The Customer Service Market Keeps Consolidating: Consona And CDC Software Merge

Or perhaps I need to title this blog "Another One Bites The Dust" as this is just one more merger in the multitude of mergers and acquisitions that are happening  in the customer service space.

On August 7, CSC Software merged with Consona Corporation to form a new entity called Aptean (see the press release about the news here). There have been no details communicated about the go-forward plan for both companies’ products, but here are my views about their respective CRM assets.

Consona, founded in 1986, has its roots in ERP. Over the years, it has acquired a number of ERP solutions, which include DTR, Cimnet Systems, AXIS, Encompix, Intuitive, Relevant, and SupplyWorks - which have good strengths in a variety of vertical markets. More recently, it has acquired an open-source, SaaS-based ERP software vendor, Compiere. In 2006, it made a foray into the CRM market by acquiring Onyx CRM and then KNOVA for knowledge management (2007) and SupportSoft (2009), a support automation vendor. Its recent CRM focus has been on customer support automation application for the high-tech vertical, as there is good synergy between CRM, support automation, and knowledge management for this user base.

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Agility At Scale Requires Both Discipline And Creativity

A common question we analysts hear from our clients is, "How do we scale our Agile efforts?" Now, let's be clear: the question is not how to get Agile to work in a large project. Sure, there are challenges in making Agile work within big teams, but there's a much bigger concern. Organizations invest in Agile, or allow Agile experiments to blossom, and then try to capture the Agile magic in a bottle and mass produce it across the organization. 

That's an entirely different challenge, with ambitions and uncertainties that are both Texas-sized. (I'm in Dallas, so I'll use Texas metaphors. So shoot me. Wait, no, I take that back.) The uncertainties have many faces, including (but in no way limited to) issues like:

  • How many projects or products should employ an Agile approach?
  • Can we expect our outsourcing partners to use Agile as widely as we do?
  • Do we need a common tools strategy to support Agile?
  • How much diversity of Agile approaches within teams is a good thing, and how much is counter-productive?
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Agile Transformation Needs A Very Specific Roadmap

We've seen a number of misconceptions about Agile come and go. For example, the urban myth that Agile is all about velocity gets far less circulation. More people have seen Agile in practice, witnessing first hand the other potential benefits (more chances for mid-course corrections, greater predictability of outcomes, better business/IT alignment, etc.) than just writing code faster. More people are starting projects with these potential benefits in mind, so Agile has clearly moved past the perception that it was some perverse cult of speed. Speed has no intrinsic business value, aside from keeping a twitchy software developer who has consumed way too much Mountain Dew from chewing his own foot off in frustration about delays and obstacles.

 
Agile Gets To Specifics Quickly
Business value is the goal for Agile transformation; benefits like quality, predictability, and business/IT alignment are either measures of that value or steps needed to achieve that value. Both topics require a lot of clarity or specificity. Otherwise, Agile can look a lot like a road trip gone horribly wrong: we're not sure where we're going, how close we are, or whether we're going the right way at all.
 
Agile succeeded brilliantly because it started with some very specific practices and values. Don't end a sprint without working code. Keep your backlog prioritized. Build the expectation of new or changing requirements into planning. Don't build your plans on information you don't have. That's a lot more-specific guidance than something like"Achieve this maturity level and you'll be fine" or "Follow this KPI to the ends of the earth."
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TechnoPolitics Podcast: Microsoft Windows 8 - Bold Move Or Catch Up

Forrester TechnoPolitics guest Frank GillettMicrosoft is faced with its biggest challenge ever - to stay relevant in a post-PC era. Is Windows 8 the answer, a first step on the path, or will it fall flat? Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Frank Gillett's expert analysis reveals all. Frank is a member of Forrester's Business Technology Futures team. His current focus is on the dynamic between consumer and business technology markets, the future of back-end and end user hardware in the post-PC era, and a new and emerging software platform - the personal cloud. 

