Change in ourselves helps drive change in the world   – The Official Microsoft Blog

An email from CEO Satya Nadella to Microsoft employees: 

Seeing injustice in the world calls us all to take action, as individuals and as a company. Sometimes this action is personal – what do I do to change? Sometimes it is organizational – what changes do I need to make around me? And sometimes it is reflected into the world – what can we do as a company to accelerate the change we desire? As we see the everyday racism, bias and violence experienced by the Black and African American community, the tragic and horrific murders of so many, the violence in cities across the US, it is time for us to act in all arenas. As I shared in our Employee Town Hall last week, each of us – starting with me and the senior leaders at the company – has a role to play. We cannot episodically wake up when a new tragedy occurs. A systemic problem requires a holistic response.  

I am heartbroken by the deep pain our communities are feeling. The results of systemic racism, which have impacted opportunities and exacerbated injustices for Black and African American communities, urge me to consider my own role as a leader. I must continue my journey of understanding and empathy and examine actions I take, or don’t take, every day. Listening and learning from my Black and African American colleagues is helping me develop a better understanding of their experience. And I take accountability for my own continued learning on the realities of privilege, inequity and race and modeling the behavior I want to see in the world.  

As a company, we need to look inside, examine our organization, and do better. For us to have the permission to ask the world to change, we must change first. We have to embrace the same speed and mindset that we do in anticipating and building for future technological shifts. Each day, we work to bridge the gap between the culture we espouse and our daily lived experience, but we must do more and do it faster. In order to be successful as a business in empowering everyone on the planet, we need to reflect the world we serve. This is our commitment; we have goals and programs to improve representation in all roles and at all levels. We’re investing in the talent pipeline broadly, as we’ve expanded our connections with Historically Black Colleges and Universities. We also have to create an environment where all voices are heard and valued, that’s why inclusion is a core priority for each one of us. I ask each of us to recommit to our shared D&I priority, participate in our inclusion learning programs, use the tools and resources we have shared on becoming an effective ally for others. We have the capabilities to make Microsoft more diverse and inclusive, but we must do the work.  

We also have a responsibility to use our platform and resources intentionally to address systemic inequities in our communities and in society broadly. This is the work we need to do to have lasting impact. For example, we’re using our technology and our voice toward a more equitable criminal justice system with our Criminal Justice Reform Initiative. We created our Supplier Diversity program 15 years ago, so our supplier companies better reflected the diversity of our customers. Today, it makes up nearly 10 percent of our supplier spend. That spend has an amplifying effect, growing the local economies in the communities where those businesses are located. We need to keep building on this work in every community we operate in.   

Finally, we must carry our company values out into the world in a way that reflects our strengths and expertise. To this end, we will deepen our engagement with six organizations that are advancing social justice, helping community organizers address racial inequality, and offering solidarity to the Black community: Black Lives Matter FoundationEqual Justice InitiativeInnocence ProjectThe Leadership ConferenceMinnesota Freedom Fund, and NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund. This starts with a company donation of $250,000 to each of these organizations ($1.5 million in total), followed by a company match of our employees’ contributions to eligible organizations. Together, through your giving and the company match, we have donated more than $15 million to civil rights, social action, and advocacy nonprofit organizations since 2015.

I have heard from many employees over the past several days, expressing calls for action, calls for reflection, calls for change. My response to all of you is this: Yes. We have to act. And our actions must reflect the values of our company and be directly informed by the needs of the Black and African American community. We must continue to nurture the energy and passion that the Blacks at Microsoft employee resource group fueled in all of us since its founding in 1989. We have been on a cultural transformation journey and must accelerate our pace of change. Each of us, starting with me, must look at where we are as individuals, confront our fixed mindset and act. Our humanity is what calls out to us to make the world a better place. 

We all have a role to play. I will do the work. The company will do the work. I am asking each of you to do the work. And together, we will help make the difference we want to see in the world. 

 Satya 

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Author: Microsoft News Center

For Sale – Brand new Alienware m15 R2 (i7, RTX 2070, 256GB SSD)

I won this beautiful piece of equipment at a conference in NL a couple of weeks back but I use a Macbook Pro for work and don’t game so it’s been sitting around collecting dust and now, trying to fund a start-up it’s a good opportunity for me to sell.

It’s never been used, the lid has been opened once to take the picture for this thread and it’s never been out of the box. Seals still on the screen. Did a bit of research and these are real state of the art machines, not too clunky and the keyboard isn’t obnoxiously small – over-all I think whoever buys it will have a hell of an experience.

I’ve sold phones on here and also a Macbook Pro without issue! Also, i’ll link my ebay profile where I used to sell refurbed phones if anyone wants to check my rep.

I will be posting for FREE using the most competent and reliable logistics companies so either DHL or DPD – tracked a signed for next day delivery. No RoyalMail BS in this thread!

