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.
The cloud market in China is changing fast. The official launch of the commercial operations of Microsoft Azure (Azure) earlier this year started a new chapter (as detailed in my March blog post), while last weekend’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) summit was held in China for the first time and announced the third episode of this war. AWS is speeding up building its ecosystem and starting to challenge both Microsoft’s early-mover advantage and the market share of other global and local players.
To help CIOs and enterprise architects set up their hybrid cloud strategy in the region, we’ve put together a brief comparison of the Azure and AWS offerings and ecosystems in China:
Operations.Microsoft made Azure available for preview in China on June 6, 2013 and announced its commercial launch on March 25, 2014, stating that it would be operated by 21ViaNet and have a service-level agreement (SLA) of 99.95%. It has two dedicated data centers in Beijing and Shanghai. AWS announced the availability of its “Beijing region” in China on December 18, 2013, but it still hasn’t announced its official commercial launch, other than a partnership with Cloud Valley. Currently, AWS has only one data center in Ningxia province.
Offerings.Azure offerings cover services for compute (VM, websites, cloud services, etc.); data (storage, SQL database, HDInsight, backup, etc.); applications (service bus, Active Directory, CDN, media services, notification services, etc.); and networking (virtual network, Traffic Manager, etc.). Azure also provides other solutions, such as infrastructure services, data management, and application development and deployment.
In a month or so I’ll be launching a survey to research issues around information strategy, information architecture and information management in general. I thought it might be useful to do a bit of crowdsourcing to get the best ideas for what questions to ask and make sure I’m covering your top-of-mind issues. We ask you all fairly often to provide answers to survey questions – maybe you’d like to provide input into the questions this time out?
Surveys are interesting – one is tempted to ask about everything imaginable to get good research data. But long onerous surveys produce very low percentages of completes vs. starts -- it’s classic case of less is more. Twenty completes for a very comprehensive survey is nowhere near as valuable as a couple hundred completes of a more limited survey. For example, I really wanted to provide an exhaustive list of tasks related to information management or information architecture practices and then provide an equally exhaustive list of organizational roles to get data on who does what in the typical organization and what are the patterns regarding roles and grouping of responsibilities. But the resulting question would have been torture for a respondent to go through, so I edited it down to the 15-ish responsibilities and roles you’ll see below, and I’ll probably have to reduce the number of roles further to make the question viable.
So, below are the questions I’m thinking of asking. Please use the comment area to suggest questions. I can’t promise to use them all but I can promise to consider them all and publish some of the more interesting results in this blog when they come in.
The use of road maps to illustrate technology plans is fairly widespread. Whether it's a vendor explaining its product plans or a technology architect showing the evolution of a particular area of the infrastructure, road maps are great for communicating what happens when. And when plans as illustrated by the road map get sign-off, they can become a useful tool in change management as well. Someone wants your key resources for a special project? Fine, but all the dates on that road map they just approved just shifted six months to the right. Road maps tell the story of what to expect an organization to accomplish for the foreseeable future, and that's what makes them powerful.
That's why road maps that link traditionally difficult-to-explain areas of technology, such as those related to information management, to specific and highly desirable business outcomes can be a major win for architects looking to communicate what they're doing and why. There's always been a Catch-22 about explaining the value of complex technologies to audiences with no appetite for technical complexity -- but with needed sign-off authority for key resources (like funding). If the EA team has credibility (OK, that can be a big "if"), just showing the interrelationships between business outcomes, business capabilities, IT projects, and required activities in the various EA domains can satisfy the need for "explaining" that complex technology. Or for explaining the need for that not-well-understood architecture process that requires business involvement, such as information architecture development or governance.
Only a few weeks to go before Forrester’s US EA Forum 2011 in San Francisco in February! I’ll be presenting a number of sessions, including the opening kickoff, where I’ll paint a picture of where I see EA going in the next decade. As Alex Cullen mentioned, I’ll examine three distinct scenarios where EA rises in importance, EA crashes and burns, or EA becomes marginalized.
