Who Should Lead Strategic Investment Planning?

By Mike Gilpin

I was in the audience at our recent “Business Process & Application Delivery Forum” for the track session “Using The Next-Generation PMO To Promote Innovation,” which was delivered by Margo Visitacion. The premise of the session was that leading-edge PMOs (project management offices) are evolving to a more strategic role, focused on portfolio management of business investment rather than just IT projects or programs.

I know this phenomenon is real because I, too, have talked with multiple Forrester clients, PMO leaders, who have elevated the mission of their PMO to this level -- often to the extent that they no longer report into the CIO but are outside IT, reporting into a business exec like the COO or CEO. In so doing, they have refocused their efforts on everything from guiding business leaders through building a business case for the investments they want to make, to guiding decision-makers through selection from the portfolio of investment proposals, to tracking benefits realization and ROI after the fact. PMOs with this kind of business-focused, strategic mission have greater business impact and are often close partners with executives leading their firm.

During the session, one of the attendees asked an interesting question: “At our firm, the functions you describe are led by the enterprise architecture team as part of the strategic planning and business architecture process. Which is better suited to doing this function, EA or the PMO?

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The Cognos 10 Launch And My Key Takeaways From IBM IOD

I don’t know when, but at some point in the not too distant future, the world of enterprise software and applications will become simpler. We will only have four to six vendors and platforms to choose from, as compared to the hundreds of options we have today. I know many of you will argue with me on this point, but if you consider the speed at which IBM, SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft are acquiring software companies, that’s just inevitable. While this future state may not happen for another 10 years, when it does, IBM will most likely be best positioned (with Oracle a close runner-up) to provide that one-stop shopping for everything from hardware to desktop applications to consulting services (the only big missing piece is ERP, and therefore I am convinced IBM will sooner or later acquire an ERP vendor).

This is precisely my key takeaway from IBM's IOD event in Vegas (#iodgc) — a sheer breadth of IBM software and services offering. Front and center of the announcements made at the IOD was the launch of Cognos 10. Here are my key takeaways from this new major release. As always, there's some good news and some not-so-good news (but then our lives and BI jobs will become too boring, right?)

I like:

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Customer Service Via Facebook - Engage Your Customers Where They Spend Their Time

Wired Magazine states that the four most heavily trafficked sites on the Internet are Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google. Facebook alone has 500 million users, and users collectively spend more than 3 billion hours on this site, or more than 55 minutes a day per person. It’s a vertitable interaction hub, where many businesses have a significant presence, and their pages are an integral part of their brand identity.

Many of these fan pages offer information pertinent to their consumers, as well as coupons to entice customers to their brand. Dell, for example, has done a great job with its social media resource for small businesses. Understanding that small business owners buy computers, by offering them this resource, small business owners interested in social media keep Dell top of mind.

As consumers spend more time on these Facebook pages, a natural extension is for companies to be able to provide sales and customer support directly from these pages. Check out, for example, 1-800-Flowers’s Facebook page, where you can do just that.

Multichannel customer service vendors understand that Facebook is now a shopping and service destination, and they're extending their core multichannel products to offer apps that install a “Support" tab on a company’s wall. 

Once a user (customer or prospect) clicks on this tab, they can engage with the community or a customer service agent without ever leaving the site. Capabilities that will become standard include:

  • Searching for an answer in forum posts as well as in a corporate knowledgebase.
  • Rating forum and knowledge posts.
  • Recommending forum posts to be added to the corporate knowledgebase.
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Vote For Forrester's 2011 IT Forum Theme

Are you ready for Forrester's IT Forum 2011? Mark your calendars for May 25-27 in Las Vegas and June 8-10 in Barcelona — and help us design an event that is as relevant and productive for you as possible. We've come up with three potential draft themes and need your vote for the best IT Forum 2011 theme:

1. Unleash your empowered enterprise.

As technology becomes more accessible through mediums beyond IT's control, you have but one choice: Get proactive by empowering employees, or swim against the current. Successful BT leaders will react not by blocking access but by lending their expertise to increase the chances of technology success and empowering the users to solve customer and business problems. This year's IT Forum will provide a blueprint for reaping the benefits of your empowered organization — complete with case studies, methodologies, and step-by-step advice tailored to each IT role.