(Also, the box has the plastic on it because DHL stick their labels in a sticky bag)

SPECS:

9th gen Intel Core i7 9750H
8GB DDR4 RAM
RTX 2070 8GB GDDR6
256GB PCIe SSD
15 inch FHD 60hz display
Comes with Win-10 pre installed.

Also comes with European power adapter (as I won it in NL) so a UK wall adapter will work fine.

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Global smartphone sales took sizable hit in Q1

Industry observers said a recent decline in global smartphone sales was caused by several factors, among them a mature enterprise mobility market and pandemic-related economic uncertainty.

Gartner reported this week that first-quarter 2020 global smartphone sales had dropped by 20.2% compared to the first quarter of 2019.

Anshul Gupta, senior research analyst at Gartner, said this was the worst-ever decline for the market. He attributed the decline to both supply chain disruptions and weaker demand — a function, he said, of shelter-in-place restrictions and COVID-19-related economic uncertainty.

Anshul GuptaAnshul Gupta

“There has been a drop in business spending on smartphones, though the drop in demand from business users was not as much as from customers,” he said.

Per Gartner, the top three phone manufacturers all saw a decline in the first quarter of 2020. Samsung, Huawei and Apple saw drops of 22.7%, 27.3% and 8.2%, respectively.

A mature market

Analyst opinion as to what caused the global smartphone sales decline varied, although they agreed that enterprise mobility challenges remain.

Holger MuellerHolger Mueller

Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said companies have slowed the rate at which they are purchasing new phone hardware. He cited a mature market as the primary driver of that trend.

“Growth can only come from the consumer side,” he said. “Workers who need a smartphone have one.”

Enterprise investment in mobility has moved away from smartphones and tablets and toward security, he said, pointing to the uptick in interest of device management software.

Ray WangRay Wang

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said the variety of mobile devices has grown and enterprises are beginning to branch out.

“We expect [companies] to go with devices other than mobile phones,” he said. “We see an increase of MiFi [portable broadband] cards [and] IoT devices … for mobility, which is cutting into the mobile market.”

Eric KleinEric Klein

Independent analyst Eric Klein said some of the most notable new features included in high-end phones — like cameras with ever-higher numbers of megapixels — aren’t driving enterprise purchasing decisions.

“In general, people are just holding onto their devices longer, because that need to upgrade isn’t quite there yet,” he said. “The features we’re seeing, and the innovation we’re seeing, have really plateaued.”

The future of the market

Experts said the market should recover somewhat over the near term. Gupta said Gartner was forecasting lower smartphone sales in 2020 than in 2019, but sales should trend higher as the year progresses and pandemic-related issues fade.

“Demand should pick up in the [second half of 2020], and we project positive growth in 2021,” he said.

Klein said that with little business reason to purchase high-end devices, manufacturers may look to pivot to lower-end phones.

“I think the majority of sales are going to be in the entry-level or mid-market space,” he said.

In time, Klein said, new features like 5G capability or foldable displays may drive sales, but the main reason for users and businesses to upgrade in the short term will be to keep pace with the latest iOS and Android OS updates.

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Data growth spawns enterprise data management system challenges

Organizations are creating and consuming more data than ever before, spawning enterprise data management system challenges and opportunities.

A key challenge is volume. With enterprises creating more data, they need to manage and store more data. Organizations are now also increasingly relying on the cloud for enterprise data management system storage needs because of the cloud’s scalability and low cost.

IDC’s Global DataSphere Forecast currently estimates that in 2020, enterprises will create and capture 6.4 zettabytes of new data. In terms of what types of new data is being created, productivity data — or operational, customer and sales data and embedded data — is the fastest-growing category, according to IDC. 

“Productivity data encompasses most of the data we create on our PCs, in enterprise servers or on scientific computers,” said John Rydning, research vice president for IDC’s Global DataSphere.

Productivity data also includes data captured by sensors embedded in industrial devices and endpoints, which can be leveraged by an organization to reduce costs or increase revenue.

Rydning also noted that IDC is seeing growth in productivity-related metadata, which provides additional data about the captured or created data that can be used to enable deeper analysis.

Most enterprises have low data maturity, according to ESG/Splunk survey.
Ranking organizations by data maturity, an Enterprise Strategy Group survey sponsored by Splunk found that few organizations are data innovators.

Enterprise data management system challenges in a world of data growth

Looking ahead, Rydning sees challenges for enterprise data management. 

Perhaps the biggest is dealing with the growing volume of archived data. With archival data, organizations will need to decide whether that data is best kept on relatively accessible storage systems for artificial intelligence analysis, or if it is more economical to move the data to lower-cost media such as tape, which is less readily available for analysis.

Another challenge is handling data from the edge of the network, which is expected to grow in the coming years. There too the question will be where organizations should store reference data for rapid analysis.

“Organizations will increasingly need to be prepared to keep up with the growth of data being generated across a wider variety of endpoint devices feeding workflows and business processes,” Rydning said.

