Is the US Bureau of Economic Analysis Undermeasuring the Tech Economy?

 

When I do my US tech market sizing and forecasting, I start with the data on business investment in computer equipment, communications equipment, and software in the quarterly National Accounts of the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).  As Forrester’s recently published report on the US tech market noted (see September 28, 2012, "US Tech Market Outlook Dims For 2012 To 2013 -- US Tech Market Spending Will Maintain A Mediocre 4% to 5% Pace"), the BEA in July revised the historic data on these categories of business investment going back to 2009, significantly reducing the size of tech investment in this period and lowering the growth rate of business tech investment to a pace not appreciably faster than the growth rate in the US economy.

While I adjusted my tech market sizings and forecasts to these lower numbers from the BEA, I have been wondering whether the BEA in their data collection is missing key segments of new technology, and thus understating the level of tech buying that is actually going on.  We have no good way of answering this question since the BEA has not publicly indicated that there have been any changes in data sources and aggregation methods that would signs of undermeasurement.  Still, here are the questions I would ask BEA if I had the chance.

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US Tech Market Growth Slows As Election And Political Uncertainties Dampen Economic Growth And Tech Buying

Earlier in 2012, I was fairly bullish about the US tech market, expecting growth of 7% to 7.5% for the near depending on whether or not telecommunications services was included (see April 24, 2012, "US Tech Market Outlook For 2012 And 2013 -- Improving Economic Prospects Create Upside Potential") .  But economic growth has been weaker than I assumed, coming in at 1.3% in Q2 2012 compared to my expectation that real GDP would grow by around 2-1/2%. In addition, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis revised downward its estimates for growth in business investment in computer equipment, communications equipment, and software.  These revisions eliminated the evidence for my thesis that the US was in a new cycle of tech innovation and investment that was causing tech investment to grow twice as fast as the economy.  Instead, the revised data showed that tech investment was growing at about the same rate as the US economy in 2010 and 2011, not faster as earlier data had shown.  Tech innovation is clearly going on, but at least in the official data tech investment has not responded in kind.  So, with nominal GDP growth for 2012 shaping up to be about 4%, our tech market growth outlook for 2012 in our latest US tech market forecast report (see September 28, 2012, "US Tech Market Outlook Dims For 2012 And 2013") is about the same, that is to say, in the 4.5% to 5% range.  

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What Keeps CIOs Up At Night?

We’d like to know what job responsibilities give CIOs insomnia, either by responding to this blog or by contacting us directly to be interviewed. The interviews will take less than an hour and go over this question as well as others including:

  1. What decisions do you regularly make?
  2. What sources of information do you use?
  3. What IT decisions are made by IT versus the business?

We are in the early stages of interviews, but the initial responses to the question of what keeps CIOs up at night were very interesting. Some, as expected, focused on tactical and immediate problems. They included:

  • Security: “I don’t ever want to see [my company’s] name in the paper for a security problem.”
  • Small mistakes: “A tiny piece of code could have brought the organization to its knees.”
  • Turnover: “We have two people maintaining one of our ancient core systems, and both could retire soon.”

But there were unexpected responses in that they focused on the long term. Some of these long-term insomnia inducers were:

  • Investments: “Does the money I’m putting in now make sense for the future?”
  • Staff leadership: “Do I have the right mix of outsourced and internal staff?”
  • Reality: “I’m struggling matching reality with where we’re heading.” 
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What Are Companies And Brands Investing In To Deliver Great Digital Experiences?

The intense work by companies and brands to deliver stellar digital experiences (DXes) has been exciting to witness. This isn’t just incremental change for most organizations; it’s transformational. (Think: Outside In, a new book by two Forrester colleagues.)

But these things don’t just happen. It’s not magic. It takes significant planning and commitment across silos: Execs establish a mandate. Digital strategists and marketing pros set direction. User experience and design pros translate the vision. The same goes for marketers and content strategists.

