The Vasa Effect

Jost Hoppermann

A few days ago, I “rediscovered” a brochure from a museum in Stockholm. It reminded me of an early 17th century warship: The Vasa. She was the most powerful warship of her time — albeit for less than half an hour, as she sank during her maiden voyage. The reasons for this disaster include top management interference, overly sophisticated requirements, weak communication, and overengineering. Why is this relevant today? Because projects have not changed that much: The Vasa story reminds me of a number of interactions I had with Forrester clients about banking platform transformation projects that ran well — or not so well.

A large share of the less-successful projects showed a number of the ingredients of the Vasa story, causing what I like to call the Vasa effect: predictable failure. Examples include:

  • Off-the-shelf projects that had to manage a burden of business requirements that were so sophisticated that no off-the-shelf system could ever hope to cope with all of them in a cost-effective way. In parallel with the Vasa story, in these cases nobody dared discuss whether the last 15% or even 5% of the requirements were really important enough to justify the additional cost — or whether delivering 85% of the requirements would be good enough.
  • So-called off-the-shelf solutions that were more custom-built than a real custom-built solution. They had to align with a bank’s off-the-shelf strategy while living up to concretely defined, highly sophisticated, and very individual business requirements, including solitaire business process definitions.
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Results Of Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Business Intelligence Platforms, Q4 2010

Boris Evelson

As I was doing research for our Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Business Intelligence Platforms, Q4 2010, I couldn’t help but remember a dear old friend of mine, who was/is one of the nicest and smartest people, but often a bit naïve and too idealistic. At one point when we were watching the Olympic Games on TV, she shed a tear and asked, “Why can’t they all win?” Unlike the Olympic Games, though, it’s good news all around for all of the vendors covered in our latest evaluation. Here’s it is in a nutshell.

In Forrester's 145-criteria evaluation of enterprise business intelligence (BI) platform vendors, we found that IBM Cognos, SAP BusinessObjects, Oracle, Information Builders, SAS, Microsoft, and MicroStrategy led the pack because of completeness of not just BI, but overall information management functionality. Actuate came out as a Strong Performer on the heels of the Leaders offering equal — or in some cases superior — BI functionality, but it mostly relies on partners for the rest of its information management capabilities. TIBCO Spotfire also came out as a Strong Performer offering top choices for analytics, even surpassing other Strong Performers in the overall information management arena based on its traditional strength in middleware and application integration. Last but not least, QlikTech and Panorama Software moved up from Contenders and into the Strong Performers category based on the continuous improvements in their analytical capabilities.

Our evaluation uncovered a market in which:

  • IBM Cognos, SAP BusinessObjects, Oracle, and SAS continue to lead the pack.
  • Information Builders, Microsoft, and MicroStrategy move into the Leaders category.
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Taming The Social Voice With Consistency Of Process Between Communication Channels

Kate Leggett

Part of managing your brand is making sure that your customer service experience is consistent across all touchpoints that you use to interact with a company – traditional ones such as voice, email, chat, web self-service and now the social interaction channels.

What does a "consistency of experience" mean? It means that:

  • The knowledge a customer or agent has access to must convey the same message across all touchpoints. The voice will understandably be different for, for example, a chat session and an email session.
  • The agent must have a full view of the customer’s interactions across all touchpoints — traditional and social ones. Another way of saying this is that customer data should not live in independent technology silos.
  • The processes that an agent follows must be the same for interactions coming in across all touchpoints — traditional and social.
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Customer Service Vendor Spotlight: KANA Makes A Move

Kate Leggett

KANA Software, most well known for its suite of enterprise-class multichannel customer service software (email, knowledge) released last year a new type of solution: Service Experience Management (SEM). This product allows the extension of business process management to the front office and is poised to compete with solutions offered by Pegasystems and Sword Ciboodle. BPM coupled with customer service is a trend that Forrester is seeing, as it enforces agent consistency, productivity, and compliance with policy; we have just published a research paper about this trend.

