Thursday, May 26, 2011

SOCIAL WORK? More Companies Permit Social Networking on the Job, Robert Half Technology Survey Reveals

Tweets and "likes" are becoming more beneficial to business, a new Robert Half Technology survey suggests. More than half (51 percent) of chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed said they permit employees to use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook on the job as long as it's for business purposes. This is up from 19 percent in 2009. But while firms may be more open to the business applications of social media, more than one out of three (31 percent) organizations still prohibit it completely at the office.

The surveys were developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology (IT) professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm. They were based on telephone interviews with more than 1,400 CIOs from companies across the United States with 100 or more employees.

CIOs were asked, "Which of the following most closely describes your company's policy on visiting social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, while at work?"

Their responses:

Prohibited completely
2009 - 54%
2011 - 31%

Permitted for business purposes only
2009 - 19%
2011 - 51%

Permitted for limited personal use
2009 - 16%
2011 - 14%

Permitted for any type of personal use
2009 - 10%
2011 - 4%

Don't know/no answer
2009 - 1%
2011 - 0%

Robert Half Technology offers four tips for using social media sites in the workplace:

-- Know the rules of the road. Make sure you're clear about what type of social networking use is permitted within your organization.

-- Exercise discretion. Never share sensitive or confidential company information or post negative comments about your employer, or current or potential clients and customers.

-- Get the scoop. If permissible, use social media sites at work to connect with customers and clients, follow thought leaders in your field or gather industry news.

-- Play it safe. If you use social media on behalf of your company, make sure you protect your feeds by creating secure passwords, refraining from clicking on questionable links and limiting access to select employees.

More information on social networking can be found at

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gartner Highlights IT Procurement Best Practices to Reduce Risk in Cloud Contracts

IT procurement or sourcing managers challenged with finding sourcing options that reduce costs at tolerable risks should examine nine contractual terms to reduce risk in cloud contracts, according to Gartner, Inc. The cloud delivery model is gaining popularity, but it includes risks that are often unclear or overlooked when assessing the appropriateness of the sourcing model.

When assessing cloud offerings' procurement and sourcing, executives need to understand what can be negotiated relative to risk elements, what they need to pressure cloud providers to offer, and what will likely not be negotiated.

The nine key terms to understand in cloud deals to mitigate excessive risk include:

-- Uptime Guarantees. Despite the significant business-criticality of certain cloud applications, Gartner analysts have seen numerous contracts that have no uptime or performance-service-level guarantees at all, or that are only provided as a changeable URL link. Cloud contract negotiators must be aware of the performance service levels required and ensure that they are documented contractually, ideally with penalties, if the performance standards are not achieved.

-- Service-Level Agreement Penalties. For service-level agreements (SLAs) to be used to steer the behavior of a cloud service provider, they need to be accompanied by financial penalties. If downtime or performance service levels are not met, negotiate penalties and escalation clauses. Rather than credits, money back is preferable, in terms of your negotiating leverage and pressure on the provider, because no vendor likes to have to give money back, once booked.

-- Watch Out for SLA Penalty Exclusions. More cloud providers realize that they need to add guarantees and quality measures for the services they sell in the cloud. To manage their risks, cloud providers usually put rigid penalty exclusion criteria into their contracts. Organizations should look carefully at exclusions to the right to penalties. For example, they should ensure that any downtime calculation starts exactly when the downtime commences.

-- Security. As part of the cloud-sourcing strategy, procurement and security executives should ensure that the provider's security practices are at the same level as, or exceed, their own security practices, especially if the company falls under industry or national privacy-related regulations. Gartner recommends negotiating SLAs for security, especially for security breaches. The analysts suggest immediate notification of any security or privacy breach as soon as the provider is aware of it.

-- Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery. Cloud contracts rarely contain any provisions about disaster recovery or provide financially backed recovery time objectives. Some infrastructure as a service (IaaS) providers don't even take responsibility for backing up customer data. If organizations are prepared to back up their data within the enterprise, or some other cloud service, and have the ability to use that data within an application, then they need to confirm that their provider has a suitable API or other mechanism to accommodate the organization taking responsibility for disaster recovery.

-- Data Privacy Conditions. If the cloud provider is complying with privacy regulations for personal data on behalf of the organization, the client needs to be explicit about what they are doing and understand any gaps. Contracts should unequivocally state that the cloud provider will not share personal data with anybody else (this becomes more complicated if they have to share data with a third party — e.g., a cloud infrastructure provider — which is common for many software as a service [SaaS] solutions) and that they will only do what the customer (the data controller) says they should do.

-- Suspension of Service. Some cloud contracts state that if payment is more than 30 days overdue (including any disputed payments), the service can be suspended by the provider. This gives the cloud provider considerable negotiation leverage in the event of any dispute over payment. Organizations should negotiate an agreement that payments in any current legitimate dispute should not lead to a suspension of service. Some providers are removing disputed payments from this clause.

-- Termination. A number of cloud contracts allow the provider to terminate the agreement with 30 days of a written notice, or at least within 30 days of renewal. Users should negotiate for at least six months notice for the provider to terminate, unless they have materially breached the contract.

-- Liability. Most cloud contracts restrict any liability apart from infringement claims relating to intellectual property to a maximum of the value of the fees over the past 12 months. Organizations should try to negotiate for higher liability protections. Leverage the fact that these providers would have liability insurance to achieve higher caps, and be prepared to walk away if this issue is not resolved.

More information on cloud computing can be found at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Global IBM Study Confirms Cloud Computing Poised to Take Off at Companies

A new IBM study of more than 3,000 global CIOs shows that 60 percent of organizations are ready to embrace cloud computing over the next five years as a means of growing their businesses and achieving competitive advantage. The figure nearly doubles the number of CIOs who said they would utilize cloud in IBM's 2009 CIO study, and is one of dozens of new insights and trends learned from CIOs worldwide in businesses of all sizes.

As demand for ever-growing amounts of information continues to increase, companies are seeking simple and direct access to data and applications that cloud computing delivers in a cost-efficient, always-available manner. The use of cloud, which began in supporting deployments mainly inside companies, has now also grown common between organizations and their partners and customers. In IBM's 2009 CIO study, only a third of CIOs said they planned to pursue cloud to gain a competitive advantage. This year’s study shows a dramatic increase in the focus on cloud, particularly in media and entertainment, which rose to 73 percent, automotive (70 percent) and telecommunications (69 percent).

From a country standpoint, seven out of 10 CIOs in the US, Japan and South Korea, and 68 percent in China, now identify cloud as a top priority. This is dramatically up from 2009, when CIO interest in cloud hovered at about a third in each of these countries.

The IBM study also found that more than four out of five CIOs (83 percent) see business intelligence and analytics as top priorities for their businesses as they seek ways to act upon the growing amounts of data that are now at their disposal. CIOs are also increasingly turning their attention to mobile computing to keep pace with the fast-changing marketplace. As the proliferation of mobile devices with enhanced functionality and mobile applications that support business productivity and new market opportunities continues to grow, mobile computing and mobility solutions are now seen by nearly three-quarters of CIOs (74 percent) as a game-changer for their businesses -- up from 68 percent in 2009.
Additional key findings of the study:

-- Simplification is a driving issue for CIOs as more than 80 percent said they plan to lead projects to simplify internal processes.

-- For the first time, the CIO's vision of the future is almost identical to that of the CEO. Together, their top three focus areas are strengthening relationships with customers, developing the skills of employees and gaining insight and intelligence from data.

-- A wide array of innovative methods and tools are being sought to turn "big data" into real, actionable information. This ranges from master data management (68 percent) to client analytics (66 percent), data warehousing and visual dashboards (64 percent) and search capabilities (59 percent).

