For Customer Service Solutions, Bigger Is Not Always Better

Kate Leggett

Years ago, I worked at a large customer service vendor. Our CEO had tasked us to "eat our own dog food" - that is implement our own solutions for our customer service operations which comprised of 40 or so tier 1 and 2 customer service agents. With these marching orders, I put a group of consultants and business analysts together to get this done. And after several months, the project stalled; got restarted; stalled again; then finally died. We limped on with our old systems in place for many more years.

Why did this project fail? It was because of a mismatch between the complexities of the solution that we were trying to implement, and the company's business needs. The customer service company that I worked for made enterprise software solutions, suitable for large organizations, which was typically implemented in call centers of many hundreds, if not thousands of call center agents. These solutions offered robust case management, with very customizable workflows, queuing and routing rules. These solutions also offered complex knowledge management, email and chat engines that could support millions of interactions a month. Implementation tended to span many months, where professional services consultants dove into the business processes that agents followed, and then reproduced them in these enterprise solutions.

Yet these solutions - as powerful as there are - were too complex for our simple needs. There were no simple "out of the box" best practice process flows. There were no rapid deployment options to get a company up and running quickly. There were no simple ways of setting up FAQs or simple knowledge, or creating simple email and chat routing rules for a moderate volume of digital interactions. What we needed was a highly usable solution, with a quick time-to-value, which contained just the most common functions of the enterprise solution.

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Search Can Build The Foundation For Cognitive Experiences In The Enterprise

Rowan Curran

Knowledge is power. And in a time where insights drive business differentiation, knowledge is also the origin of power. In our daily routines as consumers, search is probably the most common application we use to find knowledge, and it forms the basis of our personal systems of insight. But at long last, search in the enterprise is catching up. A new wave of search-based applications and search-driven experiences are now being delivered by companies who understand the need to empower their employees and customers with immediate, contextual knowledge in an easily-consumable format.

These applications are not for mere search and results, but also for knowledge discovery. And increasingly, they are a foundational component of cognitive application experiences. Building cognitive experiences can seem arcane and mysterious, but by taking advantage of familiar search technologies at the foundation, enterprise developers can start on the cognitive journey.

In our new research, Mike Gualtieri and I look at how the emerging landscape of cognitive search experiences are incorporating advanced analytics, natural language processing (NLP), and machine learning to enable organizations to see across wide arrays of enterprise data and stitch together insights hidden among them.

Cognitive Search Is Ready To Rev Up Your Enterprise's IQ

It's 10 O'Clock! Do You Know If Your BI Supports Actual Verifiable Facts?

Boris Evelson

Delivering broad access to data and analytics to a diverse base of users is an intimidating task, yet it is an essential foundation to becoming an insights-driven organization. To win and keep customers in an increasingly competitive world, firms need to take advantage of the huge swaths of data available and put it into the hands of more users. To do this, business intelligence (BI) pros must evolve disjointed and convoluted data and analytics practices into well-orchestrated systems of insight that deliver actionable information. But implementing digital insights is just the first step with these systems — and few hit the bull's eye the first time. Continuously learning from previous insights and their results makes future efforts more efficient and effective. This is a key capability for the next-generation BI, what Forrester calls systems of insight.

"It's 10 o'clock! Do you know if your insights support actual verifiable facts?" This is a real challenge, as measuring report and dashboard effectiveness today involves mostly discipline and processes, not technology. For example, if a data mining analysis predicted a certain number of fraudulent transactions, do you have the discipline and processes to go back and verify whether the prediction came true? Or if a metrics dashboard was flashing red, telling you that inventory levels were too low for the current business environment, and the signal caused you to order more widgets, do you verify if this was a good or a bad decision? Did you make or lose money on the extra inventory you ordered? Organizations are still struggling with this ultimate measure of BI effectiveness. Only 8% of Forrester clients report robust capabilities for such continuous improvement, and 39% report just a few basic capabilities.

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Launch Your OTT App Faster

Nick Barber

When was the last time you watched OTT programming? If you’re a millennial there’s an overwhelming chance (89%) that you watched it in the last week. Amazon’s vice president of video wants to capture 100% of OTT services in the US and integrate them onto the Fire platform. That means Application Development & Delivery Professionals need to respond to and support this trend.


