Writing by James

Articles and opinions on technology, social media and innovation


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Central Desktop: How to make a case for new technology to your CIO + IT team

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New Year(ish). New Article.

Gartner have made some bold predictions that state that by 2017, the CMO will be be spending more on technology than the CIO. Well, if that’s true, CMOs need to read this right now, because buying technology for the business – even in today’s SaaS environment, isn’t as easy as clicking your fingers. They need to know how to pull together a cast-iron business case.

Luckily, this article contains five tips to make the process a little easier.

There’s nothing more unsatisfying than introducing a new system into an organization and seeing it fail. It’s a waste of time, a waste of money and a waste of opportunity – and yet it happens all the time. Usually, it has nothing to do with the technology; these failures are almost always about adoption. Whether a system is over-hyped, under-utilized or simply not fit-for-purpose, the result is the same.

Unfortunately, these precedents can make it more difficult to introduce systems in the future, as “system apathy” sets in and users become inured to promise and cynical about change. This apathy can also spread to those people who install the system: IT and the CIO. Instead of a new solution, they may see ill-conceived plans, a lack of ROI and negative impact on their credibility. The erosion of the business benefit of these systems can have a massive impact on the bottom line.

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It’s great that CMOs are tech-savvy, but they need to show more than a recognition of technology benefits, and start to pick up on best practices from the IT world to really bring the CIO back into the fold.

Put simply: to get a CIO on your side, you have to think like a CIO. And that means going back to the business case.

Read the full article over at Central Desktop.

LeWeb Paris Audience


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3 important takeaways from LeWeb 2013

LeWeb is a fantastic conference.

All year I get invites to attend conference after conference, but LeWeb is the only one that really interests me. Why? Simply because it has a broader outlook, better speakers, and a more philosophical approach than other events (it even had a session on meditation!)

Where some events focus on the ‘doing’, LeWeb looks at the ‘why’. As a result the content is fresh and invigorating; it actually makes you think.

In London this June, the focus was on Sharing Economies (which I wrote about for Forbes). This time around, in Paris, it was looking at the Next Ten Years. The interesting thing about a conference like this is not in what the individual speakers say, although they are very interesting, but in the feeling that you get from the conference. There’s a sense of it being one giant ‘meta-presentation’, with trends leaking out and pervading the atmosphere around you, and speaker after speaker adding to the big picture. So, in light of this, here are three trends that have emerged from LeWeb 2013 that I want to share with you.

Trend 1: Human experiences, not technology, will rule the next ten years

Just to be clear, technology is still underpinning everything – in fact I can’t think of a more exciting industry to be working in at the moment – but the face of this technology will be human. Technology will be applied to create human experiences and meet human needs, it will not be a goal in itself.

Forrester CEO, George Colony, described the next ten years as ‘The Age of the Customer’ – an age in which enterprises will need to reinvent themselves in order to be successful. This age will require completely frictionless customer experiences to be created, based around the maturing technologies of mobile, sensors, location, social, and data. Products will be highly personalised and anticipatory in nature – knowing what you need based on where you are and what you are doing. Robert Scoble’s ‘Age of Context‘.

Colony, quite fittingly, gave the example of a taking a trip to a conference. In this example the products and services were completely transparent: when entering the airport you would be directed to your gate automatically, your seat would indicate itself when you came near, and when you got to your hotel the lift would take you to the right floor by communicating with your phone, with your door unlocking  itself when you arrived at your room.

The companies that can create these experiences will be the ones that thrive.

Trend 2: You are your product

It’s easy to think of a product as something separate from you, but actually it’s more than this. The best innovations come from the heart, and are linked tightly to things you care about solving. In this respect, you are your product. If the product is central to your purpose, if it isn’t your passion, then the chances of succeeding are much lower. Being able to stay on the path, to believe on your idea, and to have the courage to see it through are the outstanding characteristics that will build the successful products of the future. Ask yourself, why do you do what you do? What is your purpose? What drives you to act? It was no coincidence that the majority of successful entrepreneurs speaking at LeWeb had started their businesses based on a very personal experience. This was exemplified by Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber. Uber was founded at LeWeb in 2008, when Travis was unable to get a taxi to the conference. That frustration, and his sweaty appearance onstage, gave birth to the idea that would disrupt the taxi and ride-sharing industry. It’s a personal crusade for Uber, one that has led to bigger ideas in its wake. Expect big things from the $3.5 billion-valued ‘Urban Logistics’ company over the next few years