-- The CIO is no longer looked upon as 'Chief IT Mechanic' but is now recognized for extracting value from technology and insight from complex systems.

-- Cost-cutting is here to stay as CIOs strive to do more with less and drive creativity and innovation.

Just as analytics, cloud and mobility have become dominant areas for CIOs, other areas are taking up less of their time, although this does not mean they are any less important. Virtualization, risk management and compliance, for example, have moved down on the CIOs "visionary plan list" but this is the result of virtualization become more mainstream (and less the specific responsibility of CIOs) and risk gradually moving to a dedicated risk officer. 

More information on cloud computing can be found at

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Stress Free SaaS Selection

FrontRange Solutions isn’t new to IT Service Management but is a relative new player in the IT SaaS space. With an award winning tradition and recognized as a leader by industry analysts, FrontRange’s products and solutions are in more than 80 verticals and 45 countries to quickly improve interactions with external and internal clients and achieve better business results.

Having strong and stable technology is not enough these days. You also have to be able to deploy in a multitude of ways.

The newest evolution in the cloud space, propagated by FrontRange Solutions, is SaaS². This model provides all of the traditional benefits offered by SaaS providers with some additional benefits that can include the following:

-- Ability to operate in hybrid (premise and SaaS) environments
-- Embedded best practices for increased standardization and consistency
-- Ability to offer the full range of capabilities, from complete self administration and control by the user to 100% managed by the solution provider

Modeled and built specifically for the cloud environment, SaaS² delivers world class and proven IT Services capabilities on a true multi-tenant platform. Premise, SaaS, and now SaaS² (Solutions-as-a-Service) each have their own particular strengths, making it all the more important that a company carefully consider its specific needs and requirements when evaluating the various options.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Retailers Increasing Mobile And Social Efforts

In an effort to better serve multi-touchpoint, always-on, and empowered consumers, a growing number of retailers are experimenting with mobile and social initiatives — some that are paying immediate dividends and some that are still in the speculative phase. According to "The State Of Retailing Online 2011: Marketing, Social, and Mobile" report conducted by Forrester Research Inc. for, 91 percent of retailers currently have a mobile strategy in place or in development (up from 74 percent a year ago). Additionally, 72 percent of retailers say they will increase their spending on social networks this year over last year.


Retailers report that 21 percent of all mobile traffic is coming from tablets, amazing considering the iPad was launched barely a year ago. Still, the overall amount of mobile traffic and revenue has not increased dramatically, suggesting that investment levels in site optimization may still be inadequate. For example, 48 percent of retailers report having a mobile-optimized website; 35 percent have deployed an iPhone app; and 15 percent offer an Android app and an iPad app, respectively. Challenges for retailers include differentiating the consumer experience on a tablet versus a smartphone and figuring out features and functionality in dueling app/mobile Web ecosystems.


Compared with past years, social networks surfaced higher as an investment area among retailers. Social networks ranked fourth on the list of successful customer acquisition sources, up significantly from last year. Yet the ROI associated with social is muddy: 62 percent of retailers said the returns on social marketing strategies are unclear, and nearly the same percentage said the primary ROI from social marketing is listening to — and gaining a better understanding of — customers.

More information on social media can be found at

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

4 in 10 Consumers Go Out of Their Way to Talk About the Brands They Like

Crowd Science has released its newest findings on the topic of consumer attitudes and brand loyalty. The company's latest JustAsk! survey research reveals demographic & psychographic insights about how consumers feel about the brands they use, their likelihood to try new brands,and their propensity to stick with or recommend brands to others.

Gen-X Most Influential on Brand Opinion

Four-in-ten adults voluntarily share brand preferences and opinions with friends and family. Those ages 30 to 49 are the most influential in sharing brand opinions, with 50% of them providing recommendations and sharing preferences with people they know, compared to 42% of those under thirty and 40% of those over fifty. Similarly, among those aged 30 to 49, over one-quarter (27%) are sought by others to provide their opinions on brands; versus 22% of those under thirty and 16% of those over age fifty.

