Orange Business Services: Cautious Maybe – But Sensible

It’s easy to bash incumbent telcos, to count them as being among the losers in the digital revolution. Cloud services players are taking business from telcos in the storage and server capacity space. Over-the-top providers are free-riding on the telco infrastructure. Software firms are eating into the communication business. Regulators are pressing for further price reductions. And to top this scenario, telcos are continuing to undercut each other in price wars.

During a round of executive discussions with Forrester, Orange Business Services (OBS) has shown that against these odds, it keeps a pretty even keel regarding the most hyped topics in ICT, most notably cloud and mobility. OBS is selective in its cloud offerings, focusing on UCaaS and IaaS. UCaaS is a natural extension of its communication business and thus falls into OBS’ home turf. All telcos should see communication services from the cloud as a natural extension of what they have always done.

OBS’ drive into IaaS, meanwhile, looks like a less convincing pitch. Its IaaS offering essentially comprises a virtual data centre offering with virtual firewalls and load balancing. The question is: How OBS can compete against the dominant cloud players in the storage and server space? In the short term, such an approach is conceivable. However, OBS will need to provide a much broader range of virtual infrastructure choices to avoid slipping into a low-margin market segment.

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Dell World – New Image. New Company?

I just spent several days at Dell World, and came away with the impression of a company that is really trying to change its image. Old Dell was boxes, discounts and low cost supply chain. New Dell is applications, solution, cloud (now there’s a surprise!) and investments in software and integration. OK, good image, but what’s the reality? All in all, I think they are telling the truth about their intentions, and their investments continue to be aligned with these intentions.

As I wrote about a year ago, Dell seems to be intent on climbing up the enterprise food chain. It’s investment in several major acquisitions, including Perot Systems for services and a string of advanced storage, network and virtual infrastructure solution providers has kept the momentum going, and the products have been following to market. At the same time I see solid signs of continued investment in underlying hardware, and their status as he #1 x86 server vendor in N. America and #2 World-Wide remains an indication of their ongoing success in their traditional niches. While Dell is not a household name in vertical solutions, they have competent offerings in health care, education and trading, and several of the initiatives I mentioned last year are definitely further along and more mature, including continued refinement of their VIS offerings and deep integration of their much-improved DRAC systems management software into mainstream management consoles from VMware and Microsoft.

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Check Out An Enterprise Architect's View Of Consumerization Technologies

My colleague Gene Leganza has pulled off a consumerization coup for enterprise architects (EAs) and those who work with them. EAs must wrestle with the best way to harness the innovation of HEROes -- highly empowered and resourceful operatives (the protagonist of our book Empowered) -- while protecting the long-term interests and technology strategy of your company. To do so, they need to assess and come up with a strategy for the major consumer technologies coming in through the employee door.

Gene has done a real service to categorize and deliver a strategic assessment on the most important consumerization technologies, including business collaboration, file sync, tablets, and self-service business intelligence. He did this using Forrester's TechRadar methodology in a report titled, "TechRadar For Enterprise Architect Professionals: Technologies For Empowered Employees: Q4 2011." For content & collaboration professionals, this TechRadar includes an assessment of business collaboration, a category fueled by employee-purchased technologies such as Google Docs, Smartsheets.com, and Huddle.

Here is an excerpt on business collaboration:

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Back To The Basics

After a bit of xml display snafu, my report "Breaking Down Entropy And Passwords" is finally live on the Forrester website. 

This report was inspired by a number of customer inquiries that I had recently on mobile password policies. It struck me that few IT organizations actually understood the fundamental rationale behind password policies - length and complexity of passwords, number of password retries, and password lifetime. This is perhaps because we take user passwords, one of the most basic security controls, for granted, and hence don't think about it too deeply. Because it is such a prevalent security control, and because many organizations don't have much beyond user passwords, it is high time we understand why we set a particular password policy and whether that works for our particular risk profile.

So I set out to write this report - trying to describe the theoretical underpinnings of password properties. For example, if you require that your mobile users use a 6-digit PIN to access their mobile phones, do you know how many PIN fail-retries you should permit but still achieve NIST level one authentication?  What about a 6-character alphanumeric password? 

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Getting The Customer Service Agent Experience Right Is Good For Business

There is an explosion of customer service products and services, and companies are turning to customer service as a way to differentiate themselves: 90% of customer service decision-makers tell Forrester that a good service experience is critical to their company's success, and 63% think the importance of the customer service experience has risen.

But we know that businesses must be pragmatic in choosing initiatives that will help deliver service in line with customer expectations, and at a cost that makes sense to the business.

Companies are looking at many ways to move the needle on customer service by leveraging the power of social media, mobile, and new cloud-based deployment methods. However, I hear few companies talking about what they are doing to optimize the customer service agent’s experience so that he can deliver better service to his customers.

Today, customer service agents use tens, if not hundreds, of disconnected systems to address a customer’s request. Have a look at the  example  of a desktop that Jacada gave me — lots of apps, and even some green-screen apps!

