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Posts Tagged ‘social’

When, not if, the EFSS market dies

Wrong WayUnless you have spent the last couple of years under a rock, you will have come across EFSS as the latest and greatest fad to hit the ECM and collaboration market. Discussions on EFSS abound, amongst the ECM and Social Collaboration blogs.

Analysts legitimised EFSS as a separate technology marketspace: Forrester published its The Forrester Wave™: File Sync And Share Platforms at the end of 2013, followed by Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Enterprise File Synchronisation and Sharing (EFSS) in July 2014. They define EFSS as products that allow secure file Synchronisation, Access and Sharing across diverse devices, and positions with vendors like Box, Citrix, EMC, IBM and Accellion as leaders, adding Microsoft, Dropbox, Google, Apple and others as challengers.

The EFSS market is already a dying market

Alas! All is not well in the state of Denmark: The EFSS market is not going to be with us for long, as a separate market segment. Don’t get me wrong, EFSS functionality has been around for years and will continue to be around for many more years to come. But its product transition from niche, to mainstream, to commodity will be very fast.

Secure sharing of files, small and large, has been around for ages in the form of the mature MFT (Managed File Transfer) market, which is used extensively by large financial organisations, Engineering firms, etc. On the flip side, on-line/off-line synchronisation of files across devices has also been around for a long time, used in both ECM and Collaboration platforms. What has changed, which brought EFSS to the fore, is that (a) SaaS and cloud have added an additional layer of accessibility and (b) companies like Box and Dropbox stepped in to fill a gap in the market by providing easily consumable, standalone products that consumers can buy without involving IT. Adopting a Freemium licensing model helped too.

Move forward a couple of years to today and numerous major vendors, across multiple technology sectors, offer EFSS products: IBM ECM, OpenText, VMware, Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, etc.  IBM alone, markets at least four different EFSS products, that I’m aware of:

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are even more, disguised and embedded into other platforms such as Asset Management.

And therein lies the problem. If all of these vendors, from different disciplines, are offering either embedded or explicit EFSS capabilities within their core product licensing, it means that the EFSS market is already commoditised. Enterprises will not invest in dedicated EFSS products or licenses, when they can have comparable functionality for free within their existing investments.

Interestingly Gartner’s own Hype Cycle for Digital Workplace Software, which was published in the same month as their MQ paper, positions EFSS already in the “Trough of Disillusionment” which creates an interesting contradiction. IDC in their Worldwide File Synchronization and Sharing 2014–2018 Forecast and 2013 Vendor Shares report also agree that EFSS is a rapidly commoditising market, although they predict that the market will continue to grow in revenue.

There’s another, perhaps even more important, reason why EFSS is not a sustainable market: As BYOD and platform-agnostic applications develop, the core principle behind EFSS – the need to share and move content transparently and securely – becomes too core and too essential to many different business functions. Companies cannot afford to have multiple and conflicting EFSS tools. EFSS does not lend itself to multiplicity – sooner or later CIOs will need to converge on a single common EFSS platform shared by all employees, otherwise it serves very little purpose, the relative cost of ownership becomes extravagant, and the security risk unmanageable. And that means that unified standards and common protocols for EFSS will prevail. I don’t know yet whose standards – that battle is yet to be fought – but a fearsome battle it will be.

Where next for EFSS?

My prediction is that within 2-3 years, the EFSS market will be completely subsumed into one or more other technology segments. If I was a gambling man (I’m not), my money would be on the Collaboration (aka Digital Workplace) platform becoming the natural “home” for EFSS functionality. At the end of the day, EFSS is primarily a catalyst for exchanging information within the organisation and with third parties. In other words, collaborating.

In an ideal world however, I personally would like to see EFSS become (together with most other collaboration platform features) a native feature of the Operating System’s file system, unified across different O/S platforms. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking!

What does that mean for independent EFSS vendors? They have a very short window of opportunity in which they will have to either transform into a bigger platform (e.g. become ECM or Collaboration vendors), get acquired and assimilated (into a bigger platform vendor, perhaps CRM) or get out (i.e. change technology focus). EFSS vendors without a 3-year exit strategy will just disappear. Today, pure play EFSS vendors enjoy an undeniably large marketshare. That’s because the product marketing teams of established B2B Enterprise Software vendors have been asleep and missed the consumer calling. These vendors are now paying attention, and the time is ticking. Watch this space…

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What if Orson Welles used Twitter?

