As a former investment analyst, I remember the feeling when stock market screens turn deep red. Such days turn one’s stomach upside down on a dealing floor. But even from the outside, such days are unnerving. The big question in the telecoms markets making the rounds at present is how the current market turmoil will affect the telcos. The 2008 financial crisis might provide some clues to what we could expect in 2011 and 2012, albeit in a less-pronounced fashion:
Consumer spending on communications will remain pretty stable. During the last financial crisis, spending on communications remained largely untouched by the consumer. We do expect a slight migration towards flat rates for customers with the desire for greater cost certainties and towards prepaid by customers with the desire to lower their communication expenditure. One obvious danger in times of turmoil are price wars between service providers. They can offer only short-term growth relief, but at a high cost. Resulting poor margins will be felt for a long time.
Businesses will put nonessential IT projects on hold or water them down. We have not yet seen evidence that COOs and IT departments have tapped the brakes on their tech buying, but they certainly have become more cautious. If the economies of the US or Europe go into recession — a possibility, but not our baseline forecast — that will hit IT budgets, as happened in 2008 and 2009. I am hearing from telecoms providers that their enterprise sales pipelines are already under pressure as customers slow their IT investments and look for ways to reduce their telecom services spending. Projects that support end-users with their sales efforts, e.g., sales force automation projects, are likely to be less affected than others.
Call me crazy, but there's a revival of interest in sustainability underway. Despite the Collapse in Copenhagen, the Demise of (US) Cap & Trade, and the ongoing Great Recession, companies around the world continue to invest in IT solutions to improve their operational efficiency and reduce their environmental impact.
My travels these past few weeks had me visiting with two sustainability practice leaders at large consulting/integration firms, the product heads for two of the leading energy and carbon management software providers, and the internal sustainability champions at a very large IT systems company.
In all five instances, folks were surprisingly chipper given the economic environment and its drag effect on sustainability spending. One of the sustainability practice leaders, for example, told me of their plans to grow from 150 people at the end of 2011 to 1,000 people three years hence.
What's going on? Here's my theory: Sustainability is becoming embedded in corporate behavior, metrics, and strategy. It's not a separate investment line item, a separate set of metrics, a separate organization . . . it's embedded into mainstream operations. As one of the software leaders put it, "Sustainability is sitting at the adults' table now."
What does that mean for these suppliers and their brethren? A big change in the way they go to market.
Picture the scene in the HP boardroom when the board members decide the company needs (another) new CEO. They had trouble just last fall finding outside candidates and don’t seem satisfied with internal candidates. I can imagine a New Yorker cartoon–like scene, where they all agree to draw straws, and the board member drawing the short straw gets the CEO job!
But it was not like that. The board realized something that Forrester felt for some time — that HP needs better communications to customers, markets, and employees. Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO, is a not an obvious choice, especially given her primarily consumer and web business experience. But she brings strong Silicon Valley roots, something lacking in HP’s recent CEOs, which should help a lot with injecting new energy into HP. And she starts with a strong business reputation for growing eBay, being a good leader, and communicating well. Plus she’s got a nine-month head start as board member on understanding HP over any outside candidate.
As the new HP CEO, Whitman faces a difficult situation. HP has a strong set of products and customer brand that are being damaged by the uncertain directions of the board and the repeated CEO turmoil. Meanwhile, the Wall Street traders and technology press are overreacting, as they often do — HP has solid product and service offerings that are just as good as they were last week, before the latest leadership turmoil. So what should she do?
We're announcing the first set of winners of the Forrester Groundswell Awards -- the management division winners, with applications aimed at employees. These awards are being announced today at the Forrester Content & Collaboration Forum in Boston. Congratulations to the winners and finalists -- with 205 entries this year, being selected for one of these awards is a real accomplishment.
The Australian affiliate of Deloitte, the global services company, deployed Yammer in 2008 with no plans for mass adoption. But usage rapidly exploded, spreading to 5,000 of the company's staff and 12 national offices. Yammer users have lower staff turnover (2% vs. company average 15-20%) and Deloitte says Yammer has reduced costs, broken down silos, and accelerated innovation. It also builds culture, improves connections for mobile workers, and makes it easier to leverage knowledge and expertise.
As readers of my blog will remember, we were all ready to publish our mid-2011 update to our global economy report (see July 28, 2011, "Forrester Will Lower Its Tech Market Forecast By One-to-Two Percentage Points, Depending On Federal Debt Ceiling Outcome") when the US deficit ceiling crisis, renewal of the European debt crisis, and other developments raised questions about the strength of the economic recovery. Given the deterioration in the economic outlook, we stopped publication to rework our forecast to reflect those changes. The delay did have a some side benefits, including getting Q2 tech market data for Canada, adjusting our US data on computer equipment, communications, and equipment for Bureau of Economic Affairs revisions, incorporating new data sources for our US projections for IT consulting and outsourcing services, and taking advantage of the better data on Australia, China, India, and Japan from Forrester's acquisition of Springboard.
If 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Smart 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.
Recently my colleague David Cooperstein and I had the opportunity to meet with Robert Mead and Michael Mathias, the CMO and CIO respectively at Aetna. They will be speaking at our upcoming CIO-CMO Forum on September 22 in Boston, so this serves as a bit of a preview to what should be an eye opening presentation. Enjoy!
David Cooperstein: What external changes drove you to build a deeper partnership with your technology peers?
Robert Mead, Senior Vice President, Aetna Marketing, Product & Communications: The U.S. health care system is fragmented and well behind the curve in terms of price transparency and consumer-friendly products and services. The deep partnership between technology and marketing at Aetna lets us put leading-edge technologies and powerful tools and applications directly into the hands of people so that they can be confident consumers and informed patients. Our close collaboration with our colleagues in technology is driven by a few external factors:
the increasing cost of care and the corresponding changes in employer-based insurance – consumers are being asked to take more ownership of their health and wellness and their health care spending;
the introduction and rapid adoption of technology that empowers consumers (and patients) to engage in the health care system where they are in life and in the way they want to be connected; and
health care reform, which aims to bring millions of previously uninsured Americans into the marketplace as consumers.