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Ready, Fire, Aim! With Client Virtualization, Are You As Ready As You Think?

Michael Masterson's book "Ready, Fire, Aim" is one of my favorites. Masterson, a serial entrepreneur who has built dozens of businesses, some to $100 million in revenue and beyond, explains that the biggest determiner between success and failure is how quickly we get going and execute…even if the plan isn't perfect. Spot on!

But, Masterson also takes great care to explain how critical (and often misunderstood) being truly "ready" is, and that "firing" without actually being ready is as bad as if not worse than delaying for perfection. So what do we do? Where do we draw the line when it comes to projects like client virtualization, with hundreds of moving parts, politics galore, and very little objective, unbiased information available?

Answer: The winners will get going today…now...and will get ready by talking to the people their work will ultimately serve, and learn enough about their needs and the technology and best practices to avoid the mistakes most likely to result in failure -- knowledge that they will acquire in less than 90 days. The fire process starts the moment they make an investment in new people or technology, and the aiming process continues through the life cycle of the service, steadily improving in value, effectiveness, and efficiency.

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How To Avoid The Mobile Goat Rodeo

Mobility in the enterprise is a goat rodeo waiting to happen. Are any of these things going on in your company?

  • Building customer mobile apps that don't tie into the .com site.
  • Coding for iPhones while leaving Android phones unserved.
  • Forcing a session login to a mobile collaboration app that keeps employees from bothering.
  • Locking down employee devices when email is the only app on it.
  • Failing to have the network and hardware to handle an explosion in transaction volume.

If so, you're not alone. It's natural in a fast-moving environment to tackle things piecemeal in the hope that you can handle the problems later. But that approach leads to chaos and confusion and lack of coordination. And that can lead to huge problems that are happening already or are lurking just behind the goat rodeo gate.

It's time to take a deep breath, call an offsite meeting, and put a mobile strategy playbook together. In a recent report for Forrester customers, Building An Operations Stairway To The Mobile Future, my colleagues and I mashed together seven things that have to come together to make mobile operations work. It's not the full chapter list in the playbook, but it's a good operational start.

Mobility Is The Tail That Will Wag The UC Dog

How much of your IT operating and capital budget will go to UC related investments? I predict that spending by large distributed enterprises (defined as firms with 1,000 or more employees) on communications infrastructure and services will grow between 7% and 10% per year during the next three years. Moreover, there will be a gradual shift away from hardware to software, and wireless connectivity will account for MOST of the growth in communications services spending.

Momentum is building for broader UC adoption, and our Q1 2011 survey of 601 firms that have implemented or are piloting a UC solution showed that 55% of the respondents consider UC a top priority this year.

There are two BIG drivers of widespread UC adoption in large distributed organizations: Mobility and new business models (how UC technology and services are delivered). Mobility will become the “tail that wags the UC dog.” Why? Consider the management and usage cost efficiencies offered by fixed mobile convergence (FMC)  technology — least-cost routing savings including reduced international calling and roaming charges,  to name one.

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ITSM Practitioner Health Check: The ITSM Community Strikes Back

A while ago, in fact too long ago (but not in a galaxy far, far away), I wrote a blog called Giving Back To The IT Service Management Community where I surmised that IT service management (ITSM) practitioners need help beyond the ITIL books and associated training. They need real-world help; whether this is by way of guidance, quick-start templates to prevent the “reinvention of the wheel,” benchmarks, or by other means. And that, while some members of the ITSM community already offer help, what practitioners really need is to be offered targeted and focused help. A response that is practitioner “pull” rather than helper “push.”

In short, I proposed that we need to do at least five things (as a community) to help:

  1. Recognize that we are a community and a community that often struggles with the same issues (particularly with ITIL adoption).
  2. Offer up our time to help out others (and often ourselves).
  3. Identify where our efforts need to be applied (for example with the creation of a set of standard (core) ITSM metrics and benchmarks).
  4. Deliver on our promises to the ITSM community.
  5. Never stop trying to improve our collective ITSM capabilities and the quality of delivered IT and business services.
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BI In The Cloud: Separating Facts From Fiction

“… and they lived happily ever after.” This is the typical ending of most Hollywood movies, which is why I am not a big fan. I much prefer European or independent movies that leave it up to the viewer to draw their own conclusions. It’s just so much more realistic. Keep this in mind, please, as you read this blog, because its only purpose is to present my point of view on what’s happening in the cloud BI market, not to predict where it’s going. I’ll leave that up to your comments — just like your own thoughts and feelings after a good, thoughtful European or indie movie.

Market definition

First of all, let’s define the market. Unfortunately, the terms SaaS and cloud are often used synonymously and therefore, alas, incorrectly.

  • SaaS is just a licensing structure. Many vendors (open source, for example) offer SaaS software subscription models, which has nothing to do with cloud-based hosting.
  • Cloud, in my humble opinion, is all about multitenant software hosted on public or private clouds. It’s not about cloud hosting of traditional software innately architected for single tenancy.
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