The data management challenge in the cloud

In 2019, 34% of enterprise data was stored in the cloud. By 2024, IDC expects that 51% of enterprise data will be stored in the cloud.

While the cloud offers organizations a more scalable and often easier way to store data than on-premises approaches, not all that data has the same value.

Companies are continuing to dump data into storage without thinking about the applications that need to consume it.
Monte ZwebenCo-founder and CEO, Splice Machine

“Companies are continuing to dump data into storage without thinking about the applications that need to consume it,” said Monte Zweben, co-founder and CEO of Splice Machine. “They just substituted cheap cloud storage, and they continue to not curate it or transform it to be useful. It is now a cloud data swamp.”

The San Francisco-based vendor develops a distributed SQL relational database management system with integrated machine learning capabilities. While simply dumping data into the cloud isn’t a good idea, that doesn’t mean Zweben is opposed to the idea of cloud storage.

Indeed, Zweben suggested that organizations use the cloud, since cloud storage is relatively cheap. The key is to make sure that instead of just dumping data, enterprises find way to use that data effectively.

“You may later realize you need to train ML [machine learning] models on data that you previously did not think was useful,” Zweben said.

Enterprise data management system lessons from data innovators

“Without a doubt, some companies are storing a lot of low-value data in the cloud,” said Andi Mann, chief technology advocate at Splunk, an information security and event management vendor. “But it is tough to say any specific dataset is unnecessary for any given business.”

In his view, the problem isn’t necessarily storing data that isn’t needed, but rather storing data that isn’t being used effectively.

Splunk sponsored a March 2019 study conducted by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) about the value of data. The report, based on responses from 1,350 business and IT decision-makers, segments users by data maturity levels, with “data innovators” being the top category.

“While many organizations do have vast amounts of data — and that might put them in the data innovator category — the real difference between data innovators and the rest is not how much data they have, but how well they enable their business to access and use it,” Mann said.

Among the findings in the report is that 88% of data innovators employ highly skilled data investigators. However, even skilled people are not enough, so 85% of these innovative enterprises use best-of-breed analytics tools, and make sure to provide easy access to them.

“Instead of considering any data unnecessary, look at how to store even low-value data in a way that is both cost-effective, while allowing you to surface important insights if or when you need to,” Mann suggested. “The key is to treat data according to its potential value, while always being ready to reevaluate that value.”

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SAP: Partners are the key to customer success

Customer success was the main focus of the SAP Global Partner Summit Online, a virtual conference held this week.

SAP Global Partner Summit Online is a gathering of SAP executives, partners and customers who convene to discuss innovations and resources.

Partners are the key to customer success and happiness, said Karl Fahrbach, who was appointed SAP’s first chief partner officer about a year ago. Partners provide a variety of services for SAP customers, including consulting and implementing systems, as well developing and marketing applications built on platforms like SAP Cloud Platform, or extensions to systems like SAP SuccessFactors.

“Customer success means that we recognize that, in order to make our customers successful, we need to do it with our partners,” Fahrbach said. “The role of the partner has changed within SAP. It’s no longer about sales with our reselling partners or implementation with our services partners.”

He stressed that partners are key players in advancing SAP’s idea of the intelligent enterprise, a broad vision of advanced enterprise systems that allow companies to transform old business processes or develop new business models.

The initiative to rely on partners as the driving force for customer success comes from the top levels of SAP, a point SAP CEO Christian Klein emphasized in his streamed keynote address.

“Everyone at SAP has to understand that customer success is not about the point of sale,” Klein said. “It continues across the sales lifecycle, and partners play a vital role in that. So, we have to double down on that.”

Klein vowed that SAP would develop tools and programs to simplify and automate partner interactions.

“We owe our ecosystem a much better experience than in the past,” he said.

Focus on implementation quality

At the summit, SAP unveiled new initiatives and enhancements to existing programs that are designed to help partners better serve SAP customers.

For implementation partners, SAP debuted the new Partner Delivery Quality Framework (PDQF), an initiative designed to help partners implement higher-quality projects faster, Fahrbach said.

Karl Fahrbach, chief partner officer, SAPKarl Fahrbach

The PDQF consists of three components: project delivery, partner skills and post-sales management. The first component looks at project delivery quality and establishes feedback loops to ensure that an implementation is on track and adoption is successful.

“You can see in real time how the implementation is going, what’s being deployed, how the adoption is going, because this is key to see if this customer will be successful or not,” he said. “We’re going to share that information with the partner to make sure that we are transparent, and we support the partner in delivering that quality.”

The second component consists of investments in certifications and skills that partners can use to make sure the project quality is high. The third component focuses on the partner’s post-sales management. An SAP team of partner delivery managers will work with partners’ project managers to deliver quality standards and resolve escalations.

SAP partners will also now have free access to the same testing and demo systems that SAP uses internally to develop and demonstrate projects for customers.

