An Active Year In Strategic Talent Management And More To Come In 2011

At Forrester, we think of strategic talent management as made up of four pillars: Recruiting, Performance (including succession and career development), Learning, and Compensation, which sit on top of the core HR system that manages employee records and transactions. These four pillars of HRM (human resource management) have taken on critical importance in the past year. Organizations find talent that they must bring up to full productivity as quickly as possible. Leaders want to make sure employees have performance goals and appropriate formal and informal training to help them meet these goals. For those strong performers, variable compensation rewards their work efforts. Technology is available to automate all these processes, but up until this year, few vendors provided functionality in all four strategic HRM pillars.

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Networks Are About The Users, Not The Apps!

Virtualization and cloud talk just woke the sleeping giant, networking. For too long, we were so isolated in our L2-L4 world and soundly sleeping as VMs were created and a distant cousin was born, vSwitches. Sure, we can do a little of this and little of that in this virtual world, but the reality is everything is very manually driven and a one-off process. For example, vendors talk about moving policies from one port to another when a VM moves, but they don’t discuss policies moving around automatically on links from edge switches to the distribution switches. Even management tools are scrambling to solve issues within the data center. In this game of catch, I’m hearing people banter the word “app” around. Server personnel to networking administrators are trying to relate to an app. Network management tools, traffic sensors, switches, wan optimization are being developed to measure, monitor, or report on the performance of apps in some form or another.

Why is “app” the common language? Why are networks relating to “apps”? With everything coming down the pike, we are designing for yesterday instead of tomorrow. Infrastructure and operations professionals will have deal with:

  • Web 2.0tools. Traditional apps can alienate users when language and customs aren’t designed into the enterprise apps, yet no one app can deal with sheer magnitude of languages. Web 2.0 technologies — such as social networking sites, blogs, wikis, video-sharing sites, hosted services, web applications, mashups, and folksonomies — connect people with each other globally to collaborate and share information, but in a way that is easily customized and localized. For example, mashups allow apps to be easily created in any language and data sourced from a variety of locations.
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The Millennials' Journey Into Adulthood

A New York Times article, “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” written last summer has stayed with me as I continue to talk with clients about the Millennials and how they approach work life. This article talks about the new growing-up phase of today’s Millennials as a distinct life stage called “emerging adulthood” and relates it to “adolescence,” which was a new term 100 years ago when 12- to 18-year-olds began staying in school instead of starting to work at 12 or 13. Many young people in their early 20s are not following the path of past generations — graduate high school, go on to college, graduate, find a job, marry, start a family, and eventually retire. Rather, 40% of today’s Millennials move back home at least once, have many jobs as well as romantic relationships in their 20s, travel, do what appears like nothing, and go back to school. They are exploring and feel no need to rush to make work or personal commitments. They are the product of their Baby Boomer parents who, although they worry about their children making it on their own, provide support and encourage them to find what’s right for them. Millennials as children were encouraged to explore as they participated in a variety of sports, drama, music, and other enriching children-focused activities during and after school. It’s not surprising that they now want to explore many career and life options and don’t feel any obligation to follow the traditional approaches to adulthood. We also see government regulations allowing parents to keep their children on their health insurance until they are 26.

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10 From 2010

Looking back on 2010, I put together a list of my top 10 favorite things that made a difference in my year and was surprised to see how heavily travel featured in my list:

Pandora One:  I love listening to music while working, so my iPod is always close by. But this year I discovered Pandora – a music streaming service that finds and plays songs based around any favorite song you use to seed it. You can create multiple “stations” around different songs, composers, bands and even combine multiple seed songs on one station. I have created music stations for every genre of music to suit my mood. For example, while writing research I listen to one of six classical stations and while chilling with a glass of my favorite wine I listen to a station I called… "glass of wine radio"! Pandora offers a free version supported by ads and a premium version, Pandora One, which offers unlimited high-fidelity ad-free streaming for $36 a year. This year I moved to Pandora One because I wanted the higher-quality music feed and I love finding new music through Pandora. I regularly listen to Pandora on my PC, through the desktop app, and on my BlackBerry, which I connect to my home audio system to play music back through my hi-fi. http://www.pandora.com

Netflix Watch Instantly: I don’t watch a lot of TV, but my wife and I are real movie buffs so having easy access to movies through streaming is a big deal for us. We love the variety available through Netflix and their watch instantly service. As well as watching movies, we also find ourselves watching TV series through the service. http://netflix.com

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What Is The Cost Of Being Blind, Insecure, And Unmanaged?

With the increased presence of business principles within the IT arena, I get a lot of inquiries from  Infrastructure & Operations Professionals who are trying to figure out how to justify their investment in a particular product or solution in the security, monitoring, and management areas. Since most marketing personnel view this either as a waste of resources in a futile quest of achievement or too intimidating to even begin to tackle, IT vendors have not provided their customers more than marketing words:  lower TCO, more efficient, higher value, more secure, or more reliable. It’s a bummer since the request is a valid concern for any IT organization. Consider that other industries -- nuclear power plants, medical delivery systems, or air traffic control -- with complex products and services look at risk and reward all the time to justify their investments. They all use some form of probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) tools to figure out technological, financial, and programmatic risk by combining it with disaster costs: revenue losses, productivity losses, compliance and/or reporting penalties, penalties and loss of discounts, impact to customers and strategic partners, and impact to cash flow.

PRA teams use fault tree analysis(FTA) for top-down assessment and failure mode and effect analysis(FMEA) for bottom-up. 

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In 2011, IT Will Continue To Deploy Business Process Capabilities

It’s the end of the year — time to look back and reflect on what’s going to happen next in IT.

