Customers’ perception of a company depends on their experiences with the organization at every point of contact. Companies can try to change how customers view a brand in a number of ways, such as a new mobile app or an improved complaint-handling process. However, to really improve customer perception, every interaction at every touchpoint must answer questions, suggest new services, and deepen the relationship. Many firms fail to tap into business opportunities that their front-line employees encounter because their processes and technology are antiquated.
Enterprise architecture (EA) programs can lead the effort to address these limitations and deliver benefits to customers. British Gas, one of the winners of the 2015 Forrester/InfoWorld EA Awards, is a firm that seized its opportunity. My recent report, Enterprise Architects Transform Customer Engagement, analyzes the key practices enterprise architects at British Gas made to serve as brand ambassadors and to improve customer satisfaction levels and highlights key lessons for EA leaders. These practices include:
APIs, cloud, and big data technologies power the new engagement platform. To build an engagement platform that delivers customer insights to front-line engineers, the British Gas EA team developed a platform architecture that uses APIs and cloud and big data technologies to support a new engagement platform and the applications on top of it. The API mechanism simplifies digital connections to business applications; cloud infrastructure provides robustness and agility for business operations; big data technology arms field engineers with customer insights; and policies and multitenancy ensure flexibility and security.
Huawei Technologies started out nearly 30 years ago as a small private company with 14 employees and 140,000 yuan in capital. By 2015, its total revenue exceeded $60 billion. Huawei is already a global company, but its globalization journey has been a difficult one since the very beginning. Despite its continuous business growth in other regions, Huawei has faced critical censorship in the US since Day One — and last week the US government put Huawei under the microscope yet again.
National security is important, but using “national security” as an excuse for allowing unfair competition will only harm customers. It’s time for the governments of both countries to trust each other more. I’ve recently published a report focusing on Huawei’s continuous progress toward becoming a key enabler of digital transformation in the telco and enterprise spaces. Some of the key takeaways:
Huawei has holistic strategies for digital transformation. Huawei’s broad vision of digital strategy — which focuses on cloud enablement and readiness, partner enablement, and open source co-creation — has helped the firm sustain strong business growth in the telco and enterprise markets. For example, its partnerships with T-Systems on the Open Telekom Cloud in Germany and with Telefónica on public cloud in the Americas have helped carriers in local markets give cloud users on-demand, all-online, self-service experiences.
Customers today are hyper-connected and their connectivity is rewriting the rules of business. Access to mobility, social networks, wearable devices, connected cars and hotels managed by robots are rapidly changing the behaviors of how customers engage and purchase. Think how you watch a film, shop or order a taxi.
The disruptive power in the hands of newly tech-savvy customers is forcing every business to evolve into a digital business or perish.
Infrastructure is at the center of the Digital Transformation
The digital transformation requires that organizations evolve their underlying technology infrastructure investments to fuel a business technology (BT) agenda, with technology designed to win, serve, and retain customers. Infrastructure – whether it is managed internally or hidden behind some cloud service – is a big part of the digital in digital business. I&O leaders can no longer simply focus on the same old approach to infrastructure. Internal business operations, or systems of record will remain important, but the emphasis must shift more to systems powering the newer digital customer experience
We are all aware that software is at the center of transitioning every successful business today. This software focus fueled a rapid expansion of cloud services and many argue that there is no longer a necessity to own hardware. This has turned the infrastructure world upside down. Hardware speeds and feeds no longer dominate infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals' criteria. In some use cases, qualities like the fastest packet-processing chip or largest disk capacity are critical, but they matter less to many of the systems of engagement in the BT agenda. As you design your BT services, be aware of which solution is right for optimizing the customer experience.
The Background – Linux as a Fast Follower and the Need for Hot Patching
No doubt about it, Linux has made impressive strides in the last 15 years, gaining many features previously associated with high-end proprietary Unix as it made the transition from small system plaything to core enterprise processing resource and the engine of the extended web as we know it. Along the way it gained reliable and highly scalable schedulers, a multiplicity of efficient and scalable file systems, advanced RAS features, its own embedded virtualization and efficient thread support.
As Linux grew, so did supporting hardware, particularly the capabilities of the ubiquitous x86 CPU upon which the vast majority of Linux runs today. But the debate has always been about how close Linux could get to "the real OS", the core proprietary Unix variants that for two decades defined the limits of non-mainframe scalability and reliability. But "the times they are a changing", and the new narrative may be "when will Unix catch up to Linux on critical RAS features like hot patching".
Hot patching, the ability to apply updates to the OS kernel while it is running, is a long sought-after but elusive feature of a production OS. Long sought after because both developers and operations teams recognize that bringing down an OS instance that is doing critical high-volume work is at best disruptive and worst a logistical nightmare, and elusive because it is incredibly difficult. There have been several failed attempts, and several implementations that "almost worked" but were so fraught with exceptions that they were not really useful in production.[i]
Forrester defines Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) as the technologies that "allow organizations to share and replicate content across multiple devices, distributing files to employees and/or customers or partners outside the enterprise".
Two Forrester Waves on the EFSS market were published recently, segmenting this crowded market into two categories: cloud solutions and hybrid solutions. Forrester clients can access them here:
This year’s Microsoft Analyst Summit took place at the St. Regis hotel in Singapore, a prestigious place that hosted more than 90 analysts from the entire region. The Forrester team was impressed by Microsoft’s strategies in cloud, digital transformation and partnerships, and in particular, the main takeaway for us throughout the 2-day event was Microsoft’s innovation capabilities and ambition, especially in the APAC region.
