About Google Buzz…

Today, Google announced Google Buzz which is their play into the social web.

Here’s a look at how it works.

On the face of it, the simplicity of it seems similar to a microblogging tool such as twitter (you have a space to write your update). However, it is embedded in the gmail interface,  making it easy to transition between your email and buzz. You also have a notification bar just below the text box, telling you important updates (in this case if you have new followers, whether or not you are already following them, and a link to find new followers; a very simple, clean, logical design.

new followers google buzz

What takes it way beyond something like twitter, is the ability to add pictures, video etc. into the post so it’s a lot more like blogging in that sense (yet a lot simpler). In the screengrab below you see a post from Ed showing the snow in Oslo. Also notice the ability to reply with a chat message… so very good integration with both gmail and chat. Also notice that the Buzz has been posted as publicly visible, you can also post it privately to only your chat contacts.

google buzz posts

As you can see, you can like, comment, email and reply by chat to a particular “buzz”

You can also take other actions such as linking to a buzz, viewing all buzz from that person, stop following that person, or muting that conversation which will make it disappear from your feed.

google buzz actions

A pretty useful thing is that it can analyse your communication habits in order to suggest people to follow. As Google Buzz grows, this will help you by suggesting people that you already communicate a lot with (via chat and email).

Openness is an important aspect, and connectivity to other online tools that we use is available. The screenshot below shows some of the initial ones such as Google chat, Google Reader, twitter, picasa, flickr etc. but this list will grow and grow. This means that your actions in these other social networks will automatically update your buzz.

Follow Suggestions

An added benefit is that this should also play into Google’s social search, which will show you more relevant search results on google.com based on things that your own personal network are sharing and find useful.

Social Connection in Buzz

In conclusion – a great start with a good clean design. Twitter have not really innovated much since they launched so it’s great to see Google driving some new ideas into the world of the social web.

Google Atmosphere Conference

I was fortunate enough to attend the Google Atmosphere conference last week in London. My top 3 take aways were:

  • Cloud computing is a reality here and now, and is being used by businesses to reduce cost and redeploy expertise in a strategic manner
  • Even if your business is not considering how cloud computing can be used in order to create a competitive advantage, remember that your competitors will be.
  • Cloud is not just about saving costs, it’s about freeing up resources in order to align them better with business strategy

I have to say that it was one of the best events that I have attended. The delegate level was very high, the speakers were all excellent, and the WiFi worked perfectly throughout! Plus Google showed their commitment to the cloud by running all the demos live over the Internet and most of the presentations were run live over the web using Google docs.

The conference was opened by Google execs Nikesh Arora (President Global Sales and Business Development) and Adrian Joseph (Managing Director, Google Enterprise EMEA), with some personal anecdotes on their experiences as digital immigrants.

Next up was Nicholas Carr with his talk titled Era of the Cloud: The Big Switch. As expected, he talks about the historical move from self generated power to mass scale power grids, but the general theme is how disruptive some innovations and trends such as cloud computing can be. If these are embraced, IT can be aligned in order to deliver real value to the business rather than “producing electricity”.

Next up Dr Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon on “The Cloud Capability” talking about why customers are actually buying cloud computing services.

Now time for the first panel, “The Perfect Storm”. I really enjoyed the panels, for me they were one of the highlights of the whole day. The first one has a high level/visionary focus and the next 2 panels are more practical with some real customers. Guy Clapperton moderates this panel On stage:

  • Werner Vogels – CTO & VP, Amazon.com
  • Nicholas Carr – Author, the Big Switch
  • Paul Daugherty – Chief Technology Architect, Accenture
  • Dr. Carsten Sorensen – Senior Lecturer Information Systems, LSE

Then, the next panel titled “Risk and Reward” – some real customers talking very frankly about their experiences. In this session, the Jaguar Landrover deal is announced. On stage is:

  • Marcello Cordioli – CIO, Permasteelisa
  • Olivier Carre-Pierrat – Infrastructures & Telecoms Director, Euromaster
  • Jeremy Vincent, CIO Jaguar Landrover
  • Claudio Umana – CIO, Fracarro
  • Jean-Francois Caenen – CTO, Cap Gemini France

Then it was time for the Google Engineering team. I really enjoyed this session. They even touched on some futures which is very unusual for Google. Nelson Mattos starts it off and then Matthew Glotzbach does a fantastic demo.