Trend 3: In future, all companies will be software companies

This is a trend that is very close to my heart, and very close to my purpose. Products are evolving, customers are evolving. In the next ten years, it will be the company that adds value to its products, be it smoke detectors or tyres, that has the competitive advantage. As a result, all companies will be come software companies, as this will be the primary medium through which companies add value to their products. For example, Nest are disrupting the home safety market through building smoke detectors that communicate with you proactively, that give you warnings that are useful to you. What if a tyre company could produce tyres that told you when they ended to be changed, or informed you – or your car – how to drive more appropriately for the current conditions. the possibilities are endless, and it touches every industry, every product.

What next?

I’m really excited about the possibilities for technology in creating a better user experience for us all, actually, a better life experience for us all. It’s going to be great to watch develop, even better to be a part of. The ability to create new businesses and disrupt existing industries has never been more accessible. Even if some of the predictions don’t turn out to be right, there’s no doubt that things will be a lot different in ten years time.

See you at LeWeb 2014!


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Central Desktop: Software Subscription Models – Pros and Cons

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It’s been a few months since I last wrote at Central Desktop, so it’s nice to get something published there again. This time around we’re looking at the pros and cons of subscription software (or SaaS, if you prefer it).

Subscription software has been around a long time, much longer than the hoo-ha about Adobe Creative Cloud earlier this year. When Adobe changed their business model, it was treated like the death of a family pet in some quarters. However, the real question isn’t why Adobe changed, but why we were surprised.

The move to software subscription models is tied inextricably to the changing culture of business and the ever-moving world of technology that surrounds it. It is inevitable.

Shortly, we’ll look at the pros and cons of subscription software, but first a brief history lesson.

Read the full article for a history lessons and to find out what iTunes and Nike have to do with the rise of SaaS over at Central Desktop.


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Forbes EMCVoice: What Is The New Sharing Economy?

Forbes & EMC - Version 2Earlier this week my second guest post for Forbes EMCVoice was published. Stepping away from Big Data – the subject of my previous article – I instead took a look at the emerging business model that is the Sharing Economy. Rather than being a new hippy movement that wants to radicalise the economic norm, this is a social movement that disrupts current thinking and has led to a burst of activity in the start-up scene. So much so that it is now have a lasting effect on corporate America. In a time of economic stagnation, the sharing economy is finding value in the excess and the redundant. If you haven’t heard about it, read on. The question isn’t whether this is a fad, it’s not; it’s simply a question of how will it affect your business and what you will do about it.

Here’s a short excerpt:

The start of June saw the influential LeWeb conference make its way back to London. The subject this time around: the new sharing economy. Never shy of investigating emerging trends within the technology sector, the forum’s excursion into what seems to be a more philosophical realm could be viewed as a departure from the norm, but is it? The truth is that the ideas behind the sharing economy have their roots deeply entrenched in technological soil.

‘The Sharing Economy’ — you would be excused if you thought it sounded like the spiritual home of new age digital hippies, or maybe a step up from a barter system — might sound a million miles from traditional capitalist thinking. But in truth it’s a movement born and sustained by three things: the advance of technology, the ongoing economic pressures that face businesses, and the human imperative for simplicity.

Read the full article over at Forbes.


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Forbes EMCVoice: Who Should Be Driving Big Data?

Forbes & EMC - Version 2Tuesday saw my first article published on Forbes, covering the subject of Big Data for EMC. Big Data initiatives are often thought of as technology projects, but that misconception is one of the big reasons why these projects fail to deliver the big results that are expected. This article looks at how you can avoid falling into that trap.