This will enable partners to build applications that integrate various SAP platforms, like S/4HANA, SAP Ariba, SAP SuccessFactors, and SAP S/4HANA Cloud, in a test and demo environment that they previously had to pay for, Fahrbach said.

“They will be able to show end-to-end scenarios of the intelligent enterprise without having any additional costs,” he said. “The partners have been asking if they can get the same environments that SAP uses to do the demos, and now they have free access. This will improve the economics for the partners because it’s free, and the quality of the demos will improve as well.”

A quicker path to validated apps

For independent software vendor (ISV) partners that develop SAP-based applications and extensions, SAP unveiled the Partner Solution Progression framework. The initiative enables partners to quickly develop SAP validated products and make them available on the SAP App Center, an online marketplace for applications and SAP product extensions, according to SAP.

Having apps that are validated and well-supported by SAP can be vital to an ISV’s success, and the Partner Solution Progression framework allows ISVs to gradually advance the technical and business quality of their applications. Once a partner puts a validated app on the SAP App Center, it can grow into the Partner Spotlight program that includes more go-to-market support. If the partner’s strategy and app success continue to improve, the app is eligible to be invited to SAP Endorsed Apps, an SAP premium certification initiative.

Christian Klein, CEO, SAPChristian Klein

The idea is to make it much easier for partners to get applications on the SAP App Center and show that they are valuable innovative products, Klein said.

“Business on the SAP App Center has quadrupled, but it took way too long for partners to become a partner in the App Center and to onboard their solution until they make their first dollar in revenue,” Klein said. “We have significantly improved how you become a partner and how you publish in the App Center.”

COVID-19 concerns addressed

When the COVID-19 crisis began earlier in the year, SAP launched a virtual partner advisory council to examine how the crisis might affect the partners’ business and determine what they need to do to address it, Fahrbach said.

One result was a decision to help partners deal with cash-flow issues and credit access, he said. SAP postponed SAP PartnerEdge program fees until later in the year and will not raise annual maintenance fees. SAP PartnerEdge is a program for ISVs that provides resources to help design, develop and bring applications to market.

“We also launched credit service options to make sure that partners have access to credit and have revised commercial guidelines for the cloud,” Fahrbach said.

To that end, partners can now use a consumption-based pricing model that was previously available only for SAP’s direct salesforce with the Cloud Platform Enterprise Agreement (CPEA), which meters a customer’s use of SAP systems on the SAP Cloud Platform so that they’re charged only for what they use.

“This will provide our partners the ability to be flexible in the way customers consume our software, which is especially important these days with COVID-19, ” Fahrbach said.

Proof will be in the pudding

It’s important that SAP’s messaging on the role of partners is coming directly from recently installed CEO Christian Klein, said Shaun Syvertsen, CEO and managing partner of ConvergentIS, an SAP partner based in Calgary, Alta.

“The idea that Klein has recognized and reinforced with his teams that partners should not feel like SAP services is directly competing with them is important,” Syvertsen said. “Certainly for few years that was a dramatic trend as SAP was really doubling down on services and growing the services teams and sales positioning, so that’s a remarkable shift, and I think it’s a really healthy one.”

SAP partners would often see similar and competing products coming from SAP product management, and it will be interesting to see if this changes, Syvertsen said.

“The idea that an ecosystem matters is something that we’ve heard from Klein over several years, and there has been a tone of being more open to that. So, now we’ll see if some of those behaviors change within the organization to honor some of the investments the partners have made,” he said. “For example, there’s Sodales Solutions [an SAP partner that develops extensions to SAP SuccessFactors]. If SAP comes out with a new module for SuccessFactors that does what Sodales does, that’s not a good sign for anybody. Those are the kinds of things I’m watching for.”

SAP can do more to boost innovative partners

The partner program initiatives are a welcome development for SAP, but they could do even more to highlight smaller niche players that build emerging technology or industry expertise into their applications, said Jon Reed, analyst and co-founder of Diginomica.com, an enterprise applications news and analysis site.

Jon Reed, co-founder, Diginomica.comJon Reed

“This is a time when companies are largely pausing on major software upgrades, but they are eager to extend their platforms with impactful apps and analytics that can get up and running quickly,” Reed said.

Many of SAP’s partners have offerings that fit this bill but do not get enough exposure. Some, like Sodales Solutions, have gained visibility this year, but there needs to be more like that, he said.

Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting, agreed that the proof will be in the pudding for SAP’s partner relations.

Joshua Greenbaum, principal, Enterprise Applications ConsultingJoshua Greenbaum

“The spirit is willing in SAP at the top, and we’ll have to wait to see how everything goes,” Greenbaum said. “They are truly dedicated to the proposition that SAP can’t compete without a healthy and vigorous ecosystem, and I think they really mean that, but unfortunately the best practices have not been best for the partners. They’ve been best for SAP in the past, so this is going to be a real wait and see.”

The trajectory path for partners with the Partner Solution Progression framework is perhaps the best development, he said.