Since Forrester predicted the death of IT 10 years ago, most IT departments have undergone significant reorganizations, first to consolidate duplicate applications and platforms, then to become more services-focused, and now to increase IT’s business process orientation.

But there’s life in the old dog yet. As our 2010 survey of 141 business process professionals showed, only 21% of the executives driving business process improvements are CIOs or process professionals reporting to IT — meaning that despite good intentions, IT plays a limited role in business process initiatives.

Many experts see the deployment of business process centers of excellence (COEs) as a panacea to IT’s process orientation problem. Set up to provide business technology (BT) services across business units — such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), business process management (BPM), customer relationship management (CRM), and business intelligence (BI) — business process COEs play a crucial role in efficiently developing and broadcasting innovative process-oriented practices across the business units.

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Among Large Tech Vendors, Microsoft Does The Worst Job Of Reporting Its Revenues

To keep track of what’s happening to the tech market, I collect quarterly data on the revenues from more than 70 large IT vendors. Accordingly, I spend an unhealthy amount of time looking at their quarterly earnings releases, analyst presentations, and 10-Q and 10-K reports — making me something of a connoisseur of vendor earnings releases, at least from the perspective of revenues and their breakdown by products and geographies.

From that perspective, Microsoft wins the prize for the most opaque earnings release. First, 2003 was the last time it provided its revenues by geography and its revenues from sales to original equipment manufacturers. Since then, there’s been no data or even guidance on its geographic revenues. Second, it does not break out sales to consumers from sales to business and government, although it does report the growth rates in its sales of Office and its other information worker products to consumers or to enterprises. Third, about every year or so, it re-juggles its product line revenues, shifting product revenues into or out of different product lines. While it generally restates the revenues for the prior eight quarters to bring them into line with its new business unit categories, it doesn’t provide guidance or data on prior years, making comparisons with past years very challenging.

I considered ranking other vendors on the transparency of their earnings releases. But I decided it would be more useful to describe the kind of data that I as a technology analyst — and other vendor strategists analyzing the tech market — would like to get from vendor earnings releases.

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The Top Twelve Customer Management Trends For 2011

As 2010 draws to a close, what are the key trends that customer management process professionals need to pay attention to as you finalize plans for next year?

Here are the top trends that I am tracking. My full report that spotlights our latest research will be published in January.

Trend 1: The Revenue Impact Of Poor Customer Experience Is Recognized
Our models
estimate that the revenue impact from a 10 percentage point improvement in a company's performance, as measured by Forrester’s Customer Experience Index Score (CxPi), could be in excess of a billion dollars. Poor performers are particularly weak in being able to orchestrate multichannel interactions.

Trend 2: Business Process Management Extends To The Front Office
By extending business process management (BPM) to the front office functions, customer service organizations will improve the consistency of service delivered, elevate agent efficiency, personalize service, and meet compliance goals — at a cost that makes sense to the business.

Trend 3: The Business Value Of Social Customer Engagement Becomes More Evident
Winners of Forrester’s annual Groundswell Award
spotlight how organizations are using Social Computing to innovate, such as: community-based marketing research techniques; engaging with customers through social media; energizing brand advocates; empowering communities to support customer self-service; and collaborating with customers during the product ideation and development process.

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BPM Research - How Do You Identify The Operational Processes

In the early part of next quarter, I am entering a research phase on a topic I have alluded to many times: techniques for Process Architecture.

One of the key problems that BPM initiatives suffer from is that, even with all the attention, we end up with processes that still have significant issues — they are too inflexible and difficult to change. They become just another version of concrete poured in and around how people work — focusing on control rather than enabling and empowering.

A phrase that I picked up (from a business architect) put it fairly succinctly:

“People tend to work hard to improve what they have, rather than what they need.”

This was then further reinforced by a process architect in government sector on an email:

“The wall I keep hitting is how to think about breaking processes into bite-size chunks that can be automated.”

The problem is that we don’t have good techniques to design (derive) the right operational process architecture from the desired business vision (business capability). Of course, there is an assumption here that there is an effective business vision, but that’s a subject for another line of research.

I am talking about the operational chunks — the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle required to deliver a given outcome. Not how the puzzle pieces are modeled (BPMN, EPC, IDEF, or any other modeling technique), but how to chop up the scope of a business capability to end up with the right operational parts.

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Checking In On Linux – Latest Linux Releases Show Continued Progress

I’ve recently had the opportunity to talk with a small sample of SLES 11 and RH 6 Linux users, all developing their own applications. All were long-time Linux users, and two of them, one in travel services and one in financial services, had applications that can be described as both large and mission-critical.

The overall message is encouraging for Linux advocates, both the calm rational type as well as those who approach it with near-religious fervor. The latest releases from SUSE and Red Hat, both based on the 2.6.32 Linux kernel, show significant improvements in scalability and modest improvements in iso-configuration performance. One user reported that an application that previously had maxed out at 24 cores with SLES 10 was now nearing production certification with 48 cores under SLES 11. Performance scalability was reported as “not linear, but worth doing the upgrade.”

Overall memory scalability under Linux is still a question mark, since the widely available x86 platforms do not exceed 3 TB of memory, but initial reports from a user familiar with HP’s DL 980 verify that the new Linux Kernel can reliably manage at least 2TB of RAM under heavy load.

File system options continue to expand as well. The older Linux FS standard, ETX4, which can scale to “only” 16 TB, has been joined by additional options such as XFS (contributed by SGI), which has been implemented in several installations with file systems in excess of 100 TB, relieving a limitation that may have been more psychological than practical for most users.

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