Mobile's Next Era: Not Apps, Not Websites — Experiences!

I was fortunate this week to attend a presentation by James Whittaker in which he delivered his view on the next era of computing. This was one of the best presentations I’ve seen, because the content was presented in a compelling manner that created an outstanding overall experience. I point this out because it parallels James’ message: The future of computing isn’t apps or a collection of websites, but experiences delivered across an ecosystem of devices. I absolutely agree with his vision and am excited about the possibilities ahead. The pertinent question is then: How can enterprises adjust today’s behaviors to best prepare for this future? Let’s take a look at some of the key points of Whittaker’s talk and how we can take action on them today:

  • Search was king of the last era. As of September 2012, overall search volume on the web has started to decrease. This means that your customers are now using app-driven mechanisms to find your content as these provide context around their requests ensuring they get more accurate responses. Don’t immediately jettison your SEO strategy but prepare for how tomorrow’s customers will access your data: through well-designed and easily consumable APIs. This API layer will be the core around which every successful enterprise digital strategy is based.
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Capability-As-A-Service And What It Means For Technology Vendor Strategy

In my last post, I wrote about the evolving need for big business to source generic capabilities from business partners/vendors. This shift provides an enormous opportunity as well as a threat for technology vendors and CIOs.

I’m not talking about the wholesale outsourcing of IT. Rather, the selective sourcing of business capabilities and business process through software-as-a-service (SaaS), most likely deployed through cloud-based platforms (capability-as-a-service, or CaaS). Software and hardware vendors need to rethink their business from the customer’s perspective. They must figure out how to transform their products into services that deliver business capabilities and business outcomes.

If you’re a tech vendor, this means that you need to analyze each target industry and determine which business capabilities are likely to be strategic, and which are most likely to be generic. In retailing, for example, strategic capabilities might center on mastering customer data to create unique and valuable customer experiences as well as price optimization. Whereas capabilities around merchandising and assortment planning may be generic across many retailers (even though most merchandisers I know would never admit to this), these generic capabilities are likely to be delivered as SaaS in the future.

If you have existing solutions that target an industry’s generic capabilities, they are prime candidates for delivering the capability to the market as a service. Where your solutions target strategic capabilities, you will need to provide highly customized services through strategic partnership arrangements.

Office 2013 Launches

On Tuesday of this week, Microsoft launched Office 2013, the latest version of its flagship productivity suite. Forrester has released a report entitled Office 2013: A Breakthrough in Productivity; I had the opportunity to work with some great Forrester minds on writing it. Each analyst brought a unique perspective to the analysis:

  • My work, in addition to corralling all the talent mentioned below, focuses on document collaboration and social. 
  • John Rymer’s work is in the analysis of the new development environment with specific focus on SharePoint.
  • Ted Schadler focuses on the current and emerging mobile experience.
  • Art Scholler provides excellent perspective on the role of Office 2013 in unified communications with a focus on Lync.
  • Phillip Karcher takes a close look at the next version of the productivity suite. 
  • Frank Gillett looks at the implications of cloud deployment.
  • Chris Voce looks specifically at Exchange and provides perspective on the operational environment in general.
  • Leslie Owens provides perspective on search, taxonomy, and information architecture in the new release.
  • TJ Keitt weighs in on broad collaboration capabilities.
  • James Staten looks how Office fits into Microsoft’s broader cloud strategy. 
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Is Your IT Service Desk Customer Experience Up To Scratch?

My most popular blog of 2012 wasn’t written by me … but I guess you might have expected this if you’ve already read a few. That blog's author, an end-user (or is that a customer of an internal IT organization), now returns to look at the IT service desk through a customer and customer experience lens. I’ll let them continue in their own words …

So how is your customer experience?

It’s never been more important to build strong customer relationships (regardless of what type of service you're offering).  Long gone are the days when the customer purchasing path was straight-forward, and when the only route of post-sales contact was the phone.  In 2013, we need to be proactive and embrace consumer-driven change, harnessing the power of new technologies as well as improving older methods of contact. 

Whether your interactions with customers are face-to-face, via the internet including social media, or over the phone; and whether they involve physical or virtual products; they now need to generate a good “experience” for customers.  In the age of the “empowered customer” failure to manage these “experiences” can lead to missed opportunities and/or customer loss. And not just with the affected customer(s).

So what is “customer experience” and could it apply to IT service desks?

Forrester’s definition is simple: “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.” So for an IT service desk, could it be: “How end users perceive their interactions with your service desk”? And if so, how do you deliver this increasingly critical “customer experience”? 

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Social? It Will Never Work! Or Will It?

More than 22 years ago, I met my amazing wife and was welcomed into her wonderful family. At the time, I was a project manager working for Lotus Consulting. I managed the rollout of large Lotus Notes implementations as well as the development of Notes applications. Over the years, I had many great conversations with my father-in-law, Jerry. He was a senior executive at CalTrans (California’s department of transportation), but earlier in his career he had also been a project manager. Did we do the same job? Well, not really. I rolled out email systems. He managed a little project called Interstate Highway 5 from the Oregon border to Mexico — California’s portion of a 1,381 mile stretch of road. While he was far too gracious and modest a person to say so, the scale, complexity, and risk that he managed were far beyond anything I could even imagine. Nevertheless, he spoke to me as a peer and I was honored that he did so.

