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Vala Afshar
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Vala Afshar is the Chief Marketing Officer for Extreme Networks. Afshar is the author of The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence.

Entries by Vala Afshar

Why Can't Business Applications be as Beautiful as Consumer Software?

(0) Comments | Posted September 15, 2014 | 10:55 AM

Historically, consumer software and enterprise software was a classic case of beauty and the beast, that is until Infor, one of the largest software companies, came along with the mission to differentiate itself in the marketplace by creating business software that is, dare they say, beautiful.

Based...

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5 Must-Have IT Skills For The Future of Work

(1) Comments | Posted September 14, 2014 | 10:43 AM

The fact that data has the power to change our business and personal lives has put data science and analytics at the center of how marketing is done. Every digital click, swipe, "like", buy, comment and search produces a unique virtual identity - something that Malcom Frank, EVP...

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8 Entrepreneurship Lessons From a Venture Capitalist

(3) Comments | Posted September 13, 2014 | 12:15 PM

As a venture capitalist with DFJ, lecturer at Stanford and self-proclaimed long time recovering entrepreneur, Heidi Roizen, who was born and raised in Silicon Valley, could teach us a thing or two about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. She hit the...

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10 Reasons To Use Open Source Software Defined Networking [Slideshare]

(0) Comments | Posted September 4, 2014 | 12:49 PM

Open source software (OSS) now has a permanent role in the enterprise IT world. Gartner forecasts that open-source technology will be included in 85% of all commercial software packages by 2015 and 95% of mainstream IT organizations will leverage some element of OSS. One of the fastest growing segments within open software is Software Defined Networking (SDN), which simplifies IT network configuration and management by decoupling control from the physical network infrastructure. The SDN market is projected to surge from $360M to $3.52B in 2018.

To understand more about open source SDN and why it is growing so quickly, I spoke with Neela Jacques, executive director of OpenDaylight. Neela works closely with the developer and user communities to advance SDN and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). The range of software companies participating in OpenDaylight account for 95% of the entire SDN market. Neela and I took a look at the data on OSS and consolidated all the reasons that people use open source software for SDN into a top ten list.

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Neela Jacques (Twitter: @NeelaJacques), executive director, OpenDaylight

An important source of data on OSS usage is the Future of Open Source survey by Michael J. Skok, partner at North Bridge Venture Partners. Michael is a strong proponent of OSS and shared his views on the CXOtalk panel at CIO Magazine's CIO Perspectives event in Boston. His annual survey provides a view into the current state of the open source industry and an analysis of future trends. This year, 1240 people representing vendors and users from a cross-section of industries completed the survey.

According to the survey, the number one reason companies choose open source software is quality. In fact, eight out of ten users of OSS made their decision based on quality. The more eyes on the source, the higher the quality, and today over 10 million people are contributing to OSS. This also has an impact on security; users now view open software as more secure than proprietary software.

Here are the top 10 reasons to use open source SDN.

1. Better Quality Code. 80% of open software users chose to do so based on quality. Removing company boundaries and allowing any developer to participate, debate, compromise and inspire each other is why code written in open source communities is of higher quality and doesn't degrade in quality over time. (Note: Debate and challenges are overcome by using code. Leave badges at the door.) Linux is now the benchmark for code quality; open source software quality outpaced proprietary code for the first time in 2013 - Coverity Report 2013


2. Rapid Innovation. Imagine being able to roll out services and products without worrying about the network. Having more control of your network via open SDN means you can innovate independently of hardware and software. Your ability to build new products or services increases dramatically to focus on what matters most. Companies get involved in collaborative software development to advance business objectives and to benefit from industry innovation. 91% of business managers and executives surveyed ruled collaborative software development from somewhat to very important to their business. Nearly 50% of business managers said they got involved in collaborative development because it allows them to innovate or help transform their industry - Linux Foundation Collaborative Trends Report 2014

3. Security. Although security may have once been viewed as a weakness for open software, it certainly is not today. In the 2014 Future of Open Source - 8th Annual Survey, 72% said they specifically chose open source because of security. This has to do with the transparency of open source as well as the scrutiny it receives from all its users.

