Netflix: Can A Company Really Be This Inept And Succeed?

NetflixIf you thought Netflix handled its earlier price increase badly, just wait till you hear the complaints about its latest move. In a letter to subscribers sent today, Reed Hastings, Netflix Co-Founder and CEO, opens with:

“It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming and the price changes.” – Hmm, perhaps a little bit of an understatement! (Read the full text at the end of this post.)

So members like me might be lulled into the false impression that this letter was going to be an apology in an attempt to smooth things over. Boy, was I wrong. Instead Hastings goes on to say the following (my paraphrasing, not his):

  • Because you are such a good customer, renting both DVDs and streaming, we’re going to degrade your service.
  • We know you like the fact that you can easily move movies between your online queue and your instant queue, which is why we’re going to stop you from doing that.
  • We know you liked the fact that a movie in your DVD queue is added to your instant queue automatically when it becomes available for instant viewing – so we’re going to stop allowing that.
  • We recognize that our website, with its easy-to-use features is one of the reasons you use our service, so we decided to give you twice the benefit by breaking it into two websites and asking you to use the two sites instead of one.
  • We won’t be increasing our prices as a result of reducing your service levels – we already did that.
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Intel Developer Forum (IDF) - Cloud. And Cloud, Cloud, Cloud. Oh, Yes, Did I Mention “Cloud”?

I just attended IDF and I’ve got to say, Intel has certainly gotten the cloud message. Almost everything is centered on clouds, from the high-concept keynotes to the presentations on low-level infrastructure, although if you dug deep enough there was content for general old-fashioned data center and I&O professionals. Some highlights:

Chips and processors and low-level hardware

Intel is, after all, a semiconductor foundry, and despite their expertise in design, their true core competitive advantage is their foundry operations – even their competitors grudgingly acknowledge that they can manufacture semiconductors better than anyone else on the planet. As a consequence, showing off new designs and processes is always front and center at IDF, and this year was no exception. Last year it was Sandy Bridge, the 22nm shrink of the 32nm Westmere (although Sandy Bridge also incorporated some significant design improvements). This year it was Ivy Bridge, the 22nm “tick” of the Intel “tick-tock” design cycle. Ivy Bridge is the new 22nm architecture and seems to have inherited Intel’s recent focus on power efficiency, with major improvements beyond the already solid advantages of their 22nm process, including deeper P-States and the ability to actually shut down parts of the chip when it is idle. While they did not discuss the server variants in any detail, the desktop versions will get an entirely new integrated graphics processor which they are obviously hoping will blunt AMD’s resurgence in client systems. On the server side, if I were to guess, I would guess more cores and larger caches, along with increased support for virtualization of I/O beyond what they currently have.

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The Five Tenets Of Business Processes In 2020

We are seeing  firms migrating away from traditional IT-centric approaches. Why? They have to: Customers are now empowered — and companies are not. So you have to ask yourself a few questions:

  • How long will packaged apps survive?
  • How long will it take before customer engagement wins out over the desire to control?
  • How do enterprises prepare to move to a federated deployment approach to meet process goals?

Federated deployments grab best-of-breed functions from the app Internet and SaaS-based solutions and use emerging technologies like dynamic case management, analytics, and collaboration. Figuring out how to implement these types of deployments to meet the business process needs companies will have in 2020 requires Big Thinking — and we will be addressing this as one of the main topics of discussion at Forrester’s Business Process Forum next week in Boston.

RIM's Tablet Night Terrors

Picture this. There's a hot new market adjacent to one you've dominated for years. You have the design team, engineering staff, retail distribution, and corporate buyer relations to build and sell that adjacent product. (Okay, so you don't have all the software skills or platforms you need, but you can buy those, right?)

Wouldn't you go for it? I mean, bet the business on it? Sure you would.

Now picture this. You ship a v0.7 tablet and call it done. You ship 500,000 units to corporate resellers and consumer retailers. And you talk about the tablet ecosystem that you have and are building. Then, just one quarter later, you ship 200,000 units to your channel. (Remember that Apple sold, not shipped, sold, 9.25 million iPads in the same period.)

Wouldn't that give you night terrors?

Here's what RIM needs to do to wake up and face reality:

  1. Scale back expectations and promises and revert to its natural market: highly secure, regulated, and locked down industries. Defense comes to mind. This will reset expectations and get the media bull's-eye off your back.
  2. Pull out all the stops to get QNX secured, BES-controlled, and deployed on a new generation of touchscreen phones. This will plug your product holes.
  3. Get the Android compatibility down cold. Don't replicate that ecosystem of content and apps. Embrace it. This will let you appeal to the consumer inside every employee.
  4. Make BES the center of your commercial universe. Deliver more connectors to SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, the cloud, and beyond that Apple or Google. This will attract corporate developers and buyers.

With those steps in motion, the night terrors will subside and a more rational, though smaller, company will emerge into the light of 2012.

Customer-Driven Business Transformation: A Discussion With Trustmark CIO Dan Simpson

Dan Simpson understands business transformation - and the critical role the customer plays in it. Before joining Trustmark, Dan led the Enterprise Technology Group at Physicians Mutual in Omaha, Neb., where he was the driving force behind the company’s business transformation strategy and the Greenfield program, which implemented new customer-centric business processes, service-oriented architecture (SOA), a new enterprise data warehouse, and several key business applications. For these efforts, Dan was recognized as Technology Chief of the Year in 2010 by the Applied Information Management Institute.

I spoke with Dan in preparation for his keynote next week at Forrester's Application Development & Delivery Forum.

Q: What are the business challenges and issues that typically motivate the need for business and IT transformation?

