Build Innovation Zones Into Your Architecture

Forrester’s recent book, Empowered, describes the type of technology-based innovation by frontline employees that can cause nightmares for enterprise architects. New tools for business innovation are readily available to anyone, ranging from cloud computing and mobile apps to social networks, scripting languages, and mashups. Faced with long IT backlogs and high IT costs, frontline employees are building their own solutions to push business forward.

What worries architects is that (1) solutions built with these new tools — with little or no vetting — are being hooked to enterprise systems and data, opening potentially big risks to reliability and security, and (2) the siloed, quick-hit nature of these solutions will drive up ongoing costs of maintenance and support. Traditionally, architects use enterprise standards as their primary tool to ensure the quality, efficiency, and security of their organization’s technology base. However, when applied in the typical “lockdown” fashion, standards can stifle innovation — often because vetting a new technology takes longer than the perceived window of business opportunity.

To deal with these conflicting pressures, architects must forge a new equation between responsiveness and technology control. The business value of responsiveness, combined with the typically limited size of enterprise architecture teams, means that most organizations cannot wait for architects to vet every possible new technology. Thus, you must find ways to use architecture to navigate the tension between the business value of responsiveness and the business value of a high-quality technology base. The key is to build innovation zones into your architecture; Forrester defines these as:

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Java Is A Dead-End For Enterprise App Development

Before Java was invented, one of the key industry trends was to increase the productivity of both developers and end users. For example, fourth-generation programming languages (4GL) such as Powerbuilder, Progress, and Uniface provided professional developers with faster ways to develop business applications than using COBOL, Pascal, C, or C++. For end users, tools such as Dbase, Lotus Notes, and Visicalc provided them with the unprecedented ability to create mini-apps without the need for professional developers. In the early '90s, this productivity trend was thrown into a tizzy by the Internet. Now, software vendors and enterprise application developers had to rush to write a whole new generation of applications for the Web or risk becoming irrelevant. The Internet forced developer productivity and 4GL’s to take the back seat.

Java Was At The Right Place At The Right Time For Web Applications

Java was designed in 1990 as an easier and more portable option than C++ to develop embedded systems.  The invention of the WWW in 1993 started a meteoric change in IT application development. Sun Microsystems moved quickly to take advantage by selling “network” servers like hotcakes and offering Java as the platform for Web development. Most other software vendors were caught off guard and Java became the de facto Internet development standard for enterprise Web application development.

Fast-Forward 20 Years

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A Good Customer Service Experience Is Easier Said Than Done

Customers today are empowered. They want to decide how they interact with companies that they do business with. That means that not only does a company need to provide the goods and services but also the tools and culture to make customer service a value-add to their customer base.  

Here are some basic but key steps to take to move in that direction.

Know Your Customer

When a customer contacts a company, agents should have full access to the customer’s information. They should be able to view past and pending requests made across all available communication channels that you support (like the phone, email, chat, SMS) as well as interactions over social channels like Twitter and Facebook.

If a request has been escalated from a Web self-service session, agents should have access to the full session history so as not to repeat questions or searches that the customers has already performed.

Couple Your CRM System With Others

CRM systems should be more than just the front end of a database of customer information and cases — they should also be integrated with back-office applications. Real-time data integration means that the system can make calls to third-party systems to retrieve a real-time answer to a question such as “When did my order ship?”

Some companies deeply couple knowledge management with CRM. While agents are gathering the details of the customer’s issue, under-the-covers searches are being executed so that an updated list of relevant solutions can be presented to the agent, which helps minimize handle time.

Make Search Smart

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Strong Growth And Innovation Seen For Information-As-A-Service In 2011

Over the course of this year, I’ve spoken with many organizations that are continuing to expand their usage of information-as-a-service (sometimes called data services) to support new business requirements such as self-service customer portals, real-time BI, and single-version-of-the-truth. With the growing complexity of data, increasing volume of data, and exploding security challenges all driving demand, IaaS is poised to grow significantly in the coming years, especially as existing integration technologies are failing to meet these new requirements. What we see is that most organizations that have embraced an IaaS strategy over the years aren’t looking back; they’re continuing to expand its usage to support more requirements such as real-time data, creating data domains, improving the ability to securely deliver information, integration with unstructured data and external sources, various Web portals, and enterprise search.

