Today, the gap between a customer’s expectations and the customer experience they receive is huge. In our latest customer experience survey, we found that just over one-third of US brands deliver a good experience. What is even more surprising is that, in the five years that Forrester has been collecting this data, this number has not significantly changed.
Delivering good customer service is a cornerstone to delivering a good end-to-end customer experience. Yet few companies undertake efforts to follow best practices. This lack of attention to customer service has significant impacts for companies: escalating service costs, customer satisfaction numbers at rock-bottom levels, and anecdotes of poor service experiences amplified over social channels that can lead to brand erosion.
Mastering the customer service experience is hard to do. Here is a recap of my 10-step program. I’ve reordered the steps a little, but the message is still the same:
The $1.3 billion verdict in the Oracle v. SAP case is surprising, given that the third-party support subsidiary of SAP, TomorrowNow, was fixing glitches and making compliance updates, not trying to resell the software. The jury felt that the appropriate damage award was based on the fair market value of the software that was illegally downloaded, rather than Oracle’s lost revenues for support.
A news article by Bloomberg provides further insight into the jury’s thinking and the legal process. Quoting juror Joe Bangay, an auto body technician: “If you take something from someone and you use it, you have to pay.” Perhaps SAP should have made its case more in layman’s terms.
SAP is in a very difficult position, in that it faces the same threat of revenue loss from third-party support. It was unable to convincingly defend its entry into the third-party support business for fear of legitimizing a business that poses a similar threat to its lucrative maintenance business as to Oracle’s.
What happens to the third-party support business going forward? The size of the award potentially dampens customer interest in moving to third-party support, particularly with another case pending of Oracle v. Rimini Street. The SAP case, however, does not invalidate third-party support as a business. Third-party support, if carried out properly, offers an important option for enterprise application customers that are looking for relief from costly vendor maintenance contracts.
For SAP, the verdict is not only painful, but it prolongs the agony, because it is compelled to appeal the verdict. SAP certainly has the financial wherewithal to pay the damages but was hoping to put this embarrassing debacle behind them.
Today, IBM announced the acquisition of privately-held Clarity Systems for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition bolsters IBM’s solution set for the CFO, and complements its recent acquisition of OpenPages, a governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) vendor. Clarity, based in Toronto, had approximately 390 employees and 600 customers at the time of this deal.
Clarity Systems is a Strong Performer in "The Forrester Wave™: Business Performance Solutions, Q4 2009", offering a very good planning, budgeting, and forecasting solution as part of its flagship product, Clarity 7, along with an improved financial consolidations component. During the past few years, Clarity developed a market-leading regulatory reporting solution, Clarity FSR, which supports the process of creating full SEC filings and also embeds technology for XBRL reporting. IBM Cognos is ranked as a Leader in the same comparative evalution.
The success of FSR alone during the past two years made the large BPS vendors, IBM, SAP, and Oracle, envious of Clarity’s success. Oracle made a competitive response early this year with the release of Oracle Hyperion Disclosure Management. It seemed to this observer that SAP would make the next move by doing a deal to acquire Clarity, but IBM beat them to the punch.
At Forrester's Business Process And Application Delivery Forum, October 7 and 8 in National Harbor, MD , we are holding a session called an "unconference" in the Business Process content track (there is also an unconference for the Application Development and Delivery track).
What is an "unconference"? you may ask. It's a session where the attendees are the presenters. Here is how the session is described on our event site:
"Unconferences are the coolest thing going in conferences, having taken a page out of the Web 2.0 and social networking world. Here’s how it works: Upon arriving at the Forum, attendees can vote for one of these three topics: 1) the future of packaged apps; 2) the future of BPM, or 3) the role of Social Computing in business processes. Once the winning topic is announced, then it’s your turn to sign up to speak at the session. Yes, that’s right — you are the speakers! Those passionate about the topic will each have 3 minutes to discuss the topic and offer a conclusion. It should be a lot of fun, quite democratic, and full of interesting points of view. "
We need your help, whether you have already signed up to attend, considering it, or just learning about the event. What we would like you to do is select the topic that you are most interested in discussing with your peers. It only takes a minute. Vote here:
In late breaking news today, SAP announced a definitive agreement to acquire Sybase for $5.8 billion. The deal will be accretive for SAP and is expected to close in July 2010. Sybase is a profitable company with revenues of $1.2 billion and $1 billion in cash. Sybase Chairman, CEO and President John S. Chen will become a member of SAP's Executive Board.
