Why Do Digital Business Transformations Fail?

Martin Gill

Digital transformation is undeniably complex and often misunderstood. To look at why things go wrong for some firms, lets take a quick look at three high-profile examples of transformation - two failures and one new initiative. These highlight some common mistakes that senior executives make:


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What We Talk About When We Talk About Microsoft Azure In China

Charlie Dai

Have you seen the movie Birdman — the one that just won the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars? It’s about a middle-aged man who was once a popular movie star but has been criticized throughout his career and how he finally achieved a breakthrough performance and found great success in a Broadway production of the play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

The story of Microsoft Azure is similar. Microsoft was hugely popular in the age of the PC but has sailed into troubled waters in the cloud era. But now — a year after Azure’s commercial launch in China — CIOs and EA professionals must understand how and where Azure might impact their existing MSFT technology investments to achieve business transformation. Azure is one of the leading forces driving cloud adoption in China. We attribute this to the progress that Microsoft has made by:

  • Expanding product offerings.Microsoft Azure now has local products in four key categories: compute, network, data, and application. Beyond basic components like virtual machines, websites, storage, and content delivery networks, Azure also has advanced features that are important for Chinese customers to address their unique challenges, including mobile services for the rapid development of mobile apps to accommodate the massive shift to mobile; a service bus for integration to eliminate information silos in the cloud; and HDInsight for big data capabilities to gain the customer insights necessary to compete with digital disruption from local Internet companies.
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Insurers, It’s Time To Emerge From Your Long Winter Sleep

Oliwia Berdak

Spring is finally here, and with that, a time for wild animals to emerge from their winter sleep. We humans don’t really hibernate, but we can find it difficult to get out of bed to face a rather frosty environment. This applies to companies, too.

I wrote last year that European insurers were waking up to the threat of digital disruption. I should have qualified this sentence: Some European insurers are waking up to it. And even fewer are getting out of bed and doing something about it. In 2015, the gulf between digital insurance innovators and other firms is expanding.

As we researched our new report about trends in European digital insurance, it became clear that no one is really disputing the value of direct insurance. European insurers have suffered seven lean years, as premiums in property, casualty, and life insurance largely stagnated. Direct sales have often been an area that continued to deliver growth. Because of this, we expect most European insurers to step up their investments and efforts in this area.

But here is the key point: Digital technologies are much more than just a channel. They can drive a business transformation to deliver new customer value and greater operational agility. Digital technologies can help insurers in particular build more persistent bridges to their customers’ lives to address the industry’s low customer engagement and creeping commoditization.

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The CIO And Digital Business

Nigel Fenwick

Digital footprintOver the past year, there has certainly been plenty of press coverage surrounding the emergence of the new “Chief Digital Officer” (CDO). And the research we published in 2013 on the CDO role does identify how some firms can potentially benefit from a CDO role working alongside the CMO and CIO. But I’m beginning to see more business-savvy CIOs follow Starbucks' ex-CIO Stephen Gillett’s example and step up to lead digital strategy and digital initiatives.

In fact, CIOs with experience in marketing and/or business-unit leadership — especially eBusiness — are well equipped to lead the future digital transformation journey in many companies. They understand business strategy; they can relate to the outside-in customer view; and they already have an enterprise perspective.

OK, so there are not many CIOs out there today with this kind of experience (my estimate is around 20%) — but this is exactly the kind of CIO that CEOs need to hire in the future.

So let’s not get too hung up on titles — what really matters is the ability to combine a deep understanding of the customer with an understanding of how digital technology will drive new sources of customer value.

That’s the focus of a new series of reports we’ve just published (see below). The reports help digital-savvy CIOs work with business leaders to create a clear vision for what it means to be a digital business and start down the path toward digital business transformation.

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Digital skills are the golden ticket in 2015

Martin Gill

It’s no secret that digital skills are in short supply. In fact, while some three quarters of executives tell us their firm now has some form of digital strategy (however rudimentary), a paltry 16% say they have the skills and capabilities necessary to deliver it. Even though the average eBusiness team’s staffing budget is growing year on year, finding the skills and capabilities to execute on a digital strategy is becoming harder and harder.