But the most fun I’ve had preparing for this year’s event is putting together a new track: “Key Technology Trends That Will Change Your Business.” In the past, we’ve focused this conference on the practice of EA and used our big IT Forum conference in the spring to talk about technology strategies, but this year I’ve had the opportunity to put together five sessions that drill down into the technology trends that we think will have significant impact in your environment, with a particular focus on impacting business outcomes. Herewith is a quick summary of the sessions in this track:
At Forrester’s recent Business Process And Application Delivery Forum, there was a very interactive session on “Using The Next-Generation PMO To Promote Innovation,” led by Margo Visitacion. The premise of the session was that leading-edge PMOs (project management offices) are evolving to a more strategic role, focused on portfolio management of business investment rather than just IT projects or programs.
Many clients have suggested their PMO mission is already elevated to this level. They now focus their efforts on everything from guiding business leaders through building a business case for the investments they want to make, to guiding decision-makers through selection from the portfolio of investment proposals, to tracking benefits realization and ROI after the fact. PMOs with this kind of business-focused, strategic mission have greater business impact and are often close partners with executives leading their firm.
Despite the lack of a sustained full-on recovery in the global economy, one gets the feeling that we're at the beginning of a period of tech expansion and growth, doesn't one? For many, 2011 budgeting planning is happening now, so it remains to be seen what yourexpansion and growth will be in the near term, but there's certainly no shortage of interesting new developments from technology vendors to whet your appetite.
While it's fun to look at emerging tech and imagine what impact it might have several years from now, it's a bit more pragmatic to focus on the technology trends that will be hitting the mainstream and making significant waves in the corporate world and in the public sector in the next few years.
In Q4 of last year Forrester published The Top 15 Technology Trends EA Should Watch. The author, analyst Alex Cullen, spoke with a few dozen analysts for input and then applied strict criteria for inclusion of a particular tech trend in the doc: 1) significant business or IT impact in the next 3 years; 2) newness, with implications not only for new business capabilities but also for the organization's understanding of the technology and how to manage it; and 3) complexity, especially regarding cross-functional impact to the organization.
Ask people what makes May a noteworthy month, and many folks in the northern hemisphere will wax rhapsodic about its being the peak of springtime. Others might mention Mothers' day. Ask Forrester's IT analysts and they're pretty sure to immediately blurt out "IT Forum!" IT Forum -- the conference formerly known as GigaWorld -- is our biggest IT conference as it brings together all our IT analysts and about a zillion of our customers in all the IT-based roles for whom we do research. Each major IT role gets a separate track of research -- that's 10 tracks this year. It's essentially a week of non-stop analyst-attendee interaction in various forms. It's intense for both analysts and attendees and easily the most stimulating week on my calendar. At least, on my business calendar (wouldn't want you to think I don't have a life!).
This is not really a new blog post. It's a relatively recent post that didn't manage to make it over from my independent blog. I wanted to be sure it made it to my Forrester blog because I will have lots of publications and posts on information architecture coming up and this was a post on my first piece in this series. So here's the original post:
In January, the lead-off piece that introduces my research thread on information architecture hit our web site. It’s called Topic Overview: Information Architecture. Information architecture (IA) is a huge topic and a hugely important one, but IA is really the worst-performing domain of enterprise architecture. Sure, even fewer EA teams have a mature — or even active — business architecture practice, but somehow I’m inclined to give that domain a break. Many, if not most, organizations have just started with business architecture, and I have a feeling business architecture efforts will hit practical paydirt fairly quickly. I’m expecting to soon hear more and more stories of architects relating business strategy, goals, capabilities, and processes to application and technology strategies, tightly focusing their planning and implementation on areas of critical business value, and ultimately finding their EA programs being recognized for having new relevance, all as a result of smart initial forays into business architecture in some form.