Build, Buy, Or Outsource Customer Service Solutions? Here's An Approach To Help You Decide

How do you choose the right customer service solution for your needs? It’s always best to take a systematic approach: (1) benchmark your current operations using our Assessment Framework to pinpoint areas for opportunity and (2) pragmatically investigate options to source your missing capabilities. Options range from repurposing technologies used elsewhere in your company, to outsourcing, to purchasing suites or vendor point solutions. I recommend using the following process to step through the choices: 

  • Step 1: See if your company is using similar technologies that you can leverage. Web self-service, mobile, social, email, and chat solutions, for example, are often deployed by sales and marketing. If you choose to leverage existing technologies, make sure that they can scale and operate at the level of performance and reliability to support customer service operations. Also make sure that the experience that the customer receives when interacting with these technologies is consistent across functional organizations.
  • Step 2: Consider outsourcing. If there are no existing technologies that you can leverage, consider outsourcing this entire capability, or perhaps a portion or all of your customer service operations, to a third-party organization. In a recent Forrester survey, we found that 10% have already outsourced some or all of their operations or are very interested in doing so. Outsourcing can help reduce cost of operations, but can also improve the quality of services delivered and allow you to focus on core business activities that are mission-critical to your company.
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TechnoPolitics Podcast: Six Mobile App Development Predictions For 2013

Six Mobile Predictions!

Top Forrester mobile app-dev analysts Jeffrey Hammond and Michael Facemire prognosticate about the top trends for mobile application development in 2013. In this episode of Forrester TechnoPolitics, your host, Mike Gualtieri, asks Jeffrey and Michael to each make three predictions about mobile application development in 2013. Listen to this lively discussion and let us know if you agree or disagree with these predictions or have a few of your own to contribute.

Podcast: Mobile App Development Predictions For 2013 (14 minutes)

Click here to download the MP3 file of this episode.

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Amazon Targets Enterprise IT In Las Vegas: Insights & Observations From re:Invent User Conference

Amazon Web Services (AWS) held its first global customer and partner conference, re:Invent, in late November in Las Vegas, attracting approximately 6,000 attendees. While aimed squarely at developers, AWS highlighted two key themes that will appeal directly to enterprise IT decision-makers:

  • Continued global expansion. AWS cites customers in 190 countries, but the company is clearly pushing for greater penetration into enterprise accounts via aggressive global expansion. AWS now has nine regions (each of which has at least one data center), including three in Asia Pacific: Tokyo, Singapore, and Sydney. 
  • An expanded services footprint within customer accounts. The major announcement at re:Invent was a limited preview of a new data warehouse (DW) service called Amazon Redshift — a fully managed, cloud-based, petabyte-scale DW. As my colleague Stefan Ried tweeted during the event, with a limit of 1.6 petabytes, this is not just for testing and development — this is a serious production warehouse.
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TechnoPolitics Podcast: The Pragmatic Definition Of Big Data Explained

Rowan Curran, Research Associate and TechnoPolitics producer, hosts this episode to ask me (your regular host) about The Pragmatic Definition Of Big Data. Listen (5 mins) to hear the genesis of this new definition of big data and why it is pragmatic and actionable for both business and IT professionals.

 

Podcast: The Pragmatic Definition Of Big Data Explained (5 mins)

 

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Siri Is Shining A Spotlight On Virtual Agents

Siri, Apple’s voice-activated virtual agent (VA), has raised the profile of this technology category. Siri provides the right engagement paradigm: ask a question and get an answer - a right answer. Because of Siri, companies focused on increasing customer satisfaction scores to move the needle on customer loyalty often ask “Why can't we offer Siri-like experiences on our web or mobile sites to help customers ask questions in their own words?”

Let's look at the facts: customers today are trained to go online to get answers to their questions by navigating a company’s FAQ list, or by typing in keywords to surface the right piece of content. In fact, 66% of customers use this channel. But at 51%, the satisfaction ratings for this channel are the lowest of all the communication channels that Forrester tracks. It's because keeping content in line with customer demand and making it easily accessible to customers is very hard to do.