One of my favorite stories from Jerry was how he drove the introduction of PCs at CalTrans in the late 1980s. At the time, his engineers were wedded to two primary business tools: drafting tables and computing power, the latter of which was purchased from a California government service provider called the Teale Data Center. Jerry recognized two things: Drafting tables were inherently inefficient and the Teale Data Center was really expensive. He saw an opportunity with the emergence of personal computing. Move common tasks done on paper to a computer and move expensive processing to local PCs. The engineers resisted the change. “It will never work!” they cried.

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BB10 Provides Slim Hope For BlackBerry

The long, much-delayed wait is over. Today RIM took the formal wraps off its new BB10 platform and the first two smartphones running the OS: the all-touch Z10 and the Q10 that will carry the much-loved RIM physical keyboard. RIM has learned at least one lesson from Apple: their launch event included details on launch dates, carrier availability, and pricing. My colleague Thomas Husson has offered a viewpoint on BB10 for product and marketing specialists here.

The good news: RIM's hardware and software rise to the level of their competition, and in some cases — such as the keyboard's prediction and multilingual support — far surpass it; the BB10 catalog of applications, while smaller by an order of magnitude than the selection available for Apple and Android devices, is large and covers a broad range of business and consumer experiences; the platform is designed for a BYOD world, providing support for work and personal identities with an easy-to-access approach (provided the enterprise chooses BES); and RIM has struck deals with a wide range of content providers to offer customers a selection of music, video, and news content.

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BlackBerry Z10: Beautiful Phone, Good Experience, Missing Apps, Playing Serious Catchup . . .

The Z10 is a beautiful device: designers Todd Wood, Don Lindsay, and their teams have done a great job with the industrial design, the swipe-rich interaction gestures, and a whole lot more. The Z10 is a pleasure to hold, to swipe, and to carry around in a suit pants pocket.

Here are my favorite bits:

  • Thin, light, elegant, executive, with a holdable form factor and case.
  • The keyboard, with its predictive word look up and "flip into place" word completion is a pleasure for this thick-thumbed, fumble-finger typer.
  • Swipe gestures, including peeking into the inbox, the slow swipe to home position, and the pulldown configuration are a pleasure to use one-handed.
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7 Mobile Engagement Pitfalls To Avoid: And 7 Mobile-First Alternatives

Mobile apps have the thorny problem of needing to work spectacularly and safely on any device over the last wireless mile. Systems integrators, interactive agencies, software vendors, and your own infrastructure and application development teams will pitch you endlessly on technology to handle these problems. Some of these technology solutions will be great. But others carry traps for the unwary. In our new report, we call out 7 pitfalls and describe 7 mobile-first alternatives that are better.

One big trap lurking in most firms’ mobile strategy is using MDM to indiscriminately lock down devices. The temptation to replicate the BlackBerry era will backfire. Remember that RIM’s controls is partly what spurred employees and executives to defect to iPhones. If you lock mobile devices down too tightly, you will be pummeled for putting a theoretical concern for information security ahead of usability and the practical reality of a productive mobile workforce. If people can’t immediately get what they need, they’ll leave the phone in their pocket.

Figure 1: 7 Pitfalls To Avoid

Print out this list of pitfalls and their alternatives and tape it your monitor. Or blow it up and post it in your mobile center of excellence. Here are two pitfalls for everybody to avoid:

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Telcos Aggressively Entering The IaaS Market In Asia Pacific

Demand for infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) continues to grow strongly in Asia Pacific. In fact, our Forrsights Budgets and Priorities Tracker Survey, Q2 2012 found that 43% of Asia Pacific organizations had prioritized IaaS as an IT strategy, up from 33% in 2011.

This presents an opportunity for both established cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Rackspace and new entrants such as telcos to offer IaaS to enterprises in the region.

While telcos have not typically been an obvious choice for enterprises considering IaaS in the region, they have introduced capabilities over the past 12 months that compete head-on with AWS and Rackspace — from entry-level “rent a virtual server” offerings to fully hosted and managed IaaS. As outlined in my “Telcos Are Lining Up Broad IaaS Offerings For Asia Pacific Enterprises” report, players in this space include AT&T, BT, NTT Communications, Orange Business Services (OBS), SingTel, Tata Communications, Telstra, and Verizon.

What does this mean for sourcing and vendor management professionals?

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Sourcing Capabilities: What Big Business Can Learn From Startups

It's been clear for years now that small business startups don't build massive IT departments and big operations teams. Instead they focus on the capabilities which truly differentiate them in the marketplace - their strategic capabilities. They hire experts in these capabilities as employees and continue to improve their differentiation. At the same time, they look to source their more generic business capabilities from business partners and technology service providers.

We are going to see a seismic shift in big business in the coming years: there will be an increasing appetite to source generic capabilities from vendors and business partners; at the same time CEOs will focus increasingly scarce human capital resources on improving their strategic capabilities - the capabilities which give them a competitive edge.

While digital technology will remain at the heart of these strategic capabilities - leveraging cloud, big data analytics, mobile and social - the majority of technology services will be sourced from partners and vendors. The company's own technology resources will become more and more intensely focused on developing unique systems of engagement around strategic capabilities.