Dan Simpson: Common challenges facing business today include changes in market conditions, consumer behavior, and the regulatory environment as well as increasing competition and complexity. The inability to adapt to these changes drives the need to put new business process and technology foundations in place.

Q: How have you approached business process redesign?

Dan Simpson: The most effective approach is to focus on business process first before diving into systems. Depending on specific situations, I’ve seen great value in taking an approach where processes redesign starts and ends with the customer. This customer-driven approach helps drive customer-friendly decisions and efficiencies.

Q: What is a customer-driven application, and why is that concept important to transformation outcomes?

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The Age Of The Customer Will Force App Delivery Organizations To Change

At a recent roundtable discussion with Forrester’s leading application development & delivery (ADD) and customer experience analysts, my colleagues and I explored the topic of how application delivery must change to address the age of the customer. Today’s customers have tremendous influence and reach through social media, more options and choices for whom to buy from, and high expectations about how they want to be served. In response to this new reality, we see many businesses making moves to dramatically increase their focus on the customer experience. These shifting priorities bring huge changes to application delivery organizations, as ADD professionals must now embrace the customer-centric skills, culture, and processes essential to success in the age of the customer. 

What follows is an excerpt from that discussion. For more, download a free copy of the Forrester report “Application Delivery Must Enter The Age Of The Customer” (site registration required) and join us at Forrester’s upcoming Application Development & Delivery Forum on September 22-23.

Mike Gualtieri: As application development professionals, we’re often asked by the business to design a very focused app. As such, we’re often not in a position where we can think about that bigger picture. Sometimes, we’re just told that we need to develop an app for this. And that’s our job; that’s what we have to do, and we have to do the best we can. Would you recommend that we try to think bigger and then push back on the business when they ask us to do that?

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An Early Look at Windows Server 8 – Can You Say Cloud?

Well, maybe everybody is saying “cloud” these days, but my first impression of Microsoft Windows Server 8 (not the final name) is that Microsoft has been listening very closely to what customers want from an OS that can support both public and private enterprise cloud implementations. And most importantly, the things that they have built into WS8 for “clouds” also look like they make life easier for plain old enterprise IT.

Microsoft appears to have focused its efforts on several key themes, all of which benefit legacy IT architectures as well as emerging clouds:

  • Management, migration and recovery of VMs in a multi-system domain – Major improvements in Hyper-V and management capabilities mean that I&O groups can easily build multi-system clusters of WS8 servers, and easily migrate VMs across system boundaries. Muplitle systems can be clustered with Fibre Channel, making it easier to implement high-performance clusters.
  • Multi-tenancy – A host of features, primarily around management and role-based delegation that make it easier and more secure to implement multi-tenant VM clouds.
  • Recovery and resiliency – Microsoft claims that they can failover VMs from one machine to another in 25 seconds, a very impressive number indeed. While vendor performance claims are always like EPA mileage – you are guaranteed never to exceed this number – this is an impressive claim and a major capability, with major implications for HA architecture in any data center.
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Making Change Management Work: Three Practitioners Offer Some Guidance

Change management from the people perspective is too often a forgotten component of business process transformation. Organizations focus on getting the new processes right and putting technology components in place — but helping people who will implement the new processes accept and even embrace change is usually an afterthought. Some organizations — small and medium-size businesses as well as global enterprise organizations — have realized how critical the people piece is to success and have addressed the people issue early on in the change process.

At Forrester’s Business Process Forum, we will bring together some of these practitioners that have made change management work in their organizations. We recently caught up with three of them: Tom Coleman, Chief Information and Process Officer, Sloan Valve Company; Wade Wallinger, GM Value Chain Optimization COE , Chevron; and Ronald Sharpe, Change Management Lead, Business Excellence Team, Cabela’s.

Q: How did you get your change management program started?

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“Street Smart” Versus “Book Smart”

Leonardo da Vinci BridgeSmart cities come in all shapes and sizes. There is not one definition of smart. Think about the terms “street smart” and “book smart.” When I think about the initiatives or reforms that we’re seeing across cities, I’ve started categorizing them along these lines. New initiatives like sensor-based parking and traffic optimization fall into street smart, while streamlining of back office processes and applications tend to be more book smart. And as we know, it takes all kinds.

The hype of smart cities, however, has focused on the sexy new kid on the block. Everything sensor-based and “intelligent” has gotten top billing from vendors. However, many cities need to start cracking the books first. 

Here are a few ways to start:

  • Rationalization of back office applications. Sprawling or at least siloed IT infrastructure and business apps can be upgraded and consolidated. Several CIOs I’ve spoken with have mentioned that this is a big challenge. Department heads don’t want to give up control over their domain, as they see it. Big cities find themselves with multiple enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems running across different departments in a city: Parks and Recreation licenses ERP from one vendor; Public Works subscribes to ERP services from another; Transportation manages their fleet with yet another.
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CSC Acquires AppLabs - Building Bench Strength In The Testing-As-A-Service Market, Especially If CSC Looks At The Bigger Picture

CSC announced today that it is acquiring AppLabs, a US-based IV&V testing vendor. At first glance, it's a win, maybe a win for both sides. CSC states that one of the reasons that it acquired AppLabs is to augment its horizontal application strategy - due to AppLabs' presence in the US and UK (both vendors have firmly rooted practices in both markets) and to leverage AppLabs' testing strength in both custom and package applications. It's clearly a win for CSC:

  • This acquisition brings the larger vendor something new - a foot into the ISV market. AppLabs has had a pretty successful track record in testing software products. Historically, CSC's focus has been supporting internal IT for both private and public sectors. 
  • AppLabs is one of the vendors that has been consistently successful in adapting both iterative and Agile practices to its test methodology. This allows it, if it can transfer AppLabs' approach into its current testing practices, to better poise itself to support testing continuous build and integration environments.
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