HoloLens puts the spotlight on Mixed Reality. Unlike Augmented Reality, which is lightweight but has limited views and functionality, or Virtual Reality, which is very powerful but comes with bulkiness and dependence on a PC, Mixed Reality blends holograms with the real world to marry agility and powerfulness. HoloLens brings this concept to life, it is light enough for users to move around safely, and it is very powerful because it is a self-contained computer that doesn’t require tethering to another PC. There is even an emulator that allows developers to develop holographic apps for HoleLens without a device. HoloLens could drastically change the way people work, live or even think, we are all very eager to see if the first wave of HoleLens products will successfully establish an ecosystem that can sustain mass market deployments and future growth.
As always each year, Huawei hosted its analyst event in April, with hordes of analysts descending on Shenzhen. Here are a few observations from the event:
In 2015, Huawei’s revenues grew by 37% to €61 billion and its EBIT grew by 34% to €7 billion, keeping the operating margin stable at just under 12%. Huawei’s strategy paid off across all of its divisions in 2015. Huawei’s Carrier Business pushed deeper into carrier transformation support and grew by 21% in 2015. Its Consumer Business operations entered the mainstream: The division grew by 73% in 2015, with Huawei gaining the No. 3 spot in the global smartphone league table. Huawei’s Enterprise Business is gaining traction and grew by 44% in 2015.
There are four distinctive aspects that go some way to explaining why Huawei keeps on outgrowing its peer group. First, Huawei’s heart beats in its R&D division, and most of Huawei’s top managers have come through the ranks of the R&D team. Second, Huawei benefits from strong internal collaboration and flexibility. Compared with other vendors, Huawei seems a lot less process-driven. Instead, Huawei seems to tolerate, even encourage, self-organization among employees — despite strict management hierarchies. Third, Huawei has a flexible and unconventional approach to customer experience. Huawei completes projects that overrun without overanalyzing whose fault it is. Fourth, Huawei is not listed and therefore not answerable to external shareholders. This gives it the freedom to experiment and take a long-term view.
Major conferences are often the occasion for key vendor announcements, and SAP didn’t disappoint. At the 2016 SAP Insider event on BI/Hana in Las Vegas, SAP announced the acquisition of independent mobile BI specialist Roambi’s solution portfolio and key assets. With this acquisition, SAP underlines its commitment not only to mobile and cloud but also to getting the right data into the hands of the right people at the right time. With this acquisition, SAP underlines its commitment not only to mobile and cloud but also to getting the right data into the hands of the right people at the right time. The Roambi acquisition adds the following to SAP’s mobile BI portfolio:
An attractive set of prebuilt visualizations for fast creation of mobile dashboards.
A cloud-based back end that can connect to a variety of data and BI sources.
The capability to create data-rich, interactive, eBook-like publications.
There are both tactical and strategic aspects to SAP’s acquisition of Roambi, which:
Adds attractive capabilities to SAP’s mobile BI portfolio, even for customers who may already be using BusinessObjects Mobile.
Provides an instant cloud option for mobile BI to customers running on-premises BI environments, but who can’t, or don’t want to, support a mobile BI solution.
Can be leveraged as an important building block for the mobile capabilities of SAP Cloud for Analytics.
Brings more than software to the SAP stable. In one fell swoop, SAP gains a team of professionals who’ve been living and breathing mobile BI for a long time.
A CMO and a CIO walk into a hotel bar (Let’s call them Tom and Dick). After ordering a drink, Tom says, “Dick, I really need to start working with a DMP this year, and I want your help selecting one.” Dick says, “A DMP? My enterprise architecture team is building a near real-time, self-service data management platform. We’ll be done by the end of the year. You’re going to love it in 2017!” With an absent look on his face, Tom says “A DMP is a piece of AdTech that we can use to quickly target tailored audiences with our ad campaigns. It’s not a back-office data warehouse”. Dick laughs and says, “Ad campaigns? Didn’t you just buy a campaign management tool from one of those so-called marketing cloud vendors? You know, our CRM system has a campaign module, not to mention an enormous customer database.” Tom’s response: “You’re not getting it. Cross-Channel Campaign Management is a MarTech tool, not CRM. And a DMP is not a customer database.” Exasperated, Dick shouts, “What the hell is the difference between MarTech and AdTech anyway!”
For many years, infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals have been dedicated to delivering services at lower costs and ever greater efficiency, but the business technology (BT) agenda requires innovation that delivers top-line growth.
The evolution and success of digital business models is leading I&O organizations to disrupt their traditional infrastructure models to pursue cloud strategies and new infrastructure architectures and mindsets that closely resemble cloud models.
Such a cloud-first strategy supports the business agenda for agility, rapid innovation, and delivery of solutions. This drives customer acquisition and retention and extends the focus beyond ad hoc projects to their complete technology stack. The transition to cloud-first mandates a transition for infrastructure delivery, management, and maintenance to support its delivery and consumption as a reusable software component. Such infrastructure can be virtual or physical and consumed as required, without lengthy build and deployment cycles.
Growing cloud maturity, the move of systems of record to the cloud (see my blog “Driving Systems of Records to the Cloud, your focus for 2016!)container growth, extensive automation, and availability of "infrastructure as code" change the roles within I&O, as far less traditional administration is needed. I&O must transition from investing in traditional administration to the design, selection, and management of the tooling it needs for composable infrastructure.