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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Customer Service Done Right In 10 Easy Steps: Step 10

Kate Leggett

We live in a world of increasing complexity: an increasing number of communication channels, an explosion of social data, the intertwining of sales, marketing, and customer service activities, and a growing amount of information and data that customer service agents need to answer customer questions. These issues complicate the challenge of being able to provide customers the service that is in line with their expectations — service that keeps customers loyal to your brand yet that can be delivered at a cost that makes sense for your business.

Being able to deliver the right customer service  involves:

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SAP’s Acquisition Of SuccessFactors Re-engergizes Its HCM And SaaS Strategy

Paul Hamerman

SAP is a paying a substantial premium to acquire SuccessFactors, a leading SaaS performance and talent management vendor. The press release of December 3, 2011 states that the deal price of $40 per share is a 52% premium over the Dec. 2 closing stock price. Even more startling is that SuccessFactors has a revenue run rate of roughly $300 to $330 million for 2011, and the acquisition price of $3.4 billion is more than 10 times revenue! Why then did SAP make this move?

SAP’s cloud strategy has been struggling with time-to-market issues, and its core on-premises HR management software has been at a competitive disadvantage with best-of-breed solutions in areas such as employee performance, succession planning, and learning management. By acquiring SuccessFactors, SAP puts itself into a much stronger competitive position in human resources applications and reaffirms its commitment to software-as-a-service as a key business model.

In my recent research for a soon-to-be-published Forrester Wave™ on human resource management systems (HRMS), I noted that SAP has more than 13,000 customers using its HCM suite. Yet the adoption of SAP’s learning and talent management products is much less (a few thousand, perhaps), which is noted in my colleague Claire Schooley’s “The Forrester Wave™: Talent Management, Q2 2011.” The talent management Forrester Wave also clearly shows that SAP’s embedded talent management offerings lag well behind the best-of-breed specialists in learning and performance management. The bottom line here is that SAP HCM customers predominantly run best-of-breed talent management solutions alongside their SAP core HRMS (i.e., the transactional employee system of record).

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Customer Service Done Right In 10 Easy Steps: Step 9

Kate Leggett

Step 9 of my 10-step program on how to master your service experience is to leverage social technologies for customer service.

Your customers are using social media in their private lives. Facebook has more than 800 million users that collectively spend more than 3 billion hours a year on the site. Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn have large numbers of followers as well. What are you doing to engage your customers in the medium where they are spending their time?

You can’t add social technologies in a silo; they have to be intergrated into your customer service ecosystem so that they extend and add value to your current operations. Here are six ways to add social technologies for customer service in the right way:

  • Start by listening to customer conversations. These conversations can surface general issues with products, services, and company processes. Make sure you create workflows to route surfaced issues to the correct organization so they can be worked on.
  • Flag and address social inquiries. Understand the general sentiments expressed in these conversations, but also identify specific customer inquiries and route them to the right agent pool for resolution. Tie feedback to customer records so that agents are aware of customer sentiments so that they can personalize future interactions.
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Customer Service Done Right In 10 Easy Steps: Step 8

Kate Leggett

Step 8 of my 10-step program on how to master your service experience is to tame your knowledge problem.

A good knowledge program is one of the foundational elements of a good service experience. Many informational requests can be easily handled using a simple FAQ, which deflects calls from your contact center and keeps your customers satisfied with relevant answers. Agent knowledge that is the same across communication channels guarantees that your customers receive consistent and accurate answers.

But getting your arms around your knowledge assets and maintaining them is hard work. I use a six-step best-practice framework to get you going with knowledge management:

  1. Align the organization for success. To be successful, you need an executive sponsor who will fund your knowledge program and allocate resources to the effort. You also need to put together a project team, follow proper project management practices, and define a rollout and adoption strategy.  
  2. Design a framework for knowledge management. Knowledge base content must be easy to find and use. Before starting to create content, you need to determine usage roles, content sources (i.e., what content lives inside the knowledge base and what content lives outside of it but is accessible via knowledge base searches), content standards, and information architecture and localization requirements.
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Customer Service Done Right In 10 Easy Steps: Step 7

Kate Leggett

Step 7 of my 10-step program on how to master your service experience is to think outside the customer service box.

