The Cloud: The Revolution is Between Your Ears

The Cloud: The Revolution is Between Your Ears

Whenever “Cloud Computing” is mentioned, invariably the IT conversation steers towards the topic of savings; savings in manpower, savings in infrastructure, savings in equipment maintenance, savings in support costs.

Private Cloud

And while savings are a crucial part of the Cloud value conversation, it’s not a foregone conclusion that moving to the Cloud automatically entails a budgetary windfall. In many cases, the costs for moving to a private Cloud are a wash, at best, with traditional on-premises IT.

In fact, at my last job we ran the numbers; comparing a traditional, fixed-term lease of data center blades, servers, and backup systems to a comparable private cloud alternative, the traditional lease option was cheaper. Why? Because we derived savings past the term of our fixed-term lease, once the equipment was purchased, versus having to make the monthly nut on a private cloud implementation, where the cost was always ongoing into perpetuity.

Your mileage will vary, and your results will be entirely fact dependent.

But cost comparison – alone – is entirely beside the point.

The Cloud is not simply an IT Revolution.

It is an Enterprise Revolution.

Cloud services force us to consider a tectonic shift in the way that we think about information delivery, process automation, and who should, shouldn’t, or can’t control information work.

How might we imagine our enterprises transforming, once all the energy we formerly devoted to supporting legacy systems and hardware, are instead channeled into core mission competencies, with the adoption of a Cloud services mindset?

  • Colleges and universities can focus on outboard and evergreen services, that support and extend the pedagogical mission – at lower costs to students – rather than try to find expensive, on-premise employee talent, in bucolic out-of-the-way hamlets where small liberal arts schools tend to find themselves.
  • More people in the enterprise can be knowledge workers, rather than just a small handful of people who formerly controlled access to “knowledge” and “expertise.”
  • Ready technology solutions to real-time enterprise problems can be acquired directly by subject matter experts in the enterprise, rather than waiting to “train up” IT people to learn “the business problem”, or dictate an “approved” solution.
  • Enterprise solutions can be addressed in near real time, with ready-to-implement services, rather than languishing on the whims of arbitrary backlogs of work, sitting in your development team’s inbox.

These shifts in perception of how our jobs get done aren’t without cost or friction.

Cloud spending and services decision making needs to be communicated transparently across an enterprise, so that everyone understands what decisions are driving each service solution and implementation. If this doesn’t happen, duplication of services and re-invention of the wheel are inevitable.

The benefits of this change of thought will be unmistakable. Rather than having a priesthood of technology gatekeepers, one will instead have a workforce of enabled information workers, completely aligned with an institution’s core mission. IT workers won’t have to be trained in how a business works, before solutions are explored, and then implemented; the business’ existing subject matter experts will be empowered to discover and implement best-of-breed business solutions themselves, based upon market need, timeliness, and ability to execute – and not have solutions simply driven by the tastes, dictates, or skillsets of in-house technical staff.

This brave new world is decidedly scary, and is creating conflict, even today, between chief marketing officers and chief information officers the world over.

The brave new Cloud world is already the one in which we live in. How and when we start acknowledging that we’re living in it, will largely dictate who will ultimately inherit the spoils.

Viva la revolución!

Are campus mergers rising?

Are campus mergers rising?

Thoughts from Bryan Alexander on Campus Mergers. It tracks with my post from this morning on eCampus Weekly, Consortial change – it takes more than missionaries.

Bryan Alexander

How can colleges and universities cope with today’s financial and enrollment challenges? Perhaps by merging.  Former university president Susan Resneck Pierce offers a sobering and thoughtful list of institutions currently exploring mergers.

Pierce also provides good advice for leaders thinking about linking up with other campuses.

I’d call this another datapoint for the peak higher education theory.  Note how many of the proposed merger schools face the same pressures: finance, enrollment, local demographics.  Combining institutions to realize efficiencies and/or complement each other’s strengths can be a wise move.

(via Roger Schonfeld)

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A Great Product is Necessary – but not Sufficient – for Success

A Great Product is Necessary – but not Sufficient – for Success

Great Story

Yesterday, I posited that great marketing is simply great storytelling.

And great stories all begin with an interesting subject to frame a compelling narrative around.

In marketing, that subject is your product (for simplicity’s sake, I’m purposefully conflating products and services, to being simply the “thing” that you’re trying to influence an audience to buy – or buy into).