“It took a while to articulate the value of having that trajectory to follow to the partners,” he said. “The key is that SAP has to do good by existing partners, but also make it an enticing ecosystem for new partners — and their reputation isn’t that good. With Fahrbach in charge and Klein’s vision, the pieces are there, but these are complicated, inbred cultural behaviors that need to be modified, and that takes time.”

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New ServiceNow workflows extend into more markets

ServiceNow sharpened its focus on vertical markets this week with new workflows for the telecommunications, financial services and healthcare industries designed to make it easier for users to implement digital transformation projects.

Built on the company’s flagship Now Platform, the new telecommunications applications, called Proactive Customer Care and Automated Service Assurance, aim to help service providers manage customer requests as well as identify and resolve technical network problems more quickly and in a more cost-effective way.

“Telcos is a good space to go into given the push ServiceNow has made in the customer service management, IT service management and asset and operations management markets,” said Thomas Murphy, senior director and analyst with Gartner. “Now they can marry supporting customers more closely to what is happening with a complex infrastructure stack.”

Pursuing vertical markets through partnerships is something newly appointed ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott did successfully as CEO at SAP, Murphy noted, and is a step in the right direction. The strategy, he said, brings closer together ServiceNow’s platform-oriented approach with the domain expertise of the Global System Integrators (GSIs) such as Deloitte and KPMG.

Bill McDermott (former SAP CEO) at Sapphire 2019
ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott co-led SAP until October 2019, when he took over the helm of ServiceNow.

“They’re going after industries that are on the brink of the most radical operational transformation because of emerging technologies,” said Geoff Woollacott, senior strategy consultant and principal analyst at Technology Business Research in Hampton, N.H. “Companies operating in all three of those markets are inextricably linked with their customers, so these [new products] should appeal to them.”

Now platform to receive AI infusions

In his keynote this week at the company’s virtual Knowledge 2020 Digital Experience event, McDermott said the Now platform continues to be the foundation of the company’s strategy. But as importantly, the company will continue to deliver new workflows laced with AI, machine learning and virtual agents that utilize the core capabilities of the Now Platform.

They’re going after industries that are on the brink of the most radical operational transformation because of emerging technologies.
Geoff WoollacottPrincipal analyst, Technology Business Research

“We are in a whole new world where it is necessary for a platform approach to incorporate things like AI and predictive analytics,” McDermott said. “Most customer service issues can be and need to be resolved with human intervention. [AI] enables people to do what they were born to do — innovate — and only get involved on the services side when they are really needed.”

Despite the rapid evolution of cloud and availability of AI technologies, the workflows of many companies remain disconnected both internally and externally with its users and business partners.

“Most businesses are way too siloed, so you have to connect the whole value chain, which gives customers what they need to work effectively across those silos,” McDermott said.

While ServiceNow continues to strengthen its position in the IT services business, according to most analysts, there are several formidable software and telecommunications companies, such as Verizon and Nokia, as well as Cisco, looking to grab a share of that market. Additionally, analysts point out that IBM and Microsoft both have relationships with telecom companies like AT&T along with software that would make them competitors in this market.

ServiceNow however, does have AT&T as a customer. The telecommunications company said at Knowledge 2020 they were able to help customer service agents manage user inquiries from both the office and, once the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in March, from home as well.

Over the next 12 months, AT&T expects to deploy ServiceNow’s Agent Workspace along with a number of ServiceNow workflows to improve the online experience with customers in resolving a variety of issues, said Sorabh Saxena, executive vice president of global operations and services at AT&T Business.

More ServiceNow partnerships in the works

In January, ServiceNow signed a deal making Accenture its go-to-market partner for all of its telecommunications products. ServiceNow created the new telecommunications offerings jointly with a number of telco companies, such as British Telecom (BT). BT is also working with ServiceNow as a design partner contributing its advice on what operator requirements are for communication networks.

The company also plans to develop a number of healthcare and life science products to help organizations that automate a variety of clinical and business workflows. ServiceNow also penned a go-to-market partnership with KPMG to deliver those offerings. As part of the agreement, KPMG will help shape ServiceNow’s product roadmap as well as contribute to the development of healthcare workflow products including physician onboarding and credentialing. These offerings are expected to be available sometime in 2021, according to the company.

ServiceNow rolled out its Financial Services Operations that digitize user requests such as ordering a replacement card or inquiries about payments. The new offering gives IT professionals working in operations a single system that provides insights across systems of record to manage processes and allow users to collaborate across departments.

Earlier this year, ServiceNow formed a go-to-market alliance with Deloitte to deliver financial products. Two of those products include Deloitte’s Complaints Management offering along with its Small Business Association Paycheck Protection Program Forgiveness Solution that addresses a number of customer banking issues.

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3 ServiceNow partner initiatives fuel $10B ambition

ServiceNow recently rolled out three initiatives aimed at improving the way its channel partners help customers use workflow-oriented digital technologies.

