Neither The Economist magazine nor the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is known for being alarmist. So one pays attention when The Economist in the lead item ("Is this really the end?"; see also "The euro: Beware of falling masonry") in its November 26issue stated: "The chances of the euro zone being smashed apart have risen alarmingly, thanks to financial panic, a rapidly weakening economic outlook and pigheaded brinkmanship." The OECD had similar strong words of concern in its press release ("OECD calls for urgent action to boost ailing global economy") announcing its latest "Economic Outlook": "Decisive policies must be urgently put in place to stop the euro area sovereign debt crisis from spreading and to put weakening global activity back on track."
For me, the economies of the European Union (EU) have disturbing similarities to the ocean liner RMS Titanic as it steamed across the Atlantic on that fateful trip in 1912. From the start when Greek debt crisis surfaced in early 2010, the leaders of the EU have consistently done too little, too late to keep the problem contained and manageable. The steps that could have been taken to change course were not taken. Instead, the EU ocean liner stayed on its course, right into the path of an iceberg of financial panic.
It’s the perennial issue for many CIOs and often the No. 1 challenge for new CIOs: “How do I align IT with the business?” And while this is perhaps the most important challenge for IT groups struggling with a bad reputation across the business, it’s certainly not the most important challenge for IT groups with a solid track record of success. For these teams, the challenge is how to move beyond alignment.
In the report Beyond Alignment: BT Strategic Planning, I highlight how critical it is for IT to help formulate business strategy. The research suggests that how a firm develops and manages business strategy is pivotal to the question of how IT can move beyond alignment. Unfortunately, there are a number of challenges with this:
I've been hearing a lot about digital strategy and digital transformation lately. (Is that what they call a tech meme?) To my ears, it sounds like a good way to get technology people and business people together to answer four important technology questions:
1. How do I serve customers and employees on the mobile device of their choice? This one becomes even more important as smartphone and tablet adoption soars. In the US, we at Forrester expect based on our surveys that over a third of smartphones are and will be used for work and over half of tablets will be, too. Consumerization rules this roost.
What it means: Mobile devices are yet another digital touchpoint for marketing, sales, service, and product teams to master. But of course multi-touchpoint means that things must work well on all digital devices and channels: mobile, Web, social, and video.
2. How do I harness social technology for the good of customers and business productivity? IBM and Salesforce.com are betting big that social business will drive technology investment. And of course it will, though not without a fair amount of soul searching into the real sources of value on the part of business and technology people.
The day before Thanksgiving is a good point to pause and give thanks for the recent news in the tech market, before we give thanks for our personal blessings with our families and friends tomorrow. So, amidst the glum news about the ongoing European debt crisis that is grinding growth to a standstill, the failure of the congressional supercommittee to make any progress on US budget deficits or stimulus, and the crashing stock markets, here are some things that tech vendors can be thankful for.
US economy is still growing. The revised real GDP growth rate for Q3 2011 was 2%, down from the preliminary report of 2.5% (Gross Domestic Product, 3rd Quarter 2011 [second estimate]). That's not much growth, but at least it is growth. And the report on "Personal Income and Outlays: October 2011" released this morning showed a 0.4% increase in October from September (5% at an annualized rate), with consumer spending up by 0.1% (1% annualized). So, the fourth quarter began with some good momentum for consumer spending.
The US tech market is still growing — better than the government data indicates. The Bureau of Economic Analysis data on business investment in information technology was revised downward from the preliminary release, with total IT investment growing by just 3.3%. However, computer equipment grew by 10.6% and software by 6%, with software doing even better if we make adjustments to exclude the "own account" software that is created by firms for their own use. The bad news was that communications equipment investment declined by 13.2%.
T-Systems’ Analyst Summit 2011 in Frankfurt was dominated by updates on the progress the company made regarding its restructuring projects. As a result of these efforts, T-Systems has created the basis to become a more efficient and agile ICT services provider going forward. Still, in our view, the period between mid-2010 to mid-2011 was a lost year for T-Systems — despite the obvious progress T-Systems made in addressing its past challenges.
In some respects, T-Systems had become a victim of its own success in 2009 and 2010. T-Systems was clearly overwhelmed by its multibillion deals (with clients including Linde, BP, Shell, E.ON, MAN, Continental, etc). Delivery capacities were stretched to the limit, manifesting in serious transition and transformation challenges. T-Systems was forced to allocate more capacities to big deals, thus depressing margins to just over 2% in Q3 2011 (see chart below). T-Systems still aims to reach the peer-group average EBIT margin.
