Lots Of Talk About Chatter At Salesforce’s UK Customer Event

Marc Benioff, CEO of salesforce.com, gave a typically energetic performance at London’s Royal Festival Hall yesterday, both in the main-stage keynote and the private lunch for press and analysts. In addition to some humorous digs at Oracle, SAP, and pretty much any company that wants to run its own data center, Benioff described his vision for enterprise applications in the world of social computing, which he calls Cloud 2. Key to this vision is salesforce.com’s own Chatter application, which is . . .  er, well actually it's not really clear what it is. Various spokespeople described it as an internal Facebook, a collaboration engine, Twitter but secure, but to me it still seems to be a user interface in search of an application.

The demonstration reminded me forcibly of the scene in Bruce Almighty in which Morgan Freeman lets Jim Carrey hear all the prayers being made at that instant by the citizens of Chicago. The user gets a stream of tweets, discussion threads, notifications, and alerts from feeder applications, messages from colleagues to each other, general questions, etc. My question, which no-one could answer adequately was “how is this different from email?” The features they cite — filtering, highlighting, threading, categorizing, etc. — are all in Outlook if you care to use them.

The main difference, apart from the fashionable user interface with the sender’s photo next to each message, is the switch from emailers deciding who they want to read their message, to readers deciding whose chats they want to see. Benioff’s description of his own Chatter feed puts him as the omniscient Bruce, watching every sales process, customer service problem resolution, product design collaboration, and invoice approval throughout his organization.

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Hello Customer Service World From Forrester Research

Hello customer service world – I’ve just joined at Forrester Research, responsible for customer service and call center business processes. I’ll be watching the customer service vendors – both the traditional multichannel ones as well as the new social/community ones. I’ll be working with clients to justify new customer service projects and to recommend best practice adoption as well as sharing my thoughts and opinions of the impact of the customer service experience on your brand.

Even though I am new to Forrester, I am not new to customer service, having spent years at KANA and as a regular contributor to the CRM magazine and blog-sphere.

One topic that has interested me is how the customer service manager must balance the needs of his ever-evolving customer with the economic constraints imposed on him by the business. Customers today demand instant service on-the-go, and are quick to voice their displeasure when service doesn’t meet their expectations. And in this world of social media, this displeasure is easily amplified, which can negatively impact your business.

So what are the tools and business processes that a service manager must embrace to be successful? New knowledge tools? New delivery channels for the mobile customer or the impatient one? More process in the front office to help standardize the experience? A better cross-channel customer experience? More sophisticated analytics to microtarget your customer?

I know there are a lot more answers to this question. I hope you will start reading my blog, offer your suggestions and feedback, and pass on a good word if you like what you see. I look forward to your insights.

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Can Challenge.Gov Empower A Nation?

On September 7, 2010, US Federal CIO Vivek Kundra (Office of Management and Budget) joined with Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra (Federal Office of Science and Technology Policy) and Bev Godwin (Director, Center for New Media and Citizen Engagement, U.S. General Services Administration) to announce the launch of Challenge.gov at the Gov2.0 Summit.

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IBM Finalizes The Acquisition Of Sterling Commerce

You may have been on vacation and not noticed, but IBM received final regulatory approval to acquire Sterling Commerce on August 27th.  This will likely lead to significant enhancements in B2B capability for IBM and Sterling Commerce customers.  Here's our guess as to what you can expect from an integration product perspective:

  • A more functional B2B integration software lineup. IBM customers will have access to Sterling Commerce technology that supports comprehensive features for monitoring and managing partner and suppliers. They will also have access to a range of supply chain applications that Sterling Commerce has deployed in several vertical industries like automotive, manufacturing, retail, and distribution.
  • A cloud-based integration environment. Both IBM and Sterling Commerce customers will likely have increased options for implementing cloud-based integration based on the robust B2B network that IBM now owns and the integration appliance options (Datapower and Cast Iron) that are also available. Expect a major thrust in this area.
  • Upgraded SOA capability. Sterling Commerce customers will find it easier to implement SOA capabilities using the strong capabilities that IBM can bring to bear in this area.

Stay tuned for more details. We'll be getting formally briefed on this subject in a couple of weeks (once the IBM/Sterling Commerce team have completed their product road map), and we'll pass on the details at that time.

As always, I'd be interested in your thoughts about this acquisition. Please send me your comments to kvollmer@forrester.com or just comment directly to this post.

Oh No! Not Another VMworld Blog Post!

It was reported that sometime over the past weekend the number of tweets and blogs about VMworld exceeded Plankk’s limit (postulated by blogger Marvin Plankk, now confined to an obscure institution in an unidentified state with more moose than people), and quietly coalesced into an undifferentiated blob of digital entropy as a result of too many semantically identical postings online at the same time. So this leaves the field clear for me to write the first VMworld post in the new cycle.