KANA announced today that it has reached a definitive agreement to purchase a company called Lagan, which is a leader in case management solutions for government, specifically local governments. Lagan has solutions for Web self-service and case management that are used in cities like Toronto, Boston, and Vancouver for 311 (informational) calls.

This acquisition holds geographic coverage promise — it will allow KANA to increase its European footprint, which has recently been very small, and Lagan to gain a good foothold in the US and compete in larger government opportunities.

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Temenos Acquires Private Banking Vendor Odyssey

Jost Hoppermann

A couple of days ago, global banking platform vendor Temenos announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire Odyssey Financial Technologies, which specializes in the private banking, private wealth management, and asset subverticals of financial services. The deal is expected to close around mid October: Temenos will pay more than 60 million euros and take on Odyssey’s existing debt obligations of more than 20 million euros. Here is my initial reaction to the planned acquisition.

On the asset side, Temenos will get the private banking platform Triple’A Plus, portfolio management and decision support solution WealthManager, plus clients such as Banque Cantonale Vaudoise, Delta Lloyd, and RBS Coutts Bank. This will help Temenos accomplish the necessary extension to its private banking footprint: In spite of prominent private banking clients such as EFG Bank, over the past few years Temenos’ T24 has not been as successful in the private banking/wealth management arena as, for example, ERI Bancaire, SunGard, or Tata Consultancy Services Financial Solutions as far as new named customers are concerned — not to mention the various regional private banking pure players.

At the same time, the Odyssey solutions will add additional technologies and architecture to Temenos’ already existing acquired portfolio: Not considering the two “classic” Temenos banking platforms T24 and TCB and the mobile solutions of recently acquired specialist vendor FE-Mobile, Temenos acquired multiple smaller banking platform vendors over the past few years, including Financial Objects in the UK and Viveo in France, plus further firms such as business intelligence and reporting vendor Lydian Associates.

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How Many DBAs Do You Need To Support Databases?

Noel Yuhanna

I frequently get asked the question of how many databases a DBA typically manages. Over the past five years, I have interviewed hundreds of organizations on this topic, asking them about their ratios and how they improved them. Typically I find that the current industry average is 40 databases to a DBA for large enterprises ($1 billion+ in revenue), with the lowest ratio seen around eight and the highest at 275. So, why this huge variation? There are many factors that I see in customer deployments that contribute to this variation, such as the size of a database, database tools, version of databases, DBA expertise, formalization of database administration, and production versus nonproduction.

This ratio is usually limited by the total size of all databases that a DBA manages. A terabyte-sized database remains difficult to manage compared to a database that's 100 GB in size. Larger databases often require extra tuning, backup, recovery, and upgrade effort. The average database-to-DBA ratio is often constrained by the total size of the databases being managed, which tends to be around five terabytes per DBA. In other words, one DBA can effectively manage 25 databases of 200 GB each or five 1 terabyte databases. And these include production and nonproduction databases.

What are the factors that can help improve the ratio? Cloud, tools, latest DBMS version (automation), and DBMS product used – SQL Server, Oracle, DB2, MySQL, or Sybase. Although most DBMS vendors have improved on manageability over the years, based on customer feedback, Microsoft SQL Server tends to have the best ratios.

I believe that although you should try to achieve the 40:1 ratio and the 5 terabyte cap, consider establishing your own baseline based on the database inventory and DBAs and using that as the basis for improving the ratio over time.

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Interaction-Centric Customer Service Vendor Spotlight

Kate Leggett

There’s been lots going on with what Forrester calls the “interaction-centric customer service vendors”. These are the vendors that manage the high-volume, transaction-oriented relationships — those often encountered in B2C environments, over the multiple communication channels (email, chat, social, phone etc) that exist today.