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Top 10 BI Predictions For 2013 And Beyond

It’s that time of year again, when everyone starts asking for the BI predictions for next year. Good news: We did a pretty good job on the last year’s predictions, and so there’re only a few reasons to update them. Therefore this year we’ll do the predictions in the following manner: base 2013’s predictions mostly on our one-year-old 2012 ones and then use the latest results from Forrester’s Forrsights surveys on BI and big data (as well as other Forrester research from the past year) to confirm or disprove the 2012 predictions and whether they still apply to 2013. If there’s room to add new ones (stay tuned), we’ll do so. So here we go:

#1 (From 2012 prediction #1). The best tool for each BI job trumps IT standards. BI has traditionally been ruled by overinsistence on enterprisewide standards and a single version of the truth. These will continue to be important, but they won’t be the Holy Grail. A purely standards-based approach to addressing most current business requirements is neither flexible nor agile enough to react and adapt to ever-changing information requirements. In 2012 (and now in 2013), expect IT to start embracing agile BI tools, such as ones based on flexible in-memory models, in addition to enterprise-grade BI tools and standards. For information workers who need information anytime and anywhere, agility concerns will trump standards.

  • Verdict. Thumbs up for 2013.
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TechnoPolitics Podcast: Agile Software Is Not The Cat's Meow

One-Size Software Development Methodologies Do Not Fit All

Dozens of software development methodologies exist, from waterfall to Agile to pure anarchy (Agile has always rubbed me wrong). Mark Kennaley speaks the truth when he says that “there is no ‘best’; there’s only contextual fitness for purpose.” Mark is the founder of Software Development Experts, a software development methodology historian, a consultant, and the creator of an expert system that helps organizations determine the best software methodology to use based on 10 factors: development team size, domain complexity, technical complexity, the geographical dispersion of the development team, time-to-market pressure, enterprise specialization, contract relationships, compliance, criticality, and culture. This makes perfect sense, and so does Mark. Unfortunately, entrenched dogma and high ceremony can obscure what really matters.

Composite, Dynamic Software Development Methodologies Are Best

TechnoPolitics speaks with Mark about how firms can choose the best methodology based on the 10 factors that matter. One size does not fit all. Listen to find out why and how to move forward.

Podcast: One-Size Software Development Methodologies Do Not Fit All

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Thoughts On The ERP Market As 2012 Shifts Into 2013

It’s the time of year when business apps observers adopt a Janus stance toward market trends. Like the ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions, analysts look back at the recent past while also peering ahead into the future. Here’s my contribution to that ongoing debate highlighting three areas of enterprise resource planning (ERP) I thought of particular interest in 2012 and in the years ahead. Customers are set to benefit as more ERP deployment options and additional SaaS financials apps become available.

  • ERP vendors are going all-in with the cloud. Many ERP vendors debuted product or fleshed out their strategies for software-as-a-service (SaaS) ERP in 2012, and further developments are set for 2013. While the focus this year has been on SaaS ERP — and often how a SaaS offering can live in hybrid harmony with its older sibling, on-premises ERP — some vendors also revealed their platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) strategies. When it comes to PaaS, ERP vendors are opening up their own development platform and/or partnering with vendors like Amazon.com and Microsoft. Cloud-focused acquisitions also continued in 2012, notably SAP’s purchase of procurement rival Ariba to help fill out the suppliers pillar of its four-pillar app cloud — the other three pillars being people (HR), money (financials), and customers (CRM).
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Don’t Make These Mistakes With Cloud CRM Solutions

 

I spent the past few months talking with enterprise users of cloud CRM solutions. Most are happy, but others say they still face obstacles in getting the value promised from software-as-a-service (SaaS) CRM solutions such as saleforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

The CRM solution landscape has experienced considerable change, including significant vendor consolidation and a rapid rise in the popularity SaaS solutions — often referred to as "CRM in the cloud." Organizations adopt SaaS CRM solutions because of low upfront costs, good usability, proven scalability, better flexibility, and faster time-to-value compared with traditional on-premises applications. Forrester surveys indicate that nearly 70% of organizations are interested in, or are currently using, SaaS solutions for horizontal business processes such as CRM and HR.

But clients tell me they cannot capture the promised benefits if they do not have certain prerequisites within their own skill sets, such as the right developer talent and governance model to work in an agile, iterative approach that leading organizations use to be successful. This is not your father’s CRM anymore, so don’t make these mistakes:

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The Pragmatic Definition Of Big Data

Big Data Definition, Mike Gualtieri, ForresterForget About The Three Vs

Big data is not defined by how you can measure data in terms of volume, velocity, and variety. The three Vs are just measures of data how much, how fast, and how diverse? A quaint definition of big data to be sure, but not an actionable, complete definition for IT and business professionals. A more pragmatic definition of big data must acknowledge that:

  • Exponential data growth makes it continuously difficult to manage — store, process, and access.
  • Data contains nonobvious information that firms can discover to improve business outcomes.
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