Source: company reports
About a year ago, T-Systems began to restructure its entire operations in a mammoth project, effectively redrawing the entire organisational structure and reshuffling the top management team, except for the CEO and CFO. The Analyst Summit provided some insights that these efforts are beginning to bear fruit:
Special thanks to Art Schoeller, TJ Keitt, Henry Dewing, and Ted Schadler for their input
I went to Cisco's Collaboration Summit last week to hear the latest from the various product teams and some of their marquee customers. Much of the story remains the same: Cisco continues to dominate in video and web conferencing; it is taking strong steps in the right direction but still has a lot of work ahead to deliver a cohesive collaboration platform with the likes of Microsoft, IBM, and Google:
Video continues to be a key differentiator. Cisco is expanding its foothold in video at different ends of the market. Highlights from the conference include Telepresence Conductor, a component that optimizes the video traffic in large enterprises with multiple MCUs; and Callway, a hosted service for SMBs that don't want to invest in dedicated infrastructure. The most interesting development to me is the redesigned Jabber client, Cisco's push to compete with Lync. SVP for Telepresence OJ Winge described it to me as a combination of the best technologies from Cisco's applications for IM (Jabber), video (Movi), and voice. The recently released Jabber SDK also allows developers to enable Jabber IM, presence, voice, web conferencing -- and in the future, video -- in web applications like Gmail or SAP.
During its Fujitsu Forum, which was attended by over 10,000 customers and partners, Fujitsu presented itself as a company in transformation from a fairly disjointed business to a more streamlined international business. Fujitsu’s new strategy has three main components:
Focus on organic growth: Fujitsu is investing more in its sales and services structure as well as its internal IT systems. It aims to get better in what it has already been doing, such as exploiting its large software and hardware portfolio, including smartphones, thin clients, handsets, tablets, mainframes, laptops, and super computers. In terms of services, Fujitsu is pushing its multivendor maintenance capabilities and its IT outsourcing experience. Fujitsu considers its product knowledge and near- and offshore mix a key, unique selling point vis-à-vis its competitors. Given Fujitsu's weak marketing and sales structures of the past, we would believe that it is high-time to improve its go-to-market approach.
Target emerging markets: The main focus is on Russia, India, and the Middle East. Fujitsu is ramping up local operations and also adapting its go-to-market approaches. For instance, in India it is using its promotion campaign via auto rickshaw on “see-try-buy” basis. Fujitsu’s goal is to double emerging markets sales by 2015 from €800 in 2010. Given its Asian roots, it is astonishing how long it took Fujitsu to realise the opportunities at its doorstep.
The shift towards the empowered consumer and employee is no more obvious than in Asia - particularly in Singapore, where a recent Google study showed that smartphone penetration is a whopping 62% (compared to 31% in the US). In fact, of the 11 countries in Asia surveyed, four of them (Singapore, Australia - 37%, Hong Kong - 35%, Urban China - 35%) had higher smartphone penetration rates than the US (and amongst 18-29 year olds, 84% of Singaporeans had smartphones, compared to 47% in the US!). With many of the more populous countries having young populations (average age: Philippines - 22.9, China - 35.5, India - 26.2, Indonesia - 28.2 - see World Factbook), the gen Y factor is driving employees to question whether the current way of working makes the most sense.
With so many young, mobile and connected employees, it is no surprise that CIOs across the region regularly complain about the company staff self-deploying devices, applications and services from the web or from app stores. The attitude of many IT shops is to shut it down - interestingly, the whole concept of "empowered employees" is quite "taboo" in some countries across the Asia Pacific region. A CIO recently told me that "smartphones and social media have come five years too soon" - referring to the fact he is planning to retire in five years, and that these technology-centric services are proving to be quite a headache for his IT department!
This past week I attended IBM’s Smarter City Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the fourth in a series of global events highlighting the opportunities for cities to improve their systems — and themselves as a “system of systems.” This event felt different from the previous summit I had attended in Shanghai. Obvious political and cultural differences aside (not to dismiss them, as they were significant), the big difference I observed here was that the sessions were more real. And I don’t mean that as a slight on the Shanghai event. Rather, in Shanghai, the focus was on moving from vision to execution– creating the blueprints for smart cities. In Rio, we had moved from blueprints to proof points. (Yes, you can quote that . . . it is mine.) Mayors from cities across Latin America and some from even farther came to share their experiences.
The premise: HR analytics have taken on new importance as companies work to find, develop, and retain top talent. Using analytics requires asking the right questions that address key organizational pain points and determining the metrics and best practices that will move the company toward greater productivity. We anticipate that this report will help guide HR professionals as they focus on analytics to support recruiting, performance, and learning.
HR faces a challenge of proving its value in helping to set business priorities. Data from technology solutions now give HR the opportunity to become a valued business partner in determining the appropriate metrics to help the executive suite and people in other lines of business make important talent management decisions. The tactical role of advertising for and finding employees, negotiating the hires, and bringing employees on board is no longer enough; HR must become a strategic business partner.
We recommend that you start with solid foundational components including data sources, data extraction and integration processes, master data management (MDM), and an HR data mart as the official HR data repository. Once that’s in place, you need to build queries, reports, and dashboards. Medium-size organizations may use a packaged solution, but large global enterprises with many business units will have to assemble these components.