Many times, what we want says more about us than what we do. This is why readers are fascinated with news from the Consumer Electronics Show, which gives us an aspirational glimpse at the technology of tomorrow. This is why Google publishes the most frequently searched “how-to questions,” which reveal what people are striving for. It’s also why emerging customer insights methodologies like social listening, which uncover visceral consumer reactions and desires, are gaining traction.
Two weeks ago, people around the world expressed their wishes for 2016 by sharing their New Year’s resolutions online. What do people want this year? Forrester’s analysis of the social conversation shows that physical and mental wellbeing dominated most of the resolutions posted across the globe. But certain geographical differences shed light on varied cultures and attitudes. For example, while US consumers also discussed social causes and career goals, UK consumers mentioned artistic pursuits and relaxation:
A few weeks ago, I learned that my credit card number was part of a large data breach and that I needed to cancel it immediately. My first thought? Panic and trepidation — what if someone already charged on my card? What about the companies that I have recurring payments with — will they reject them and charge me fees? How do I remember all of the companies with which I even have recurring payments?
As all of these questions entered my mind and I started questioning my loyalty to Capital One, I received the following email (pictured) explaining what I needed to do as a customer and the companies that I needed to contact:
Capital One not only provided immediate relief but also demonstrated awareness of my individual profile and what could make or break my specific customer experience. It implemented personalization at a critical "moment of truth."
Presenting and hosting a panel on digital transformation at this year's CES gave me the opportunity to wander the 2 million square feet of exhibit space and assimilate some of the changes coming our way:
Welcome To The Age Of Invention. For me, the most exciting aspect of CES is the sheer volume of innovative, inventive startups that are tapping into the power of sensor-enabled technology to create new products and services. Many of these companies are funded through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, gofundme and indiegogo. The pace of innovation will accelerate as high-school kids use their fertile imaginations to tap into the technology that’s now second nature to them.
The Internet Of Things Will Fuel Rapid Digital Transformation. Based on the sheer volume of internet connected devices coming on the market this year, we’re going to see an explosion in the Internet Of Things (IoT). Everything – from wearables that track everything from your health and fitness to the temperature of a newborn child, and in-home appliances that interconnect to create a home environment tailored to your preferences – everything is now designed with sensors that collect data that's used to deliver better customer outcomes. Or at least that’s the promise. Sensors can and will improve our lives – giving us more data and insight about our environment and allowing us to tailor experiences to be more finely tuned to our personal desires. The data provided by the sensors in the Internet Of Things is the fuel for further digital transformation.
Defining your data via data discovery and classification is the foundation for data security strategy. The idea that you must understand what data you have, where it is, and if it is sensitive data or not is one that makes sense at a conceptual level. The challenge, as usual, is with execution. Too often, data classification is reduced to an academic exercise rather than a practical implementation. The basics aren’t necessarily simple, and the existing tools and capabilities for data classification continue to evolve.* Still, there are several best practices that can help to put you on the road to success:
Keep labels simple. At a high level, stick to no more than 3 or 4 levels of classification. This reduces ambiguity about what each classification label means. Lots of classification labels increases confusion and the chance for opportunistic data classification (where users may default to classifying data at a lower level for ease of access and use).
Recognize that there are two types of data classification projects: new data and legacy data. This will help to focus the scope of your efforts. Commit to tackling new data first for maximum visibility and impact for your classification initiative.
Identify roles and responsibilities for data classification. Consider data creators, owners, users, auditors (like privacy officers, or a risk and compliance manager), champions (who’s leading the classification initiative?). Data is a living thing and all employees have a role in classification. Classification levels may change over time as data progresses through its lifecycle or as regulatory requirements evolve.
Marketers in China are increasingly investing in social marketing: Three-quarters of the marketers we surveyed in 2015 plan to increase their social marketing budget in 2016. However, they struggle to determine the best social marketing strategies and tactics to engage with their target audience. My report, Take Three Steps Toward Social Success, introduces Forrester’s Social Technographics® model to help them.
Step 1: Use the Social Technographics Score to evaluate how important social media is to your marketing plan. Based on how much social media matters to consumers’ interactions with companies (from high to low), your audience falls into one of four groups: Social Stars, Social Savvies, Social Snackers, and Social Skippers. As the majority of metro Chinese consumers are Social Stars or Social Savvies, social marketing is an urgent priority for marketers in China.
Step 2: Use the Social Technographics Life-Cycle Rankings to craft the right social strategy. These reveal the stages of the customer life cycle — discover, explore, buy, use, ask, or engage — in which your customers are most likely to use social media. Metro Chinese consumers use social media the most when they’re considering products. So to succeed, marketers in China should leverage social marketing more in the explore stage of the customer life cycle.
