How Do New “Systems Of Insight” Power Great Mobile Moments And Customer Experiences?

Customers crave contextual and personal experiences on their mobile devices. Companies are looking to the reams of location and behavior data spun off mobile device to deliver them. Meanwhile, executives long for the insights lurking just below the surface of the new data they collect on customers and prospects to improve services and chart the best business strategy. 
 
In most companies, mobile engagement, customer analytics, innovation, and business strategy happen in silos and often half-heartedly. But disrupters like Uber, TripIt, Netflix, Flipboard, and Starbucks deliver great and personalized mobile and digital experiences -- and optimize outcomes -- with insights derived from all the data they can gather.
 
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Reset On Big Data Or Miss The Big Change

Big data is undergoing big change, but most companies are missing it or just grasping at the edges. My colleague Fatemeh Khatibloo and I have just completed an exhaustive study of the big data phenomenon. We found a familiar pattern: business confusion in the face of stern warnings about the dangers of big data and vendor-sponsored papers extolling its benefits. Here’s what we found hidden beneath the buzz:

As data explodes, so do old ways of doing business.

Everywhere we look, we find businesses using more diverse, messier, and larger data sets to stay competitive in the age of the customer — like the consumer goods firm that allocated marketing dollars based on flu trend predictions and the oil and gas companies that used weather data to predict iceberg flows and extend their drilling season. Savvy businesses find ways to turn more data into a competitive advantage. If your firm doesn’t get this, it won’t be pretty — starting in the not too distant future.

Technology managers and architects can’t afford to sit back and think that their Hadoop project will deliver everything the business needs. Nor can you afford to think that big data isn’t for you because you don’t have that much data. Why? Because “big data” is really the practices and technologies that close the gap between the available data and the ability to turn that data into business insight — insight that your firm needs to survive and thrive in the age of the customer. Four things to understand:

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Why Bitcoin Is Here To Stay

When I stumbled across Bitcoin (or Bit-O-Coin, as my wife likes to call it) a few years back, my spidey sense started tingling. Since that time, I’ve made a few off hand remarks about the future of crypto-currency and received the expected “it’s another Dutch Tulip thing”. While I’m not an expert on the financial markets, I do have an excellent track record for identifying disruptive technology changes and I’ve concluded that crypto-currency is here to stay.

 

Here’s why:

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Engagement, Smart Systems, and Nimbleness Anchor The Top Tech Trends To Watch

Mobile, social, and cloud computing have created seismic shifts in the business technology landscape over the last seven years. Instead of simply evolving our 2011 top trends research, this year we’re taking a fresh look at how technology is fueling business change anchored by three broad themes:

  • Engagement: Engaged customers drive the pace of business change.
  • Smart: Firms rely on smart systems for competitive advantage.
  • Nimble: IT embraces change to help them be both nimble and secure.
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Big Data For Telco Begins To Unleash Systems Of Engagement

In our recently completed Q3 2013 Global State Of Enterprise Architecture Online Survey, big data for real-time analytics moved from the No. 3 most revolutionary technology to the No. 2 position, according to the 116 enterprise architects who participated. This reflects the importance firms now place on turning vast amounts of data into immediate insight. And this trend is extremely important to telecommunication industry communication service providers (CSPs), who are sitting on a gold mine of data about what subscribers are doing on their mobile devices.

Let’s break this down a bit more -- according to the United Nations, there are about 2 billion mobile broadband subscriptions globally (that’s about 28% of the world’s 7.1 billion people). That’s a huge number of perpetually connected people, using bunches of apps for both work and personal. This is part of what we call the mobile mind shift, and it’s not about smartphones and tablets; rather, it’s about the changing expectations that pervasive mobile computing and broadband wireless have. According to a recent report, "The Mobile Mind Shift Index," we estimate 21% of the adult online US population now expects that any information is available on any appropriate device, in context, at their moment of need (see Josh Bernoff’s May 2013 blog Introducing The Mobile Mindshift Index). And this number is going to grow significantly over the next few years.

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Don't Have A Big Data Strategy Yet? Good.

Big data noise has reached the point where most are reaching for the ear plugs. And with any good hype bubble, the naysayers are now grabbing attention with contrarian positions. For example, The New York Times expressed doubt about the economic viability of big data in "Is Big Data an Economic Big Dud?" This post grabbed a lot of attention, but, like many others I read, it fundamentally misses the point of what big data is all about and why it's important. The article compares the productivity boom associated with the first wave of the Internet to the lack of growth experienced since the inception of "big data"; it implies that big data’s expected economic impact may not happen. Furthermore, the article implies that big data is something that firms will do or implement. Thinking about big data this way or differentiating between data sets as big, medium, or small is dangerous. It leads to chasing rabbits down holes.

