Lesson From History

I am starting to see signs of important changes in technology and IT organizations. The increased complexity of IT and business services forces the industry down a new path. In this context, there are signs reminiscent of what happened to the mainframe vendors in the late 80s and early 90s, when the transition from proprietary to open systems was usually not very successful. In fact, the major players of today (with the exception of IBM) were small potatoes in the 80s, while the major players of that time are either gone or dying. And some vendors today seem to be following the same recipe for eventual disaster.

What’s happening, in the case of a major change of market direction in a company with revenue based on old technology, is what I would call a “sales force failure.” This is the inability of the sales force to get out of its base of usual customers and compete head to head with new vendors in the new market.

Usually these organizations are technically capable of building up-to-date products, but the sales results often don’t meet expectations. Since the new product created internally does not sell, the company management may be tempted to fix the problem (i.e., satisfy the shareholders in the short term) by cutting the cost center, that is the engineering organization making this new product. With R&D gone, the marketing group  may license another product to replace the one that it killed. Of course, the margins are not the same, but the cost is almost nonexistent. Eventually, this product does not sell either (the sales force is still in the same condition), and, when the old legacy products are finally dead, the company is no more than a value-added reseller.

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Just-In-Time Capacity

One of the great revolutions in manufacturing of the past decades is just-in-time inventory management. The basic idea is to provision only what is needed for a certain level of operation and to put in place a number of management functions that will trigger the provisioning of inventory. This is one the key elements that allowed the manufacturing of goods to contain production costs. We have been trying to adapt the concept to IT for years with little success. But a combination of the latest technologies is finally bringing the concept to a working level. IT operations often faces unpredictable workloads or large variations of workloads during peak periods. Typically, the solution is to over-provision infrastructure capacity and use a number of potential corrective measures: load balancing, traffic shaping, fast reconfiguration and provisioning of servers, etc.

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Of Social Computing And Filtering Through The Information Deluge

While it may have taken humans thousands of years to progress from oral to written to audio and then to video communications, in the past five years, the Internet has accelerated at a breakneck pace through all of these different communication transmission stages. It started as a way to post and communicate text and still pictures, then moved to digital voice and music, and then took a giant step to video delivery, bringing you news, sports, movies, whenever and wherever you wanted to view them. The Internet is now the prime platform for distributing video content, effectively replacing your video store and your cable or broadcast distribution.

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The Strategic Role Of IT Management Software

Among critical industrial processes, IT is probably the only one where control and management come as an afterthought. Blame it on product vendors or on immature clients, but it seems that IT management always takes a second seat to application functionalities.

IT operation is seen as a purely tactical activity, but this should not occult the need for a management strategy.  Acquiring products on a whim and hastily putting together an ad hoc process to use them is a recipe for chaos. When infrastructure management, which is supposed to bring order and control in IT, leads the way to anarchy, a meltdown is a forgone conclusion.

Most infrastructure management products present a high level of usefulness and innovation. One should be, however, conscious of the vendor’s limitations. Vendors spend a lot of time talking about the mythical customer needs, while most of them have no experience of IT operations. Consequently, their horizon is limited to the technology they have, and that tree does hide the forest. Clients should carefully select products for the role they play in the overall infrastructure management strategy, not solely on the basis of immediate relief. As the world of IT Operations is becoming more complex every day, the value of an IT management product lies not only with its capability to resolve an immediate issue, but also in its ability to participate future management solutions. The tactical and strategic constraints should not be mutually exclusive.

The Unrecognized Success Of The Requirements Tool Market

The just-published overview of the requirements tool market is, at bottom, a story of unrecognized success. The requirements tool market has grown rapidly along several measures, including the number of vendors, the scale of adoption, and (the primary focus of the overview) the number of business problems that these tools are designed to address. From a small niche in the software market, requirements tools have grown and evolved, sometimes merging with other applications, to the point where it's hard to talk about them as "requirements tools" in the strictest sense of the term.

When colleague Mary Gerush and I dove into the primary research, we were immediately struck by the number of vendors that have crowded into a space that, to be honest, was not too long ago treated as a bit obscure and unexciting. The longer we looked at the market, the more little vendors appeared in the landscape. We'd heard of long-standing specialty vendors like Ryma, Blueprint, and iRise, but names like TraceCloud and AcuNote were new to us. The big vendors, too, have seen opportunities in this space, sometimes buying (for example, IBM's acquisition of Telelogic), sometimes building (such as Microsoft's Sketchflow tool).

Something was happening in this market, and at least a piece of the explanation was clear from the moment we started talking to vendors and users. Very few of these applications were exactly like the first generation of requirements tools, such as MKS Integrity and Borland (now Micro Focus) Caliber, and most of the newer tools bore little resemblance to each other. Although they share the title "requirements tool," they don't deal with the same aspects of requirements.

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Enterprise Mobility Inquiry Analysis: What Key Questions Are Clients Asking Forrester Analysts?

Each year, Forrester analysts field over 20,000 inquiries on a variety of topics, which provide insight into the key issues and challenges facing our clients in a variety of roles, including CIOs, enterprise architects, vendor strategists, and marketing professionals. Forrester defines enterprise mobility as the ability of an enterprise to communicate with suppliers, partners, employees, assets, and customers irrespective of location. During 2009, analysts fielded nearly 700 inquiries related to enterprise mobility issues, jumping from 550+ inquiries in 2008 and 360+ inquiries in 2007. What are these inquiries asking about? The key focus of these inquiries is on mobile applications, mobile devices, and mobile employee segmentation.