Amazon's Michael Paull speaking at NAB 2016. 

OTT or over-the-top lets you watch video (repurposed television programming or otherwise) through an app or device like a Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire or game console. They’re big with cord cutters, cord nevers and cord shavers as a way to reduce cost and increase selection. At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in Las Vegas, Michael Paull the vice president of digital video at Amazon discussed discussed an OTT push for the company, where he revealed his goal of signing up 100% of SVOD (subscription video on demand) services in the US.

As an AD&D pro you cannot ignore the implications of OTT. You need to answer these questions:

  • Will you partner? Amazon made it clear that it’s making a big push to consolidate OTT players. It has 30 US SVOD services on its Fire TV platform and it’s hoping to grow. Partnering can mean growing your audience, but splitting your revenue; surrendering about 30% is standard. 
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Mobile App Functional Testing, Device Labs, and Open Source

John Wargo
In the latter half of last year, I started researching mobile application testing tools. My research focused, so far, on functional testing, primarily around mobile app front-end testing. As I began the research, it became clear that the automation capabilities testers needed to validate app UIs was there, but application development and delivery teams felt that device labs were too expensive to be practical. During the research for the Vendor Landscape: Front-End Mobile Testing Tools report, we expected that device labs would be a differentiator among products only to discover that most of the major mobile testing solutions provide them in one way or another. There are differences between vendors when it comes to the flexibility, configurability, and management of their device lab offerings, but if you’re delivering customer-facing mobile apps you can do much of your testing on physical devices (our recommended method).
 
In earlier reports, we recommended that, because of the cost of on-device testing, development organizations focused their testing efforts on the most important aspect of their apps, letting users find issues in less popular areas of the app for them. With most of the major mobile testing vendors offering device labs plus Amazon and Google’s entry into the device cloud space, competition will drive down cost and make on-device testing the more common option for mobile app testing. Microsoft’s acquisition of Xamarin now gives Microsoft a robust and capable device lab, stuffed with a variety of Android and iOS devices, which adds to the competition in this space as well.
 
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4K Applications Beyond Plain Television

Nick Barber

As we wrote in “Don’t Ignore 4K Like You Did 3D” the 4K format will be an important driver for technologies beyond just sharper TV shows and movies. At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference I went hands on with the Mevo, a 4K camera that outputs a 720p feed and turns your phone into a control room. A single Mevo creates multiple shots and lets you cut between them or pan around the frame instead of moving the camera.   

Cameras and technologies like this are important to note for AD&D pros, because they may have to support them for internal company meetings or for external productions. It could mean a new workflow for producing video or perhaps beginning to support more frequent live broadcasts.  In my report I detailed how a single camera like this could replace multiple pan-tilt-zoom cameras, saving enterprises expensive hardware investments.  Here’s my demo video of the hardware and software that will be out this summer.  

And while we’re talking about 4K, let’s not forget that 8K is on the horizon, albeit a distant one. Canon had an 8K prototype television at its booth. There was even a magnifying glass so that you could see video in even more detail. One thing you didn’t see were pixels. Japan’s public broadcaster NHK is already piloting 8K broadcasts with a resolution of 7,680 x 4320 pixels in the coming years. Is there more after 8K? That seems to the maximum that our human eyes can discern so likely no.   
 
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4K Means More Than Just Cooler Movies

Nick Barber
The 4K revolution is coming. The format, which boasts four times the resolution of full high definition, will impact more than just the media and entertainment industries. 4K in the operating room could consolidate the myriad of displays into a single one thanks to the increased resolution. For sales and marketing it can create more convincing virtual reality experiences. And in enterprises it can enable better collaboration and reduced camera hardware costs for video conferencing. 
 
Read my full report on 4K.
 
With its increased resolution, 4K can make the picture look better, but the format creates specific challenges for online video platforms (OVPs) and content creators. 
 
The higher bit rates and larger files create a delivery problem that OVPs and a new codec can help solve. The format also requires more storage and specialized hardware for production and decoding. Android devices will play an important role in the 4K ecosystem because its chipset supports hardware decoding of H.265. 
 
