Products Are Going Digital -- What Leading Examples Are *You* Seeing Out There?

Here's a flash of the blindingly obvious: More and more products are going digital. You know this, but what I'm interested in is how they are going digital and to what degree. I see three major aspects: (1) the product itself becomes digital; (2) a physical product adds digital technology; and/or (3) processes and context around a physical product become digitally infused. Let me offer a sort of continuum of examples, and then I want to ask a question:

  • Music (nearly 100% digital). The greater part of music bought these days is in the form of a 100% digital product. 
  • Health band. With a health band (e.g., Fitbit, Nike FuelBand), I don't really care about the physical product, but I'll put up with it to get the digital benefit: lots of data (and more) about my workouts and health.
  • Cameras. A digital camera is a physical product that uses a combination of physical and digital technology, and I actually care about some of its physical design (e.g., lenses). It produces a 100% digital artifact (photos), and the process around the photos is digitally infused.
  • USB picture frame. Part physical, part digital. By replacing the center of a picture frame with a digital screen, I get a new twist on an old standby. But, working with the digital part still requires a high degree of physical manipulation (carry a USB drive to the frame, etc., etc.).
  • WiFi picture frame. Part physical, even more digital. The WiFi bit bumps it way above a USB picture frame in terms of seamless integration into a digital world. I can email a picture to the thing, or maybe tag a photo on Facebook and suddenly it shows up.
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‘Selling’ Cloud Within the Organization – Choose Your Words Carefully

 

I’ve participated in cloud events in four different countries over the past two weeks. Attendees were primarily senior and mid-level IT decision-makers seeking guidance and best practices for implementing private clouds within their organizations. Regardless of the country of origin, industry focus or level of cloud-related experience, one common theme stood out above all others during both formal and informal discussions – the importance of effective communication.

The key takeaway – don’t get dogmatic about terminology. In fact, when it comes to cloud-related initiatives, choose your words carefully and be prepared for the reaction you’re likely to get.

‘Cloud computing’ as a term remains over-hyped, over-used, and still often poorly understood – because of this, typical reactions to the term are likely to range from cynicism and doubt to defensiveness and derision and all the way to outright hostility. Ironically, the fact that it’s not a technical term actually creates more confusion in many instances since its meaning is so general as to apply to practically anything (or nothing, depending on your point of view or perhaps your level of cynicism).

At all four events over the past two weeks – and in fact in nearly all discussions of IT priorities I’ve had over the past six months – CIOs and other senior IT decision-makers have consistently made clear that ‘cloud computing’ as a general objective or direction isn’t a top priority per se. However, they are unanimous in their belief that data center transformation is essential to supporting business requirements and expectations.

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Take A Playbook Approach To Agile & Lean

Diego Lo Giudice contributed to this blog post. 

Agile Practices Create The Need For Other Practices
Agile is a big topic that goes far beyond a set of practices and principles. Change the development cog in the larger software machine, and you change how other parts of the machine operate, too. It’s a deliberately disruptive change that’s supposed to make the software development and delivery machine become more adaptable, produce a higher quality product, or satisfy some other goal that makes people willing to ride the tiger of disruptive change.

Lean helps sustain Agile while driving it in the direction of value, flow, team empowerment, and waste reduction. Other practices, such as continuous delivery and design-driven development, also complement, reinforce, and supercharge Agile transformation. 

As analysts, we might treat these developments as an excuse to write research that amounts, more or less, to a list of what’s hot and what’s not. Are more organizations taking a broader approach to DevOps challenges instead of just focusing on continuous delivery? Are Agile-friendly requirements practices, such as visualization, storyboarding, and serious games just a passing fad or permanent additions to the requirements toolkit? How many organizations have adopted test-driven development, and what are the barriers to adoption?

While these questions are important, and the answers more than a little interesting, they’re insufficient. Forrester is in the business of providing practical advice, not academic musings, so that software professionals can apply innovation strategies such as Agile and Lean immediately to the decisions they have to make today.

Organize These Practices Into A Playbook

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COTS Vs. Home-Grown BI Apps

Wanted to run the following two questions and my answers by the community:

Q. What is the average age of reporting applications at large enterprises?

A. Reporting apps typically involve source data integration, data models, metrics, reports, dashboards, and queries. I'd rate the longevity of these in descending order (data sources being most stable and queries changing all the time).

Q. What is the percentage of reporting applications that are homegrown versus custom built?

A. These are by no means solid data points but rather my off-the-cuff – albeit educated - guesses:

  • The majority (let's say >50%) of reports are still being built in Excel and Access.
  • Very few (let's say <10%) are done in non-BI-specific environments (programming languages).
  • The other 40% I'd split 50/50 between:
    • off-the-shelf reports and dashboards built into ERP or BI apps,
    • and custom-coded in BI tools

Needless to say, this differs greatly by industry and business domain. Thoughts?

Advanced Data Visualization - A Critical BI Component

As one of the industry-renowned data visualization experts Edward Tufte once said, “The world is complex, dynamic, multidimensional; the paper is static, flat. How are we to represent the rich visual world of experience and measurement on mere flatland?” Indeed, there’s just too much information out there for all categories of knowledge workers to visualize it effectively. More often than not, traditional reports using tabs, rows, and columns do not paint the whole picture or, even worse, lead an analyst to a wrong conclusion. Firms need to use data visualization because information workers:

  • Cannot see a pattern without data visualization. Simply seeing numbers on a grid often does not convey the whole story — and in the worst case, it can even lead to a wrong conclusion. This is best demonstrated by Anscombe’s quartet where four seemingly similar groups of x/y coordinates reveal very different patterns when represented in a graph.
  • Cannot fit all of the necessary data points onto a single screen. Even with the smallest reasonably readable font, single-line spacing, and no grid, one cannot realistically fit more than a few thousand data points on a single page or screen using numerical information only. When using advanced data visualization techniques, one can fit tens of thousands (an order-of-magnitude difference) of data points onto a single screen. In his book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte gives an example of more than 21,000 data points effectively displayed on a US map that fits onto a single screen.
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Thrive In The Age Of The Customer: Forrester's Playbook for CRM

 

We've entered a new era that Forrester calls the age of the customer. The new power of customers means that a focus on the customer now matters more than any other strategic imperative.