Recently, my colleague Gene Leganza, who serves Enterprise Architecture Professionals, compiled the top 15 technology trends EA should watch over the next three years . One of the trends Gene highlighted is that information-as-a-service (IaaS) is finding a broader audience. I see more organizations continuing to show strong interest in IaaS, as evidenced by increasing inquiries, to help with growing data integration challenges that traditional solutions are not addressing. IaaS can significantly alter IT’s approach to its data management strategy and delivers a flexible framework to support transactional, BI, and real-time data.

Here are my top predictions for 2011 related to IaaS:

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Miss Our Webinar "Building High-Performance Developer Teams"? Go To This Download Site!

From its birth as one of the highest-rated track sessions at IT Forum earlier this year to its recent publication as the Forrester report "Best Practices: Building High-Performance Application Development Teams," Jeffrey Hammond's research on the techniques that leading development shops use to drive their success has been wowing application development professionals.

Are you facing this challenge? Are your business stakeholders demanding faster delivery of more innovation? Is the software you deliver increasingly vital to the success of your business? Then you should download the content from this recent event:

Webinar: "Building High-Performance Developer Teams"
Hosted by: Jeffrey Hammond, Principal Analyst, and Mike Gilpin, VP and Research Director
Duration: 1 hour

Click Here To Download...

Description: Replay this Webinar to:

  • Learn how to adjust your recruiting practices to attract the right creative professionals for your team.
  • Understand what creates an intrinsically motivating culture for developers.
  • Discover how best to manage your teams with a streamlined set of Lean software development practices that maximize creative “flow.”
  • See what “next practices” are emerging in the most advanced shops to further drive breakthrough performance.

Please listen to our session; Jeffrey and I look forward to the opportunity to share our research with you in the future and to help you apply these learnings in your shop.

Regards,
Mike Gilpin
VP/Research Director
Forrester Research

Proposed Themes For BI Trends 2011 Research Document

Forrester's recent report on Top 15 Technologies To Watch In 2011 once again proved that BI is front and center on everyone's agendas. We indeed continue to see unrelenting interest and ever-increasing adoption levels of BI platforms, applications, and processes. But while BI maturity in enterprises continues to grow, and BI tools become more function rich and robust, the promise of efficient and effective BI solutions remains quite challenging at best, and elusive at worst. Why? Two main reasons. BI is all about best practices and lessons learned, which only come with years of experience. Additionally, traditional BI technologies (ETL, data warehousing, reporting, OLAP) have not kept pace with the ever-changing business and regulatory requirements. In a work-in-progress research document, building on a last year's relevant blog post on next-gen BI, we plan to review top best practices and next- generation BI technologies for our clients to watch and adopt in 2011 to improve their chances to deliver successful BI initiatives. Here's the proposed document outline and major themes:

BEST PRACTICES TO ADOPT IN 2011

  • Emphasis on business ownership and data governance 
  • Combining top-down performance management, with bottom-up approaches 
  • Emphasis on change management
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Don't Miss Our Upcoming Webinar "Building High-Performance Developer Teams"

From its birth as one of the highest-rated track sessions at IT Forum earlier this year to its recent publication as the Forrester report "Best Practices: Building High-Performance Application Development Teams," Jeffrey Hammond's research on the techniques that leading development shops use to drive their success has been wowing application development professionals.

