I remember my first day at high school. Yikes it was scary. The older kids were BIG! The teachers were BIG (the phys ed teacher was even a little mean), the school was BIG . . . Everything felt so BIG! But as the year ticked by, l became familiar and comfortable with my classmates, teachers, and the school -- the place shrunk to a more comforting size.
Today marketers feel about data as I did about my first day at big school -- it’s BIG. There is lots of it, and it’s coming at them from many directions and in many forms. But data does not feel so big and daunting to the marketer who recognizes their customers buried in the fog of big data. The fact is, customer recognition is the key for marketers to make sense of big data; and it is at the heart of all effective marketing activities. I write about this in my most recent report: “Customer Recognition: The CI Keystone.”
So what is customer recognition?
Recognition associates interactions with individuals or segments across time and interactions. The strength of recognition is gauged on its ability to associate interactions to anything from individuals to a broad segment; and to persist those associations across different touchpoints over time.
Keys are needed for recognition at touchpoints. There are many types of keys, ranging from IP addresses, to cookie-based TPIKs, to phone numbers and customer account numbers. At Forrester we call them touchpoint interaction keys (TPIKs)
You don’t need to be a fine woodworker to sit in a chair. An inability to precisely construct an angled mortise and tenon joint does not preclude you from resting your feet. Similarly the time is rapidly approaching where you won’t need to be a marketing scientist to deploy analytics. Ignorance of neural networks will no longer impede your ability to use them to improve a campaign. The democratization of predictive modeling or other trends involving the intersection of customer analytics and marketing technology is much of what I will cover for Forrester Research.
In my new role as a senior analyst I look forward to helping Customer Insight professionals increase marketing and business returns through becoming more intelligent enterprises. This might involve guiding clients on technology decisions, organizational strategy, or benchmarking to their peers. What topics would you like to see me cover?
Many CIOs, technical architects as infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals in Chinese companies are struggling with the pressures of all kinds of business and IT initiatives as well as daily maintenance of system applications. At the same time they are trying to figure out what should be right approach for the company to adapt technology waves like cloud, enterprise mobility, etc., to survive in highly competitive market landscape. Among all the puzzles for the solution of strategic growth, Operating System (OS) migration might seem to have the lowest priority: business application enhancements deliver explicit business value, but it’s hard to justify changing operating systems when they work today. OS is the most fundamental infrastructure software that all other systems depend on, so the complexity and uncertainty of migrations is daunting. As a result, IT organizations in China usually tend to live with the existing OS as much as possible.
Take Microsoft Windows for example. Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 have been widely used on client side and server side. Very few companies have put Windows migration on its IT evolution roadmap. However, I believe the time is now for IT professionals in Chinese companies to seriously consider putting Windows upgrade into IT road map for the next 6 months for a couple of key reasons.
Windows XP and pirated OS won’t be viable much longer to support your business.
Ending support. Extended support, which includes security patches, ends April 8, 2014. Beyond that point, we could expect that more malwares or security attacks toward Windows XP would occur.
As part of the research for my upcoming report on midmarket IT budgets in India, we collected responses on big data adoption trends and maturity levels from 430 midmarket businesses (those with 400 to 2,500 employees) in the country. Our research shows that around 35% of Indian midmarket firms plan to invest in big data technologies and solutions in the coming one to two years, but we also found that many of them focus on reducing costs (30%) or optimizing asset utilization (25%) as the business outcomes expected. Moreover, only 8% of midmarket CIOs who plan to invest in big data have a projected or proven ROI for their big data investments — showing that many Indian organizations are getting caught up in big data hype.
India’s weakening economic conditions have put tremendous pressure on businesses to be more competitive and drive growth. As competition in the midmarket increases, business leaders will expect new IT capabilities to respond to customer needs better, faster, and cheaper. The pressure is now firmly on CIOs to deliver clear business outcomes on their big data investments. Our survey and my discussions with Indian CIOs have led me to the following recommendations for midmarket CIOs investing in big data:
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.
I had the opportunity to speak and participate in a panel on data governance as it pertained to big data. My presentation was based on recently completed research sponsored by IBM to understand, what does data governance look like by firms embarking/executing on big data? The overarching theme was that data governance is about protect and serve. Manage security and privacy while delivering trusted data.
Yet, when you look at data governance and what it means to the data practice, not the technology, protect and serve is also a credo. In business terms it represents:
Protect the reputation and mitigate risk associated with inappropriate use or dirty data.