During lunch, I took a look at the demo pods. These were manned by the Google “doctors” in their white lab coats – very cool. I watched some demos of Google Wave, Google Apps, and Enterprise Workflow  for Google apps with Google partner Cordys. CapGemini and Nordic Edge were also there although I ran out of time so didn’t get to see their stuff.

After lunch and it was time for the customer panel “Collaboration in the Workplace” with:

  • Paul Cheesbrough – CIO, Telegraph Media Group
  • Francois Blanc – CIO, Valeo
  • Todd Pierce – SVP & CIO, Genentech
  • Andy Beale – CIO, Guardian Media Group

It starts off with Paul Cheesbrough, CIO of Telegraph Media Group showing the results of their research relating to the move to Google Apps… for example he showed a stat that staff now spend 36% more time communicating with co-workers which has had a positive effect on productivity. There are loads of interesting things in here, take a look.

Now time for the big man, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com. Marc is an entertaining speaker, and despite the pretty salesy pitch, most people seemed to lap it up.  I really loved the demo double act of Tim Barker and Jager McConnell, who showed an amazing demo of “Service Cloud 2” – my key takeaway was how a business can use Service Cloud in order to interact better with customers whether it’s by phone, twitter, facebook or old-school email. This could really create a competitive advantage since not many businesses really do CRM well.

Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm, was up next. This video is essential viewing. His session is all about the importance of focusing on core, essential business. IT energy should be focused on improving the business, not on running commoditized services (such as email for example). Geoff says it best, watch him…

Last but not least… the “Fireside Chat” with Dave Girouard (President, Google Enterprise) and Alan Eustace (SVP Engineering and Research, Google). This was an awesome session. When you watch this you can see the difference in culture between Google and their competitors. Open, honest, straightforward, insightful…

Thanks to the Google team for a great event. If you want to follow the happenings of the day over twitter, it all happened on the #atmosphere hashtag And if you missed atmosphere, you might still be able to attend the “Innovation at Work” event happening in London later this month. No famous authors, just pure time with the Google folks looking at the latest stuff from the Google Enterprise team.

Cloud Computing is NOT the future

An interesting announcement from Rentokil today that they are moving 35000 users to Google apps… I think this validates that Cloud Computing is not a thing of the future, it’s here today and is delivering value to business right now. Too many people think it’s something that will be happening, sometime in the future…


Although they do expect to make significant cost savings, what’s interesting is that this is not simply about cost reduction. The fact that Rentokil is a global business, means that cloud computing can provide them with many advantages that may be difficult to achieve with “on premise” software, such as:

– global data distribution: when you log on from the office in Bangkok your user experience is similar to when you are back home in London (as long as the Office has a decent Internet connection) – because your data is always “close to you”. With traditional “in house” IT this cna be pretty costly to achieve because you need to replicate your data globally. In the Rentokil case, Google does the heavy lifting for them at a much lower cost due to their economies of scale.

– continuous innovation: with in-house IT infrastructure, any new stuff needs to go through a lengthy testing and deployment process before being rolled out. This cost time and money, and takes too long. With cloud-based apps these can be tested by the provider and implemented when ready, for all their customers on a regular basis. Typically, cloud vendors add in new features and capabilities every few weeks. Think about this in relation to corporate IT systems – what version of MS Office are most large enterprises running – Office 2010? Office 2007? No – mostly Office 2003 which is now over 6 years old.

– “innovation economy” – what I mean by this, is an economy of scale whereby all Google’s customers can benefit quickly, from new capabilities introduced to the product. Unlike a traditional software vendor, Google can quickly get a view of what is working well, or not-so-well, with parts of their offering, because everything is running on their infrastructure. Once an update or new feature has been tested and released, it is instantly available to all customers globally. It’s not something that an IT team has to concern itself over, so their time is freed up to consider how their business can use these new features, rather than just implementing them. Most “cloud vendors” have these short release cycles: Salesforce.com (cloud CRM) and DimDim (web conferencing)  release new stuff every month, blueKiwi Software (social networking for enterprises) releases new features approx every 2 weeks!

Here is what Rentokil says are the key capabilities for them.

  • Google integrated chat and video features to support training & improve productivity
  • Powerful personal and shared calendars
  • Consolidation and standardisation of a single mail system and address book
  • Improved collaboration within and between divisions and functions
  • Automatic email translation and real-time translation in Google Talk

The last one is very understated – automatic translation of chat is a huge thing for a global multi-national corporate. Now technicians in vietnam can chat with technicians in slovenia, both in their native tongue rather than a “corporate standard” such as English. Awesome stuff.

