Tom Austin interviews Ray Ozzie

by Volker Weber

Richard Eckel, VP of marketing communications at Groove Networks has pointed me to an interview that Tom Austin, Garnter Fellow, has conducted with Groove Networks founder Ray Ozzie, the artist formerlyalso known as one of the Notes masterminds. Richard, is it worth a blog enty? You bet.

Please read the interview, and before we head on please also read three other pieces (hat tip to Capt. Hajo) unless you already have grocked marketing.

Let's start with some definitions: My understanding is that they (Groove) believe they are positioned in quadrant 4, with IBM being in quadrant 1 and Microsoft as a partner in quadrant 3. Their positioning is front and center on their website:


And the claim is: "The fastest way to get everybody working on the same page". The interesting challenge is to cross the chasm from Early Adopters to Pragamists. Groove has tried this for a number of years and have not succeeded. The early adopters usually are very small and agile. However, Groove was trying to sell into the big accounts where even the business users are confronted with a Stalinistic IT organization ("we know what is good for you"). I clearly was an early adopter, but I also witnessed — from inside the customer — one futile attempt to get into one particular account. Ozzie expresses his frustration:

What really does disappoint me is that we as technology users keep forgetting the lessons we learn; we've got very short memories. For example - issues of centralization versus decentralization, control versus empowerment. There's a pendulum that appears to keep swinging back and forth, and we keep polarizing the issue, when in fact we should have learned that both are necessary.

I believe the pendulum is still swinging towards the center, and Groove is trying to empower the edge. This is an uphill battle. However, I have reason to believe that they finally found the Pragmatist in Pain. If you read the interview you find one particular point where you can spot that pragmatist:

One of the best examples of where this is happening today is within the U. S. government. With rare exceptions, doctrines, policies and processes have been shaped over the years specifically in a vertically-integrated manner. Yet the enemy is a complex network form — far more highly decentralized.

Post-9/11, the mandate within government has become clear: share information, and conduct joint operations. Reshape processes and practices to find the best "network form" — the best of centralization, and the best of decentralization, toward agility in joint discovery, analysis and action.

Erik Sink explains what to do once you found the Pragmatist in Pain:

So you have to treat them like they are very special. Give them everything they want, almost as if they were ordering a custom application. You may have to implement special features just for them. You may have to give them substantial discounts. You should visit their site and meet them in person. You may have to install your product for them. Financially, this one customer will probably be a net loss. That's okay. Don't stop until they're happy. And then keep them happy, as your corporate lips are going to be more or less permanently sewn to their corporate rear end.

There is no way around that. You need to get over the chasm and ignore everything else. As much as many early adopters would love to have the Groove client on the Mac, it is not going to happen. :-)

Disclaimer: The product is done. I have few complaints about version 3. It is fast, it lets you build custom forms and views like Notes 3.x did and you can easily run it in the background. However, I have moved on from an all-Windows world into mostly Mac, some Windows, some Linux — and that is unchartered territory for Groove. I can still play with the latest client, since Groove Networks has gratuitously and continuously provided me with a Professional license.


There definitely is a (niche-) market for cross-company collaboration, especially with big accounts.

Imagine a company-insider working on some contract with an external lawyer, or the inhouse marketing department working on some brochure with an external graphics shop.

Systems that can do that run under a number of labels (eg. web conferencing, application sharing, or some form of Groove-a-like system).

However, when looking at it from a security point of view, all of them are a nightmare -- they turn fundamental principals of network security upside down. The network perimeter is no longer a "only initiate connections from the inside", but rather a in-and-out control. Would you, as a security guy, approve such a change?

Within big account-type companies, there is no big market. Users are slowly adopting working over e-mail, because that's all they know. Imagine teaching a few thousand users new ways of collaboration...

-- Matthias

Matthias Leisi, 2004-12-16

I disagree. eMail is fundamentally broken. Is is designed to exchange information (whot it does well), but not to support collaboration further. To see my point: Just join a project that runs on email after 2 month and try to catch up. Of course users work trough email because it is the least evil aka the only thing they got. And teaching them a new way to work would be a breeze if:
- it is easy
- you can show how that makes their lives easier (faster, adresses headache, improves quality, sense of control etc.)
Of course nobody wants to change working style if only the OTHERS reap the benefits.
From a security point of view it is not that different from email: you got text and files; you might need to watch other ports. Admittingly the email security tools are fully established, in the P2P market it is still early adopting. Still our usual bag of tricks could be applied: firewalls, content stream scanning, proxies etc.
And I don't see where security principes are turned inside out. eMail is also in/out as is VoIP, it's just a question of design.
my 2c
:-) stw
When I was working with a bank we called the security guys "communication disablers". They made a big fuzz for any connectivity request and as a rule tried to turn it down for obscure security reasons. At the same time they failed to establish a PKI so emails could be sent encrypted, thus ensuring that a lot of confidential info was send to the open.

Stephan H. Wissel, 2004-12-17

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