Plato used to define the human species as "featherless bipeds". This thought came to me this afternoon as I stood looking at the Venus de Milo in The Louvre (I'm in Paris for Forrester's I&O Forum) and pondered what Microsoft was about to unleash on all of us. Why, might you ask? Well, as the story goes, Diogenes (the guy who invented cynicism) plucked a chicken, brought it into Plato's Academy and declared: "Behold: I have brought you a man!" After this incident, "with broad flat nails" was added to Plato's definition.
It struck me that that's pretty much what Microsoft and its OEM partners have been doing to us with tablets for a number of years now. "Behold! I have brought you a tablet!" But of course, now we know that a "tablet" is a device that we can use with nothing more than fingers with broad, flat nails.
But there's more. Microsoft's ability to respond in its modern day Peloponnesian War with Apple, has been hampered by three things:
The PC OEM vendors remain one (maybe two!) steps behind Apple in making well-differentiated hardware. To wit: Ultrabooks are just now beginning to match the MacBook Air, and no one else has a Retina Display in their lineups.
They haven't had an operating system for tablets without styli or mice, or that will run longer than a few hours away from a power outlet.
The upgrade process for Windows PCs is labor-intensive. IT organizations upgrade operating systems only when Microsoft forces them to, so end users are frustrated. Nearly half of organizations are still on Windows XP 11 years after its release.
Virtualized workloads need virtualized network optimization to deliver peak performance wherever users work. We already have cloud-ready mobile applications, thanks to tremendous advances in server and storage virtualization in the last decade. And we certainly have cloud-ready users — they’re already more mobile and cloud-ready than most of our infrastructure. It's high time the network catches up, but the reality is that most existing networks still rely on point solutions that optimize performance for a limited set of applications.
WAN optimization and application delivery controllers have certainly proven their worth, but rigid appliance architectures have led to pockets of redundant optimization components, from the data center to the branch to the laptop. These "islands of optimization" should be the target of the next generation of network architectures. Just as server and storage virtualization freed up compute and storage capacity that was previously tightly linked to one server, array, or application, new network architectures must free up all the network optimization capacity currently locked up in point devices.
Of late I’ve been considering a more mundane version of the ultimate question — what is the ideal metric to use when evaluating business technology strategies? The challenge is that we already have a diverse set of investment metrics from which to choose. There’s Return On Investment (ROI), Net Present Value (NPV), Internal Rate Of return (IRR) and Payback period to name a few of the most common. Yet I can’t help feeling they all lack a little something — the ability to connect the project with the desired business outcome, which for a strategy is the attainment of the goal.
Recently I’ve been working with clients to apply a different measure — the T2BI ratio:
I am periodically asked whether a business case should be required for those projects that fall into the "must do" category - projects such as those required to meet regulatory or auditing needs, bring a system up to security or other standards, or migrate off of end-of-life platforms. Why do a business case for these? you might ask. We know we're going to do them, and since there's no incremental business benefit, an ROI calculation is not practically calculated. So why go through the effort?
My view is simple - even without a quantifiable business benefit, the business case analysis helps in three ways:
The business case clarifies the alternatives. There are often multiple ways to accomplish the desired outcome. Evaluating each possible scenario using a standardized methodology clarifies the advantages and disadvantages, cost and time differences, and resource requirement differences in each choice. While a go/no go decision may be preordained, planners will be better prepared to pick the alternative that is least onerous to the organization.
The business case exposes differences in risks. Each alternative will likely have a different risk profile. A seemingly less expensive alternative requiring custom internal development may be more risky - both from cost and benefit perspectives - than a cloud-based COTS alternative with a higher list price. Documenting the risks associated with each alternative, something we recommend in any business case analysis, will point to the optimum solution.
In the wonderful movie Sliding Doors, Helen runs for a train and just makes it on as the doors are closing. Moments later we see her running again for the same train only to have the doors close a moment before she arrives, forcing her to wait several minutes for the next train to arrive. We then see two versions of Helen's life unfold, one where she had made the train and one where she did not. The seemingly trivial moment in her day proves to lead to two wildly different outcomes.
Traditional BI approaches and technologies — even when using the latest technology, best practices, and architectures — almost always have a serious side effect: a constant backlog of BI requests. Enterprises where IT addresses more than 20% of BI requirements will continue to see the snowball effect of an ever-growing BI requests backlog. Why? Because:
BI requirements change faster than an IT-centric support model can keep up. Even with by-the-book BI applications, firms still struggle to turn BI applications on a dime to meet frequently changing business requirements. Enterprises can expect a life span of at least several years out of enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), human resources (HR), and financial applications, but a BI application can become outdated the day it is rolled out. Even within implementation times of just a few weeks, the world may have changed completely due to a sudden mergers and acquisitions (M&A) event, a new competitive threat, new management structure, or new regulatory reporting requirements.
