This is my fourth time attending Oracle OpenWorld in as many years. The show drew a large crowd this year, topping 60,000 attendees. I focused on customer service sessions highlighting the Oracle RightNow, Oracle Siebel, and Oracle Knowledge (InQuira) products. I went to high-level vision sessions, road map sessions, and customer testimonials. I also spent a lot of time talking to systems integrators that have recently deployed these solutions. This year was by far the most enjoyable conference experience. Here is why — and keep in mind that all of my comments are about its customer service portfolio:
Like a song stuck on repeat, enterprise IT hardware decision makers tell Forrester once again that consolidation and optimization top their list of priorities into 2014. According to Forrester's Q3 2013 Hardware survey, 77% deem server, storage and network virtualization and consolidation a high or citical priority—followed by 68% who prioritize the automating the management of virtualized servers to gain flexibility and resiliency. Conslidation + Optimization.
But what's new this time around is that the next wave of IT infrastructure and data center consolidation and optimization requires a new approach centered around workload-centric, software-defined, and hybrid cloud. If you're an IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) professional tasked with IT infrastructure and data center strategy, it's time to incorporate these themes into your approach:
Application-centric infrastructure optimizes infrastructure around what matters most. For too long, IT infrastructure has aligned to silos of technology, resulting in complexity, low satisfaction, poor communication, and wasted money. To deliver better business results over the next decade, Forrester advocates that you take an application-centric (or workload-centric) approach: Design your IT infrastructure to fit the apps and workloads that are critical to customers.
Recently, I’ve been digging into two related issues: how CIOs facilitate business change; and how organizations define what systems, organizations and other elements should be local or global. Both of these areas involve large scale organizational change. During interviews, a few clients commented specifically on the pace of change. Netting out what they said: “You only have a short period of time for people to change, before they get locked into a new way of behaving”.
An example of this was from a colleague who helped lead an ERP dominated business transformation. One particularly interesting comment was that “Once a change was made, people adapted quickly, then dug in and wouldn’t budge”. For example, they consolidated several country-specific order entry processes into a single one for the entire company. The change was made, training was given, a certain amount of begging and threatening by senior management followed and a lot of people changed their habits dramatically over the first couple months. But then they slowed down and dug in, resulting in many functions that were never used.
So, I did some digging and found a number of academic articles on how people learn. One old one seemed very relevant. The topic was how people’s behavior changed as a result of the deployment of a new collaboration platform.
“An average of 54% of all adaptive activity was completed in the first 2.8 months. This given on average that new technologies took almost 14 months to be considered production. As time goes on, momentum for change is lost, the "best" people move on to production work, evangelists lose interest and initial enthusiasm that existed for change is wasted.”
[Source: Marcie J. Tyre and Wanda J. Orlikowski, "Windows of Opportunity", MIT Sloan School of Management, September 1992]
There’s no doubt that, to consumer marketing professionals, data about the users of mobile network are highly valuable. But AT&T is finding that enterprise application designers, corporate security & risk professionals, corporate trainers and CFOs are very interested in this data as well - so much so that the US-based network operator is turning access to and collaboration on its data into a new business service.
Under the guidance of Laura Merling, VP of Ecosystem Development & Platform Services (and formerly of Mashery), AT&T Business Solutions is embarking on an ambitious plan for sharing its data in a secure programmatic fashion leveraging RESTful APIs. It had previously shared it data in a more informal fashion with selected partners and customers but found this approach difficult to standardize and repeat on a larger scale. It also has participated in data collaboration efforts such as the well-known hackathon with American Airlines at South by Southwest earlier this year.
I spent the past three months talking to Google and Microsoft professional services partners, as well as Google Apps and Office 365 clients, to better understand how cloud collaboration and productivity suites are implemented and the value clients get once they move into these environments. One word that came up quite a bit during these conversations was "simple." As in "We think moving to [Google Apps or Office 365] will simplify our [costs, IT management, user experience, etc.]." This got me thinking: Should CIOs think moving collaboration workloads to the cloud actually simplifies their job? Well...yes, but there's a but. Simplicity in these environments comes with costs. Business and IT leaders must be sure they're willing to pay them as a condition of getting the benefits of the cloud. So what does this mean?