To help clients thrive in this new era, I recently published the executive overview of Forrester’s Playbook for CRM. The CRM playbook outlines four steps for you to follow to transform customer-facing business processes to deliver differentiated customer experiences: 1) discover the value of CRM; 2) plan the right strategy; 3) act to execute the strategy with precision; and 4) optimize your results.

Despite high CRM solution adoption rates, as organizations strive to succeed in the age of the customer, business and IT professionals responsible for customer-facing processes struggle with how to define CRM strategies, re-engineer customer-facing business processes, acquire and deploy the appropriate supporting technologies, and lead and sustain the organizational changes required to make the transition to new ways of working. To make savvy CRM decisions, you must understand and navigate a number of important trends:

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SingTel Launches PowerON Compute In Hong Kong — A Sign Of Things To Come

On July 11, 2012, SingTel launched its PowerON Compute cloud service in Hong Kong. While certainly interesting on its own, I believe this announcement is particularly noteworthy as a harbinger of things to come.

Some key points to consider:

  • As a hybrid offering, PowerON Compute is a dynamic infrastructure services solution hosted in SingTel’s data centers in Singapore, Australia, and now Hong Kong. The computing resources (e.g., CPU, memory, storage) can be accessed either via a public Internet connection or a private secured network.
  • This announcement confirms the findings of my February 2012 report, “Sizing the Cloud Markets in Asia Pacific”: that market demand for cloud-based computing resources in Asia Pacific (AP) will rapidly shift from infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) to dynamic infrastructure services.
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Our Forrester Wave™: How The Top 18 CRM Suite Customer Service Vendors Stack Up

During the past five years, the customer service capabilities of CRM suite solutions have matured as vendors have focused on solidifying the foundational building blocks of customer support capabilities. Vendors have folded new technologies such as social computing, business process management, decisioning, business intelligence, and mobility into their solutions to allow organizations to offer more-personalized customer service experiences. This maturation makes it, in a way, increasingly challenging to be confident of your technology choice. In The Forrester Wave™: CRM Suite Customer Service Solutions, Q3 2012, we pinpoint the strengths of 18 leading vendors. Here are some of our key findings:

  • Oracle Siebel CRM, salesforce.com, SAP CRM, and Microsoft battle for the lead. Although Oracle Seibel CRM and SAP CRM are better suited for large customer service deployments that demand high levels of customization and integration and salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics CRM offer faster deployment times with a greater ease of use, you have to dig deep to find differences in their core customer service capabilities.
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More Market Consolidation As KANA Software Buys Sword Ciboodle. It's A Sound Strategy, But The Proof Will Be In The Execution

It’s exciting to see the news of yet another acquisition in the world of customer service with the announcement of KANA Software’s intent to acquire Sword Ciboodle. Today’s customer service technology ecosystem is complex and comprised of a great number of vendors that provide overlapping and competing capabilities. I’ve previously blogged about what these critical software components are. The reason why these acquisitions are good is that they align with what customers want: a simpler technology ecosystem to manage from both a systems perspective and a contractual perspective. And suite solutions available from unified communications (UC), CRM, and workforce optimization (WFO) vendors are evolving and include comprehensive feature sets. These vendors have either built these capabilities out or acquired them via M&A activity — and we expect more M&A to happen.

Now, to focus on the Sword Ciboodle acquisition. This acquisition, at a high level, is a win-win for both companies:

  • KANA has historically sold point solutions for knowledge management, email, and chat to the eBusiness owner or owner of the digital communication channels within an organization, not to the owner of the contact center. Ciboodle has had the opposite challenge, historically selling to the owner of contact centers. This acquisition will allow deeper market penetration, targeting an increasing breadth of buyer profiles.
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The Inside Story: How The Top 18 CRM Solutions Stack Up In 2012

 

The most frequent question I get every day is: “What is the best CRM technology solution for my company?” I recently teamed with four other Forrester analysts (Kate Leggett, Boris Evelson, Brian Walker, and Stephen Powers) to evaluate 18 leading CRM solutions against more than 400 product feature, platform, and market presence criteria. Here’s a sneak peek at our key findings from two new reports: The Forrester Wave™: CRM Suites For Large Organizations, Q3 2012 and The Forrester Wave™: CRM Suites For Midsized Organizations, Q3 2012.

■        CRM solutions are widely adopted, and buyers plan to increase investment. In fact, 50% of the 556 North America and European large organizations we recently surveyed have implemented a CRM solution (a marketing, sales, or customer service application). An additional 23% have plans to adopt a CRM solution within the next 12 to 24 months.

■        Consolidation alters the vendor landscape. In response to the demand for solutions that support the cross-channel, end-to-end customer journey that defines the quality of the experience an organization delivers, large CRM vendors such and Oracle, SAP, and salesforce.com have acquired direct competitors or have snapped up companies in adjacent spaces to broaden the range of their offerings.

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