Questions about mobile applications accounted for over 20% of all enterprise mobility inquiries in 2009. The  majority of these application inquiries were focused on vertical applications, including fleet management solutions in the transportation industry that enable more efficient, real-time routing of vehicles. Today, email and calendaring mobile applications are mainstream in most enterprises, so many companies are broadening their mobile application initiatives to address the needs of particular types of line-of-business workers in their industry (e.g., retail, healthcare, transportation, financial services.) We expect continued growth in the number of mobile application inquiries during the coming year.

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National Broadband Networks: Previewing In Australia, Coming To You Soon

The current Australian government was one of the first governments to articulate its vision of a national broadband network (NBN). But since its election in 2007, it has been locked in a struggle with the incumbent operator Telstra on the role it should have in the NBN and, if so, what this should be. For much of the past two years, the two parties seem to have been determined to not work together on an NBN, but then suddenly agreement was announced earlier in the week. How come?

The answer is, whichever way you look at it, neither could do without the other. For Telstra, the last thing it wants is a national network that competes directly with its own. In the cities this is no big deal, but in the rural areas (and there are a lot of these in Australia), this would have been economic madness for both. So Telstra needed a deal.

The same is true for the government. Over the past decade, the relationship between the government (of whatever party), the regulator (the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission [ACCC]), and Telstra has been fraught with acrimony. But if the government is to deliver an NBN to rural areas, the only workforce with the skills to install, operate, and maintain this is located in Telstra. So it needs Telstra support to make an NBN happen in practice.

What made the deal possible was a mix of things — the appointment of a new CEO at Telstra, a recognition in government and Telstra of their interdependence, the willingness to negotiate a deal, and an impending election that forced the hands of both. The result is a Heads of Agreement on a way forward. It is inevitably a compromise, but it is also a way out of the impasse that is good for both.

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Multiple Mobile Application Development Approaches Present New Vendor Opportunities

Enterprises are deploying a wide range of horizontal and vertical mobile applications. Results from Forrester’s 2010 Network and Telecom survey of IT decision makers at North America and European firms show that horizontal mobile applications such wireless email, have been implemented or are being implemented by 86% of firms, and calendaring and personal information management applications have been deployed by 68% of firms. The next wave of mobile application deployment is focused on meeting the needs of line of business (LOB) workers such as sales force and field service professionals, or industry-specific requirements such as inventory management applications in retail, or location-based applications in the transportation arena. Survey data shows a persistent level of application implementation and planned deployment among 14% – 19% of enterprises for mobile sales force, field service and emergency response applications.  We expect this mobile LOB application deployment to gain momentum in 2010.

The methods enterprises use to acquire and develop these mobile applications vary widely. Homegrown or in-house mobile application development is commonly used by 40% of North American and European enterprises. Approximately 30% of all enterprise organizations use a local, regional, or national external developer for mobile application development requirements. North American enterprises are significantly more likely to purchase mobile applications from a mobile service provider portal site or from a mobile application store. Between 24% and 29% of North American enterprises use these two types of mobile application development approaches, compared with only 11% to 15% of European firms. 

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If Serious Gaming Can Improve Politics, Why Not The Technology Business?

As readers of this blog know, I see a lot of benefits in using serious gaming to make better product and development decisions. Consulting firms like Enthiosys and Booz Allen Hamilton use different serious gaming approaches, but they ultimately have the same aim: Avoid the traps that we mere humans frequently make, even when confronted with a wealth of facts and reasonable arguments. The bigger the decision – for example, What will make us more competitive in the next five years? How do we make sense of all these enhancement requests? Should we pursue a new market? – the greater the need to guard against groupthink, the loudest voice in the room, information overload, and other common decision-making pitfalls. 

While I could (and have) provided examples from business, an equally compelling example comes from politics. One of the offshoots of Enthiosys' work with businesses is Games For Democracy, a charitable foundation that, as the name implies, applies serious gaming techniques to political decision-making. A good example is healthcare, the topic of a Games For Democracy exercise using the "Buy A Feature" game. Each participant had a limited amount of faux money to invest in different healthcare options, such as the public option, a mandate for personal health insurance, and cost containment measures. No one had enough money to buy any option outright, so horse-trading among participants was mandatory.

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What Questions Should We Ask in Forrester’s Upcoming Workforce Survey?

Tech Populism is a major force that's changing the way we work. Behind the walls of SMBs and enterprises are empowered employees who increasingly make individual choices about the technologies that they use to get their jobs done. With the growing ubiquity of technology in the workplace (smartphones, other mobile devices, and PCs) individual workers are often making decisions for themselves. The opportunity for tech strategists lies in addressing portfolio strategy as well as go-to-market strategy to address this rising tide of new buyers.

To explore Tech Populism, Forrester is currently designing its upcoming Workforce Forrsights Survey to be fielded to 5,000 employees in the US, Canada, France, the UK, and Germany who work at businesses across a range of industries and company sizes. Our target respondents use a smartphone or computer at least 1 hour per day at work.

The Workforce Forrsights Survey will answer questions about how employees:

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