(Originally posted on InformationZen by George Parapadakis on July 10, 2009 )

A scary Friday thought, but with a hint or reality thrown in…

A lot of people will be familiar with the famous War of the Worlds radio hoax story: In 1938, Orson Welles presented a Halloween spoof alien invasion story on CBS radio. The story was so believable that widespread panic ensued.

“The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast was presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, which suggested to many listeners that an actual Martian invasion was in progress […] The program’s news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast” (Wikipedia)

In 1938, pre-TV era, radio was the most immediate medium for communicating information to people. People trusted the radio and in particular they trusted the News bulletins. In a way, Welles hijacked (abused, if you like) that trust. People reacted to snippets of unconfirmed information, because they implicitly trusted its source. The resulting panic was not the only effect. The trustworthiness of real news sources was questioned. A host of conspiracy theories followed. The same play was adapted and reused in other geographies, causing similar panic and even resulting in deaths.

Roll forward 70 years or so… The most immediate broadcast medium today, is Twitter. Based on 140-character snippets of unconfirmed information. Delivered straight to your mobile/cell phone, wherever you are. What if the BBC or Time or CNN (or anyone spoofing as them) were to broadcast an Orson Welles equivalent hoax. And the world re-tweets, seconds later…. What would today’s reaction be?

Would people panic? That means that people are trusting their social media sources as much as they trusted the radio in 1938. And twitter is a dangerous place to be!

Would they wait and double check their sources? If so, it means we are inherently NOT trusting the information we get from twitter. Which then questions the value of the medium.

Are we any more savvy today than people were in 1938? We would like to think so. But the thousands of people that daily fall victim to email and phone and get-rich-fast scams (and the proliferation of these scams) does not substantiate that belief… Fortunately or unfortunately, people are generally more naive than paranoid.

Have a good weekend! – George

Put that down! You don’t know where it’s been…

(Originally posted on InformationZen by George Parapadakis on June 29, 2009)

Sometimes, we take too much for granted. Twitter is a wonderful and dangerous thing! Recently I had three twitter experiences which made me sit back and think again:

1) I saw Michael Jackson’s death twittered, before there was an article about it on the BBC News page. The immediacy of twitter as a medium is phenomenal. But “caveat emptor”. This time the news checked out when verified – it was true. It could have just as well been completely false, which would have equally driven crowds into mild panic and depression. So while I appreciate hearing about it first, I prefer the slightly more reserved “verify your sources first” approach of the news. Especially now that the conspiracy theorists are having a field day.

2) Re-twitting is what drives twitter and spreads information around faster than wildfire. Brilliantly simple concept and it really gives me a buzz to see people that I’ve never heard of, re-twitting my comments or my links. Just prefix with RT and the name of the original twitter and off you go. The other day however, someone RT’d one of my comments (thanks) but decided to slightly change half of it. The quip was funny, I appreciated his point and there was no malice intended. But it made me realise how easy it is for someone to put words into my mouth, by allegedly re-twitting something I’ve never said. People inherently trust information if they trust the source. There is no control in twitter-land for verifying that what someone says I said, is actually true! Combine that with the speed that information spreads on Twitter and you have a potential recipe for disaster!

3) Spare me the drivel! I think a lot of you will recognise this symptom: I am being very selective on twitter. I have a personal account and a work account. With my work account I follow people that relate to my work or have information that may be relevant to me. Including people from my own company. Recently I also joined a couple of twitter “communities” (twibes or Comtweets) from work, which changed my Twitter experience dramatically – I want to know what’s going on in my company. I don’t want to know the football results or what someone in Venezuela had for breakfast! The signal-to-noise ratio on some of these communities is very low. There is so much irrelevant noise that I am forced to un-follow them. I’m sure I will miss some important information from there. But it’s a small price to pay for not losing all the value of the other people I carefully decided to follow, who have something relevant to say and are now lost in the alphabet soup I receive.

I’m sure that over time, some form of informal “etiquette” will develop on twitter that will allow me to filter out the noise, verify re-tweets and validate news gossip. But until then I have to protect myself by treating everything with a little bit more caution than I have done so far.

Have you had any similar experiences that made you think twice about the value of social networking tools? I’d love to hear them and compile some sort of “Beware” list…

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