Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask About BI

How does an enterprise — especially a large, global one with multiple product lines and multiple enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications — make sense of operations, logistics, and finances? There’s just too much information for any one person to process. It’s business intelligence (BI) to the rescue! But what is BI, and how does BI differ from reporting and management information systems (MIS)? What is the business impact, and what are the costs versus the benefits? What is the appropriate strategy for implementing BI and achieving continued BI success? Our new report will give business and IT executives an understanding of the four critical phases of strategizing around BI to achieve business goals — or “everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask” about BI. Here’s a sneak preview of the kinds of topics the report covers and the kinds of BI questions one needs to ask in order to build an effective and efficient enterprise BI environment:

  1. Prepare For Your BI Program
    1. The future of BI is all about agility. IT no longer has exclusive control of BI platforms, tools, and applications; business users demand more empowerment (or make empowered changes without IT involvement), and previously unshakable pillars of the BI foundation such as relational databases are quickly being supplemented with alternative BI platforms. It’s no longer business as usual. Ask yourself:
      1. What are the main business and IT trends driving BI?
      2. What are the latest BI technologies that I need to know about?
      3. What’s out there beyond traditional BI?
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Why Don't Agents Collaborate More Often? It's Been Shown To Increase Call Resolution And Satisfaction Scores

Empowering customer service agents with relevant, complete, and accurate answers to customer questions remains one of the major challenges in contact centers today. The past 10 years have seen efficiency and productivity gains squeezed out of the mechanics of routing and queueing a call to the right agent pool, screen-popping the customer information to the agent’s desktop, case management, and workforce optimization. Less attention has been placed on allowing agents to access information and informally collaborate with one another. Its no wonder that more than 70% of the time of an average call is spent locating the right information for the customer.

In many contact centers, content is created by groups of authors who are disconnected from the day-to-day conversations that agents are having with customers and who are unfamiliar with the language and terms that customers use. All content follows the same basic create-edit-publish cycle, irrespective of its usefulness in answering customer questions.

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Progress Software Lowers Its Sights

Clay Richardson, Mike Gilpin, and I collaborated on this blog post.

I don’t normally blog in response to news events, but I feel obligated to blog about Progress Software’s strategy shift, announced last week (April 25, 2012). The reason: Before the shift, Progress was an independent alternative to the top-tier vendors of enterprise application platforms (Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and SAP); after the shift, it is not (see the figure below). Progress will now be a much more narrowly focused, specialist vendor.

Henceforth, Progress will provide its established OpenEdge application development platform (including OpenEdge BPM and a cloud-based version), its DataDirect Connect database drivers and integration tools, and its Apama (complex event processing) and Corticon (business rules management) platforms primarily for financial trading. Progress will no longer provide the following products, seeking to either sell them to other vendors or spin them out as independent companies:

  • Savvion BPM
  • Sonic ESB
  • Actional services management
  • Artix object request broker
  • DataXtend data integration server
  • FuseSource object request broker
  • ObjectStore database
  • Orbacus object request broker
  • Orbix object request broker
  • Shadow host integration products
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Mobile Backend-As-A-Service: The New Lightweight Middleware?

It’s no secret that demand for mobile applications is skyrocketing in both the consumer and enterprise space. To meet that demand, application development shops are continually looking for new ways to accelerate development of apps that meet their consumers’ needs. In response, many new ISVs are beginning to offer a set of cloud-based, server-side mobile services to make app development quicker and easier to deploy. ISVs are referring to those services as “mobile backend-as-a-service” (not a particularly good name, but we’ll use it for now). MBaaS offerings sit squarely between the existing platform-as-a-service vendors and the full end-to-end solution space occupied by mobile enterprise/consumer application platforms (see Figure). I’ll go into more detail on the other layers of this mobile service triangle in the future, but for now let’s take a look at the MBaaS space.

Why should I use an MBaaS solution?

