Collaborative Problem Solving And Robot Design

Jeffrey Hammond

To pick up the narrative from my last post, we're currently one week into the First Robotics build season for 2012. Team 811 is busy working away on an initial sprint. The goal is to get a minimum viable product (a drivable robot) up by the end of sprint one, which will then be used as a base to move toward a competitive robot that can play this year's game, Rebound Rumble.

So how did Team 811 get from "huh?" to full-speed prototyping in 4 days? How does anyone get 40+ teenagers moving in the same direction when the number of unknowns is significant and the problems to solve look insurmountable? For team 811, the key was starting with a 3-day process called "Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS)." Think of it as a pre-sprint process to build team buy-in and reduce downstream back-biting and second guessing.

So what is CPS? It's a technique that starts with a problem statement and then encourages divergent thinking to brainstorm creative solutions to that problem. Criteria that allow evaluation of those potential solutions are then applied by the entire group. This starts a process of combining divergent ideas into stronger overlapping concepts and identifying those ideas that have the strongest combination of feasibility and ability. The result would be recognizable to many agile teams: a burndown "punch list" of items and strategies to drive early prototyping and the team's first sprint.

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Agile Development And Robots: Are You Smarter Than A 10th Grader?

Jeffrey Hammond

One of the counterintuitive things that we observed early on in the days of object-oriented programming was that developers with no previous programming experience often picked up concepts like inheritance, encapsulation, and polymorphism much more quickly than seasoned programmers and became productive earlier than their more experienced counterparts. Today I feel like I'm on the other end of this learning challenge as I try to adapt to new programming concepts in JavaScript or Python. I think the biggest reason for this phenomenon is that experienced folks have to unlearn what we know, and it's hard to give up certainty and the mechanisms that allowed us to achieve success in the past. I think the same principle is at work when you look at toddlers that instinctively "get" how to use the iPad - they expect everything to work that way. It should be so easy for all of us.

Does this same sort of thinking apply to software and systems development processes? I'll tell you why I think it does. For the past three years I've been a mentor for a US FIRST Team (Team 811, the Bishop Guertin Cardinals). During this time period, I've seen high school students with little to no technical experience instinctively adopt many principles that experienced Agile teams would recognize. For these kids, Agile development is like using an iPad - they take to it naturally because it just makes sense given the context of what they are trying to do.

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Forrester's Top 15 Trends For Customer Service In 2012

Kate Leggett

With 2012 still bright and full of hope for most of us, what are the key trends that customer service professionals need to pay attention to as you plan for success this year? Here are the top trends that I am tracking. Get my full report here.

Leaders Will Empower Their Agents To Deliver Optimal Service

Trend 1: Organizations Will Internalize The Importance Of The Universal Customer History Record

Customer service agents must have access to the full history of a customer’s prior interactions over all the communication channels — voice, electronic channels like chat and email, and the newer social channels like Facebook and Twitter — to deliver personalized service and to strengthen the relationship that customers have with companies. In 2012, vendors will continue to add  the management of social channels to their customer service products. Companies will slowly continue to formalize the business processes and governance structures around managing social inquiries and move this responsibility out of marketing departments and into customer service centers.

Trend 2: The Agent Experience Will No Longer Be An Afterthought

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Exploring Social Computing Possibilities With Singapore Public Sector CIOs

Michael Barnes

Several months ago I hosted a roundtable discussion with public-sector CIOs from multiple Singapore government agencies. We focused specifically on social computing — how it will alter the way public-sector agencies interact with constituents and each other. While the focus was on Singapore, the key takeaways are universal, hence my interest in sharing the findings here.

In the midst of discussing the usual suspects — concerns about security, privacy, risk management, audit, and compliance — we came to a consensus on some key points:

  • Clearly identify what services or information constituents actually want, not what the agency wants to deliver. A poorly implemented social computing app risks becoming a glorified suggestion box, or worse — “next-generation knowledge management.” In other words, a costly solution looking for a problem. Focus instead on how to actively engage users — using advanced analytics and business intelligence (BI) to deliver value. In some cases, it is as simple as asking instead of assuming.
  • Combining formal and informal data will be a major challenge.The more effective agencies are at encouraging voluntary, “opt-in” style usage, the more challenging it will be to segregate user-provided information and data from more formal, agency-provided data that must be rigorously maintained and secured. Take this information “sourcing” issue into account when documenting data management policies.
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Which Contact Center Technologies For Customer Service Are Being Adopted?

Kate Leggett

The contact center solution ecosystem that customer service organizations use has grown more complex over time, as highlighted in our latest TechRadar™ on these solutions. Customer service executives struggle to enforce consistent processes for their agents to follow so that those agents can deliver optimal customer experiences. The amount of data and information that agents need to use to resolve customer inquiries is exploding. Vendor mergers and acquisitions as sectors consolidate are creating product and support risks.  And new contact center solution delivery models, including managed services, outsourcing, and cloud-based offerings, are presenting new opportunities.