The Internet of Things, or IoT, finds its way into a lot of conversations these days. CES in Las Vegas last week was awash with internet-connected doo-dahs, including cars, fridges, televisions, and more. Moving away from the home and into the world of business, the IoT furore continues unabated. Instead of connecting cars to Netflix or a teen-tracking insurance company, we connect entire fleets of trucks to warehouses, delivery locations, and driver monitoring systems. Instead of connecting the domestic fridge to Carrefour or Tesco or Walmart in order to automatically order another litre of milk, we connect entire banks of chiller units to stock control systems, backup generators, and municipal environmental health officers. And then we connect the really big things; a locomotive, a jet engine, a mountainside covered in wind turbines, a valley bursting with crops, a city teeming with people.
Wind turbines in Ayrshire. (Source: Paul Miller)
The IoT hype is compelling, pervasive, and full of bold promises and eye-watering valuations. And yet, despite talking about connected cars or smarter cities for decades, the all-encompassing vision remains distant. The reality, mostly, is one in which incompatible standards, immature implementations, and patchy network connectivity ensure that each project or procurement delivers an isolated little bubble of partially connected intelligence. Stitching these together, to deliver meaningful views — and control — across all of the supposedly connected systems within a factory, a company, a power network, a city, or a watershed often remains more hope than dependable reality.
As firms face growing competition for customers, they naturally seek to compare themselves with their peers and competitors, but there is a trap: Leaders don’t compare themselves with competitors anymore. Instead, they compare their current performance with where they need to be as a leader, and that’s what the business expects.
In the past, it was common to benchmark organizational performance against “industry averages,” and being “above average” was considered good. Today, “above average” is no longer good enough; fickle customers demand exceptional experiences. Delivering those experiences requires exceptional performance; anything less means that another company may steal your customers.
Benchmarking is for followers, not leaders. Organizations want to be “unicorns,” like the Etsys, Netflixes, Googles, and Salesforces of the world. They don’t want to be losing “horses.”
Most benchmarking approaches target the IT of the past, not BT. Benchmark methodologies and data were created and heavily used when software delivery capability was considered a cost, not a differentiator. In business technology, software is a key differentiator, and BT leaders want to be the best and continuously improve.
The mass adoption of consumer broadband in the late nineties and early 2000’s helped firms like Amazon, Expedia and Intuit establish new business models and new ways of scaling to millions of customers. Selling products online and empowering customers to find the best deals on travel or financial services products changed market dynamics in a range of industries. But things aren’t slowing down. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Digital continues to change how your firm makes money. Perhaps not fundamentally yet for your firm, but don’t kid yourself, there are changes afoot. There’s obvious examples:
While mergers and acquisitions have proliferated in the colocation industry - each positioned to increase geographic coverage or higher order capabilities – in the last 6 months, a new trend has emerged: strategic divestitures, most prominently observed in the telecommunications space. Following the complete cycle, in 2010 and 2011, Centurylink, Verizon and Windstream made strategic acquisitions to increase their data center services portfolios, acquiring Savvis, Terremark and Hosting Solutions respectively. 5 years later, each firm has announced its intent to sell of some or all of these assets.
So, what went wrong?
While telcos had arguably given birth to colocation, the fact remains that network and carrier providers have had troubling competing against pure play colocation and data center service providers like Equinix and Digital Realty. In the past, telecom providers described colocation and data center services as a way to enrich existing customer contracts. In an interesting twist, these new intended divestitures have been presented as a way to refinance core assets, focus on what drives their business, and move away from standardized services with high overhead and lower margins. While vendors may keep their skeletons in the closet, I had some speculation as to what might be fueling these decisions:
- Buyers want carrier density and diversity. Even though all of these facilities support multiple connections into other carriers, customers tend to evaluate facilities by connectivity options instead of looking for carriers to provide data center capacity on top of network services. Additionally, many geographically dispersed companies are considering blended IP solutions to improve latency and performance across the globe.
Whether it’s the growth of service providers transitioning to offer services, the emergence of Containers within Hyperconverged solutions, or the potential emergence of Google succeeding, the public cloud is set for a year of “hyper-growth”! That said we have to sort through the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt), especially in security, to determine the appropriateness of public cloud for your organization.
Is the low hanging cloud fruit eaten?
The rush to cloud to date has clearly been within “systems of innovation,” applications geared mostly to customer engagement (so-called “systems of engagement”). Enterprises leveraging public cloud are looking to get new innovative applications and services rapidly to market. These applications have been primarily driving customer acquisition and then fostering customer loyalty. These initiatives represent just the tip of the iceberg, the real opportunity is in moving “systems of record”, or everyday work to the public cloud.