Are you facing this challenge? Are your business stakeholders demanding faster delivery of more innovation? Is the software you deliver increasingly vital to the success of your business? Then you can't afford to miss this upcoming event:

Webinar: "Building High-Performance Developer Teams"
Hosted by: Jeffrey Hammond, Principal Analyst, and Mike Gilpin, VP and Research Director
When: Thursday, November 18, 2010, at 11 a.m. EST (-05:00 GMT)
Duration: 1 hour

Registration link: http://www.myforrester.net/forms/ADD_webinar?source=blog

Description: Join this Webinar to:

  • Learn how to adjust your recruiting practices to attract the right creative professionals for your team.
  • Understand what creates an intrinsically motivating culture for developers.
  • Discover how best to manage your teams with a streamlined set of Lean software development practices that maximize creative “flow.”
  • See what “next practices” are emerging in the most advanced shops to further drive breakthrough performance.
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Clear Messaging And Execution Strategy With Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

Microsoft was kind enough to invite me to Microsoft's Dynamics Fall Analyst Event — a two-day event packed with product, strategy, customer, and partner information. The focus was clearly on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. This product and the go-to-market strategy are clear and focused. Here are my thoughts:

  • The Dynamics CRM 2011 product is good. Today, Microsoft Dynamics CRM is used by 23,000 customers, 1.4 million end users in 80 countries and 40+ languages. That in itself is impressive. However, Microsoft wants to do better. It has focused on the user experience and UI in the 2011 product in hopes of driving increased adoption. Dynamics CRM 2011 is deeply integrated with Outlook, Office Communicator, SharePoint, Office 365, and Bing. It can be easily personalized. A business user, without the help of IT, can set up a dashboard. It has rich reporting analytics. It works on mobile devices, including the iPhone. Microsoft realizes that this product still has limitations, especially around Web self-service customer service capabilities. Its near-term plans are to address this, as well as adding capabilities around support for the phone channel and for social customer service. However, right now, these holes offer a chance for specialty customer service vendors to make inroads.
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One Code To Rule Them All: Reflections On Oracle Fusion Applications From Oracle OpenWorld 2010

With about 41,000 attendees, 1,800 sessions, and a whooping 63,000-plus slides, Oracle OpenWorld 2010 (September 19-23) in San Francisco was certainly a mega event with more information than one could possibly digest or even collect in a week. While the main takeaway for every attendee depends, of course, on the individual’s area of interest, there was a strong focus this year on hardware due to the Sun Microsystems acquisition. I’m a strong believer in the integration story of “Hardware and Software. Engineered to Work Together.” and really liked the Iron Man 2 show-off all around the event; but, because I’m an application guy, the biggest part of the story, including the launch of Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, was a bit lost on me. And the fact that Larry Ellison basically repeated the same story in his two keynotes didn’t really resonate with me — until he came to what I was most interested in: Oracle Fusion Applications!

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How Well Does Your Organization Stack Up Against CRM Best Practices?

The phenomenon of the social Web — which Forrester calls Social Computing — is forcing business process professionals to expand their thinking beyond the goal of optimizing a two-way relationship between an enterprise and customer to also include the simultaneous interactions that customers have among themselves. CRM is evolving from its traditional focus on optimizing customer-facing transactional processes to include the strategies and technologies to develop collaborative and social connections with customers, suppliers, and even competitors.

Notwithstanding this emerging trend, one challenge that I see remains constant. Organizations still struggle to define the right CRM strategies and effectively acquire and deploy the right CRM technology solutions that will meet their needs. Disappointment with CRM is usually the result of poorly conceived strategies that lack a laser focus on improving a specific set of business capabilities to increase revenues or reduce costs. To avoid wasting your time and money on ill-conceived CRM programs, beware of the two most common pitfalls of CRM plans:

  • No strategic focus on business value. Many companies have a grand vision to become "more customer-focused," but the implementation of this vision often lacks practical focus and recognition of the typical constraints (e.g., time, money, and politics) that must be taken into account to make the vision a reality. A CRM program should be tightly linked to business goals, focused on customer benefits, clearly identify the processes and constituencies that will be affected, and specify the associated information and functionality needs.
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