4. Community. Open source has the power to build communities of people who believe in the technologies and are passionate about seeing them come to light. The many are smarter than the few--anyone can participate regardless of affiliation, adding to the collective brain trust to overcome an industry's toughest challenges together. It not only makes individuals smarter, but also companies who benefit from a much larger R&D effort. 50% of corporations contribute to open source, and 56% say that they will increase their contributions this year. Individual developers and businesses both benefit from the trend toward collaboration. 83% of software developers said they benefitted personally from collaborative development through exposure to new tools and development practices. More than 77% of business managers said collaborative development practices have benefited their organizations through a shorter product development cycle/faster time to market. - Linux Foundation Collaborative Trends Report 2014

5. Freedom. You are not beholden to any one vendor's roadmap, vision or timeline. If you need to change a feature, migrate or roll out new services, you can do that by participating in the open source community and being part of the change. The ability to access source code, add features, and fix code yourself is the number four reason users choose to use open software. 95% want open source in their SDN and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) solutions. It represents to them greater choice, more functionality and interoperability, and lower costs. - OpenDaylight Survey 2014

6. Adaptability. While 63% of technology startups fail within 4 years, open source is not tied to any one individual vendor. Over 1,000 companies have contributed to Linux. The open source development model allows software to adapt quickly to changing times. Legacy and emerging protocols can be implemented if so desired. Open source SDN can evolve as the industry does.

7. Choice. There is no silver bullet in networking. A variety of solutions are used to solve different needs. With open SDN, users can pick what works for them versus the one-size-fits-all approach of proprietary software. Today there are over 1 million open source projects with over 100 billion lines of code with 10 million people contributing.

8. Interoperability. Most businesses use solutions from more than one vendor to fill their needs. A common, open source platform means solutions can be interoperable and you can choose the right solution versus getting locked-in to a single solution that doesn't meet all of your needs. Choose the right solution versus getting locked-in to a single solution.

9. De-Facto Standards. Open source dovetails nicely with standards efforts. By speeding software development cycles, open source solutions become de facto standards that dovetail nicely with standards efforts. Over 100 additional companies join the Linux effort each year.

10. Maximize Return on Spend. It not only costs less up front, but it's easier to scale over time versus a proprietary system that adds more cost and complexity as it grows. Avoid costly vendor lock-in. The 2014 Future of Open Source found this can be a top reason for moving to open source software. According the survey, 68% find that open source helps improve efficiency and lower costs.

My own company, Extreme Networks, firmly believes in the benefits of open source and has committed to OpenDaylight as the platform to enable and drive SDN. To further encourage innovation on the OpenDaylight SDN platform, together with US Ignite we have launched the SDN Innovation Challenge, which will award prizes for SDN applications that make a difference in the areas of education, public safety, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, transportation, e-government, the Internet of Things, and clean energy.

For more on the topic of open source software, see my discussion with Brian Stevens: Red Hat CTO: 5 Business Benefits of Open Source Software. In this interview, Brian describes how CIOs can improve openness, collaboration and innovation with...

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5 Trends Shaping the Future of Work

(0) Comments | Posted September 2, 2014 | 12:20 PM

Since the dawn of business there has been a certain style of how and when work should be done. It flows from the top down: beginning with the organization, to the managers, and then employees. In this case organization refers to C-level executives and key stakeholders; those at the very...

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GE CDO: Use Data to Deliver Better Customer Outcomes

(0) Comments | Posted August 25, 2014 | 2:21 PM

In our data-driven culture, organizations run the risk of collecting data for data's sake. Ganesh Bell, Chief Digital Officer and GM of Commercial Software & Analytics at General Electric (GE), says companies need to go from being data obsessed to actually using data to power new solutions and...

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NFL CIO: Quarterbacking A Digital Revolution

(1) Comments | Posted August 21, 2014 | 2:41 PM

As Senior Vice President and CIO of the most popular U.S. sports league, Michelle McKenna-Doyle is transforming the National Football League (NFL) to bring technology out of the data center and onto the field and into the locker rooms and hands of millions of fans across...

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The Internet of Things 2014 [Slideshare]

(2) Comments | Posted August 19, 2014 | 8:21 PM

Responding to her Friday morning alarm, Stacey gets out of bed. Simultaneously, items throughout her house begin preparing for the day. Although it is cloudy outside, the interior is lighted with tones of a beautiful sunrise, per Stacey's personalized lighting scheme. The water heater makes sure the shower will be to her preference. When she enters the bathroom, her motion starts coffee brewing and breakfast cooking in the microwave.