Serve information needs of the business to have information fast and stay agile to market conditions.
Business intelligence (BI) is an evergreen that simply refuses to give up and get commoditized. Even though very few vendors try to differentiate these days on commodity features like point and click, drag and drop, report grouping, ranking, and sorting filtering (for those that still do: Get with the program!), there are still plenty of innovative and differentiated features to master. We categorize these capabilities under the aegis of Forrester agile BI; they include:
Making BI more automated: suggestive BI, automatic information discovery, contextual BI, integrated and full BI life cycle, BI on BI.
Making BI more pervasive: embedding BI within applications and processes, within the information workplace, and collaborative, self-service, mobile, and cloud-based BI.
Making BI more unified: unifying structured data and unstructured content, batch and streaming BI, historical and predictive, and handling complex nonrelational data structures.
I’m currently in the process of wrapping up a report on midmarket IT budgets and spending trends in India for the 2013-2014 fiscal year (April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014). For this report, we collected extensive data from 430 midmarket businesses (those with 400 to 2,500 employees) in the country to examine IT and business priorities among IT decision-makers. In addition to analyzing spending plans across standard IT categories (software, hardware, and services), we also analyze the likely impact on IT spending of key initiatives, including computing, mobility, and big data.
Despite increasing economic and political uncertainties in India, our survey found that midmarket companies are continuing to invest in IT to drive competitive differentiation. Our survey also signaled a changing attitude among Indian midmarket companies who are increasingly viewing IT as a means to better engage digitally enabled constituents. This is fueling a fundamental shift in the way Indian midmarket firms interact with customers. Here are some key highlights from the report:
The majority of Indian midmarket firms will increase IT spending in 2013-2014. Among all the companies surveyed, 61% of firms surveyed expect to increase their spending on IT by 5% to 10% in the current fiscal year. New IT initiatives and expansion of capacity will contribute to an increase in IT capital budgets as the current fiscal year’s budget is evenly split between new IT initiatives and expansion of existing capacity to better support growth initiatives. The need to modernize infrastructure and improve business applications to grow business will drive hardware and software spending from Indian midmarket firms.
Developers And Their Business Counterparts Are Caught In A Trap
They swim in game-changing new technologies that can access more than a billion hyperconnected customers, but they struggle to design and develop applications that delight customers and dazzle shareholders with annuity-like streams of revenue. The challenge isn’t application development; app developers can ingest and use new technologies as fast as they come. The challenge is that developers are stuck in a design paradigm that reduces app design to making functionality and content decisions based on a few defined customer personas or segments.
Personas Are Sorely Insufficient
How could there be anything wrong with this conventional design paradigm? Functionality? Check. Content? Check. Customer personas? Ah — herein lies the problem. These aggregate representations of your customers can prove valuable when designing apps and are supposedly the state of the art when it comes to customer experience and app design, but personas are blind to the needs of the individual user. Personas were fine in 1999 and maybe even in 2009 — but no longer, because we live in a world of 7 billion “me”s. Customers increasingly expect and deserve to a have a personal relationship with the hundreds of brands in their lives. Companies that increasingly ratchet up individual experience will succeed. Those that don’t will increasingly become strangers to their customers.
We recently met with Huawei executives during the launch of its latest product in China, the S12700 switch. The product, which ships in limited quantity in Q1 2014 is designed for managing campus networks, and acts as a core and aggregation switch in the heart of campus networks. While wired/wireless convergence, policy control and management come as standard features, the draw is the Ethernet Network Processor (ENP). The ENP competes against merchant silicon in competitive switch products, and Huawei claims to be able to deliver new programmable services in six months, compared to one to three years for competitive application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chips. This helps IT managers respond quicker to the needs of campus network users, especially in the age of BYOD, Big Data, and cloud computing.
While it is a commendable product in its own right, Huawei will need to position its value more strategically against IT managers that have technology inertia, especially in ‘Cisco-heavy’ networks:
Tying the value of the switch to existing and future enterprise campus needs. In the age of cloud computing, big data, mobility, and social networking, IT managers need to solve network challenges like insufficient service processing capability and slow service responses. Huawei says the new switch is able to provide agile services and respond flexibly to changes in service requirements, on demand. For example, the switch has access control built in for wired/wireless access management. This is a good start. Enterprises will need to understand how the switch plays a central role in a campus network, and Huawei should continue to reinforce its agile network architecture’s storyline.