Closing the consumption gap: Making use of the features you have

The emerging model for software development has come to a point where it must transcend the underlying technology. Some of the most interesting software companies never make it, because they develop useful technology but that's where they stop. The companies that succeed are the ones which go beyond simply rolling out a feature-rich piece of software, to positioning it as a part of the business model. Instead of asking, "How does this technology work and what will it do," the more appropriate question now, is "How does this technology change how we do business".

Moving from simply providing functionality, to changing how companies do business on a meaningful level, means addressing what Vala Afshar, Chief Customer Officer at Enterasys, refers to as the "consumption gap."

"I'm looking at an iPhone in my hand right now," said Afshar, "and as I stare at it, I realize that I probably only use one percent of what this thing is capable of. We're selling enterprise switching, routing, and wireless technology, and we're adding new features and functions to our solution. So, if I think about the consumption gap that exists, which I'll define as the current use of technology versus the capability of the technology. If you plot those two lines, you'll see there is a divergence of the lines over time."

Afshar notes that the most effective way to reduce that consumption gap, is to increase feature adoption. Some companies approach this task through customer service or training. "A business can reduce that consumption gap by building a collaboration environment, and let technology enable this effort." That's where the idea for Enterasys' Isaac was born.

Enterasys realized that addressing that consumption gap means providing an interface that fits into a social context, and with natural language. Isaac allows users to establish a two-way, natural language dialogue through social media, between human and network.

Network management by itself is a fairly ordinary function that everybody has. It's not disruptive, and it doesn't change how people do business—but when you add in this natural, collaborative mechanism, everything changes, and then we get back to the concept of transcending technology and really developing a new business model that changes, and improves, how the business works in a meaningful way. What Isaac does is takes a big step towards improving the state of the art of human-to-machine communication through a familiar, and highly accessible, social media interface. It lets IT manage network devices via Twitter, SalesForce Chatter, or Facebook, in real time.

On the back end, what Isaac does is take complex information, and parse it into natural language; and then establishes a secure, two-way social interface so that IT can ask questions and issue commands. At the same time, network devices can send messages to alert the IT manager that action needs to be taken.

Naturally, most IT managers, when told that they can communicate with network devices through social media, the first question is, "How is that going to be secure?" Like any cloud-based system, security is built-in of course, with role- and message-based security, and two-factor authentication. The 500 high school buddies you have on Facebook aren't going to know you're having a network issue.

There are two compelling things about Isaac. First of all, it brings in a deep and fundamental change in the business model by shifting network management to a much more intimate and social two-way dialogue. Beyond that, one need only look to the future a few years to see how the potential of Isaac could go far beyond network management, bringing in simple and inexpensive ways to control smart homes, HVAC systems and other devices.

Technology, and the people who use it, have historically not always been at the same level—and technology frequently gets ahead of itself. Today, with companies like Enterasys making those rich features easier to access and use, the technology gap will decrease.

What good are new software releases with hundreds of rich features if you don't know they are there, or don't know how to use them? With products like Isaac, we will see a future where companies can release even more features—and have those features delivered and implemented in a natural, interactive front end so that the consumption gap is reduced. The natural language, two-way, social dialogue between humans and machines/software represents the next technological leap forward in changing how we work.

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