Consumers with higher incomes also show more influence when it comes to evangelizing brands. Almost one-half of households (47%) earning more than $50k a year agree they often tell friends and family about brands that they like or dislike -- 5 percentage points higher than those earning less than $50k. Over one-quarter of those with incomes of more than $100k (28%) agreed with the statement "People regularly ask my opinion about brands", 10 percentage points higher than those who earn less than $50k, and 5 percentage points less than those earning $50k to $90k.

Brands & Social Media

Respondents were asked if they regularly follow brands on social media. Overall, just 8% of respondents indicate they do. However, using social media to follow favorite brands is slightly more popular for younger age groups, with 10% of those under thirty and 9% of those aged 30 to 49 following brands on social channels like Facebook and Twitter. Conversely, just 5% of those fifty or more years old report following brands on social media.

The proportion of those agreeing that they "regularly follow brands on social media" was higher in households with children (11%) compared to those without (6%), indicating children may have influence on a family's level of engagement and preference when it comes to particular brands.

Most Brand Loyal: Gen-X

Of those who participated in the Crowd Science survey, 38% say they stick with a particular brand once they find one they like. This proportion was consistent across both males and females. However, brand loyalty differs across age groups, with brand loyalty being highest among those ages 30-49 (42% agreeing "when I find a brand I like, I stick with it"). Brand loyalty is lowest for those under 30, with 33% indicating they would stick to a brand they like, as compared to 38% for those over fifty. Furthermore, almost one-quarter (24%) of those under thirty report that "they always like to try different brands" compared with just 15% of those thirty years and older.

Consumer Brand Affinity

Brand affinity is more common among males in the Crowd Science study, with greater numbers agreeing they are willing to pay more for a brand they trust, or that they only buy brand name products when they shop: 13% of males agreed they only buy brand name products and services, compared to just 8% of females.

Consumers with high affinity for a particular brand often demonstrate a personal connection to them. 16% of those surveyed agreed with the statement "the brands I use say a lot about who I am", with males slightly more likely to agree compared to females (17% male vs. 15% female).

Monday, May 2, 2011

CIOs Must Take Steps to Manage Risk and Unexpected Costs During the Cloud Sourcing Revolution

The $820 billion IT services market is changing quickly and dramatically, as cloud computing and offshoring become mainstream, and CIOs should take steps to manage inherent risks and unexpected costs during the cloud services revolution, according to Gartner, Inc.

During the next few years, market dynamics will determine whether cloud-enabled outsourcing will be the demise of traditional outsourcing, if it will lead to the convergence of services and products currently marketed "as a service," or if it will result in next-generation outsourcing.

Cloud-driven business and IT services include all types of solution that are developed, bundled and packaged as outsourcing service offerings for which the business or IT service provider uses one or more cloud computing technologies within the solution's overall architecture. Gartner refers to these services as "cloud-enabled outsourcing service offerings." These services can be delivered directly by a cloud provider or via a service aggregator for the delivery of pre-engineered and configurable business solutions in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Traditional IT services often find organizations locked in, fighting with rigid delivery or hesitation to change when engaged in traditional IT services deals. Innovation seldom materializes and solutions fail to scale, and service providers often struggle with their profits.

In the new cloud services scenario, however, flexibility, agility and innovation are design principles and, over time, service providers will succeed in delivering on these principles. The market also expects scalability, cost-efficiency and pay-per-use pricing models from cloud services solutions. Although cloud services already provide these, service providers manage their risks through terms and conditions that are still immature. However, Gartner believes that solutions and their commercial terms are maturing quickly.

To avoid the potential pitfalls and hidden costs of cloud sourcing, organizations need to ensure they understand the short- and long-term implications of cloud services, on the demand and supply side, as well as on the sourcing life cycle itself. The services sourcing life cycle includes four crucial elements: sourcing strategy, vendor selection, contracting, and management and governance.

More information on Cloud Computing can be found at