Our latest annual organizational and staffing backs this up. Our September 2014 Global eBusiness And Channel Strategy Professional Online Survey reveals:

  • eBusiness Teams Have An Average Of 95 Employees. The average eBusiness team has 95 team members. As would be expected, the larger the worldwide revenue, online revenue, or total employee count is, the larger the eBusiness team is.
  • Technology And Customer Experience Are Still The Hardest Roles To Fill. Technology, customer experience, and business analytics are the hardest jobs to hire for.  Additionally, technology and customer experience are the most outsourced, and technology is the most understaffed.  
  • The Digital Skills Gap Continues To Widen. Digital transformation brings an increased level of responsibility for eBusiness employees who are often leading the charge for company-wide transformation in addition to handling day-to-day operations. As all business becomes digital business, eBusiness teams will have an increasingly difficult time sourcing talent. 
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Four Lessons In Digital Business

Your 2015 Mobile Insurance Resolution? Align Your Mobile Insurance Strategic Plan With Changing Market Realities

Ellen Carney

Like most of us, you probably made a few resolutions you’re hoping to keep in 2015—eating better, exercising regularly, and  reading more.  Why not add one more resolution that will help you, your company and more importantly, your customers and agents?  Keep your mobile insurance strategy current with new technology; customer, employee, and partner expectations;  and pressures that are coming from competitors and more importantly, non-insurance competitors.   Because one thing’s for sure—the pace of change in mobile and insurance is crazy, as evidenced by all the new examples of mobile insurance innovation that we uncovered while writing our soon-to-be published update of our 2012 report,  “The Future Of Insurance Is Mobile”.

Need some help in updating your mobile strategic plan? Earlier this week, we published a major update to the Strategic Plan chapter in Forrester’s  Mobile Insurance Playbook. The report, “Get Mobile Insurance Strategy Right By Designing For Customers' Mobile Moments”, answers two essential questions: How do we build a strategic plan, and what should be in that strategy?  It also provides a framework for the plan that encompasses four processes:

  1. Identify mobile moments and context.
  2. Design the mobile engagement.
  3. Engineer processes, platforms, and people for mobile.
  4. Analyze results to monitor performance and optimize outcomes.
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Making Sense Of Digital Business: Four Can’t Miss Reports From 2014

Nigel Fenwick

In 2013 I wanted to help executives understand some of the fundamental changes that are happening in business because of the digital revolution. Big names capture the attention of the media – who in the USA could have failed to hear about the collapse of Blockbuster or Borders? Who in the UK could have failed to hear of the demise of HMV? When writing about these failures, most analysts highlight the disruptive companies that put them out of business; companies like Netflix, Amazon and Apple. But I wanted to know if there was something more fundamental going on that impacts the ability of an incumbent to defend against digital disruptors. So in 2013 I set out to research digital business successes and failures in an effort to uncover the secrets of digital mastery.

I captured insights from my research in reports published in 2014. Here’s my pick of the top four you should read to gain a deeper understanding of digital business (these reports are available to existing Forrester clients, non-clients can purchase them individually or download a summary from this page):

#1 The Future Of Business Is Digital  - The results of 18 months of research into what lies behind successful digital businesses were first published in March in this report. Originally published for CMOs and CEOs, the report was subsequently republished for CIOs as “Unleash your Digital Business”. This report highlights how digital business differs from traditional business; provides an overview of the customer’s dynamic ecosystems of value; and offers six strategies to help transform any business into a digital business.

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How The CMO And CIO Will Determine The Future Of Business In 2015

Cliff Condon
Forrester has just published 45 sets of 2015 predictions for every role we write about, from customer insights to application development to security and risk. In my role as Chief Research Officer, one thing is now clear to me: the two roles that matter most for 2015 are the CIO and the CMO (see our infographic below) -- their relationship and joint strategy to boost the business will determine the future of any corporation.
CMOs historically focused narrowly on marketing and promotion. That’s not enough in the age of the customer. The CMO of 2015 must own the most important driver of business success -- the customer experience -- and represent the customer’s perspective in corporate strategy. Andy Childs at Paychex is a great example -- he owns not only traditional marketing but strategic planning and M&A.
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Brands In China Start Considering Digital Analytics To Avoid Disruption

Gene Cao

Chinese businesses have been in a state of digital transformation for the past two decades. Since the early 1990s, many enterprises owned by national or local governments have been privatized, and many of those realized that they could make information technology their key competency. However, traditional retail and manufacturing brands in China are very fragmented. The country lacks a local version of Wal-Mart or Macy’s — large organizations that dominate specific sectors.

The rise of Internet companies and their new business models is digitally disrupting already struggling traditional brands. Internet companies in China are using their strong capital resources to take center stage in many markets, creating new service delivery models, bringing online experiences offline, and making transactions through online marketplaces instead of in physical stores.

Most of the traditional brands that I spoke with in the course of the research for my most recent report were unable to react properly, as they were using immature digital intelligence to understand online users. But traditional brands have now realized the value of doing business online and intend to apply advanced digital analytics to understand customer behavior across the multitude of digital channels — web, social, and mobile. For instance, Chinese banks are starting to employ digital analytics to understand how people use Internet financing.One of the four largest Chinese banksis accustomed to analyzing transactional data but has limited experience in online user behavior analysis; to offset this, the bank recently announced a plan to implement web analytics tools to understand how customers interact with its website, search engine, and social platforms.

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