And while a solid and innovative product is the very beginning of crafting a compelling campaign, it is not sufficient for the success of that product in the marketplace. In fact, I would claim that great products fail almost entirely because their creators didn’t tell their “story” in a way that hit home with their audience… or they told it at a time when their audience wasn’t ready to hear that particular story.

Let’s look at some illustrative brand examples: mobile devices.

The current mobile marketplace is dominated by Samsung (Android) and Apple (iOS). But they were by no means the first companies to market “smart” mobile devices. Who were? Palm, Research in Motion (RIM, neé Blackberry), and Microsoft (in the case of Microsoft, nearly seventeen years ago)!

So – why did Palm, Blackberry, and Microsoft fail to win – or in case of Palm and Blackberry, fail to keep – hearts and minds, while Apple and Samsung (Android) now rule the world?

In the case of Microsoft, they never made the cogent case for why Microsoft CE (their first mobile smart OS) was something that consumers needed to buy. Arguably, the nascent mobile web wasn’t ready ten years ago – from a design and UX standpoint – to make CE an attractive portal for readable web sites. So in a sense, it was a combination of Microsoft not successfully pitching why the devices were needed, and the mobile web not being ready to support a new wave of mobile consumers.

In the cases of both Palm and Blackberry, you have two early market dominators who enjoyed a near monopoly – for a time – but squandered their positioning through poor leadership, lack of innovation, and the inability of each company to successfully innovate and change their product narratives, when new challengers entered their respective markets.

As a result, Palm is history (for all intents and purposes), and Blackberry is a mere shadow of its former self, all in the span of a handful of years.

So – why did Apple and Samsung (Android) succeed (ed: so far), while these other brands stumbled so badly? Because they had a larger story to tell, that was more than simply describing the specs of their product.

Apple was able to leverage a huge installed base of users in an existing ecosystem (with their captive credit card numbers in tow), tethered to their iTunes music store. They were able to tell a story of “everything just works” (true or no – it was a simple and compelling tagline).

Samsung was able to leverage the massive popularity of Android, while touting innovation over their main competitor Apple, playing heavily upon a narrative that iOS is very cool – for your parents. And, they arguably have a successful narrative around doing things “years ahead” of Apple (the phablet form factor, near field communications (NFC), contact sharing, etc.).

There are other recent examples in the mobile space, demonstrating how strong brands can fail, lacking a compelling product narrative – like Nokia; a brand that dominated the “feature phone” handset space globally, that has now virtually ceased to exist as a separate mobile brand, in no small part to idiotic “storytelling“, via their CEO, Stephen Elop, in his “Burning Platform” memo.

These examples all demonstrate that great products can fail, and fail hard – either to take root, as was the case with Windows CE, or to keep marketshare, as was the case with Palm, RIM, and Nokia – because of the lack of a compelling narrative promoting and maintaining their brands.

And, they demonstrate how a strong product stories can elevate what could have been “also ran” products, into the next generation market leaders, which is no mean feat; ask Microsoft, trying to claw their way back into mobile relevance with a very good product (Windows Phone), a superior camera (best in breed, in my opinion) – but a decidedly muddled marketing story.

We’re about to see a similar battle engaged anew, with the announcement of the new Apple Watch. Will Apple be able to create a strong enough narrative as to why their new product is more compelling than the Samsung Gear, the Moto 360, or the Pebble, to possibly create a new market leader?

If past is prologue, I wouldn’t count them out.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss how a brand’s voice is essential to telling a great marketing story.

Creative Blocks

Creative Blocks

We all get creatively blocked from time to time.

Sometimes, one must simply push through. Here are some things I do to jump start my creative juices, when my flow isn’t what it needs to be.

Video

Seven superstitions to know before you go to college

Hendrix College was mentioned today on the Headline News Website:

Hendrix College cafeteria apparently has a glittery tray from the 60’s that they sometimes dole out lunches on. If you get it, luck is on your side (wearing your polyester jumpsuit to the cafeteria, we hear, does not up your chances).

Cooler still, they used a video from our first Raspberry Pi Bake-Off, featuring John Steward’s second-place winning Disco Tray.

My only regret? Portrait video. Ugh. What was I thinking?

 

We’re Closed

We’re Closed

 

Lies, Damn Lies, and Frosh Move In Statistics

Lies, Damn Lies, and Frosh Move In Statistics

All Devices

At Hendrix College, on new student move in day, we have a number of stations in our Student Life and Technology Center setup for getting ID cards made, getting your post office box, and for configuring student devices to the Hendrix network. 