2. Capitalize on the intersection of business and technology.

IT leaders have long struggled to deliver business and technology alignment.  But alignment implies a waterfall process: decide on a business strategy, and then build your technology on that foundation. Today, our businesses move too fast for the traditional IT model. Instead, Business Technology leaders must join the leaders of their lines of business to create business and technology strategy simultaneously. That means working with new business partners inside and outside your organization, operationalizing innovation through standards, and above all, saying, "yes, and..." instead of "yes, but..." This year, we'll dedicate IT Forum to building bridges to new business partners, scaling innovative solutions, and co-creating business and technology strategy.

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IBM Doubles Down On B2B Integration

IBM recently announced its B2B integration solutions strategy in the wake of the finalization of its recent acquisition of Sterling Commerce. Here are the highlights:

  • Sterling Integrator (SI) was the flagship Sterling Commerce software solution, and it will now become the foundation of IBM’s B2B integration solutions strategy. In the process, Sterling Integrator will be combined with several key IBM integration tools, thereby extending the capability of the total solution even further. Specifically, IBM intends to integrate Sterling Integrator with its ESB solutions (WebSphere Message Broker and WebSphere ESB), WebSphere Transformation Extender (WTX), and WebSphere Service Registry and Repository.
  • The Sterling Collaboration Network (SCN) has also been designated as a strategic B2B integration solution for both IBM and Sterling Commerce customers. IBM is evaluating several possible enhancements including enhancement of existing value-added solutions (e-Invoicing, WebForms and Supply Chain Visibility apps, geographic expansion of the network, and enhanced disaster recovery capability).
  • IBM will also provide a portfolio of Managed File Transfer (MFT) solutions to cover a range of file transfer needs. The three MFT solutions that IBM will provide include the Sterling File Gateway (for trading partner file transfer management, multi-protocol support with a single administration, governance, visibility, and development environment), WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition (native MQ-based file transfers), and SterlingConnect: Direct (for high-volume file transfers in a peer-to-peer environment with assured data delivery).
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Where Do *You* Find The Best Software Developers?

Here at Forrester, we’re beginning a new stream of research focused on where firms are finding the best software developers. And by best, I mean a few key attributes, including being innovative, productive, timely, and delivering high-quality results.

Our research methodology will be to survey a broad swath of firms that recruit software developers, to find out where they are finding the best developers. We want to not only identify the best university programs around the world for churning out great developers, but also assess the contribution of other sources, such as hiring experienced developers from other firms, bringing in contractors for staff augmentation, or sourcing developers from systems integrators.

We also plan to assess university programs based on their coursework and other attributes, to see if we can correlate the nature of their programs with the results their graduates achieve.

What do you think? What universities do you suggest we assess? We will certainly look at the usual suspects like MIT, Stanford, WPI, RPI, Rice, and so on. But what about Texas A&M, the University of Mississippi, or the University of Brighton? Back when I was hiring developers they had great programs — do they still have what it takes? You may be partial to your alma mater, but… really, would you recruit there today? There’s been much prognosticator pontification about the sad state of affairs in the US today for education of software engineers and other high-tech resources — what are you seeing?

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Software AG buys Data Foundations: Business Acumen Meets Data Competency

Co-authored with Forrester's Rob Karel.

On September 18, 2010, Software AG (SAG) — best known for its business process management, B2B, and SOA-based integration solutions — announced its acquisition of Data Foundations, a master data management (MDM) vendor based in Hackensack, New Jersey. Data Foundations is smaller and less well known than the more mature and comprehensive MDM solutions from Initiate Systems and Siperian, both of which were acquired earlier this year by IBM and Informatica, respectively. Once Initiate and Siperian were taken off the market, no tier one MDM vendors remained for potential suitors to consider — especially those that could support both analytical and operational use cases. Having missed out on the opportunity to snag one of those leaders, we believe Software AG made the right technology choice in selecting Data Foundations. 

Who is Data Foundations?

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The Vasa Effect

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

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

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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