To define the context for making smart contract center strategy and technology decisions for customer service, Forrester partnered with CustomerThink to survey 75 contact center professionals to understand which technologies were being used and who was making purchasing decisions. We found that:

  • A set of core technologies are must-haves for contact centers. Core contact center technologies enable agents to manage voice calls, email and chat requests from customers, log and manage inquiries via case management systems, and manage and optimize agent workforces. These solutions are mature and continue to deliver significant business value. 53% use case management solutions; 58% use workforce management solutions; 48% use quality monitoring; 62% use voice IVR or self-service speech platforms; 44% use email response management systems; and 50% use chat solutions.
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Five Axioms For Application Development In 2012

Mike Gualtieri

Software Is Not Code; It Creates Experiences

Ultimately, customers don't judge you based on how well you gather business requirements, choose development technologies, manage projects, or march through the development process — they judge you based on how they feel before, during, and after they use your software. This is the digital experience. If you get the customer experience wrong, then nothing else matters. And expectation inflation is sky-high thanks to the Apple-led smartphone revolution. To succeed in the new age of digital experience, application development professionals must collaborate with their business partners and customers to create experiences that customers love. You need a new approach represented by these five axioms:

  1. Software is not code; it creates experience.
  2. Development teams are not coders; they are experience creators.
  3. Technical talent is table stakes; great developers must be design and domain experts.
  4. Process is bankrupt without design; you get what you design, so you had better get the design right.
  5. Software is a creative endeavor, not an industrial process like building automobiles. Structure your methodology to empower your creative talent.

Doable? Definitely. Forrester clients can read the full report to learn how: Digital Experience Strategy: Follow These Three Mega Rules To Beat The Competition In 2012.

10 Cloud Predictions For 2012

Holger Kisker

2012 Is The Year The Cloud Becomes Mature

Based on the very high interest in this blog and its cloud predictions we are planning to host a Forrester Teleconference entiteled "2012 — The Year The Cloud Matures: A Deeper Dive Into 10 Cloud Predictions For The Upcoming Year" on February 28th, 1-2pm EST/6-7pm UK time, where we will highlight and go through the 10 below predictions one by one. For more details and registration please follow the link to the: teleconference web page.

1. Multicloud becomes the norm

As companies quickly adopt a variety of cloud resources, they’ll increasingly have to address working with several different cloud solutions, often from different providers. By the end of 2012, cloud customers will already be using more than 10 different cloud apps on average. Cloud orchestration will become a big topic and an opportunity for service providers.

2. The Wild West of cloud procurement is over

While 2011 still witnessed different stakeholders within a company brokering (sometimes unsanctioned by IT) a lot of cloud deals, most companies will have established their formal cloud strategy by the end 2012, including the business models between IT and lines of business for their own, private cloud resources.

3. Cloud commoditization is creeping up the stack

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So, Are Accounting Systems Non-Differentiating?

George Lawrie

Do you ever wonder which IT investments really drive competitiveness or comparative advantage for your firm and which are there simply to support mundane processes that are identical to those of all your competitors? Do you ever wonder if it might make sense to standardize on "best practices" for non-differentiating processes and supporting application implementation?

Received wisdom is that accounting processes are not differentiating and so it makes the most sense to support them with packaged apps or maybe with software-as-a-service solutions. Larger firms often implement shared services for financial management across all their business units or even outsource altogether apparently dull processes such as invoice settlement or collections.

But does that really stand up to scrutiny?

One retailer, with which Forrester worked, confessed to having 17 definitions of margin depending on which types of supplier rebates and volume discounts were included. We asked how they calculate markdown and they grinned.

The more I thought about it, the more this fact disturbed me. In some types of specialty retail, inspired opportunity buying is the key to competing with the bulk buying muscle and supply chain scale economies of global discount retail chains.

Many retailers import merchandise and have to calculate "landed cost" based on customs and freight invoices that arrive long after the goods in question have been sold. What price weighted average actual cost accounting, or margin calculation, in such a scenario?

Where is the scope for creative dealmaking in standardized accounting applications that deliver lowest common denominator functionality across verticals as diverse as local government, with its focus on fund or commitment accounting,  engineer to order manufacturing with a focus on multi-period project costs and retail with a focus on margin measurement and management?

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Three Things I'd Tell Your CIO

Kyle McNabb

Back in August of this year, Marc Andreessen published an essay in the WSJ highlighting his thoughts on why software's eating the world. I encourage you to read it. It highlights something we firmly believe. We’ve entered the age of software, and you’re at its center. With December upon us and many of you engaged in finalizing 2012 plans and reviewing your 3 - 5 year strategies, I encourage you to look beyond tech developments like cloud, big data, and the App Internet. Focus instead on what you need to deliver good software, and keep three things I'd gladly tell you and your CIO top of mind. 

  1. Software IS your business. This age isn't just about Borders and Amazon, game developers, or online service delivery capabilities. No, look at how software's increasingly a part of everyday life. What about your TV, your car? Heck, my wife's new ovens have software embedded in the digital display that takes all the guesswork out of baking! Whatever business you're in, be it financial services, public sector, consumer products, insurance, healthcare, energy, or logistics, you name it, you can no longer simply look at software or application development as a support function. Software IS your business. 
     
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SAP Acquires SuccessFactors – A Look At The Deal

Holger Kisker

Some Reflections On The Deal For Competitors, Partners, and Customers

 The Deal

On December 3, SAP announced the acquisition of SuccessFactors, a leading vendor for human capital management (HCM) cloud solutions. SAP will pay $3.5 billion (a 52% premium over the Dec 2 closing price) out of its full battle chest and take a $1 billion loan. SuccessFactors brings about 1,500 employees, more than 3,500 customers, and about 15 million users to the table. In 2010, the company reported revenues of $206 million and a net loss of $12.5 million. A price of $3.5 billion is certainly a big premium, but the acquisition catapults SAP into the ranks of leading software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution providers — a business that will grow from $21.3 billion in 2011 to $78.4 billion by 2015 (for more information, check out our report “Sizing The Cloud”). The deal will certainly help SAP to achieve its 2015 target of $20 billion revenue and 1 billion users as it mainly targets the 500,000 employees that SAP’s already existing customers have. The deal is expected to close in Q1 next year. However, because most of the stocks are widely spread, stakeholders might hold back for now, waiting for possible counter bids from competition.

 The Organization

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