I've had many discussions with clients and others about CMDB (configuration management database), not surprising as I am coauthor of a book called The CMDB Imperative. These discussions almost always come back to questions about how this thing called a CMDB looks. How is it built? What tool(s) do I use? Which "database" is best? There are many more.
My first response is usually, "I hate the term CMDB, so let's try to kill it off in favor of the ITIL v3 notion of a CMS." If you pursue a CMS (configuration management system) as opposed to a CMDB, a few things become evident:
The CMS implies a distributed (federated) model consisting of many management data repositories (MDRs). Each of these MDRs hold data relevant to the scope of coverage for the tool that encompasses that MDR (e.g., a network discovery tool is a network domain MDR and an application dependency mapping tool is the key MDR for the application domain).
While a CMDB can certainly be formed in a similar federated fashion, the term "CMDB" has become tainted by the implication that it is a database. The natural assumption here is that this database is one big monolith that holds every detail being tracked. This is unwieldy at best and almost always destructive.
The CMS has a more complex structure, but because it enables a divide-and-conquer approach to the overall system, it is a more pragmatic approach. You can bite off each piece and gradually build out your CMS. A "big bang" is not needed and certainly not recommended.
Recently two large software companies separately complained that I was biased against them in the other one’s favour, which was sufficiently ironic to amuse my British sense of humour. “Biased” is one of the worst accusations you can throw at an analyst, because we strive to be scrupulously fair, and ensure that what we write and say is balanced, and evidence-based. So it started me thinking about fairness, and prejudice versus analysis.
I hear a lot of horror stories from clients about outrageous treatment by software sales reps, so one might think that software marketing execs would be shame-faced and contrite. But, actually, they love their companies and believe that analysts are merely stoking up resentment that wouldn’t exist without us, or that it’s the other guys giving their industry a bad name. “You only hear from the minority of unhappy customers,” they say. “Clients don’t ring you up when they are delighted with us.” This is true, but I speak with hundreds of clients every year, so I think I’d have found more evidence of a silent majority of delighted buyers, if it existed. The problem is that the good corporate intentions don't always translate into sales' behavior, when it's a question of spiff or rif.
For a track session at Forrester's Marketing Forum at the end of April, I dived into the topic of customer satisfaction. For market researchers looking to set up a customer satisfaction (CSAT) study, much guidance is available. However, it also became clear to me why, despite all this advice, many customer satisfaction projects fail.
Most of the information I found -- or the conversations I had, for that matter -- were around the ‘science’ part of CSAT studies: the methodology and set-up. There are many discussions online about questions like which scale to use, which questions to ask (or not), whether a company should focus on relational versus transactional measurement, or if it's better to conduct a customized CSAT project or use an established method like Net Promoter.
However, in my conversations with market researchers, I found that the success of CSAT projects isn't based as much on science -- although a sound and repeatable set-up doesn't hurt -- as much as it is on ‘art.’ The art lies in understanding the company’s business issues; translating these into a well-structured questionnaire; finding the drivers for success; and later, when the results are in, presenting the results in an actionable format.
Any customer satisfaction project that focuses on numbers misses out on the 'art' element of CSAT. Of course, using a standardized methodology helps the company benchmark itself against its competitors. But what does it mean when 80% of your clients are satisfied? The organization will look at this number and want to drive it up, without any understanding of what the impact on the bottom line will be when the percentage of satisfied customers increases from 80% to 82%.
Here’s some background: For several years Forrester has published annual reports that ranked public-facing bank sites from the perspective of an eBusiness professional. This year our customer experience research team collaborated with our eBusiness research team to create our own grading reports tailored to the unique needs of customer experience professionals. The result is a stereoscopic view of 12 banks (six in each country) from the different perspectives of two professional roles that work closely together in real life.
The reports from the customer experience team dive deep into user experience issues. They grade how well customers can accomplish their goals on bank sites. The reports from the eBusiness team summarize some of these findings and add in a competitive benchmark of bank content and functionality.
A combination of factors is combining to reshape and recast the IT services sector. These factors include the continued weak economic environment, the further development of a global delivery model (GDM), new uses of technology across clients’ go-to-market and supply chain ecosystems, the adoption of cloud and SaaS utility-based pricing and delivery models as well as the adoption of a selective sourcing model by buyers. Forrester asserts that these changes will have a dramatic impact on the make-up and dynamics of the IT services business just as the shift to PCs dramatically changed the minicomputer/hardware market in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Over the past several weeks my colleague John McCarthy and I have conducted extensive research around the future of the IT services market which forms the basis of our forthcoming major research report to be published in June 2010. We talked to approximately 20 of the leading vendor strategists from both leading service provider organizations as well as other key market players like ISVs, SaaS providers and communication services firms. We now offer interested vendor strategists the unique opportunity to hear from us what the major outcome of the research was and what key implications and recommendations they draw for vendor strategists. For this we have designed a workshop format that will deal with the following key questions:
Will the emergence of cloud and SaaS impact the traditional IT services market?