As Stacey eats breakfast, her caloric intake is monitored. The morning headlines and stories are projected onto the wall next to the table. A green indicator says every device in the house is working perfectly, although she would have been notified before anything had come close to malfunctioning, and a repair order would have been automatically issued. The display lets her know that her trip to work today will take 37 minutes via an alternate route due to heavier than normal traffic on her usual route.

Before she leaves, Stacey thinks about dinner. The display says she should have the chicken tonight or it may spoil. Her phone beeps and tells her that the grill needs a propane tank refill. She hits "auto" to arrange the soonest possible refill delivery based on when her schedule indicates she will be home and able meet the delivery.

Stacey gets in her car which has already been brought to her ideal interior temperature. The car automatically exits her driveway, at the first available gap in traffic. According to the car's display, her trip today will cost more than usual due to the congestion toll on the alternate route. She realizes she could have avoided the extra toll by leaving a little earlier.

When Stacey arrives at work, she glances at her large office display and sees that all plant processes are functioning normally. The display reminds her of the SETI project, but instead of searching for intelligent life in the universe, the programs running behind the scenes are analyzing and displaying rivers of data generated throughout the plant to discover any anomalies, unusual resource needs, overages, or special opportunities.

With the exception of the autonomous car, all the underlying capabilities described above exist today and are part of the Internet of Things. What does not yet exist, though, are the software and services to aggregate and manage the discrete capabilities to make them commercially available.

Defining the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is simply a concept wherein machines and everyday objects are connected via the Internet. Within the IoT, devices are controlled and monitored remotely and usually wirelessly. IDC predicts that the IoT will include 212 billion things globally by the end of 2020. That sounds like a big number, but for context, in 2014 there are over 10 quadrillion ants on the planet. Although ants are not yet members of the IoT, Wifi-connected bees are now in development to help with pollination. MIT is working on smart sand that will be able to move and duplicate 3D objects, and Harvard has already developed 1000-robot swarms. Throw in smart dust motes and IDC's 212 billion IoT device estimate begins to look conservative.

The Depth and Variety of Internet Things

Not long ago, devices on the Internet had to be wired to a fixed location. One of the important drivers behind the Internet of Things is how easy it has now become to wirelessly connect mobile items to the Internet via WiFi, Bluetooth, or proprietary wireless communications protocols.

Smart IoT devices include everything from structural health monitors for buildings to smart egg trays that know how many eggs you have and how old they are. Home automation devices include Google's Nest, and two competing families of home and healthcare IoT systems: ZigBee and Z-Wave. The Vessyl smart drinking cup that monitors exactly what you are drinking, the HAPIfork tracks your eating habits, and the Beam tooth brush reports on your brushing history.

Wearables range from the popular fitbit athletic tracker to smart watches, smart clothes, and biologically- embeddables including pacemakers and glucose monitors.

Although cars may not yet be autonomous, new models have many Internet-addressable capabilities including remote start, remote climate control, location tracking, as well as the currently-latent ability to track many of your driving habits. Every time you hear a warning beep, another item of data is recorded.

Almost anything can now be connected to the Internet of Things via wireless sensors, such as the Node+ series, which measure temp, color, CO2, and other metrics.

Displaying all the data and video

It is one thing for IoT devices to generate data, but another to store and display it all. Although any Internet-connected display can be used with IoT data, the smartphone may be the most common display and control device, and in many ways is driving IoT innovation. Still, the range and diversity of display devices is exploding in the same way all IoT devices are multiplying. Need a larger display? Switch to Apple TV or Google Chromecast. Need hands-free? Switch to Google Glass or your smart watch or ring. Research is underway to communicate directly to your visual cortex and auditory brain.

After her workday, Stacey gets back home and she feels like getting some exercise. A glance at her phone tells her that during the day she consumed 700 more calories than her fitbit has recorded her burning. As she gets on her treadmill, it automatically, but safely starts up her workout.

Her phone beeps to remind her that her son is swimming in the Oahu North Shore Open Water swim in 15 minutes. She really wants to watch it live, so she activates her druper app that allows her to rent almost anything, anywhere at any time. She rents and dispatches a drone with a camera from a depot in Oahu and gives it the swim course coordinates. The live image from the drone is projected on a nearby wall.

The phone beeps again, this time indicating a text from her sister, "I've just landed Pearl Jam tickets for tomorrow night, NYC! Meet me at my apartment ASAP." This instantly becomes her highest priority, so she does three things. She requests transportation through an Uber-like service to NYC where her sister lives. She sets everything in her home to "idle" status, and clears her calendar. The latter two operations have been preconfigured and are triggered by a single message. Before she leaves the house, she switches the display of video feed from the Hawaiian drone to her Google Glass, so she'll have an uninterrupted view of her son's race.