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Digital Disruption Via Big Data — Coming To Your Neighborhood Soon!

I had the privilege of watching the recent NSA surveillance story unfold from my hotel room in London this June. Seeing the story from a decidedly non-American viewpoint got me thinking a bit differently about the implications for our society. From my point of view — no matter how you define the squishy and now beat-to-death “big data” concept — the NSA story has moved it from something “they use” to something that is uncomfortably close to where we live our lives. In other words, big data just moved in next door and is peeking over our fences into our living rooms. Eeek.

There are lots of socio-political issues with this, and I’m not even going to go there. However, the way that I see it, this incident will ultimately create a lot of opportunity for businesses savvy enough to get ahead of it the can of worms now squirming in our laps.

I think one of two things is going to happen. Either: 1) the US general public will shrug and go back to business as usual and this story will die, or 2) the public outrage will demand governmental oversight and accountability resulting in a tightening of our legal system. The latter case would be an example of how digital disruption, a topic we have written and blogged about for a while, is not just a business thing. It’s a cultural phenomenon that will rock our society for a long time.

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What’s Cooking – Emerging Tech Update 2013 (Part 1)

 

As the analyst covering all things emerging information technology, I spend a bit of time watching web and social feeds looking for interesting and potentially disruptive stuff. Fortunately, it’s a good time for me to be doing this, as there are all kinds of things going on. I’ve decided to pass some of the best on to my readers in periodic “What’s Cooking” posts.

Here are a few items you might want to check out:

  • Major updates in battery technology will redefine what it means to be mobile. Mobile devices must be, well, mobile so they need a battery. Current technology limits the time a mobile device can spend away from a charging station and put some shape limitations on device shapes. This will change – check out: 1) Flexible Battery Could Lead to Gadgets That Fold Up, and 2) Battery Breakthrough Offers 30 Times More Power, Charges 1,000 Times Faster.
  • Digital currency will turn retail and financial services on its head, eventually. Digital currency fascinates me, especially the enigmatic Bitcoin creator and its so far unbreakable code*. Also the way you have to mine for more coins is very interesting. Whether or not Bitcoin succeeds as the de facto standard, I think digital currency is inevitable and the more firms that accept is, the crazier things will get. Check out The Antisocial Network of Bitcoins.
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The Emerging Technology Juggernaut

I heard a great analogy from a client recently; buying new technology is like buying a new car - there are a lot of different strategies. Some people want a new car every couple of years and pay a premium to have it, some choose to lease so they get a new car every few years at a lower payment but they don’t own. Others buy new but plan to drive the wheels off their purchase. The problem is that IT wants to buy a nice reliable sedan and drive it for 200K miles, while some business units want to lease a SUV and others want a Ferrari. It’s an issue of misalignment, but in so many cases IT is not synching up with the business desire to innovate and differentiate with new technology.

Many architects and technology executives relate a cautious approach to introducing new, “bleeding edge” technology because they are in a very conservative business that doesn’t change that much. Ask them about the level of business investment in technology outside of IT, however, and they whistle. “Yup, that’s happening allot.”

Check out this data:

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Avoid Becoming A One-trick Pony: Embrace Your Business' Need For Real-time

 

The term “one-trick pony” allegedly originated back in the 19th-century days of the traveling circus, where low-end ones were sarcastically called “dog and pony shows.” The really bad ones got the reputation of having a pony that only knew one trick. Today many IT shops are in danger of becoming like those sad circuses, having one or at least a very limited set of technology tricks to help their firms seize opportunities quickly. For example, I routinely talk to business people who say they avoid IT at all costs when they have new analytic needs; at these firms, IT has only one response to all new requests for data – update the data warehouse or a data mart in a slow and expensive waterfall development process.

One term keeps occurring, as I talk to businesses about this issue — they want to be real-time.  We’ve been using the term for years to talk about a wide range of things, from embedded C to extreme, low-latency analytics. I think all of these miss what the business is really after — the ability to use more information more quickly to take rapid action in response to unanticipated changes in their environment. Five-year technology strategies are out; but many can’t get their head around this new world, which is why a recent Forrester study showed that IT is increasingly losing control of technology spend. How do we get back in the game?

Companies like Barclays Wealth Management, Sears, and USAA are redefining their architecture with new tricks to be responsive in real-time by:

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