.
26. Only 19 percent of people find ads on social networks relevant, according to The Participatory Marketing Network.
27. Nielsen says that consumers spend more than five and a half hours on social networking sites per day.
28. Facebook reports that its users spend 700 billion minutes on the network each month.
29. About a third of Facebook users are from the US; more than 70 translations are available.
30. About 25 percent of Facebook users haven't changed their default privacy settings, according to security company Webroot.

Business Strategy on Facebook

Rosetta Stone is not afraid to mix it up with customers on Facebook.
“If you want to say a competitor’s product is better, we let you have at it,” says Jay Topper, senior vice president of customer success at the language-instruction software company. “We may answer it, or we may watch our customers answer it – that’s really fun.”Often the grumpiest critics can be converted into true fans, given a constructive response.
But Rosetta Stone is not leaving such encounters to chance. Instead, it has a clearstrategy that involves both human intervention and an investment in software to help monitor its social networking presence.
Companies considering Facebook invariably ask, “But wait, suppose somebody posts something negative? What do we do then?” That’s the dilemma of meeting customers where they congregate online. When you create a Facebook businesspage, by default the service allows other members of the service – potentially including disgruntled customers or sleazy competitors – to post notes to your Wall, or comment on what you’ve posted. (For the uninitiated, the Wall is a sort of threaded discussion board associated with each Facebook page or profile).
Yet if you turn off the feature that lets others write on your Wall, people may wonder what you’re afraid of. You’ll also be foreclosing the possibility of having great customer fan conversations take place, perhaps marketing your products and services better than you could do yourself. You can delete posts, but that may only encourage the post author to scream louder about being censored.Most social media marketing experts advise deleting only the most offensive posts, and trying to address the rest as constructively as possible.
That’s the policy that has been working for Rosetta Stone. One challenge posed by this strategy is that customer service teams need to retool in order to monitor these wall posts and respond to them appropriately; that can be a big job on an active page. Rosetta Stone is among the first enterprises to address this challenge in a systematic way.
Fans of who post a question on the Wall are likely to get a prompt answer because the Facebook page is integrated with customer service software from Parature Inc. The new Parature for Facebook module also adds a Support tab to the page, where customers can submit a more structured request for help that goes into the system as a standard support “ticket.”“
This is just an additional channel,” Topper says. “What it says to our customers is, ‘We’ll meet you on your turf.’” Topper says he isn’t really trying to drive customers to this channel, as opposed to the phone or the company website -- at least not yet. So far, the Facebook plug-in seems to be resulting in a higher overall level of interaction with customers and potential customers.
The software helps by scanning Wall postings and flagging those that require a company response, as opposed to those that represent fans of the page talking among themselves. Through the PayPal application programming interface, customer service representatives are also able to post a response to the Wall that will be logged in the Parature issue tracking database. The customer service software is also integrated with Facebook chat.
In the first 30 days since the release of Parature for Facebook, the company says it has signed more than 25 customers, with Rosetta Stone as the first to go live with the product. “Offering this kind of support on Facebook is very new, but what’s not new is customers having conversations around the Facebook Wall,” says Duke Chung, Parature's founder and Chief Strategy Officer. Even if those conversations are critical, it’s better that customers have them on your company’s Wall, where you can respond to them, than on their own personal Walls.
Some issues can’t be easily resolved within Facebook’s informal communications mechanisms, which is why customers are also offered the option of creating a support ticket. But now they can do it without leaving Facebook, providing an extra “convenience factor,” Chung says. That’s important because Facebook addicts are proving much more likely to interact with a Facebook page than they are to follow a link to an external website. The Support tab also lets visitors search the Parature knowledge base or start a live chat with an agent.
In the process, Topper says the company has opened up a new sales channel. “Even the people clicking support, and initiating a chat – a lot of them are not customers,” he says, and so the customer service agent becomes a “success agent,” encouraging that person in the quest to learn a new language.

11 Ways to Create an Effective Facebook Page for Business

Building relationships at the social networking site instead of just redirecting people to a Rosetta Stone page makes it easier to connect with customers and potential customers, because hardcore Facebook users are more likely to converse on a Facebook page than they are to follow a link to an external website. In the process, says Jay Topper, senior vice president of customer success at the language-instruction software company, Facebook has become a new channel for sales. Rosetta Stone is among the first enterprises to address the challenges of Facebook in a systematic way. Is your company ready to do the same?

Presence isn¹t enough. Align social media strategy to business goals andtrack them; use analytics to measure your progress.
Any customer contact from any source can end up on your wall, and everythingyou post on Facebook is public and can be disseminated to live on elsewhere.
Respect the new culture. Don¹t annoy users by making your own rules, meetthem on their turf.
Good news and interesting topics are desirable, but keep bad news up front,too. Allow people to post on your wall‹many companies don¹t allow thissimple function.
Facebook is not about one-way marketing; sales-speak turns fans off. RosettaStone wants conversations about language learning, with support andcompany-specific tools built in.
Don't try to control everything. Post links to articles or thought-provokingconversation starters, and let the community have an open, organic dialogue.
Rarely turn away a comment, including criticism of the product, unless itviolates pre-determined principles.
This demographic expects it, They also expect the responder to be savvy andfollow unwritten social media guidelines.
Then show Facebook fans how you use it.
Let people know about your page across all your online assets.
Recognize the special culture of Facebook instead of just imposing your owncorporate culture upon it.

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