The initiatives seek to put end customers in a position to change how corporate work is conducted, according to David Parsons, senior vice president of global alliances and channel at ServiceNow. Corporate workflows are increasingly mirroring the way consumers use apps on mobile devices to purchase goods and services and communicate, he said.

“Our view of the world is that when people go to work, they want to have an experience that they have at home,” Parsons said.

The initiatives double down on ServiceNow’s relationships with channel partners, Parsons said, so the partners can make the best decisions for customers when incorporating workflow tools on top of enterprise platforms offered by SAP, Salesforce, Adobe and others. With the help of channel partners, ServiceNow’s workflow offerings can benefit enterprises in a matter of months, he added.

One of the new initiatives, ServiceNow Partner Industry Solutions, is a marketplace publishing portal that showcases partner case studies and other materials that address the workflow and digital transformation needs of customers, according to the company. The list of partners to first use the portal is a lineup of heavy hitters, including Accenture, Deloitte and KPMG.

“Think of it as a supercharged Google search bar,” Parsons said of ServiceNow Partner Industry Solutions. A team of ServiceNow technical architects and program managers will review partners’ submissions to validate claims.

Our view of the world is that when people go to work, they want to have an experience that they have at home.
David ParsonsSenior vice president of global alliances and channel, ServiceNow

Another initiative, Built on Now, allows partners to build, test, certify and sell digital workflows for ServiceNow’s Now Platform. Parsons likened the program to Intel Inside, which lets member companies integrate Intel technologies into their brands. “It’s a way for our partners to leverage our brand and what we do around workflow automation,” he said.

More than 70 Built on Now-native app offerings are available, according to ServiceNow. One of them, KPMG Contract Performance Manager, offers dashboard views into all a customer’s third‑party relationships in an attempt to spot diminishing value in contracts.

The third new initiative, Now Create, shines a light on the methodologies and practices that can improve implementations and upgrades of the Now Platform, the company said.

In all, the offerings are another step in trying to reach ServiceNow’s goal of achieving $10 billion in annual revenue, Parsons said. Such a goal wouldn’t be practical without channel partners, he added.

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Users waiting for Cisco to expand Webex waiting rooms

Cisco plans to enable waiting rooms for scheduled Webex meetings in the future. In the meantime, some Cisco customers are turning to Zoom, which has supported the feature for years.

Waiting rooms have become an important security feature in video conferencing. The feature forces guests to wait in a lobby for the host to admit them. That helps prevent uninvited attendees from disrupting meetings.

But waiting rooms in Webex are limited to personal meeting rooms, a service that gives users a perpetual space to host recurring conferences. Hosts can’t force attendees to wait in a lobby before joining regular Webex meetings.

The Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, which has used Webex for years, purchased Zoom shortly after the pandemic forced its classes online. The school found that Zoom’s waiting room feature helped instructors ensure only registered students were joining classes.

“This feature, along with a few others, has made the Zoom platform the preference for most of our instructors,” said Donna Morefield, an IT business analyst at the university.

Cisco said it would launch waiting rooms for regular Webex meetings “shortly.” Users have been complaining about Webex’s lack of feature parity with Zoom on Cisco’s Webex community forums.

Cisco lets Webex users lock meetings, preventing anyone else from joining the conference. Meeting hosts can also remove attendees from a meeting and place them into a lobby, but only after they have entered.

Zoom came under fire this spring for what became known as Zoombombing. Customers reported incidents of people crashing meetings to display pornographic and obscene images.

In response, Zoom turned waiting rooms on by default. The vendor had offered waiting rooms for years, but meeting organizers had to turn it on. Microsoft Teams, another Webex competitor, also supports waiting rooms.

Waiting rooms are not the only feature missing from Webex. Cisco also does not support breakout rooms or virtual backgrounds on the desktop version, both of which Zoom offers.

Cisco was ready to announce some enhancements to Webex this week at Cisco Live, its annual user conference. However, the company postponed the event until June 16-17 out of deference to the anti-racism protests sweeping the country.

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Gigster data suggests gig economy methods can benefit SIs

Systems integrators can cut staffing costs and boost project success rates if they take a cue from the gig economy.

A Constellation Research study published this week reported gig economy IT projects used 30% fewer FTEs over time compared with projects staffed the traditional way. In addition, gig economy projects experienced a 9% failure rate versus the IT industry average of 70% to 81%, according to market research firm. Large IT initiatives such as digital transformation projects are especially prone to encountering obstacles.

Gig economy staffing “lowers risk substantially by boosting IT success rates dramatically,” according to Constellation Research’s report, “How the Gig Economy Is Reshaping Tech Careers and IT Itself.” The report’s findings are based on Constellation Research’s analysis of project data from Gigster, a gig economy platform that focuses on IT staffing.

The research firm said it compared data from 190 Gigster projects with typical industry projects. Gigster helped fund the research.