Application developers, meanwhile, must choose and implement the right tools and technology to support DX initiatives. It isn’t easy figuring out what to prioritize (hello, internal politics), where to source solutions (suite vs. best-of-breed?), and how to roll out new capabilities to eager users.

In my research focus area, web content management (WCM), solution vendors have tried to fill the gaps and deliver DX features by building on their own platform or partnering with third-party providers.

Where are organizations investing to support digital customer experiences? Forrester asked 170 WCM leaders earlier this year and their answers, charted below, provide a snapshot of their current status and foreshadow near-term DX investments.

Mobile delivery, video streaming, email tools, and content targeting are high on the list of capabilities or near-term focus to serve digital experience requirements, according to respondents.

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Sourcing And Vendor Management Professionals’ Rising Scope Of Responsibilities

As part of my ongoing research into the product development services market, I took a step back to consider how sourcing and vendor management (SVM) professionals have seen their responsibilities increase as new sets of stakeholders start to rely and utilize their expertise and experience.

The first wave really started in 2007 as business buyers started to self-provision both devices and software, representing a key shift from centralized to decentralized IT. And this brought with it a whole new set of stakeholders into the view of SVM professionals.The rising scope of SVM's responsibilities

But it wasn’t long before other stakeholders started to emerge. In 2009, we started to see human resources (HR) and finance appear on the horizon. In HR, this was being driven by trends such as the rise in telecommuting. For example, SVM professionals were increasingly required to work with HR and IT to develop a formal telecommuting policy, as an increasing number of employees worked away from the office.

In the past year we have started to hear from clients about increasing interaction with marketing professionals. In many organizations, marketing works autonomously from IT and SVM but often has large contracts, for example with digital marketing agencies. And so we have gradually seen proactive sourcing professionals reaching out to marketing to gain visibility and bring a greater level of robustness and process expertise into these relationships.

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IT Service Experience Essentials

This week I have been travelling to see Forrester’s I&O Leadership Board (FLB) members in Paris and working on my I&O FLB workshop session for Orlando and London happening in October, titled ‘An Outside In Approach To Your IT Strategy’. During my conversations I have been discussing Forrester’s excellent new book entitled ‘Outside In, The Power of Putting Customers At The Center Of Your Business’.  It contains great insight and examples on how successful companies are adapting to the “age of the customer” by ensuring experience rich relationships. 

So what does 'putting the customers at the center of your business' mean to I&O Professionals?

Firstly, we need to ditch the word ‘users’. It’s a dirty word in my vocabulary as it conjures up images of employees being ‘addicted’ to our IT services. Our employees are not going to go ‘cold turkey’ on us if they don’t get their corporate IT fix. They are our internal IT customers who have feelings, needs and wants plus are increasingly able to source their own technology services to increase their productivity.

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What Is A Workforce Computing Strategic Plan . . . And Why Do You Need One?

Regardless of what our minds conjure up when we think of airline travel, one thing we can readily observe is that while the weather, the experience of the flight crew, the mechanical condition of the aircraft, and the destination of the flight are all variables, the system of getting an aircraft from one place to another, in one piece, is extraordinarily reliable. Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines once joked that the airline business is the only place where the capital assets travel at 500 miles per hour.

Every commercial flight starts with a flight plan, a flight crew, an aircraft, and a destination. The dispatcher creates the plan based on the expected conditions for the flight, the limitations of the pilot and passengers, and the capabilities of the aircraft. Time is built into the plan to climb to cruise altitude and to descend again to reach the destination safely. How much fuel will be required is built into the plan and pumped into the tanks. Every activity is done to achieve a singular purpose: getting the aircraft and its passengers safely to the destination, and everyone involved knows where the destination is. Aviation is a study in viable systems design.

How strange it seems then, that thousands of IT projects begin every day, but more than one-third of them crash enroute. Why? I would argue that it's because there is seldom a clear destination in mind, a rational plan to get there, or a viable system approach in place to execute the plan. Most of the time, the destination and the means to get there are only vague estimates, and the elements of the strategy are rooted in hope.