As her trip to NYC begins, she receives an ominous warning regarding her diabetic father's glucometer. All readings are normal, but the anti-virus monitor has detected an attack...

What are the consequences of the Internet of Things?
The benefits, based solely on products that exist today, let alone the unimagined combinations of emerging capabilities, are tremendous. More than ever the smartphone has become the remote control for life. Data is available at your fingertips on everything imaginable. But there are a number of challenges and disruptions ahead. These challenges include technical issues, business issues, requirements for new and evolving skill sets, legal and legislative difficulties, and social complexities.

Unbundling and Aggregation One of the most disruptive aspects of the IoT is that it enables near-complete unbundling and almost-arbitrary aggregation of all conceivable products and systems. The process of unbundling and aggregation is not entirely new, but the IoT takes it to a new and more accessible level.

Historical examples of unbundling include the MP3, which unbundled individual songs from complete CD albums. Blogs unbundled individual articles out of complete newspapers. Earlier on the technology timeline, IBM had sold completely bundled computing solutions that included all software and services, until DEC came along and successfully sold smaller, unbundled computers to which you could add your own software and services. AOL successfully sold an aggregated online product, until the Internet provided easy access to all the individual content.

Over the last thirty year, there has been a pattern of aggregation, followed by unbundling, followed by re-aggregation. As DEC started to aggregate their products back together, Microsoft and Intel offered a new unbundled computing approach. Apple and Google offered unbundled versions of Microsoft's aggregations. The process continued with Whatsapp, Instagram, and Twitter unbundled messaging, photo sharing, and status updates from Facebook. The ultimate unbundled product today may be Yo, described as a one-bit communication app, whose sole capability is to send the message, Yo, to predefined recipients, triggering predefined activities through aggregating apps like IFTTT.

Occulus Rift is an aggregated full-immersion virtual reality display, that creates virtual worlds that are so realistic users have been known to rip it off their head in terror. Google provides an unbundled version of these capabilities, called Google Cardboard, that you assemble yourself using your smartphone, VR apps and a Bluetooth game controller.

The ultimate unbundling, still well over the horizon, is programmable matter, in the form of buckminsterfullerene (bucky-balls) or nanotubes, which can be theoretically combined into any shape and function.


IoT Challenges and Opportunities

Just as with technology revolutions of the past, including the telegraph (1840s), railroads (1880s), and the early days of the Internet itself (1990s), the IoT creates revolutionary opportunities both for businesses and individuals. Those who understand the underlying IoT fundamentals, possess the needed skills, and can meet the technical challenges will have a major advantage.

Business Opportunities
The IoT offers several major categories of opportunities. First there are the basic components and devices that connect to the network via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The next level includes entirely new aggregated products and systems that combine these devices in new ways, like home management systems. The third level and by far the largest and fastest growing consists of all the services providing customized solutions to businesses and consumers. These include data analysis services to help make sense of the vast amount of Big Data generated by the IoT. Of the >$1 trillion IoT market predicted for 2020, 58% is made up of managed services, with the other 43% going to enablement hardware (4%) and network services (39%).

The IoT gives businesses new ways to instantly connect with customers. Just as Airbnb opened up the concept of renting homes and rooms over the Internet, all sorts of Internet devices and services can now be rented on demand, for example drones and robots. Doublerobots is already offering their robot for remote test driving via the web.

All existing businesses must understand the impact of the IoT on their operations and rethink their business models. Business models are shifting from discrete product sales, to recurring revenue models. The IoT provides the opportunity, rapidly evolving into the need, to monitor and respond to customers in near realtime. Individual products no longer exist in a vacuum; interactions among devices from multiple sources and vendors must be understood and taken into account. The battle over the concept of the home command center between Nest/Google, Wink/Quirky, Homekit/Apple, Insteon, Smartthings, and Revolv is an example of companies trying to gain control over an important segment of the IoT.

Products and bundles can be remotely reconfigured and repaired quickly. Customers can be provided with tools to do their own reconfiguration. Ultimately, adaptive systems will reconfigure themselves to customer needs. Agile businesses that can customize and personalize their products to their customers' immediate needs have a strong advantage.