When and how will that impact play out?
How will the economic slowdown and declining IT budgets impact users’ services spending?
What are the key attributes for success in the new services market?
If you are interested in such a workshop (either in person or via web conference) please let us know and we will be happy to schedule according to your needs.
Even though there's plenty of evidence showing the positive impact many companies are getting from leveraging a social media strategy, there are still companies rigidly refusing to develop a social media strategy. This reminds me of the early days of the Internet: there were those companies looking to embrace the Internet and develop a new kind of "e-business," and the rest, steadfastly refusing to believe the Internet would transform their business. Even as Amazon defined a new online shopping channel in retail it was amazing to see how many large retailers were slow to establish an online presence.
Back in 2000 I wrote a report urging online retailers to embrace “community” as one of three core elements of their customer strategy. Companies such as REI, which already had an online community in 2000, have learned from their experience and are surging ahead into new social media.
Last week the European Commission redrafted guidelines, many of which relate to regulations around distance selling. The revised guidelines had been adopted 10 years ago and the new ones are to be in place beginning in May for the coming 10 years.
There continue to be many restrictions allowed but the overall set of guidelines pull back on some types of restrictions suppliers can put in distribution contracts. For example, suppliers can no longer prohibit authorized sellers to sell on the Internet.
In addition, suppliers can no longer prevent online sellers from taking a sale from across borders including within a distribution system such as exclusive distribution or selective distribution. For example, a retailer in the UK can accept and ship an order to a buyer in France even if they are not authorized to sell physically in that market. The retailer cannot proactively market to that customer, but they may accept an order if it comes to them passively.
Forrester’s survey of over 1,000 IT decision makers in North American and European enterprises, only 12% of firms officially support or manage Palm devices. In comparison, 70% of enterprises support BlackBerry smartphones, and 29% support Apple iPhones. Android devices, the newest entrants in the mobile OS wars, have strong momentum and are officially supported by 13% of firms.
Well, that got me wondering how Palm had fared in emerging markets. We know that device preferences are different globally. So, I thought, maybe there are some Palm fans outside of North America and Europe. I checked Forrester’s Global Technology Adoption data from last summer (new survey expected back from the field very soon) in which we surveyed 1,412 IT executives and technology decision-makers across 15 countries. Here is what I found out about PalmOS support across enterprises in a few of the countries:
Liz Herbert and I will be speaking on this theme at Forrester's IT Forum on May 27 in our session: "Noughty" Software Licensing — Is The Obituary Premature? Andrew is absolutely right. In addition to the points he raises, there are other reasons why perpetual licenses aren’t dead yet, such as the financial results they generate. The new models haven’t yet shown they can generate both high levels of re-investment in R&D and high profits for investors. Many SaaS providers have to spend a large share of their income on sales and marketing to retain existing customers and renew subscriptions. That leaves less money left over to fund innovation or fewer profits than their old-model rivals whose entrenched installed bases guarantee high maintenance renewal rates.
But perpetual license vendors mustn’t be complacent. The SaaS model may prove equally remunerative to the license-plus-maintenance alternative when the providers get bigger. Software buyers can encourage the established companies to learn from their SaaS competitors by insisting on some of that commercial model’s advantages in their own contracts, such as low up-front commitment and cost flexibility.
But there's another big story behind this Flash fiasco that has successfully remained off the radar of most. It's the answer to this question: How do the media companies -- you know, those people who use Flash to put their premium content online everywhere from Wired.com to hulu.com -- feel about having their primary delivery tool cut off at the knees?
Answer: Media companies hope to complain all the way to the bank.
First, a bit of disclosure. I'm the one who went on record explaining that the lack of Flash is one of the reasons I am not buying an iPad. So I'm clearly not a fan of the anti-Flash rhetoric for selfish reasons: I want my Flash content wherever I am. But I've spent the last few weeks discussing the Apple-Adobe problem with major magazine publishers, newspaper publishers, and TV networks. Their responses are at first obvious, and then surprisingly shrewd.