CEO Tim Cook opened Apple's worldwide developer conference 2012 this morning in San Francisco. The event sold out the Moscone West venue in 90 minutes, a clear indication that Apple's star is still rising rapidly. (Developers are the first to smell a slowdown in momentum and so are a good indicator of the future.)
Here are my quick impressions of what Apple's announcements mean for developers, hence for CIOs and the IT organization.
New versions of its operating systems, OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6, just one year after the last upgrade. That pace of innovation coupled with the rapid adoption Apple has created with free or low-cost upgrades and App Store distribution means that most iPhones and iPads will be running the new software a few months after it ships in the fall and many existing Macs will also get it. Developers get a single market to code to (unlike the intense fragmentation and dusty versions of Android). CIOs get confidence that the latest security and features will be present.
A significantly upgraded notebook line with faster MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros and a new Flash-based MacBook Pro with a Retina, very high definition screen. (This announcement caused the first unprompted "oooooo" from the enthusiastic developer audience.) Developers will love the powerful machine. BYO computer aficionados will be happy to have even better ultrabooks and notebooks. CIOs will wonder even louder about where HP and Dell and Microsoft are with comparable computers.
If you’re interested in how to rethink your approach to IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) to help your business better compete, I encourage you to read on . . .
As I prepared for Forrester’s Infrastructure & Operations Forum EMEA 2012 in Paris next week (June 19-20), I had the opportunity to connect with one of our industry keynoters, Christophe Guillard, who has led the CTO office at global healthcare company Sanofi since 2010. He is responsible for the strategic, financial, and process excellence of the New Global Infrastructure Services organization, which includes 800 collaborators, 110,000 users, and 400 sites worldwide.
At the Forum, Christophe will be joined by Ian M. Clayton, author, Universal Service Management Body of Knowledge, Gery Bonte, CTO, Saint-Gobain, and other industry keynoters. Next week, Christophe will share the comprehensive infrastructure transformation that took place at Sanofi. But below is a recap of our conversation that he will discuss further during his keynote:
DW: What were the main challenges you were faced with before you started this transformation?
CG: We embarked on our global IT transformation journey two years ago and, at the time, Sanofi IT was aligned to the structure of the company and mostly siloed within each business. As a result, collaboration across the different businesses and geographies was limited and some parts of our IT infrastructure were duplicated.
There is no single metric against which to benchmark the performance of your customer service organization. It’s like flying a plane—you can’t do it by just looking at your altitude settings. This means that most organizations use a balanced scorecard approach, which includes a set of competing metrics that balance the cost of operations against satisfaction measures. For industries with strict policy regulations, like healthcare, insurance, or financial services, adherence to regulatory compliance is yet another metric that is added to the list.
The set of metrics that you choose also depends on your audience. Customer service managers need real-time, granular operational data. Yet your executive management team needs high-level data about key performance indicators (KPIs) that track outcomes of customer service programs.
So where should you begin when choosing metrics? It’s best to start by understanding the value proposition of your company. For example, do you compete on customer experience, where satisfaction measures are of primary importance, or do you compete on cost, where efficiency and productivity measures are most important?
Once you understand your value proposition, choose the high-level KPIs that support your company’s objectives. These metrics are the ones that you will report to executive management and include overall cost, revenue, compliance, and satisfaction scores. Next, choose the operational metrics for your organization that link to each of these KPIs and support your brand. For example, if you compete on cost, handle time and speed of answer will become your primary metrics. However, if you are focused on maximizing customer lifetime value, first contact resolution will rise to the top.
Digital disruption is real and shows no signs of slowing down – our research shows that 1 billion consumers will utilize smartphones by 2016. Digital upstart companies are disrupting long-standing business models as documented by stories in the major business news outlets such as Fortune, Forbes, NBC Universal's business channel CNBC, and The Wall Street Journal. If your industry / company is not under siege yet, it’s safe to assume it will be.
Your challenge is to disrupt while avoiding the chaos that will ensue if you fail to adapt.
"When companies adopt technology, they do old things in new ways. When companies internalize technology, they find disruptive things to do." James L. McQuivey, Forrester Vice President & Principal Analyst