This year was my first time at VMworld, and it left a profound impression – while the energy and activity among the 17,000 attendees, exhibitors and VMware itself would have been impressive in any context, the underlying evidence of a fundamental transformation of the IT landscape was even more so. The theme this year was “clouds,” but to some extent I think themes of major shows like this are largely irrelevant. The theme serves as an organizing principle for the communications and promotion of the show, but the technology content of the show, particularly as embodied by its exhibitors and attendees, is based on what is actually being done in the real world. If the technology was not already there, the show might have to find another label. Keeping the cart firmly behind the horse, this activity is being driven by real IT problems, real investments in solutions, and real technology being brought to market. So to me the revelation of the show was not in the fact that VMware called it “cloud,” but that the world is really thinking “cloud.”

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A Conversation With IT Leaders On Workplace Technology Empowerment

I spoke to the IT leadership team at a major automotive manufacturer last week on the topic of empowerment. The group consisted of the CIO, security and compliance professionals, business strategy, HR representatives, and other IT managers in charge of mobility, social computing, innovation, and application development initiatives. At Forrester, we talk about empowerment in terms of the rising imbalance between enabling technology tools we have in our personal lives and those we have in the workplace. Think mobile, social, cloud, and consumer video tools. Our data indicates that almost 51% of information workers now believe they have better technology at home than they have at work. And 37% are using these personal tools get real work done.

At least anecdotally, the gap between consumer technology change and IT’s ability to assimilate those technologies into the workplace looks to be widening. A recent report recently highlighted this gap, explaining that in one government agency, it takes 18 to 24 months to roll out a single new IT system, while it took only 24 months to invent the iPhone. 
 
Clearly IT budgets will never keep up with private investments in technology innovation. But it’s not all about money. What else is causing the impedance mismatch between personal/home and workplace technologies? A few comments from my audience highlight the complexities our corporate IT departments face in this age of empowerment:
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New Report: Designing An Empowered Mobile Product Strategy

Forrester’s new book, Empowered, (which is free for U.S. based Amazon Kindle owners from September 7 to 10!) helps companies thrive in the new era of disruptive technologies like social media and mobility. Authored by two of my amazing Forrester colleagues, Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, Empowered tells companies to give their most innovative employees – their highly engaged and resourceful operatives, or HEROes – the permission and tools to serve customers using these same emerging technologies.

But Empowered isn’t only about employees. It also lays out a strategy for engaging your most influential customers. Consumer product strategy professionals should wield Empowered concepts for exactly that reason – to energize your best customers. In the mobile space, product strategists are looking for ideas to help them develop innovative, leading-edge applications for Smartphone users on platforms like the iPhone or Android. So we’ve just released a report to help product strategists do just that, called “Designing A Mobile Empowered Product Strategy.” It applies ideas from Empowered to product strategy, and includes numerous case studies of mobile applications that exemplify Empowered approaches.

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Take Part In Forrester's Database Management Survey

Forrester is currently running a database management survey assessing the state of the database market. We are surveying companies across various verticals to understand the type of DBMS they use, what challenges they face and what initiatives are currently being undertaken or planned for in the coming years. We’re looking at what’s working and what’s not, and things that you are focusing on around database management such as cloud, compression, archiving, security, and tuning.

If you are involved in some part of database management, then we’d love to hear your opinions.  

All results will treated as strictly confidential and results will only ever be presented at an aggregated level.

 You can take the survey here.

 Thanks for your time!

 Cheers,

 Noel

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Business Process Professionals: A Newly Emerging Career Field In Search Of Skills Development

I've been thinking a lot recently about business process skills development because it's such a big need in organizations that are moving to BPM initiatives. I’m also presenting on this topic at Forrester’s upcoming Business Process And Application Development Forum in Washington DC, October 7-8. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue; your feedback will help me develop a better presentation.  (If you haven’t registered already, call our Events Team at +1 617.613.5905. We’d love to see you there!)

With the growing acceptance of business process management (BPM) methodologies for continuously improving business processes (Lean, Six Sigma, and TQM) and the mainstream adoption of technologies like BPM suites, business process modeling, and business rules, a new career field has emerged with significant impact and potential for both IT and the business. In fact, people in this career field live at the intersection of business and IT. In large part, they are business people who use management disciplines and business process technology to drive continuous improvement, process innovation, business optimization, and even business transformation in their organizations. At Forrester, we call these individuals “business process professionals”.

Based on in-depth interviews conducted last year, we grouped business process professionals into five categories or cohorts:

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Get Empowered Free On Kindle Through September 10th

[Update: 3:15pm, 9-7-2010. Sigh. This is a US-only offer. My apologies to colleagues and friends in other countries. I'm told you can buy it on Amazon.com in other countries, at least in hard copy.]

Our new book, Empowered, is free on Kindle through September 10th. That means anybody with a Kindle or Kindle reader (iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Android, PC, or Mac) can download and read it for free forever.

My coauthor Josh Bernoff explains why we're not crazy to do this. It boils down to: We hope you read it and share your thoughts and your own HERO experiences with friends and colleagues. For my part, I'd be thrilled to hear directly back from you or read about your own HERO experiences in comments or posts or tweets or video narratives. Here's Josh's post: 

Starting today and continuing until this Friday September 10, you can download Empowered to your Kindle at no charge.

You want to know how to manage your company in the age of empowered customers, don't you? If you've got a Kindle, what's stopping you?

Now to the other question. Are we crazy?

Some people have told me that giving away Empowered on Kindle makes it seem worthless. Or that I'm giving up revenue.

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