From outsourcing to crowdsourcing

Gigster CEO Chris Keene said the gig approach — crowdsourcing IT personnel on demand — will “change the way systems integrators think about their talent.” The Constellation Research report, he added, suggests the application of gig economy best practices “could be as big for systems integrators as outsourcing was years ago.”

Outsourcing’s labor arbitrage made its mark in the systems integration field beginning in the 1990s. Today, crowdsourcing and what Keene refers to as “elastic staffing,” also aim to reduce personnel expenses on IT projects. He said Gigster’s Innovation Management Platform, a SaaS offering, lets organizations assess talent based on the quality of the work an IT staffer performed on previous projects. The tool provides sentiment analysis, polling an IT staffer’s teammates and customers to gauge their satisfaction. The tool’s elastic staffing capabilities, meanwhile, are used to identify on-demand peer experts who review a project’s key deliverables. As an integrator reaches a project milestone, it can use the Gigster platform to conduct sentiment analysis and an expert review before moving on to the next phase.

The increase in staffing efficiency stems from elastic versus static approaches. The Constellation Research report noted personnel assigned to a traditional project tend to remain on the team, even when their skills are not in high demand during particular project phases.

“Activity shifts among project team members over time, resulting in a relatively inefficient model because underutilized people continue to add to the project budget and overhead,” the report observed. For example, architects may play their biggest role at the onset of a project, while demand for developers and QA personnel grow over the course of a project.

Agile staffing

Keene said the gig economy approach avoids locking people into specialized projects for long periods of time, making the staffing process more agile. He said when organizations discuss agile approaches, they are typically referring to their delivery processes.

“Most agile projects are only agile in the way they drive their processes,” Keene said. “They are not agile in the way they resource those projects.”

Keene, meanwhile, attributed the increase in project success rates to the peer review function. He said bringing in an on-demand expert to review a project milestone helps avoid the “groupthink” that can derail an IT initiative.

Gigster is based in San Francisco.

SAP elevates partner-developed apps

SAP has revamped SAP App Center, an online marketplace where customers can purchase SAP-based apps developed by partners.

The SAP App Center now features an updated user experience to make it easier for customers to search for offerings based on the underlying SAP product used, certification, publisher and solution type, the vendor said. SAP unveiled the updated SAP App Center alongside several other new partner initiatives at the company’s Global Partner Summit, held online on June 3.

“The [SAP App Center] should be the place to go for all the customers we have. … And it should be the place to go for all of our account executives. We are going to make it easy for our customers to go there, and we are going to run campaigns to enable our customers to find what they need in the app center,” SAP chief partner offer Karl Fahrbach said during the Global Partner Summit event.

The marketplace currently features more than 1,500 partner-created offerings, according to SAP.

On the partner-facing side of the SAP App Center, the company added tools to publish SAP-based offerings and manage and track sales. “We are working very hard on reducing the time that it takes to publish an app on the app center,” Fahrbach said.

SAP said a new initiative, SAP Endorsed Apps, aims to bolster SAP partners’ software businesses by spotlighting partner apps and matching them with potential customers. SAP Endorsed Apps is an invitation-only initiative.

In addition to updating the SAP App Center, the company said it is focused on improving how partners approach SAP implementation projects. To that end, SAP introduced a set of standard processes, tools and reporting aids designed to facilitate implementations. Benefits include grants for educating partners’ consultants, incentives for partners that invest in customer success, and increased investments in partner learning and enablement, SAP said.

Fahrbach also said SAP is opening its pre-sales software demonstration environment to qualifying partners for free. Additionally, on July 1, SAP will offer partners one year of free access to SAP S/4HANA Cloud and Business ByDesign.

Channel partners find allies in backup and DR market

Several channel companies this week disclosed partnerships and distribution deals in the backup and disaster recovery (DR) market.

OffsiteDataSync, a J2 Global company offering DR and backup as a service, rolled out an expanded partnership with Zerto. The Zerto relationships lets OffsiteDataSync provide DRaaS options to a “broad spectrum of businesses,” according to OffsiteDataSync, which also partners with Veeam.

In another move, Otava, a cloud services company based in Ann Arbor, Mich., launched Otava Cloud Backup for Microsoft 365, partnering with Veeam. The Microsoft 365 SaaS offering, available for channel partners, follows the November 2019 launch of Veeam-based backup offerings such as Otava Cloud Connect, Otava-Managed Cloud Backup and Self-Managed Cloud Backup.

Meanwhile, Pax8, a cloud distributor based in Denver, added Acronis Cyber Protect to its roster of offerings in North America. The Acronis Cyber Protect service includes backup, DR, antimalware, cybersecurity and endpoint management tools.

