The identity management marketplace is getting crowded

Like a one-two punch, announcements this past week in the identity management space demonstrate how important solutions that marry directory-based identity solutions (LDAP and Microsoft Active Directory, for example) with social business tools have become.

Jive Software and Okta announced a strategic partnership that will integrate of Okta’s enterprise identity manage service with Jive’s work management solution. This opens up a direct path for companies using Jive to now connect to LDAP and Microsoft Active Directories without jeopardizing the security of corporate firewalls, and to allow the central management of user identities for Jive, as well as the provisioning of users via Okta.

Jive’s fall cloud release also includes a revamp social directory, providing users with a 360º view of employees, as well as surfacing social connections across the company network. Okta will be extending current identity capabilities to create a single repository of user profiles.

It seems that Salesforce wants to muscle its way into the growing marketplace for identity solutions that has been pioneered by smaller firms like Ping Identity and Okta, joining Microsoft, who launched Azure Active Directory earlier this year as an in-cloud version of its Windows-based Active Directory. Salesforce Identity is built on the Salesforce platform, and integrates natively with Salesforce’s CRM offering and other  tools, like Chatter.

The movement of users away from Windows desktop machines onto companion devices — like tablets and smartphones — as well as the emergence of cloud-based work management tools has quickly shifted the playing field away from LAN and Windows-oriented identity solutions. But CIOs are eager to avoid a proliferation of identity silos — although many have already fallen into that dark hole — and so we are seeing a very fast adoption of modern identity solutions that play well in that new world.

The centralization of identity and profile information — across applications and specifically across social tools — will be a real boon when that comes into general use. This is not just about the ease of provisioning — and deprovisioning — employees, but also a single point of profile management, so that users can project a single collation of interests, accomplishments, and current projects across different applications.

One last observation: the possibilities for organizations to find and analyze metanetworks — the social connections across the company mined from all the company’s social applications — has some real promise. And may lead — especially in large and dynamic companies — to a better understanding of employee sentiment, opportunities for cooperative work, and other wellsprings for innovation.

Verizon, Comcast hang up on joint venture plans

It’s increasingly possible for consumers to cobble together the means to do much of what the Verizon-Comcast joint venture was said to be working on for themselves, using off-the-shelf hardware and software.

Lack of data Integration still holds back public cloud adoption

The core message here is that those who are successful with cloud computing consider security, governance, and, yes, data integration, as they progress through the design, build, testing, and the deployment of new or existing systems in public clouds. Lacking this effort means that you’ll likely have problems to solve down the road, and that just adds risk, and risk adds cost.

Real time isn’t what it used to be: It’s really real time, now

In the early days of the web, one of my first areas of concentration was the rise of instant messaging tools like AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), ICQ, and Jabber. In fact my primary blog in the mid zeros was called Get Real, and my writing at the time was oriented toward the rise of real time and social technologies.

At a certain point, around 2006 or 2007, the rise of more social tools like Facebook and especially Twitter pulled attention and users from instant messaging, but the rise of more capable companion devices (tablets and smartphones) and a new sensibility about social connection in the workforce is leading to a return to real-time as a primary communication mode in business.

Some have started to talk about mobile 3.0 as a way of indicating this new level of connection and the capabilities of todays always-on, always connected companion devices, which are taking us above the mobile 2.0 era ushered in by 4G LTE generation of cell networks.

Today’s social web communication tools share some DNA with the prototype instant messaging buddylist: the list of connections you have created a shared relationship with. And in the business context, we seem to be doubling down on that model of real-time communication with a closed group of known colleagues. There are much nicer interfaces today, and devices that implement real-time background processing — like Apple’s iOS 7 on iPhone and iPad — mean that we can get really real-time messages, perhaps only milliseconds old, on our smartphone or tablet.

In just the past week, I have seen three new products for business real time communication that share a great deal of commonality: Slack, from Tiny Speck; Glip; and Talk.co. I will use a screenshot from Talk.co, which is in some way the minimum viable product of the three, and also because I plan to review the other two at length in future posts.

Screenshot 2013-10-12 15.26.40

Talk.co supports group chat between people in a given company, and limits membership to those with company email address, or Google apps accounts. Chat posts have images as attachments, but no other sort of files. Groups can be set up and people invited, so that topical chats can take place. Likewise a sidechat can be created on a specific topic with the members of an existing group. On the fly chats can be created with other users, either groups of one-to-one. There are no tasks, polls, or other niceties, although URLs in posts are clickable.

That’s it.

As I said, Slack and Glip have other capabilities, extending the core ideas of Talk.co.

My sense is that there is a growing disenchantment with the perceived heaviness and social overhead in collaborative enterprise social networks, or what I have traditionally called work media tools, such as IBM Connections, Yammer, Podio, and so on. These are tools that were developed around the desktop/browser/cloud stack of web 2.0, and which are not based on the premises of true real time communication. For example, in a build-all-the-functionality in approach, these tools might implement a sophisticated polling tool to get feedback from a group on some question, such as the best date and time for a video call. But in these real time chat context, your team mates are all online so they simply answer your question in near real time, so the necessity for the complex poll functionality is eliminated. As mentioned, this is because they are always on, or will be in a few moments.

One data point to add to this argument: companion devices are the only hardware with any growth, as shown in this chart from Ralph Finos Third-quarter IT spending report:

Screenshot 2013-10-12 15.44.12

And a final observation and conjecture. The inch-by-inch slide into a real time mindset — encouraged by technologies like those discussed above, and abetted by the prosumer mindset of always-connected communications — threatens another revolution in business. Business leaders are growing dissatisfied with business intelligence solutions based on slow time premises: monthly or weekly reporting cycles are simply too slow to make the sorts of informed decisions necessary in a real time world.

In the last week, I came across this piece by Ari Hesseldahl at AllThingsD about Josh James’ new company, a real time business intelligence firm call Domo. James was the founder of Omniture, which he sold to Adobe for $1.8 billion in 2009. And Domo is apparently growing scarily fast, like 25% to 50% per quarter.

Domo’s proposition is that information is stuck inside of a million dumb containers — documents, applications, spreadsheets — and a lot of what might be enormously helpful can’t be found, but what can be is stuck in slow time models which are unsuitable for businesses to discuss productively.

I found this enigmatic snippet — the Collaboration Gap — in a Domo white paper:

Data from a Forbes Insight study suggests that employees that use collaboration tools are up to 62% more productive and accomplish work 57% faster. Yet, that same study claims 59% of executives believe cloud-based collaboration stimulates innovation, our findings show only 8% of CEOs feel their reports facilitate collaboration — and that number drops to 6% when you include all business leaders.

My hunch is that Domo is breaking the data out of its silos, making it available in real time, and placing it in a context in which it can be shared, curated, discussed, and annotated, allowing greater degrees of informed communication, cooperation, and coordination of work. Perhaps Domo will be the first example of the intersection of big data and social work management.

Really real time business is coming, and — no surprise — it’s coming fast.

Flipping out over aggregation

A conceptual problem arises from thinking about Flipboard in publishing terms (an error Flipboard itself encourages), when its actual role in the value chain is much closer to that of a traditional re-seller of goods, in this case news content.

Is cloud computing killing traditional enterprise technology providers?

At this point in time, I don’t think we fully understand the disruptive impact the rise cloud computing will have on the large enterprise players that have been a foundation of our technology landscape for the last 30 years. While I don’t see a quick change, a change is indeed coming.