Podcast Listening Options

Click here to download Forrester TechnoPolitics MP3 file

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Key Questions To Ask Yourself Before Embarking On A Big Data Journey

Do you think you are ready to tackle Big Data because you are pushing the limits of your data Volume, Velocity, Variety and Variability? Take a deep breath (and maybe a cold shower) before you plunge full speed ahead into unchartered territories and murky waters of Big Data. Now that you are calm, cool and collected, ask yourself the following key questions:

  • What’s the business use case? What are some of the business pain points, challenges and opportunities you are trying to address with Big Data? Are your business users coming to you with such requests or are you in the doomed-for-failure realm of technology looking for a solution?
  • Are you sure it’s not just BI 101Once you identify specific business requirements, ask whether Big Data is really the answer you are looking for. In the majority of my Big Data client inquiries, after a few probing questions I typically find out that it's really BI 101: data governance, data integration, data modeling and architecture, org structures, responsibilities, budgets, priorities, etc. Not Big Data.
  • Why can’t your current environment handle it? Next comes another sanity check. If you are still thinking you are dealing with Big Data challenges, are you sure you need to do something different, technology-wise? Are you really sure your existing ETL/DW/BI/Advanced Analytics environment can't address the pain points in question? Would just adding another node, another server, more memory (if these are all within your acceptable budget ranges) do the trick?
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TechnoPolitics Podcast: Big Data Is Value At Extreme Scale

Big Data is about handling extremes, cost effectively. But, what it means to be "big" is an upwardly moving target. In this episode of TechnoPolitics, Mike Gualtieri speaks with Forrester Principal Analyst Brian Hopkins about big data. Brian covers emerging technology and its impact on business and IT. 

Podcast Listening Options

Click here to download entire Forrester TechnoPolitics MP3 file

Next Episode - Windows 8: Bold Move Or Catch-Up?

Be sure to catch the next episode of TechnoPolitics to hear Forrester Vice President Frank Gillett's analysis of what Windows 8 means to Microsoft, consumers, and businesses. Frank's analysis of Microsoft Windows 8 will blow your mind. Microsoft is faced with its biggest challenge ever. Is Windows 8 the answer, a first step on the path, or will it fall flat?

About Forrester TechnoPolitics

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TechnoPolitics Podcast: BYOD Explained By Christian Kane!

BYOD (bring your own device) is a momentum torpedo.

Younger workers at the bottom and executives at the top of businesses assert their desire (they think it is a right) to use their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops instead of company-issued hardware. In this episode of Forrester TechnoPolitics, Mike Gualtieri interviews Forrester Analyst Christian Kane about the future of BYOD.

  • The what and why of BYOD?
  • What are the hazards of BYOD?
  • Is BYOD a trend that has legs?
  • Bonus: A Cambridge, MA, area BYOB restaurant recommendation.
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TechnoPolitics Podcast: Our Take On Google I/O & Mobile App Development

Listen to Forrester analysts Mike Gualtieri and Michael Facemire's lively discussion on this year’s Google I/O Conference, including the over-the-top Google Glass skydiving keynote emceed by none other than Sergey Brin.

  • Google I/O Conference highlights
  • Native versus HTML5: The mobile app development debate continues
  • iPhone and Android own the market now. Will Microsoft be number 3, or will Amazon surprise everyone again?
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The New Knowledge Management: What Does A Collaborative Content Hub Look Like

66% of customers say that “valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service.” A knowledge base is typically used to empower agents and customers with answers to customer questions. But traditional knowledge management is a difficult because of the confusion around the term and its checkered reputation.

Instead of a knowledge base, companies should be investing in a collaborative content hub that looks like this:

 

It includes the following capabilities:

  • Easy content capture. You should be able to flag information from any source (email, discussion forum thread, social media interaction) and kick it off to be included in your collaborative content hub.
  • Democracy. Everyone within an organization, and customers as well, should be able to recommend information to be included in the content hub.
  • Flexible authoring environment. You must be able to create and publish content without arduous workflows. Not all content should be subjected to the same workflows. Some content must be able to be published instantly, for example a service alert. Other content should be able to be routed through review or legal compliance flows.
  • Social content: Anyone who comes into contact with content should be able to rate and comment on content.
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