Insurance concerns and opportunities; example autonomous cars, but also data will make it easier to assess risks; opportunity for new pricing models: insurance premium tuning based on health and driving data

The Internet of Things is bringing changes to government. On the municipal scale, San Francisco has already implemented SFpark, which enables drivers to locate open parking spaces with a smart phone app and also pay through the app. Parking fees vary by block, time of day, and day of week. A new era of congestion pricing is being ushered in for state highways.

Technical Concerns
Participation in the IoT begins with a solid network infrastructure so that all the things, devices, phones, displays, and controllers, can easily communicate. Wi-Fi is an important means to provide wireless connectivity. Today, access is provided by 802.11n or 802.11ac standard access points. Chips are now in development for 802.11ah, a lower power standard to meet the needs of future IoT devices.

Because it is easy to bring so many devices of a wide variety into the range of a Wi-Fi network, it is extremely important for the network to handle high volume and density of the devices, and to be capable of discriminating between permitted and rogue devices. The whole concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) takes on new meaning with the enormous range of mobile and wearable IoT devices. Each device is capable of generating an enormous amount of data that must be stored, protected, and analyzed.

Gartner predicts that by 2017, users will download 268 billion apps, half of them to wearable devices. Users will be providing personalized data streams to more than 100 apps and services every day. It is important for businesses to understand these application and data flows and be able to identify bottlenecks.

Powering the mobile sensors and controllers presents a challenge. Batteries must be kept small, but still provide a usable life between charges. Research into the concept of the ambient energy harvesting, that is, using readily-available ambient heat, light, vibrations, even jaw bone motion to power IoT devices, will have strong benefits to the IoT.

Security Concerns

The recently reported breaches are indicative of the need for overall better protection of sensitive online personal data. The IoT puts many more doors on the Internet that need to be securely locked and monitored. Early this year, Proofpoint, a security-as-a-service vendor, issued a report stating that 750,000 phishing and SPAM emails had been sent by home-networking routers, connected multi-media centers, televisions, and refrigerators.

The massive Target breach was caused by a heating, ventilation and air conditioning company. Stealing personal data and corporate data is bad enough, but the prospect of hacking into life support systems and even embedded medical devices is life-threatening.

Social and Legal Concerns

All the new streams of data becoming available on the Internet raise difficult privacy and moral issues that are only starting to be addressed. Who owns the video streaming in from Google Glass and the healthcare-related date streaming from other wearables? What happens when autonomous devices run amok?

The IoT encourages a new level of outsourcing, and with it concerns about service availability, response times, issues of scalability, price structure issues, defining project completion, and intellectual property ownership.

How Can You Prepare?

The growth of Internet of Things opens up opportunities for businesses and people with the right skills. These skills include network design, data analysis, data security, and engineering. Mckinsey projects the need for 1.5 million additional managers and analysts "with a sharp understanding of how big data can be applied" in the United States. Gartner has predicted there will be 4.4 million global big data jobs by 2015, only one-third of which will be filled.

And finally, the IoT is opening up new avenues for humor: Near Future Laboratory "offers" surplus networked pillows, weather-sensing hair extensions, and the MeWee Monitor through their TBD Catalog, which the company describes as "a printed catalog you ritually pick up every morning to browse on your mostly boring, everyday ordinary driverless commute."

This post was co-authored by Robert Nilsson, Director of Marketing, Extreme...

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Venture Capitalist: 6 Step CIO Digital Transformation Guide

(0) Comments | Posted August 15, 2014 | 8:55 AM

The explosion of mobile smart devices, adoption of social networks, use of mobile applications and cloud enabled services has consumerized IT and significantly disrupted relationships and expectations of CIOs for both line-of-business leaders and external customers. As employees, business partners, and customers have gained unprecedented access to technology, the demand...

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6 Qualities of Great Online Communities [INFOGRAPHIC]

(0) Comments | Posted August 13, 2014 | 10:43 AM

Online communities are growing in popularity as companies increasingly rely on them for social customer support and service, marketing, sales, and product development. Communities are a vital element of the social business, enriching the customer experience and enabling co-creation of customer value. Smart businesses understand the benefits of tapping into the collective intelligence of their customers.

Yet surprisingly the full online community potential is still relatively untapped. Nearly 40% of the 800+ companies polled in a recent Get Satisfaction survey say they still do not have a community.

