What Are The Benefits Of Running Your Software Organization As A Business That Delivers Products?

In my blog post yesterday, I asked whether you should be running your software organization as a business that delivers products. Today I will explore what it means for you to take this approach.

As Forrester has pointed out in past research, to move forward in a product-centric way, you must establish a number of capabilities in your organization in a product-centric operating model:

I used to make a living doing product management and running product management organizations, as did a number of people at Forrester. My perspective on product management is somewhat distinct because I started out on the product engineering side, leading product development organizations. But between my first ISV and my second, I saw the contrast between weak, ineffective product management and strong, effective product management. When strong product management is in balance with an effective engineering group, well aligned, it’s a beautiful thing to see. The weak option? You don’t want to know – it was too painful to remember.

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Vodafone Reinforces Its Position In The UK Enterprise Market Through Cable & Wireless Worldwide Take-Over

Vodafone agreed to acquire Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CWW) for 1.04 billion pounds in cash, valuing CWW at three times EBITDA. The deal propels Vodafone to the second largest telco in the UK with revenues of GBP6.97 billion, behind BT with revenues of GBP15.6 billion. From a financial perspective, the deal has a limited impact, accounting for only 3% of Vodafone’s 2011 EBITDA. However, given BT’s lack of a mobile division, Vodafone, becomes the leading integrated telco in the UK, offering fixed and mobile operations. The deal is expected to complete in Q3 2012.

The main focus of the deal is on CWW’s UK fixed-line network and CWW’s business customer base, both of which Vodafone aims to add to its UK mobile network. CWW provides managed voice, data, hosting, and IP-based services and applications. The deal boosts Vodafone’s enterprise offering, both in terms of access and transport infrastructure and also in terms of customer base. CWW is a major global infrastructure player: Its international cable network spans 425,000 km in length, covering 150 countries. In the UK, CWW operates a 20,500 km fiber network. Moreover, CWW has about 6,000 business customers. The future of CWW’s non-UK assets remains uncertain. In our view they do provide true value for Vodafone, strengthening its global network infrastructure. Vodafone will provide further details regarding these non-UK assets later in the year.

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Should You Be Running Your Software Organization Like A Business That Delivers Products?

Is it hard to focus your software delivery organization on the right things? Do you sometimes deliver the wrong features or give too little priority to the most important features? Are you drowning in the cost of too much redundant software, because stakeholders can’t get on one page about what the business really needs? Do you struggle to make the case for investments you know are essential to your long-term survival but that deliver few short-term benefits? If so, consider the benefits of running your shop more like a business by reorganizing to deliver products (or value streams, in Lean lingo).

It’s been more than two years since we last surveyed software delivery leaders about their increasing tendency to organize to deliver software as products (rather than projects or application functional areas), but even then this trend was well under way:

I have only anecdotal evidence that this trend is continuing to grow, but I’m convinced by hundreds of interactions with top software delivery leaders since we did this survey that it is, especially for people who deliver customer-facing websites and mobile apps. Customer-facing dynamics are also driving this trend for the “Internet of things” among firms focused on Smart Grid and other similar domains that depend on customer adoption to drive success. What are the factors driving this growth?

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Why Tablets Will Become Our Primary Computing Device

Tablets aren’t the most powerful computing gadgets. But they are the most convenient.

They’re bigger than the tiny screen of a smartphone, even the big ones sporting nearly 5-inch screens.

They have longer battery life and always-on capabilities better than any PC — and will continue to be better at that than any ultrathin/book/Air laptop. That makes them very handy for carrying around and using frequently, casually, and intermittently even where there isn’t a flat surface or a chair on which to use a laptop. 

And tablets are very good for information consumption, an activity that many of us do a lot of. Content creation apps are appearing on tablets. They’ll get a lot better as developers get used to building for touch-first interfaces, taking advantage of voice input, and adding motion gestures.

They’re even better for sharing and working in groups. There’s no barrier of a vertical screen, no distracting keyboard clatter, and it just feels natural to pass over a tablet, like a piece of paper, compared to spinning around a laptop.

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IT Service Providers Will Soon Face Operating Model Mayhem

Several recent Forrester reports, including “Mobile Is The New Face Of Engagement,” have shown how new business success imperatives are pushing clients to change the way they leverage IT solutions. In my report “The Move To An Asset-Based Services Play,” I describe how IT service providers will have to adapt to these new rules of engagement if they want to stay relevant to their clients in the long run. In particular, the increased focus on business innovation will push service providers to invest more in the development of software assets — or solution accelerators (SAs) — that provide strong business value to multiple clients.

The move to asset-based services will force service providers to invest in new operating models that differ significantly from their traditional models and are closer to the ones leveraged by software providers. In my next report, I will cover some of the associated best practices in terms of the organization, people, processes, and tools that IT services firms need to implement to make this shift happen internally. Service providers will need, among others, to recruit new skills such as product and portfolio managers, incentivize the creation of software assets, fund and incubate the creation of solution accelerators, and overhaul their partnership management processes.