We know that customers don’t choose to interact with you on a single communication channel from start to finish. They interact with you on whatever the most suitable channel for them at that point in time is — which could be via their mobile device, a chat session, a phone call, email, or web self-service from their iPad. This agile behavior is not limited to customer service; it extends to everything that we do, from buying to receiving marketing offers to getting service. Saying this another way, customers don’t make a distinction between a sales transaction and a customer service transaction. All they expect is to be able to receive the same customer experience every time they interact with a company, over any communication channel that they use. This point is very well illustrated in fellow Forrester analyst Brian Walker's report “Welcome To The Age Of Agile Commerce.”

More than that, customers expect personalized service targeted to their situation at hand. Customers expect you to know who they are, what products and services they have purchased, what issues they have had, over what channels they have used to contact you in the past, and what offers they have been presented with and either accepted or rejected. In addition, they would like to know whether you have read and responded to the feedback that they have given you.

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What Is ADV And Why Do We Need It?

Boris Evelson

As one of the industry-renowned data visualization experts Edward Tufte once said, “The world is complex, dynamic, multidimensional; the paper is static, flat. How are we to represent the rich visual world of experience and measurement on mere flatland?” There’s indeed just too much information out there to be effectively analyzed by all categories of knowledge workers. More often than not, traditional tabular row-and-column reports do not paint the whole picture or — even worse — can lead an analyst to a wrong conclusion. There are multiple reasons to use data visualization; the three main ones are that one:

  • Cannot see a pattern without data visualization. Simply seeing numbers on a grid often does not tell the whole story; in the worst case, it can even lead one to a wrong conclusion. This is best demonstrated by Anscombe’s quartet, where four seemingly similar groups of x and y coordinates reveal very different patterns when represented in a graph.
  • Cannot fit all of the necessary data points onto a single screen. Even with the smallest reasonably readable font, single line spacing, and no grid, one cannot realistically fit more than a few thousand data points using numerical information only. When using advanced data visualization techniques, one can fit tens of thousands data points onto a single screen — a difference of an order of magnitude. In The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte gives an example of more than 21,000 data points effectively displayed on a US map that fits onto a single screen.
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Meeting The Challenges Of The Empowered Consumer

George Lawrie

Retail is experiencing substantial change because consumers are now empowered by the web with information about price, availability, and merchandise features.

The retail industry is still served by solutions that are too fragmented to adequately balance the asymmetry introduced by radical price transparency. There are solutions for transactions, web site, stores, and so on but little to empower the cross-channel retailer to really meet the consumer’s needs.

I’ve recently been looking at IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiative and its portfolio that integrates:

1)    Store applications. IBM has well-established high-volume store apps appropriate to high-volume, low-touch retailing but correctly identifies these as inappropriate for fast-growing specialty retail with low-volume “high touch.” This is why it acquired the “asset” of Open Genius.

2)    Web metrics. IBM acquired Coremetrics in order to bring the discipline of measuring traffic, conversion, and average order to cross-channel retailing. It’s only by monitoring such metrics that retail can understand which marketing strategies are really successful and which market segments are most receptive.

3)    Direct-to-consumer initiatives. IBM acquired Unica as a platform for integrating automated direct-to-consumer marketing with its cross-channel offering.

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Customer Service Done Right In 10 Easy Steps: Step 6

Kate Leggett

Step 6 of my 10-step program on how to master your service experience is to make your agent tool set more usable. This is because the  work environment of a customer service agent is pretty awful. Agents use dozens — sometimes hundreds — of disconnected tools and technologies like CRM systems, billing systems, ERP, transactional systems, knowledge bases, information in email correspondence, and training manuals to find answers to customer questions. Have a look at the customer service IT ecosystem from a North American telecom company to internalize this complexity.

 

Most applications that agents use lack intuitive navigation, have cluttered screens that contain too much information, and have overly complex process flows that rely too heavily on agents to navigate. Moreover, agents don’t always navigate through their set of disconnected systems in the same way to find the answer they are looking for.

All these usability issues lead to variable handle times and inconsistent customer experiences. There is no way for managers to make sure that agents are complying with regulations or company policy. Knowledge exists on an island of its own, disconnected from the rest of the customer service ecosystem, and is sometimes duplicated for each communication channel that the company supports — which leads to inconsistent answers that are sometimes just plain wrong. In addition, agents don’t have access to a consolidated view of a customer’s purchase history or prior interactions and thus cannot personalize the conversation to the customer.

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