The data shows, however, that momentum is building. Of those with an online community, 33% percent said they deployed their community less than a year ago, and 25% deployed their community just in the last year or two. Another 25% plan to deploy an online customer community within the coming year. The urgency is increasing.

I caught up with Get Satisfaction CEO Rahul Sachdev, who has deep experience in both consumer Internet and enterprise software, to find out more about online communities. My own company, Extreme Networks, uses the Get Satisfaction platform for our customer community.

Rahul and I talked about the motivations driving companies to engage customers and prospects through online communities, and why some businesses have not yet embraced this technology. Here is our conversation.

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Rahul Sachdev (Twitter: @Rahul_Sachdev), CEO of Get Satisfaction

What is driving companies to offer online communities?

Rahul: The survey results show that online communities are becoming a higher priority for companies for a variety of reasons, with the most popular reason given was to provide a social support experience. In fact, many said their community is a key component of their overall customer service. A little over half of the respondents said their community enables a peer-to-peer support model that they value. Others listed generating revenue, driving marketing programs, ideation and testing new products as benefits.

Companies are embracing new ways of connecting and communicating with their customers. They are starting to realize that engaging with their customers through an online customer community can be a great way to build customer trust, loyalty and advocacy. Just look at any online community and you can see how eager consumers are to share their knowledge and experience with each other. If they can't do it in your online community then they will go elsewhere. It is only after they ask questions of each other and share experiences--good and bad--that they feel comfortable enough to buy a product or service or advocate for it. Among those we polled who do not have a community, 49% believe community would enable a peer-to-peer support model.

How do online communities help companies earn customer loyalty?

Rahul: Online communities are designed to enable businesses to be transparent in their communications and dealings with customers and prospects. That's the only way to build loyalty and earn trust. Communities should be a friendly and convenient online place for consumers to come with questions and issues, and for companies to engage them consistently, and compellingly no matter what stage of the sales cycle they are in. It is all about conversation. In our survey, 62% agreed that user-generated content has more credibility in supporting brand trust than employee-generated content.

What prevents companies from readily embracing online communities?

Rahul: When we asked companies why they have not yet deployed a customer community customer community, they all have sorts of objections. 48% replied that they don't have the staff to manage it, and another 42% said they weren't sure how to get started. Some thought it would be too expensive, others didn't see the value in it or thought it would take too long to deploy.

In fact, social support communities have terrific ROI - some of our customers deflect as many as 30-50% of their support cases within the community alone as other customers jump in to help. That user-generated content is extremely helpful to everyone. In terms of staffing, a best practice is to have a dedicated community manager who is the "host" of the community - soliciting, curating and guiding conversations, and helping to get the community off the ground. Typically the support cost deflection lends itself easily to either repurposing a support specialist into a community manager role, or hiring someone.

A whopping 49% of the survey respondents said their social support communities have delivered cost-savings. More than one-third reported annual support cost savings of 10-25%.

Deployment can happen in less than a month particularly if the vendor guides the customer through all the set up. It's quite painless. I have to confess that a lot of these objections are myths or due to lack of information.

There are strategic benefits as well, that are hard to put a price tag on. What price would you put on a tighter customer relationship, a brilliant product idea that allows you to leapfrog your competitors or a new unexpected lead through your community?


What advice do you have for companies that don't have online customer communities?

Rahul: In the new digital order it's important for companies to acknowledge that a brand is defined by what its customers are saying about it online, not by their ad agency copy. Yet, brands are not powerless. Companies that consistently and compellingly engage customers and prospects online can trigger and drive strong advocacy, particularly if they make it easy for consumers to have online conversations with each other.

An online community is no longer a shiny; nice-to-have tech tool proving you are an early adopter. These interactive forums have become a business imperative! So this is what I recommend...

  1. Get started. Your competitors already have;
  2. Pick one big reason to tackle community -- support (the ROI is very clear), marketing, product ideas;
  3. Focus on driving your customers to participate, create content and amplify your voice;
  4. Assign a community manager to rally everyone -- employees and customers alike. That person can really make a difference by increasing engagement and guiding conversations;
  5. Demand that your vendor outline exactly how they will help you get started, and how quickly.

And always keep in mind that your customers want to be served through a variety of communication channels, and on their own terms whether it's self-service or full-service. This decision is quite possibly one of the most important you will make.

Here are the Get Satisfaction survey highlights about other ways communities are using their online communities. The survey includes over 800 managers at small-to-medium and enterprise-class businesses in various industries including technology, service providers, education, finance, non-profit or government, consumer goods and more.


