It Isn’t Over Till The Customer Sings (at ONUG)

Andre Kindness

Wow. Certain networking vendors have started to declare they are winners, while others say software defined network (SDN) is over. All I have to say (in my best George Takei voice) is, “Oh, my!” I’m lucky enough to spend most of my day interacting with many end users to know that those statements clearly show how out of touch some vendors are with customers. Let me make this clear: In today’s environment, only customers can make those statements, and this is probably why some vendors don’t get it. It is a foreign concept and vendors are in the denial stage of loss, losing power to customers.

This realization hit me like a ton of bricks at Open Networking User Group conference in New York City. This hasn’t happened any time in the past within the networking world. Customers are dictating requirements. This is not the same concept as the market deciding the best technology after it gets developed, such as CDP vs LLDP, EIGRP vs OSPF, etc. In this new world, customers are defining network characteristics before the technology exists or has been developed by the vendor community. Don’t believe me? Read through ONUG’s white paper on vendor development guidelines regarding investment directions and proof of concepts (POCs) of SDN and network function virtualization (NFV) for the user community.  

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Shifting Sands – Changing Alliances Underscore the Dynamism of the Infrastructure Systems Market

Richard Fichera

There is always a tendency to regard the major players in large markets as being a static background against which the froth of smaller companies and the rapid dance of customer innovation plays out. But if we turn our lens toward the major server vendors (who are now also storage and networking as well as software vendors), we see that the relatively flat industry revenues hide almost continuous churn. Turn back the clock slightly more than five years ago, and the market was dominated by three vendors, HP, Dell and IBM. In slightly more than five years, IBM has divested itself of highest velocity portion of its server business, Dell is no longer a public company, Lenovo is now a major player in servers, Cisco has come out of nowhere to mount a serious challenge in the x86 server segment, and HP has announced that it intends to split itself into two companies.

And it hasn’t stopped. Two recent events, the fracturing of the VCE consortium and the formerly unthinkable hook-up of IBM and Cisco illustrate the urgency with which existing players are seeking differential advantage, and reinforce our contention that the whole segment of converged and integrated infrastructure remains one of the active and profitable segments of the industry.

EMC’s recent acquisition of Cisco’s interest in VCE effectively acknowledged what most customers have been telling us for a long time – that VCE had become essentially an EMC-driven sales vehicle to sell storage, supported by VMware (owned by EMC) and Cisco as a systems platform. EMC’s purchase of Cisco’s interest also tacitly acknowledges two underlying tensions in the converged infrastructure space:

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The Global Risk Environment Looks A Lot Different In The Age Of The Customer

Nick Hayes

Earlier today, we published a report that dissects global risk perceptions of business and technology management leaders. One of the most eye-popping observations from our analysis is how customer obsession dramatically alters the risk mindset of business decision-makers.

Out of seven strategic initiatives -- including “grow revenues,” “reduce costs,” and “better comply with regulations,” -- improve the experience of our customers is the most frequently cited priority for business and IT decision-makers over the next 12 months. When you compare those “customer-obsessed” decision-makers (i.e. those who believe customer experience is a critical priority) versus others who view customer experience as a lower priority, drastic differences appear in how they view, prioritize, and manage risk.

Customer obsession has the following effects on business decision-makers’ risk perceptions:

  • Risk concerns heighten dramatically across several risk types – especially reputational risk. Reputational risk concern more than doubles for customer-obsessed decision-makers, and other risks also see significant increases, including corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability risk, regulatory and compliance risk, and talent and human capital risk.
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The Data Digest: Don’t Lose Potential Mobile Moments By Neglecting Information Workers

Christopher Kelley

With evolving bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trends and the prevalence of consumer mobility captured by the Mobile Mind Shift Index, the lines between personal and work mobility have blurred. I see this every day that I take the train to work, watching information workers seamlessly shift from Candy Crush Saga to their work email on their mobile devices.

For years, Forrester has measured consumers’ use of technology in their personal lives and their work through its Consumer and Business Technographics® surveys. This year, we began to address the intersection of these spheres, comparing a worker’s relative mobility at home with their mobility at work. Specifically, we analyzed the extent to which information workers across 10 countries use mobile devices at work and at home, leading to four segments based on their relative mobility in each sphere:

This analysis found that nearly one-third of global information workers fall into two segments: the Mobile-Compelled – high mobility at work but not in their personal life; and the Mobile-Ready – high mobility in their personal life but not at home. This highlights how mobility at home does not automatically translate to mobility at work.

This mobility mismatch has big implications in the age of the customer. For example:

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The Millennium Falcon And Breach Responsibility

Rick Holland

Do you remember the scene from The Empire Strikes Back where the Millennium Falcon is trying to escape an Imperial Star Destroyer? Han Solo says, “Let’s get out of here, ready for light-speed? One… two… three!” Han pulls back on the hyperspace throttle and nothing happens. He then says, “It’s not fair! It’s not my fault! It’s not my fault!”

Later in the movie when Lando and Leia are trying to escape Bespin, the hyperdrive fails yet again. Lando exclaimed, “They told me they fixed it. I trusted them to fix it. It's not my fault!” In first case transfer circuits were damaged, and in the second case, stormtroopers disabled the hyperdrive.

Ultimately they were at fault; they were the captains of the ship, and the buck stops with them. It doesn't matter what caused problems, they were responsible; excuses don't matter when a Sith Lord is in pursuit. 