Every day the number of ways in which we can collect data grows, from personal data collected by exercise gadgets such as Fitbit Flex and Nike FuelBand, to the social interactions that we engage in online through Facebook, Google and Twitter.This is on top of the transactional data that organizations have been collecting in back-end finance systems. It’s a mass of data that offers a mass of possibilities. These big data sets can give companies the ability to understand their customers, their environment and themselves in greater depth than ever before, and that understanding can generate real competitive advantage.

But before we all reach for this great panacea, a reality check. As Ben Elowitz pointed out in his AllThingsD article, “Big Data is Booming, but Big Results are lacking.” That’s not entirely true, but it’s a valid point, as getting the best out of Big Data requires an organization that has thought through the issues and put the right structure in place to execute.

Read the full article over at Forbes.


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4 reasons why the death of Google Reader just doesn’t matter

Google ReaderA few weeks back, Google announced that its Reader product was to be shut down; the reaction was instant and vitriolic, as we would expect from the internet community. Now, with hindsight, the reaction all seems a little silly.

How The Shutdown Of Google Reader Threatens The Internet‘ - Forbes, 14th March 2013

Like a Dagger to Bloggers’ Hearts, Google Just Killed Google Reader‘ - The Atlantic Wire, 13th March 2013

Headlines such as these remind us of the value of objectivity and reason – being reactionary, a trait that seems to manifest itself across the journalistic world, might drive page views (or newspaper sales), but it doesn’t necessarily help or inform anyone.

Here are four reasons why we should not get our proverbial knickers in a twist over the death of Google Reader.

1. There are plenty of alternatives

Reader is your favourite RSS aggregator, that’s fine. You’ve got a Google account and it all fits nicely together, that’s fine too. But if an RSS aggregator is that important to the way you work, there are many other alternatives: Mashable listed five in its article ‘RIP Google Reader’, including Feedly and Newsblur.

For those that make the move – not that you have any choice in the matter after the 1st July 2013 – it’s possible to export your feeds using Google Takeaway or through generating an OPML file. The OPML file is a standard format and is accepted by other RSS readers; here’s an example from Netvibes. For other services it’s even easier to transfer your data; adding your Google account to Feedly or Flipboard will automatically synchronise all your feeds from one service to the other.

2. Things have moved on

Flipboard - CoverMore importantly, although there are straight ‘apples for  apples’ alternatives for Reader, there are a slew of new applications and services for interacting with RSS.

The most visible of these is Flipboard, a self-styled ‘Social Magazine’, which is created from a number of RSS feeds pulled together and displayed in a magazine format. It’s the format that really makes the difference here, moving away from text to a visually-rich experience with hi-definition imagery and print styling. It’s engaging and hooks into existing paradigms – books, magazines – to create a more compelling interface for news and information.

Even Google has got in on the act with Google Currents, a mobile-only application that works in a similar fashion to Flipboard. Summly – now purchased by Marissa Meyer’s Yahoo – is another strong product in the same space.

I’ve not included Twitter lists in this list, even though Mashable marked it as a candidate replacement application. For me they’re different: one is real-time, miss it and it’s gone, whilst RSS aggregators are archives, building slowly over time.

3. It’s not the death of RSS

Maybe I should have put this first, rather than third, as it seems as if the internet is equating the death of Reader with the death of RSS. But of course, it isn’t the death of RSS. All the products listed above use RSS to gather information – it’s just the way they display the information that changes from product to product.

For those of you worried that Google is in charge of everything related to the internet, from standards to connectivity and anything else you want to mention, they’re not. RSS will continue to live, and it will continue to be a brilliantly simple way of sharing data automatically between services, from Twitter feeds to blog posts.

4. For Google, it’s not a core product

Last of all, from Google’s perspective, Reader just isn’t a core product. When Larry Page took over the reins he was clear in his intention to strip away anything that was deemed non-critical. Some may argue that he hasn’t held to this completely - what with the driverless cars and Google Glasses still on the agenda – but there’s no doubt he has performed some spring cleaning.

The fact is that Google Reader does not add anything to search. It doesn’t provide contextual information like Google+, it just exists on the periphery. It’s user base may be loyal, but that’s no reason for a business to continue with a product.

All Things D technology reporter, Liz Gannes, also added that the issues around Reader’s shutdown may be linked to privacy and compliance, but this is unconfirmed by Google.