Other news

  • A survey of IT professionals found 24% of businesses adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic without downtime, with 56% reporting two or fewer weeks of downtime. The study from Insight Enterprises, an integrator based in Tempe, Ariz., noted 40% of respondents said they had to develop or retool business resiliency plans in response to COVID-19. Insight also found IT departments are planning to invest in a range of health-related technologies, including smart personal hygiene devices (58%), contactless sensors (36%), infrared thermometers (35%) and thermal cameras (25%). A third of the respondents are looking into an IoT ecosystem that would let them pull together and analyze data gathered from those devices.
  • Research from Advanced, an application modernization services provider, revealed that about three-quarters of organizations have launched a legacy system modernization project but failed to complete the task. The company pointed to a “a disconnect of priorities between technical and leadership teams” as an obstacle to getting projects over the finish line. Advanced’s 2020 mainframe modernization report also identified a broad push to the cloud: 98% of respondents cited plans to move legacy applications to the cloud this year.
  • IBM and solutions provider Persistent System are partnering to deploy IBM Cloud Pak offerings within the enterprise segment. Persistent Systems also launched a new IBM Cloud Pak deployment practice for migrating and modernizing IBM workloads within cloud environments.
  • Distributor Ingram Micro Cloud rolled out the Illuminate program for AWS Partner Network resellers. The Illuminate program provides partner enablement in the forms of coaching, marketing, sales and technical resources.
  • US Signal, a data center services provider based in Grand Rapids, Mich., said it will expand its cloud and data protection capabilities to include data centers in Oak Brook, Ill., and Indianapolis. The company already offers cloud and data protection in its Grand Rapids, Mich.; Southfield, Mich.; and Detroit data centers. The expanded services are scheduled for availability in July at the Oak Brook data center and in September at the Indianapolis facility.
  • ActivTrak Inc., a workforce productivity and analytics software company based in Austin, Texas, unveiled its Managed Service Provider Partner Program. The initial group of more than 25 partners, which span North America, South America, Europe and Asia, include Advanced Technology Group, Cloud Synergistics, Cyber Secure, EMD, NST, Nukke, Wahaya and Zinia. The three-tier program offers access to a single pane-of-glass management console, MSP Command Center. The console lets partners log into customer accounts through single sign-on, investigate and address alerts, configure the application and troubleshoot issues within individual accounts, according to the company.
  • Tanium, a unified endpoint management and security firm based in Emeryville, Calif., formally rolled out its Tanium Partner Advantage program. The program launch follows partnership announcements with NTT, Cloudflare, Okta and vArmour.
  • Nerdio, a Chicago-based company that provides deployment and management offerings for MSPs, expanded its EMEA presence. The company launched a partnership with Sepago, an IT management consultancy based in Germany. Nerdio also appointed Bas van Kaam as its field CTO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
  • DLT and its parent company, distributor Tech Data, launched an online forum, GovDevSecOpsHub, which focuses on cybersecurity and the application development process in the public sector.
  • Kimble Applications, a Boston-based professional services automation company, appointed Steve Sharp as its chief operations and finance officer.
  • High Wire Networks, a cybersecurity service provider based in Batavia, Ill., named Travis Ray as its director of channel sales. Ray will look to build alliances with MSPs around delivering High Wire’s Overwatch Managed Security Platform as a Service offering, the company said.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

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Chinese, Iranian hackers targeted Trump and Biden campaigns

Google announced Thursday that state-sponsored Chinese and Iranian hackers targeted campaign staff of both Joe Biden and President Donald Trump in recent election attacks.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Shane Huntley, director of Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG), detailed the recent attempts by advanced persistent threat (APT) groups to compromise both presidential campaigns through phishing attacks, which he said were unsuccessful.

“Recently TAG saw China APT group targeting Biden campaign staff and Iran APT targeting Trump campaign staff with phishing. No sign of compromise. We sent users our govt attack warning and we referred to fed law enforcement,” Huntley wrote on Twitter.

In addition to confirming the attempted attacks, Huntley also attributed the activity to APT31, a Chinese hacking group also known as Zirconium, and APT35, Iranian hackers also known as Newscaster Team.  

A spokesperson from Google verified the hacking attempt in an email to SearchSecurity.

“We can confirm that our Threat Analysis Group recently saw phishing attempts from a Chinese group targeting the personal email accounts of Biden campaign staff and an Iranian group targeting the personal email accounts of Trump campaign staff. We didn’t see evidence that these attempts were successful. We sent the targeted users our standard government-backed attack warning and we referred this information to federal law enforcement. We encourage campaign staff to use extra protection for their work and personal emails, and we offer security resources such as our Advanced Protection Program and free security keys for qualifying campaigns.”

Phishing has been a major vector in previous election campaign attacks as well. For example, John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, fell victim to a phishing attack prior to the election.

An investigation by Atlanta-based cybersecurity firm SecureWorks Inc. uncovered a malicious link created with the Bitly URL-shortening service used by hackers to gain access to Podesta’s Gmail account. The Bitly account used to create the link was connected to a domain controlled by the Russian state-sponsored APT group known as Fancy Bear.

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