Benefits of community go beyond support to marketing
- 67% use their community to create a more engaging website
- 63% say it differentiates their brand with a social customer experience

Companies plan to expand their communities to help generate revenue
- 54% plan to use their community to prevent churn or increase up-sell opportunities
- 50% plan to use their community to engage prospects earlier in the sales process

Marketers use community to help drive SEO
- 74% use their community to create content that drives organic search traffic

Even companies that have not yet implemented a community see the value in marketing
- 77% believe a community would help them market to customers and prospects much better
- 69% believe a community would significantly improve their brand

Advanced companies use their communities to generate product ideas
- 72% use their community to get feedback and insights on how existing products are used
- 67% collect ideas for new products or features directly from customers
- 63% use their community to collect ongoing voice-of-customer insight

Communities are a great place to test new products
- 46% get feedback on new prototypes or beta products before they are...

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Failure Can Be a Lesson in Disguise

(1) Comments | Posted August 8, 2014 | 9:37 AM

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." - Robert F. Kennedy

Confronting failure is a supreme challenge whether you are raising kids, teaching school or managing a business team. Done wrong, it stifles innovation, alienates top performers, eliminates all risk-taking, and turns a team of contributors...

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CIOs: How To "Be the Change" Agent

(0) Comments | Posted August 7, 2014 | 10:40 AM

According to Patty Hatter, when it comes to driving transformation in IT, the CIO must be the change agent. Wearing the two hats of Senior Vice President of Operations and Chief Information Officer, Hatter is responsible for innovating and executing a sustainable transformation of McAfee's operational...

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Healthcare CIO: Innovation Lessons From United States And Taiwan

(0) Comments | Posted August 4, 2014 | 2:10 PM

Healthcare in the United States (U.S.) is a regular topic of the media in general and this blog in specific, but we don't often get the opportunity to take an inside look at the healthcare systems of other countries. David Chou, the CIO at the University...

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Why A Data Scientist Should Be Your Next Marketing Hire

(0) Comments | Posted August 1, 2014 | 8:29 AM

Identified as the "sexiest job of the 21st century" by Harvard Business Review, it's no wonder that demand for the data scientist position has skyrocketed. However, according to McKinsey research, by 2018 the United States will experience a shortage of 190,000 skilled data scientists and 1.5...

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Strategic Higher Education CIOs Invest In Technology To Improve Student Success

(0) Comments | Posted July 30, 2014 | 10:57 AM

Today's college students are mobile. Whether in class, relaxing in their living group, exercising in the gym, studying in the library, shopping in town, traveling to sporting events, or even sleeping in their dorms, they are always connected. This represents both an opportunity and a challenge. The challenge is to...

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The Challenge of Shared Data and Apps in a BYOD Environment

(0) Comments | Posted July 29, 2014 | 11:54 AM

The concept of bring your own device (BYOD) may have started with students and employees simply using their own phone at work or school, but it rapidly evolved to include personal email, data storage, and BYO technology (BYOT). A blog posting at the Chronicle of Higher...

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GSA CIO: Successful Organizations Connect, Collaborate and Innovate

(0) Comments | Posted July 28, 2014 | 10:01 AM

Successful CIOs are driving digital business transformation, leveraging mobile, social and cloud computing technologies to improve workforce productivity, while reducing IT expenses and bolstering employee engagement. Sonny Hashmi, Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), has received the 2013 Federal...

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Robert Scoble: Welcome to the Age of Context

(1) Comments | Posted July 17, 2014 | 8:42 AM

According to Robert Scoble, if you want to read the future, look no further than the startup community. As the Chief Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's...

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The Art of Persuasive Storytelling

(2) Comments | Posted July 1, 2014 | 11:48 AM

"Your ability to shape your future depends on how well you communicate where you want to be when you get there. When ideas are communicated effectively, people follow and change." - Nancy Duarte

Did you know that you have the power to change the world? According to Nancy...

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Improving Healthcare and Reducing Cost Through Clinical Data Analytics

(0) Comments | Posted June 29, 2014 | 2:19 PM

Jim needs to have his knee replaced. He is a 52-year-old former long-distance runner who has recently picked up on CrossFit and often wears a Fitbit. To schedule the surgery, he goes online and coordinates his family's calendar with the calendars of his surgeon and the pre- and post-operation nursing...

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