I am seeing a trend where breached companies might be heading down a similar “it’s not my fault” path. Consider these examples:

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Increase Key Account Revenue With Better Process and Technologies

Mark Lindwall

As sales forces in many organizations face a busy fiscal year-end, they are also planning for how to grow revenues in 2015.  I’ve been working with clients who are looking for insights and ideas on how to increase their revenue footprint in their key accounts next year.  In our discussions, we often discover that their organizations lack comprehensive understanding of where untapped opportunity resides in accounts – for example in other departments, divisions or business units, or other geographies.  They also determine that they have operational barriers that inhibit sales teams from collaborating with each other to add more value to their customers.  If you believe that your firm has untapped opportunities to better serve your customers across additional departments, business units, or geographies, now is the time to take action. But where should you start?

First, Figure Out Who Needs To Be Involved

To ensure that you maximize the potential of your key accounts, you need the participation of people beyond just your sales reps. To get this right, you need leaders from sales, sales operations, marketing, and potentially product groups and your tech management team, as well as front line sales teams, to come together to inventory your current key account presence or penetration.

Next, Ensure Your Sales Force Has Accurate Information . . .

To help your sales force plan and execute their key account growth strategies, you’ll need to ensure that they have accurate information about the legal and financial structure of accounts. Providers like Dun & Bradstreet utilize established legal and financial organizing structures (i.e., SEC) and data to gain accurate visibility into the legal, financial, and organizational structures of your accounts, as well as contact information.

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Is your company moving beyond surveys when measuring customer experience? I’d love to include you in my new research

Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian

CX professionals rely on surveys a great deal to measure customer experience. That’s because surveys have their advantages but they have limits, too.

If your company has taken steps to move beyond surveys to measure customer experience, I'd love to hear your opinions, experiences and advice for my new research on “CX Measurement – Beyond Surveys”. Goal of this research is to share what companies do to measure customer experience in addition to surveys, which approaches are most promising and which challenges companies face doing that.

Your insights are appreciated, so if you would like to share your story (on or off the record), please contact me at: mschmidt@forrester.com

Looking forward to speaking with you.

Want to Drive Action With Your VoC Program? Cater to Your Internal Customers!

Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian

In our latest survey on the state of the art of VoC programs, 71 percent of respondents said their VoC program was not fully or mostly effective in driving actions. That's jarring. No matter how much effort you put into collecting VoC, the insights are still only as good as what stakeholders in the company do with them.

As a VoC program owner, you therefore need to get better at leveraging your internal customers so they drive the action required to improve customer experience and your bottom line. This is what my new report "How To Drive Action In VoC Programs" is all about.

First, you have to figure out your internal audiences. Some are more in tune to the VoC than others. Your audience often falls into three categories:

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More Trends in Brazil’s eCommerce Market

Zia Daniell Wigder

eCommerce in Brazil has gone from an $8 billion market in 2010 to a nearly $20 billion market today.  As the market has grown, eCommerce team sizes have expanded and retailers’ priorities have shifted. We address these issues in the second of our three-part series on retail eCommerce in Brazil. The three reports summarize the findings of a survey we fielded of over 300 online retailers in Brazil together with partner e-Commerce Brasil.

In our most recent report entitled Retail eCommerce In Brazil: Team Headcount, Priorities And Challenges, we find that:

Operations has the highest headcount while analytics and customer experience lag far behind. Our survey shows that the average eCommerce team in Brazil has 24 members, with half of those being part of the operations team. Customer service, IT and marketing fall further down the list. eCommerce teams include just two people in usability/customer experience and just one in analytics.

Hiring qualified talent remains many online retailers’ largest hurdle. When asked about challenges, retailers cited hiring as one of their biggest issues over the next 12 months. Not surprisingly, the two areas of low headcount cited above – customer experience and analytics – are two of the most challenging positions to hire for in other markets, as well. The other top challenge cited by Brazilian retailers was managing fulfillment costs and expectations – not surprising given Brazilian shoppers’ expectations of free, quick delivery in major metropolitan areas. 

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White Box Mania Distracts Everyone And Wreaks Havoc On Investments

Andre Kindness

I’m getting inundated with briefing requests from vendors either coming out with their own white box offerings or somehow supporting the white box market. While white box network solutions provide great value for some industries, more than likely, they are not for your infrastructure but for specific industries such as web scale or high-frequency trading companies. The network world is fragmenting into industry-specific solutions, and the era of Swiss Army knife network hardware is over (see figure below). Mainstream vendors are freaking out because that was their bread and butter. Now they have to figure out who they want to serve. Some uncertain vendors are placing chips on all the squares of the network roulette table; this strategy is a losing proposition for everyone.

Don’t get me wrong. White boxes/bare-metal solutions have their place, but be cautious of the irrational exuberance over this new trend. Resources are finite. The vendors chasing tail lights will at some point have to give up and lock down on a particular path. Activist firm Elliott Management has rattled the cages of some high tech firms and has basically said, “You are killing investors’ return by not simplifying and focusing.” Personally, this might not mean much if you aren’t an investor. However, as an infrastructure and operations professional, you should be concerned about solutions existing a year or two down the road from shotgun-approach vendors; worse yet, you get the effects of a mile-wide, inch-deep investment, which means the solution lags on getting the investments needed to help your company succeed today. 

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