4K will quicken the growth of virtual reality by delivering more immersive and lifelike experiences. With a higher resolution native video file, the resulting sliver delivered in VR will be higher resolution as well. 
 
 
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15 "True" Streaming Analytics Platforms For Real-Time Everything

Mike Gualtieri

Streaming Analytics Captures Real-Time Intelligence

Streaming AnalyticsMost enterprises aren't fully exploiting real-time streaming data that flows from IoT devices and mobile, web, and enterprise apps. Streaming analytics is essential for real-time insights and bringing real-time context to apps. Don't dismiss streaming analytics as a form of "traditional analytics" use for postmortem analysis. Far from it —  streaming analytics analyzes data right now, when it can be analyzed and put to good use to make applications of all kinds (including IoT) contextual and smarter. Forrester defines streaming analytics as:

Software that can filter, aggregate, enrich, and analyze a high throughput of data from multiple, disparate live data sources and in any data format to identify simple and complex patterns to provide applications with context to detect opportune situations, automate immediate actions, and dynamically adapt.

Forrester Wave: Big Data Streaming Analytics, Q1 2016

To help enterprises understand what commercial and open source options are available, Rowan Curran and I evaluated 15 streaming analytics vendors using Forrester's Wave methodology. Forrester clients can read the full report to understand the market category and see the detailed criteria, scores, and ranking of the vendors. Here is a summary of the 15 vendors solutions we evaluated listed in alphabetical order:

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Stop Chasing Unlimited Liability In SaaS Deals

Liz Herbert

Clients tell us they are resistant to SaaS because of SaaS vendors’ unwillingness to offer unlimited liability. Sound familiar? It’s time to stop holding SaaS vendors to a higher standard than the alternative. Consider this:  In-house systems do not offer unlimited liability. Very few non-SaaS vendors offer unlimited liability.  

Say what? You did get unlimited liability?  If your vendor does offer unlimited liability, beware. Small vendors are all too happy to sign up for things in the contracts. But, it’s hard to get them to pay up in the event of a serious incident. More likely, you’ll end up spending a lot of time in court and find there’s no money for them to pay out. Be cautious when you see this because it rarely will do you much good and it may be a sign that the vendor is taking on deals that are unsustainable in other ways, too – which makes them a vendor viability concern.

What should you do? Instead of honing in on the legal language of liability, ask for some reasonable yet meaningful liability (such as 2 years’ worth of fees) and focus the rest of your energy on due diligence and pushing for transparency. Check out the vendor’s processes, policies, and third-party certifications. Approach this more as a risk assessment than a contract negotiation, working closely with your security and risk team (or partners). Also, look for signs of transparency. Leading SaaS vendors put out a lot of information about security, performance, and other key metrics. They foster a culture of openness and transparency.

Finally, keep in mind that a SaaS vendor will die off if they have a poor track record. That pressure generally keeps them more focused on delivering great service than a legal contract does.

This tends to be a contentious topic, and I’d love to hear perspectives and experiences.

Liz 

@lizherbert

How Should I Build My Mobile Apps?

John Wargo

A regular inquiry request we get from clients is “Which approach should we use to build our mobile apps?” There are a lot of arguments made for either side of the web vs. native approaches and some compelling arguments as well for using cross-platform tools to deliver apps. Because it’s such a common discussion, we crafted a report that addresses this topic quite well in Native, Web, and Cross-platform Mobile Apps All Have Their Place.

Ultimately, from the report, “it’s not a question of either/or; it’s which approach best fits the app in question.” The app’s specific features and capabilities drive one aspect of the approach you’ll select; any flowchart you’ve seen on this topic deals with that directly. However, you’ll also have to consider other organizational and technical aspects as well. So, if you’re looking for an absolute answer to the question posed, it’s: “It depends!”

So, what about cross-platform tools? Cross platform tools muddy this conversation a bit as platforms generally deliver native apps or web apps and many can deliver both. The selection of a cross-platform tool is driven by the same questions you’d ask about a native or web app: what are you trying to accomplish with the app coupled with specific questions about what capabilities and benefits the platform provides in key areas you’ll be exercising.

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