And seemingly every year, I find myself banging my head against a desk, because I forgot to create a survey instrument to capture the devices that we were helping new students configure as they come to campus.

But not this year. This year, I remembered, and created a simple Frosher Move In Survey.

The instrument is pretty simple. Each survey page represents a single student, and each block on the page a device. We wanted to capture important pieces of data, without impeding overall flow of handling all of our new students before they had to be at new student convocation in the afternoon. So, the survey had to be concise, simple, and straightforward.

The instruments were completed by our student workers, who assisted new students as they configured their devices. We had gone over the process of filling out the surveys the week before in a “boot camp” that we conduct each semester.

How good was the data that we ultimately collected? Well, I’d say, OK.

The instrument did extremely well at capturing device type and OS, less well at capturing OS version, and just plain poorly at capturing data plan. I attribute the failings on the instrument mostly to the need to better train our student workers to ask for (and understand) data and text plans. But in fairness, maybe we should just drop those two questions off in the future. At any rate, those two data points ultimately proved to be unusable for anything useful, owing to the spotty collection of the data.

Below, I present the data we were able to collect, with some caveats.

First, this data does not represent all devices students use on campus, only those devices that we helped them configure. Anecdotally, we answered several questions regarding “smart TVs” and gaming devices. We had previously sent students directions on setting up devices themselves onto our wireless network, and so many had already done that. And, for those students who simply had a desktop PC, they just plugged the thing in the wall and were good to go. We know also that there is a broad mix of Apple TVs, Rokus, and gaming devices going into student dorms, because we watched them go in as they were being carted from their cars.

Our data represents devices we directly assisted with during the check-in process in the Student Life and Technology Center. In total, we helped about 1/3 of the incoming class with their devices (our HelpDesk would probably agree that we have since helped the other 2/3 with their devices, looking at our logs!).

In short, our data should not be used to say what precisely new students are using on our campus, but can certainly be used to indicate preferences and trends. In order to truly understand exactly say what is hitting our entire network, we’ll need to look back after the first week, to get an accurate device census. 

In the future, we’ll refine the instrument, and perhaps have the students self-report a second instrument, to see how they compare. But that, as they say, is a different task for a different day.

With the preamble out of the way, here is what we saw.

I think the word that comes to mind when looking at the All Devices data below is “mobility.” Phones predominate, followed by laptops, tablets, and everything else (with PCs being the small minority). Again, remember that PCs usually are just plugged into the wall, and may be underrepresented – but I think the trend is clear.

To me, the one really surprising device that I didn’t see at move in was a Chromebook. I would have at least expected to see one out the hundreds of devices we configured, given the emphasis Google has placed on K-12 education. When I go to the local middle and high schools in the area, I see them everywhere. Maybe we’ll see a few “in the wild” when we poll actual network traffic this week.

And a passing note – we didn’t see any wearables come through our line. Not surprising in some cases – with Google Glass being a $1,500 device. Still, next year I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this category of devices amply represented.

All Devices

The Computers data was the most significant to me. Anecdotally, when I first arrived at Hendrix in 2011, we configured maybe 1 Mac in every 3 computers that we assisted on new student move in day. Now, MacBooks predominate over all other laptops, and over PC laptops and desktops combined. Again, this data underrepresents desktops already setup in the dorms. But the likelihood of our students having both a desktop and a laptop is low. Given the high numbers of iOS phones and tablets our new students have, and from our raw survey data, I believe this aptly represents the tight coupling of the Apple device ecosystem; if they have an Apple computer, they most likely have an Apple Phone and / or a tablet. The converse absolutely can’t be said of owning a Microsoft PC, and being predisposed to owning Microsoft phones or tablets.

Computers

The Tablets data was surprising to me, only in that Microsoft tablets (Surface) had a slight edge over Android tablets. Just from my personal walking around on campus, I had not seen a student carrying a Surface (though several of our staff own and use them).

Tablets

The Phones data is surprising, because it is counter to the larger phone market (where Android predominates). Does this mean that Apple device owners simply need more help, and Android users are more self-reliant? Does it say something about our student demographic? One should be careful projecting too much, but it is an interesting finding.

Phones

And finally, I present Devices per Student. This will seem very low to those of you working on college campuses, and you will be right. Remember, this data is just for devices we helped configure in our move in process, and does not account for devices setup by students themselves or already plugged into the wall in their dorms.

Devices per Student

I hope this data is of interest to you, gentle reader, and would welcome your comments, concerns, and suggestions on how we might do a better job next year.