RightNow announced its RightNow’s CX for Facebook app, to be released in November. This app creates a “Support” tab on a company’s wall and allows users to interact via social and traditional channels right from Facebook. Users can find answers from community content or from the corporate knowledgebase, ask the community questions, follow, participate in, and track discussions, propose an idea, ask an agent (either in a public or a private conversation), and more. It’s a nicely designed app, and something that RightNow needed to release, given the availability of similar ones from eGain, Genesys, Parature, etc.

eGain also solidifies its social footprint by announcing its Social Experience Suite — a customer interaction hub that manages both traditional and social interactions. The new version includes a social-blended agent desktop, a single-sourced knowledgebase across all channels (traditional + social again), and a unified customer record. The version also includes forums and adapters to monitor social networks through integrations with Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Yahoo search.

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An Object Lesson In BT

John R. Rymer

Forrester has long advocated adoption of a “business technology” approach to replace traditional IT. “BT” recognizes the fundamental role information technology plays in all aspects of business – and the need for business decision-makers to be deeply involved in setting technology strategy, priorities, and even delivering solutions. But how does this tight coupling of business and technology decision-making actually work?

My colleague Alexander Peters and I have just witnessed a situation that illustrates that having the right organizational structure and technology-savvy businesspeople is crucial to a BT transition.

The organization developed an IT strategy 10 years ago based on three best practices:

  1. Major business processes would be implemented on a single, modern, flexible platform.

  2. The platform would employ SOA to ensure that it could adapt to unforeseen needs.

  3. The platform would run in the consolidated, scalable, and efficient data center of a service provider.

Today, the organization has not yet achieved its top goal of a single platform for all of its major processes. It has a new SOA/Java environment, but it processes a little more than half of the required workload. Older systems do the rest. Most disturbing:

  • The development investment has been many times greater than expected at the outset.

  • The annual cost of IT operations doubled versus the baseline.

  • System reliability went down with the new environment.
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Forrester Has Launched Its Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2010

Holger Kisker

Technology innovation and business disruption are changing the software market today. Cloud computing is blurring the line between applications and services, and smart solutions are combining hardware with software into new, purpose-engineered solutions. We are happy to announce that we have launched our Forrester Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2010, to predict and quantify the future of the software market and help IT vendors to tap into the insights from approximately 2,500 IT decision-makers across North America and Western Europe.

The survey will provide insights on the strategic direction and spending plans of enterprises from very small businesses to global enterprises, segmented by industry and country. In comparison with last year’s survey, we significantly boosted the sample size this year for the energy (oil and gas, utilities, and mining) and healthcare industries; we’ll be able to provide an in-depth analysis for these industries along with retail, financial services, high tech, and other industries.

Key themes for this year’s software survey include the following topics:

  • Cloud computing. Besides a 360-degree overview on current and future adoption rates of software-as-a-service (SaaS) for different software applications, we are going much deeper this year and have asked IT decision-makers about their cloud strategy for application replacement as well as for different data and transaction types.
  • Integrated information technology. Purpose-engineered solutions combining hardware with software are promising higher performance and faster implementation times. But do IT users really buy into single-vendor strategies?
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Oracle CRM On Demand Release 18 - Extends Marketing Capabilities But Not Customer Service

Kate Leggett

Oracle, at Oracle Open World, has released their 18th version of CRM On Demand. This product integrates their Market2Lead acquisition, made in May of this year. It closes the gap between marketing and sales – and unifies the end-to-end life-cycle management of leads, including their nurturing track. Marketing and sales managers now can share KPIs and understand how lead generation and nurturing activities directly affect the outcome of sales.

The solution enables multitouch point marketing campaigns to be designed and executed. You can create personalized microsites and landing pages. There are robust analytics to measure their effectiveness, as well as progressive profiling capabilities that allow the company to gather more information about a lead at every step of the marketing and sales cycle. Basically, it adds the full marketing automation capabilities to the product suite. And it's attractively priced compared to having to buy seats from a standalone marketing automation vendor to access these capabilities.

My take: It’s a feature hole that had to be plugged, and it's priced well for adoption.