These platforms simplify contracting if you can live with the standard service agreement. One Google client told us one of the reasons they rejected the incumbent players was because they felt the licensing agreements were "convoluted." Yes, cloud collaboration and productivity suite providers have straightforward per user pricing for clearly defined feature/function tiers. But the devil's in the details. These players are able to deliver highly efficient, low-cost services because they do not permit a lot of deviation from the standard service agreement. So, healthcare clients looking for business associates' agreements will not find a willing partner in Google.* And smaller enterprises that require a dedicated collaboration environment will find that Microsoft enforces a minimum seat count on Office 365's dedicated SKU.
Information workers in India are increasingly using their personal devices, applications, and web services to accomplish both personal and work-related activities. Results from Forrester’s Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey, Q4 2012 indicate that at least 85% of employees use phone/tablet applications and web-based services for both purposes which is putting corporate information security under serious threat.
My interactions with numerous infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals from large enterprises in India over the past six months have revealed that there is a high degree of awareness of the need to develop a bring-your-own-technology (BYOT) policy. However, actual implementations aren’t yet common, as I&O professionals are unable to address management’s three key concerns. These are, in order of priority:
How can we ensure that information on employee-owned hardware and software is secure?
My colleague Manish Bahl is wrapping up a report on midmarket IT budgets and spending trends in India for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, which runs from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. I analyzed the survey data for collaboration-related trends and noticed something interesting: 68% of the Indian midmarket firms (those with 400 to 2,500 employees) surveyed have already adopted or are planning to adopt software-as-a-service (SaaS) for collaboration in the next one to two years (see Figure 1). In fact, collaboration-as-a-service (CaaS) tops all categories by a considerable margin.
This data reinforces the key findings from my recently published blog post highlighting the growing importance of cloud collaboration services in Asia Pacific. While the popularity of CaaS is growing across all industries, it’s interesting to note that traditionally cloud-wary verticals, such as financial services and insurance and the public sector (including education and healthcare), are starting to warm up to cloud-based collaboration services: 80% and 67%, respectively, of the surveyed midmarket organizations in those verticals are either already using or planning to adopt CaaS over the next one to two years.
Wearable computing devices (like Google Glass, Jawbone Up, Nike+ FuelBand, iHealth, and Samsung Galaxy Gear, among others) have made a big splash in the consumer market. My colleague Sarah Rotman Epps’ analysis shows that Google Glass could be the next big App Platform. Fitness wearables might be a bit overhyped, but it’s nevertheless becoming common to see people sporting Nike+ FuelBand devices everywhere you go. No less a tech industry luminary than Mary Meeker recently declared wearables the next wave of computing (see slide 49).
Good customer service is the result of the right attention to strategy, business processes, technology, and people management. This seven-post series focuses on customer service technology and explains the what, why, how, and when technology questions.
Part 1 reviewed the customer service technology ecosystem.
Part 2 reviewed the challenges caused by the complexity of this technology ecosystem.
Part 3 reviewed the tactical outcomes of poor customer service.
Part 4 focused on the ways that the customer service technology ecosystem is changing.
Part 5 categorized technologies based on their ecosystem maturity.
So what does this all mean?
Many companies are focusing on delivering differentiated customer service experiences to their customers. But enhancing the quality of service delivery is a really difficult proposition given the complexity of the contact center technology ecosystem. Here are five recommendations to help you out:
Technology improvements are lowering the infrastructure and price barriers to using videoconferencing, making it available to more people and generating new applications. Employees want desktop videoconferencing because they don’t have to get up and go somewhere, reserve a room, ask for permission, deal with chargebacks, or ask for help to use it. Based on rapid adoption over the past three years we anticipate that within the next three years more than half of information workers will use desktop videoconferencing at least occasionally for work.
There are four major categories of solutions: consumer applications, unified communications (UC) clients, video pure plays, and webconferencing.