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Data Discovery And Exploration - IBM Acquires Vivisimo

Today IBM announced its plans to acquire Vivisimo - an enterprise search vendor with big data capabilities. Our research shows that only 1% to 5% of all enterprise data is in a structured, modeled format that fits neatly into enterprise data warehouses (EDWs) and data marts. The rest of enterprise data (and we are not even talking about external data such as social media data, for example) may not be organized into structures that easily fit into relational or multidimensional databases. There’s also a chicken-and-the-egg syndrome going on here. Before you can put your data into a structure, such as a database, you need to understand what’s out there and what structures do or may exist. But in order for you to explore the data in the first place, traditional data integration technologies require some structures to even start the exploration (tables, columns, etc). So how do you explore something without a structure, without a model, and without preconceived notions? That’s where big data exploration and discovery technologies such as Hadoop and Vivisimo come into play. (There are many others vendors in this space as well, including Oracle Endeca, Attivio, and Saffron Technology. While these vendors may not directly compete with Vivisimo and all use different approaches and architectures, the final objective - data discovery - is often the same.) Data exploration and discovery was one of our top 2012 business intelligence predictions. However, it’s only a first step in the full cycle of business intelligence and

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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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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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How To Partner With Data Quality Pros To Deliver Better Customer Service Experiences

Customer service leaders know that a good customer experience has a quantifiable impact on revenue, as measured by increased rates of repurchase, increased recommendations, and decreased willingness to defect from a brand. They also conceptually understand that clean data is important, but many can’t make the connection between how master data management and data quality investments directly improve customer service metrics. This means that IT initiates data projects more than two-thirds of the time, while data projects that directly affect customer service processes rarely get funded.

 What needs to happen is that customer service leaders have to partner with data management pros — often working within IT — to reframe the conversation. Historically, IT organizations would attempt to drive technology investments with the ambiguous goal of “cleaning dirty customer data” within CRM, customer service, and other applications. Instead of this approach, this team must articulate the impact that poor-quality data has on critical business and customer-facing processes.

To do this, start by taking an inventory of the quality of data that is currently available:

  • Chart the customer service processes that are followed by customer service agents. 80% of customer calls can be attributed to 20% of the issues handled.
  • Understand what customer, product, order, and past customer interaction data are needed to support these processes.
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The North Plains/Xinet Acquisition: Not A DAM Game-Changer

Guest post from Researcher Anjali Yakkundi

North Plains, a legacy pure-play digital asset management (DAM) vendor based out of Toronto, Ontario, announced today that it has agreed to buy fellow pure-play DAM vendor Xinet. The DAM market is fragmented and, with a few exceptions (Adobe, Autonomy, EMC, and OpenText), is littered with smaller, proprietary players. We’ve long expected moves in this market, but most of the focus has been on the larger DAM players in the market or the larger content management or customer experience vendors that have no DAM solution (such as IBM).

With this acquisition of Xinet, North Plains moves to become one of the few, if not only, midmarket pure-play DAM player in between the big guns and the pure-play small vendors. What else does North Plains get out of the acquisition?

  • A platform solution aimed at creative professionals. Xinet has found success targeting creative professionals and supporting assets at the beginning of the content life cycle.
  • Increased regional reach. More than many other pure-play North American-based DAM vendors, Xinet targets European and Asian customers. North Plains gains a much more global customer base and will inherit channels partners across the globe. Watch for this to be just the first of many moves to make North Plains a global, pure-play DAM vendor.  
  • A stronghold among advertising agencies. Xinet has penetrated the advertising vertical and counts many of these larger names among its clients. With the acquisition, North Plains gains a foothold into this coveted vertical.
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Dell Bolsters Its Apps Mod Street Cred By Acquiring MAKE Technologies And Clerity

Dell made two bold moves last week that bolster its apps modernization street cred. Since MAKE Technologies and Clerity Solutions may not be household names to you, here are our observations about the moves and some rumination on what it means to you.

Who Dell Bought

  • MAKE Technologies (MAKE) - Vancouver, BC-based MAKE brings powerful application analysis, apps portfolio management, and advanced re-engineering capabilities to Dell.
  • Clerity Solutions (Clerity) - not to be confused with CA-Clerity - the PPM tool, it was one of the last remaining COBOL compiler vendors in the business of rehosting COBOL applications to Unix and Microsoft operating systems. It and Micro Focus arguably owned the lion's share of the market.
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