In our February 13, 2012, “Mobile Is The New Face Of Engagement” report, we talked about the important link between smart products and mobile apps. A key to that link is creating a smart product application programming interface (API) that allows third parties to easily write apps that tap into the data feeds from the connected offerings, extending the value of that product with an “app ecosystem.”
As a precursor to an upcoming report that will lay out the smart connected product landscape and the unique combination of IT and product development skills required to build them, Forrester interviewed Cédric Hutchings, the general manager of Withings, a leader in the connected medical device segment.
The highlights of the discussion with Cédric included:
Company vision. The company seeks to improve the value of everyday devices through connectivity and apps.
Role of API. An API enables different services that could not be built in-house; it makes it easy for third parties to get data flow and integrate it into app. As a result, Withings has an ecosystem of more than 40 third-party apps that integrate with its Wi-Fi-connected bathroom scale.
Cloud value proposition. A personal wellness data dashboard allows consumers to manage health across a range of devices and inputs/apps from Withings and other companies.
Smart product skill requirements. These requirements include a mix of user experience, embedded software/product development talent, traditional IT web, database and middleware competencies, and partner management liaison capabilities.
After wrapping up our CIO Forum in Paris last week, I can definitely say CIOs and IT leaders care about strategy. The theme of this year's conference was "Collaboration To Co-Creation," and we included a number of sessions directed at helping IT leaders step up and influence business strategy.
A highlight of the forum was Peter Hinssen's talk on The New Normal — you can see a sample of Peter delivering an earlier version of his presentation on YouTube (http://youtu.be/s_w04xb4MqM?hd=1). And Peter's talk perfectly framed the strategic themes of the conference.
Through a number of keynote and track sessions, CIOs discussed transforming IT to have an even greater impact on business outcomes. Central to this theme was the exploration of Forrester's new BT Strategic Planning Playbook, including a workshop-style session where CIOs got to exchange experiences on moving their organizations away from being order-takers and toward strategic partners with lines of business.
It's clear from the discussions I had with many of the CIOs attending that IT leaders sense new opportunities to partner in developing effective business strategy and moving toward co-creation. But there are challenges ahead; here are a few I shared in Paris in a short session on co-creation:
Language is important. What we say and how we say it are critical. Even speaking plain English is challenging. For example, in England one might say "put the money in the boot" (probably only likely if you are a bank robber but I like the imagery so bear with me). What we might imagine is something like this
Two weeks ago at the CSC analyst conference, Forrester sat down with new CEO and President Mike Lawrie. He was refreshingly frank about what the issues were and his road ahead. Based on his due diligence before taking the job, Mike concluded that the firm had the right strategy; it just could not execute. The overlying issue was the GE-style operating model that had every service line as its own P&L and was not focused on delivering an integrated solution to the client. Executive compensation and goals were misaligned and uncoordinated. The other factor that exacerbated these organization and alignment issues was a management model that would not make tough decisions and fostered the one-off solution culture.
Mike says that he has agreed with the board that it will take three plus years to turn the company around and fully establish itself as a leader. He sees it as a three-phase evolution. First, he needs to get the company fit – lowering operating costs by a billion dollars/year and improving margins and the bottom line. With the financial house in order, he will then focus on growing the business by focusing on key opportunities like next-generation cloud-based infrastructure services and vertical software solutions. And the third phase of the reinvention will focus on leveraging leadership within those key segments.
Toward these goals, Mike is bringing in new leadership to fill roles in key areas like CFO, infrastructure outsourcing, and Federal systems. He will also be following Accenture’s lead by creating a separate software group with the true product discipline to actively compete in the vertical applications space and update its current packages. He will also simplify the offerings and build the size and capabilities of the sales organization.
Today I attended a conference for Russian entrepreneurs organized by Digital October. I’m going to digress a moment and describe the location which for a Moscow veteran is one of the coolest places I’ve seen in new Russia. Digital October has taken over part of the old Red October Confectionary Factory, a red brick factory on the banks of the river on the outside with a state-of-the-art, loft-like business space on the inside. The building has a view of the Kremlin and of the new church built on the other side of the river (where the world largest outdoor swimming pool used to be for those of us who knew Moscow before the church reconstruction).
Today's Digital October event, “The Art of Going Global,” brought together startup founders, VCs and entrepreneurs to discuss how to expand globally, including global marketing and PR, and getting funding from global VCs.
During the VC panel, Alisa Chumachenko, Founder and CEO of Game Insight, and one of the entrepreneurs in the audience, really grilled the panelists asking them to name their top geographical markets, top horizontal markets and top vertical markets. Some responses were not surprising. Others were.
If there is one theme that jumps out of my most recent client discussions, it is the need for business smarts in our approach to smart cities. Cities are faced with a barrage of vendor solutions pitched as the holy grail of X, where X is public safety or transportation or some other city department. I feel like the smart city discussion has reached of fevered pitch with conferences, congresses, expos and summits cropping up around the world. But what is real and now as opposed to truly aspirational and future?
Smart computing is really about putting together the right pieces of technology, not about any particular smart technology. Yes, the ability to capture and aggregate data is important. But so is the ability to share information and collaborate. A new Forrester report on smart computing addresses the realization that “smart” is really about finding the right solution and leveraging the new technologies available to better connect both machines (and information) and the people who can use them. It’s less about smart technology and more about using technology to get smart, or really using technology intelligently. (I really wanted to say “smartly” but couldn’t do it).
Making a tech market forecast always runs the risk of being overtaken by subsequent events. This risk is particularly acute in Europe in June 2012, when the whole euro project hangs on the brink of potential failure. Yet with Forrester's European CIO Forum conference occurring this week in Paris, we had to make a call on the outlook for the European tech market, rather than wait until the outcome becomes a clear.
So, here is my assumption: the European Union and the European Central Bank will patch together a set of policies that will keep Greece in the euro, provide financing to keep Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain functioning as economic reforms take hold, and offer enough stimulus to prevent something worse than the current, mild recession. As such, in our European tech market report published today (European Information And Communications Technology Market 2012 To 2013 -- Spending Growth Comes To A Halt As Europe Slides Into Recession), Forrester is predicting that purchases of information and communications technologies (ICT) by European business and governments will grow by a feeble but still positive 1.2% in 2012 in euros, and a weak but slightly better growth of 3.1%. Let us hope that the alternative of a euro break up, a subsequent deep recession, and a collapse of tech buying similar to that in 2009 does not make this one of the shortest lived predictions we have made.
The details of our European tech market outlook are as follows:
I can totally understand why the Windows team wants its own tablet. After all, Apple has been running away with the most important device category since, well, the touchscreen smartphone, for years while Microsoft and its OEM partners have been watching glumly from the sidelines. Actually, Microsoft has been developing Windows 8 and Windows RT to compete, so not just watching glumly, building product, actually. But OEM partners like Samsung and ASUS have been developing tablets on Android, not Windows.
Along comes Microsoft Surface, a tablet aimed at "work and play." So why does Microsoft feel the need to compete with its most important partners? Three reasons that CIOs should tune into:
Surface (presumably) sets the bar for other tablet OEMs. PC makers have been racing to the bottom to meet your stringent price requirements while still trying to compete. That of course created the market gap that Apple swooped into with the MacBook Air that your employees love. Microsoft can't let that happen with tablets. So job one for Surface -- and it better be frickin' great -- is to prod partners to make great tablets. So even if partners like Dell and HP are angry about the move, it could pay off in better Windows tablets. And that could pay off for CIOs as you look for a tablet you can manage and more importantly, run Office on.
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.