Anyway – it’s good to see these things becoming a reality TODAY for enterprise computing.

I.T. teams can no longer ignore that these things are happening – instead they must figure out how they should be using cloud computing in order to further the goals of their business.

Carl Haggerty (Devon County Council) interview on internal social networking

LocalGovCamp, an unconference for local government,  happened this last weekend (Saturday 20th June) – what an astonishing turnout -more than 130 people from Local Govt came along on a Saturday to talk about the future of local government, citizen engagement, smarter working and more…

Here is an interview by @davidwilcox with @carlhaggerty and @robgray (me) at #localgovcamp – Carl is talking about Devon’s Internal Social Networking initiative using blueKiwi.

How to get people to work for free…

Yesterday I went to visit some of my ex colleagues at Microsoft, and I found out that one of my employment practices had been replicated:  recruiting internal people to work for free. I had forgotten about this, but thought I’d write a quick post in case you want to try it out…

My problem when working at MS was that I had significant overload. I had to be active in many areas of the business including marketing, sales, customer service, support, finance and HR, so it was impossible to do everything that needed to be done:  I had to prioritize the most important 60% and just focus on that.

At one point, we were receiving a huge number of support calls around a particular product area, which required significant time in order to ensure that customer satisfaction was managed effectively. I had to manage input from multiple team managers and make sure that our MD was regularly informed on the status of the UK situation. I would have had to drop almost everything else in my day job in order to manage this well, so instead I decided to outsource this new activity…

I advertised the role, basically saying that it would be a difficult, time-consuming job, with an almost impossible goal to achieve, with no additional pay. The selected candidate would need to do this in addition to their current job, with possibly a large proportion using up their own personal time, and not be paid to do it. However, the fact that they had to report to the exec team meant exposure.

To my surprise, the response was pretty much overwhelming… it appealed to people’s competitiveness, the belief that they could make a difference to customer satisfaction, and their desire for recognition from senior management.  I had always assumed that people’s primary goal was financially oriented, but this really interested me because it showed that people can be even more motivated by recognition, by contributing, and by stepping up to achieve big, bold goals.

We ended up selecting a few people to run with this initiative as a virtual team. They got exposure to the senior execs, worked hard together to achieve a goal, while I got to carry on with my primary job responsibilities.

I decided to leave a few months later in order to take on my own big challenge, but this week I was pleased to see that this practice has since been replicated in different parts of the company… if I had stayed on I would have tried to outsource my WHOLE job… now that would have been something to write home about 😉

Are you ready for Web Point Twenty?


These days we are flooded by a plethora of 2.0 stuff aren’t we?…. Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, BI 2.0 Outsourcing 2.0,eCommerce 2.0, Resourcing 2.0, Project Management 2.0, Recruitment 2.0, Jake 2.0, KM 2.0, Library 2.0, Health 2.0, President 2.0, Government 2.0, Retail 2.0, Search 2.0, Mobile 2.0, Lift Trucks 2.0, or why not buy a Ford Fiesta 2.0? Microsoft was clearly ahead of the game because Windows 2.0 came out in the late 1980s!

What do all of these have in common? Well it’s obvious isn’t it? They are all better than 1.0

When will the madness end?
Even the experts get confused… at a recent retailing conference one of the keynote speakers talked in a very opinionated manner on his views of “web point twenty”!!!

Does it really matter what you call it?  Does anyone care?
Anyway it’s now back to the grindstone, I’m waiting for web point thirty-seven. Rumour has it that’s going to be the big one.

Do you have any ridiculous examples of people jumping on the “2.0 bandwagon”?

Can you teach people how to be entrepreneurs?

Raw Talent or Learned?


I read an article in the IoD magazine this morning (also available online), which was a debate about whether “entrepreneurship” is something that can be taught?

The media often takes the view that anyone can become an entrepreneur (why do I always have to spell check that word), however there is a school of thought that takes the view that entrepreneurs are born, not made.

Perhaps the right answer is a bit of both… you need the natural aptitude or make-up of an entrepreneur, but you could be taught how to make it happen and succeed?

Perhaps this last point is most relevant in a large corporation that is trying to create an environment & culture of innovation: identify the natural entrepreneurs and provide training that shapes them into successful ones.

(posted by Rob Gray)