Google Reader – it doesn’t really matter after all

Google Reader may have been held dear by it’s power users, but I suspect – personally – that your average internet user will not mourn (or even be aware of) its passing. The internet is not static, it’s not the same even from hour to hour, and the way we interact with information will – and must – change with it.

For those that do want to stay with the “Reader experience”, they can still have it, but I will happily move on to something more visual, more interactive, and more engaging.


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Central Desktop: Everything you need to know about BYOD

logo_central-desktop-social_media-with-byodBYOD. Looks pretty scary with all that blood everywhere doesn’t it? Well, never fear, because BYOD isn’t too scary, you just need to know what you’re getting into. My latest article at Central Desktop tells you all you need to know about ‘Bring Your Own Device’, which is why it is handily entitled ‘Everything you need to know about BYOD‘.

It goes a bit like this:

As progressive as BYOD might seem, it’s anathema to the majority of IT departments, being a world away from the structured familiarity of traditional IT hardware policy. So, for IT departments – maybe your IT department – facing up to these challenges, what can you do? Here are the pros and cons of BYOD, and the policy issues you should think about when implementing a BYOD policy.

Read the full article at Central Desktop.


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Central Desktop: Should you open up your internal network to external users?

Logo for Central DesktopGood things come in threes!

It’s true, even Wikipedia says so, and as we all know, Wikipedia is always right. Without it what would we do? Social Media Today’s article ‘What Would Happen If Wikipedia Died?‘ suggests that we would just “get along with other sources”. Obviously, the author doesn’t live in the same world that I do. Anyway, back to threes. Wikipedia says:

“The rule of three is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things. The reader or audience of this form of text is also more likely to consume information if it is written in groups of threes.”

That’s why it’s so important to read my third article at Central Desktop “Should you open up our internal network to external users?

It sounds like a no-brainer, of course you should, but beware! There are, as always, pros and cons. And now, the obligatory extract:

“Collaboration is essential to any business – mediated and controlled collaboration via cloud platforms even more so. But how far do you extend the borders on collaboration? Within your department? Your organization? Your vendors? More? After all, cloud platforms are the perfect vehicle for this kind of collaboration, being equally accessible by all parties involved.

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There are positives and negatives to working in a truly collaborative and open way with your external partners. But for those willing to tackle the risks head on, the rewards may pave the way for even further collaboration in the future (with more diverse partners and potentially greater reward).”

You can find out more over at Central Desktop.


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Central Desktop: Why you should keep IT off your cloud

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I’m on a roll at the moment, working on a lot of guest posts, so apologies for the lack of updates right here on the blog: there will be more in the next few weeks. Having said that, here’s the latest article at Central Desktop: Why you should keep IT off your cloud (if you don’t want to make the most of the opportunity.)

It’s something that’s close to my heart as an IT nerd – the changing face of IT and why you should keep them close when implementing cloud services. I promise, we are useful. What’s more, you also get to watch a clip from the brilliant UK sitcom, The IT Crowd.

Here’s a short extract:

Cloud systems – the perfect opportunity to take control of your processes and practices. A system that can boost your productivity and that you can mold to your exact requirements, all without the interference of IT. No infrastructure requirements, no development, no overcomplicated business analysis and project management – just the appointment of a vendor who can take away the pain and make things happen.

Or is it?

Here are four reasons why you should break out of this fallacy and involve IT when implementing cloud solutions.

Read the full article at Central Desktop.


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Central Desktop: Security and Privacy in the Cloud

Logo for Central DesktopMyths perpetuate, but your internal processes cause the biggest risk in cloud services

Another guest post went live at Central Desktop yesterday. This time looking at the misconceptions around the security of cloud services. It’s often thought that the cloud solutions is inherently insecure, but it’s much more likely that the security breach will occur through lax processes or simple human error within the client organisation.

Here’s a short extract:

Cloud services: the future of computing and service provision or simply one more headache? If you read enough press, you’ll be convinced that both are true. In reality, when you remove the opinions and biases, the truth is in between, but probably not in the way that you would expect.

Read the full article at Central Desktop.