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IBM Raises The Bar On Converged Infrastructure With PureFlex And PureApplication Integrated Offerings

IBM Jumps On CI With Both Feet

Over the last couple of years, IBM, despite having a rich internal technology ecosystem and a number of competitive blade and CI offerings, has not had a comprehensive integrated offering to challenge HP’s CloudSystem Matrix and Cisco’s UCS. This past week IBM effectively silenced its critics and jumped to the head of the CI queue with the announcement of two products, PureFlex and PureApplication, the results of a massive multi-year engineering investment in blade hardware, systems management, networking, and storage integration. Based on a new modular blade architecture and new management architecture, the two products are really more of a continuum of a product defined by the level of software rather than two separate technology offerings.

PureFlex is the base product, consisting of the new hardware (which despite having the same number of blades as the existing HS blade products, is in fact a totally new piece of hardware), which integrates both BNT-based networking as well as a new object-based management architecture which can manage up to four chassis and provide a powerful setoff optimization, installation, and self-diagnostic functions for the hardware and software stack up to and including the OS images and VMs. In addition IBM appears to have integrated the complete suite of Open Fabric Manager and Virtual Fabric for remapping MAC/WWN UIDs and managing VM networking connections, and storage integration via the embedded V7000 storage unit, which serves as both a storage pool and an aggregation point for virtualizing external storage. The laundry list of features and functions is too long to itemize here, but PureFlex, especially with its hypervisor-neutrality and IBM’s Cloud FastStart option, is a complete platform for an enterprise private cloud or a horizontal VM compute farm, however you choose to label a shared VM utility.

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Oracle And OpenStack: A Tale Of Two Completely Opposite Strategies

If you wanted to see the full spectrum of cloud choices that are coming to market today you only have to look at these two efforts as they are starting to evolve. They represent the extremes. And ironically both held analyst events this week.

OpenStack is clearly an effort by a vendor (Rackspace) to launch a community to help advance technology and drive innovation around a framework that multiple vendors can use to bring myriad cloud services to market and deliver differentiated values. Whereas Oracle, who gave analysts a brief look inside its public cloud efforts this week, is taking a completely closed and self-built approach that looks to fulfill all cloud values from top to bottom.

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Starving People Will Find Food

In our Forrsights Business Decision-Makers Survey, Q4 2011, 79% of business executive respondents said that technology will be a key source of innovation for their company, while 71% said that it will be a competitive differentiator. So how well positioned is IT to help firms meet these expectations? Forty-six percent thought that their current IT organization was not well positioned to meet these needs, and 41% thought IT was overly bureaucratic.

I could go on with more data, but the message is clear — business is starving for technology to help it be more innovative, create market differentiation, and lower costs. In the midst of this, IT is mired in a technology mess created by years of underinvestment and business growth by acquisition. What’s going to happen?

The thing I want you to remember is something a client said to me not too long ago that stuck with me, “Starving people will find food.” So the question is: do we feed our starving business or tell them to stay on a diet? And if the latter, what will be the impact if they go scavenging the countryside? We think the answer involves flexibly and rapidly introducing new technology to take advantage of strategic opportunities, while still protecting data, mission-critical applications, and our most precious TCO reduction goals.

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Moving From The Horse To The Car: Innovation Or Improvement?

Was the introduction of the Ford Model T an improvement or an innovation over the horse drawn wagon?

As an SVM professional, you may ask, “Why is this question important for me?” But as an ever-growing number of companies invest in innovation, they will realize a significant portion of this can come from the existing relationships with suppliers.

Forrester surveyed over 1,000 IT executives and technology decision-makers in Q3 2011 about which priorities will have the most significant impact on this year’s IT services spend. The top answer, at 56% of the respondents, was the need to innovate and grow their business. In fact, innovation rated higher than the ever-important lowering operational costs (40%)!

To execute on these innovation priorities, you — the SVM specialist — must understand the innovation potential of your suppliers and how to leverage this in the future. Success on this endeavor will require setting the stage. SVM pros need to understand the difference between a supplier-driven improvement — that we expect — and a service or business-focused innovation that needs investment and management. SVM pros can start with three key items: 1) Use an innovation screening checklist to understand who to partner with; 2) educate vendors on business priorities and key stakeholders within the business to enable innovation; and 3) manage delivery-oriented innovation as a part of your daily vendor governance.

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Semantic Technology In The Enterprise

Remember The Jetsons? The flying cars and the automated kitchen and the food pills? Sometimes modern life can feel like that futuristic utopia. We've got robots in the home and a speech-recognition personal assistant named Siri built in the iPhone in our bag. IBM Watson, a supercomputer, beat its human competition in the TV game show Jeopardy! last year. How? By translating corny, nuanced questions into a format it could understand and compute.

But for most of us, our digital experiences at work feel like we're stuck in The Flintstones.

We wonder: "How can Amazon.com monitor my customer data so closely that it knows what book I want next, but after five years of daily use, my enterprise search engine doesn't get that I work in HR in the Chicago office?" We need to dig into our enterprise information so it is more rich and useful. Hal Varian, Google's Chief Economist, explained in the McKinsey Quarterly that "We have free and ubiquitous data, so the complementary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it." (He even goes so far as to say that statisticians will be the sexy job in the next 10 years!)

It's understandable to be cynical about semantic processing, especially if you've been told it relies on manually entered metadata.

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