The deal is a good move by SAP mainly because it accelerates SAP’s innovation strategy, which is focused on in-memory computing, mobile device applications, analytics, and SaaS. Sybase brings assets to the table in each of these areas:
In-memory databases via its Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) platform and SQL Anywhere.
Mobile applications development and device management via Sybase Unwired and Afaria.
Analytics via the Sybase IQ column oriented analytics server and complex event processing (CEP) technology.
Cloud computing is delivered via Sybase’s partnership with Amazon Web Services.
Today, Oracle announced yet another acquisition - this one of Phase Forward, a clinical research suite that helps life sciences companies manage their R&D process. Oracle paid $685 million in cash for this acquisition. While my research role focus does not encompass life sciences software specifically, Oracle's overall apps strategy is definitely of interest to me. My thoughts about this deal are as follows:
Oracle continues to aggressively acquire industry-specific applications to complement its core ERP solutions (e.g., EBS, PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards, and the yet-to-be-released Fusion Applications). Industry apps enable Oracle to achieve deeper relevance with specific types of businesses, and sell them additional products, including middleware, integration accelerators, BI, databases, core ERP applications, and now even computer hardware.
The Phase Forward clinical trials software puts Oracle into the mix in large pharma accounts, where SAP tends to have the lion's share of the wallet for applications.
Healthcare overall is a massive market opportunity for which Oracle has only scratched the surface. Oracle only recently established a Health Sciences Global Business Unit, and more acquisitions can be expected in and around the healthcare ecosystem. Healthcare provider solutions may fit into this build-out at some point.
Your thoughts on Oracle's apps strategy and portfolio? Feel free to comment here.
In developing a technology strategy for your organization, what will be your basis for deciding which technologies to pursue, when to pursue them, and how to implement them? In other words, what will be the foundation for your technology architecture and strategy? In considering this question, I assume we agree that technology strategy should directly support improvement of business outcomes, both now and over the long haul. To provide for the long haul, your technology architecture and strategy must be crafted to support a continuous stream of business change, both small incremental steps and large radical shifts.
Your strategy could begin with a list of hot technologies — perhaps even ones that business colleagues are clamoring for — but how would you know which of them would lead to the most important improvements in business outcomes? You could begin with your top executives’ current business plans and strategies — which would clearly address today’s priorities for improving outcomes — but over the long haul, business plans change, sometimes dramatically, making them an unstable foundation for technology strategy.
Since the goal of technology strategy is to improve business outcomes, let’s refine the question with that as our focus: What basis for technology architecture and strategy:
(a) Aligns best with the ways that business leaders conceive, plan, execute, and measure improvements to business outcomes,
(b) Provides the best structure for building technology implementations that align with and facilitate the ways that businesses change both now and over the long haul, and
(c) Best guides the prioritization, planning, architecture, design, and usage of technology within business improvement projects?
For those of you unable to attend, I will summarize some of the content that I presented on SAP’s overall growth and innovation strategy. SAP has a double-barreled product strategy focused on Growth and Innovation.
The Growth strategy rests heavily on the current Business Suite, which includes the core ERP product that is used by approximately 30,000 companies worldwide. SAP claims that it touches 60 percent of the world’s business transactions, which is hard to validate but not all that hard to believe. The main revenue source today is Support, which comprises 50% of the total revenues of the company at more than 5 billion Euros annually, and it grew by 15% in 2009. Other growth engines include:
#SCRM (the hash our group uses to communicate on Twitter) group embodies the very essence of what social media is about: genuine authentic, direct and real conversations. Being a participant and a practitioner, I thought I would share my observations and thoughts... not just at this conference, but what I have seen in the actions and behaviors of this group over the past year or more... And these foreshadow a world that is being created right now as you are reading this...
91% of executives say customer experiences are critical or very important to their businesses, nearly 5,000 consumers prefer better customers experiences over lower prices and better customer experiences drive higher revenue and profits,—according to Forrester Research .