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Enterprise “Overextended”? You Need To Evolve Your Identity Strategy

The rapid adoption of mobile devices and cloud services together with a multitude of new partnerships and customer-facing applications has extended the identity boundary of today’s enterprise. For the extended enterprise, identity and access management (IAM) is more than just provisioning employees with and enforcing the appropriate access to corporate resources. It’s about the ability to oversee access by a variety of populations, from employees to partners to consumers, and protect a variety of sensitive resources (including data) that may reside on or off the organization’s premises – all while helping to protect the organization from increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals and resourceful fraudsters.

Unfortunately, legacy approaches to IAM are failing us because they can’t manage access from consumer endpoints, they don’t support rapid adoption of cloud services, they can’t provide security data exchange across user populations, and offer no help against emerging threats.

We at Forrester have been promulgating a Zero Trust Model of information security. It eliminates the idea of distinct trusted internal networks versus untrusted external networks, and requires security pros to verify and secure all resources, limit and strictly enforce access control, and inspect and log all network traffic. Zero Trust applies effectively to identity as well. It requires security and identity pros to: 1) center on sensitive applications and data; 2) unify treatment of access channels, populations, and hosting models; and 3) prepare for interactions at Internet scale. Moving toward Zero Trust identity not only helps you improve business agility and achieve compliance – it even helps you enhance customer experience and deliver on your org’s API monetization strategy.

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How Is Your IT Department Assisting The Organisation With Innovation?

Data from the Q2 2012 Forrsights Budgets And Priorities Tracker Survey shows that for nearly 70% of Australian and New Zealand organisations, the top IT management priority is to increase IT capacity or resources to drive business innovations. This focus on innovation has been reflected in numerous discussions I’ve been having with CIOs. At a panel session on innovation towards the beginning of 2012, the audience were pretty evenly split between those who believed IT has a key role to play in business innovation and those who thought innovation was not IT’s job. Now, however, innovation seems top of mind with most CIOs I speak to.

So what can your IT department do to help drive business innovation? Well – really there are lots of ways – but most importantly you can help by implementing processes that help drive “sustainable innovation”. Sustainable innovation is not small changes – and not the big changes – it is everything in the middle. I call it the “gut feel” innovation – i.e. “I have this idea and I think it could help improve the business. The thing is that I don’t have the stats to prove it can help – hence I can’t build a business case – hence we can’t put this idea through the traditional business investment process.” In a scenario like this, what you need is a process to quickly test and measure the idea to give you the data to put into the traditional business process to either move it forward or discard it as a bad idea. If fewer than 45% of your ideas move from ideation to reality you are probably testing too many “bad ideas” and you need to tighten your process to get rid of more bad ideas earlier – and on the flip side, if more than 70% of the ideas are being commercialised then you probably aren’t testing enough ideas.
 
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AMD Acquires SeaMicro — Big Bet On Architectural Shift For Servers

[For some reason this has been unpublished since April — so here it is well after AMD announced its next spin of the SeaMicro product.]

At its recent financial analyst day, AMD indicated that it intended to differentiate itself by creating products that were advantaged in niche markets, with specific mention, among other segments, of servers, and to generally shake up the trench warfare that has had it on the losing side of its lifelong battle with Intel (my interpretation, not AMD management’s words). Today, at least for the server side of the business, it made a move that can potentially offer it visibility and differentiation by acquiring innovative server startup SeaMicro.

SeaMicro has attracted our attention since its appearance (blog post 1, blog post 2) with its innovative architecture that dramatically reduces power and improves density by sharing components like I/O adapters, disks, and even BIOS over a proprietary fabric. The irony here is that SeaMicro came to market with a tight alignment with Intel, who at one point even introduced a special dual-core packaging of its Atom CPU to allow SeaMicro to improve its density and power efficiency. Most recently SeaMicro and Intel announced a new model that featured Xeon CPUs to address the more mainstream segments that were not a part of SeaMicro’s original Atom-based offering.

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