Today marks the first 90 days for me as Principal Analyst within the eBusiness and Channel Strategy role at Forrester, and I could not be happier with my decision to join this great team and organization. Along with working with extremely smart industry analysts in both business and technology roles, I have the opportunity to help participate in the growth and evolution of eBusiness leaders throughout the world. The benefits of being a Forrester analyst typically don’t involve complimentary champagne and caviar, but they do involve realizing a tremendous amount of enjoyment from helping eBusiness leaders and their companies succeed. Here’s how I’m adding value:
Gaining and providing insight by perpetually studying the business landscape. The role of an Analyst at Forrester is akin to attending your favorite college class, minus the exams and tuition expense. I’m rewarded for being curious and for having a point of view. This aspect of my role is very satisfying as I'm able to apply this insight and help our clients solve real problems.
Helping businesses solve issues through Inquiry calls. These client engagements allow me to provide tactical guidance and help solve urgent challenges. I’m often pulling from my experience running eBusinesses as well as leveraging the knowledge I’ve learned from my peers. Our clients love our Inquiry process because they get answers fast. These meetings often lead to stronger working relationships, allowing me to become a trusted adviser with our clients.
Two months ago, SAP announced their intention to acquire Hybris and back then I blogged about the potential implications for Forrester’s clients. Today, SAP has formally completed the acquisition, which brings further clarity for the road ahead:
Hybris will operate as an independent business unit. Hybris will operate as an "SAP Company" rather than a "Product of SAP” and will retain its existing sales and development teams. This is a positive move for existing and future Hybris customers and ensures that the Hybris solution will continue to remain agnostic of other SAP products and technology. For now there will be no bundling of products, Hybris will not become part of the ERP or CRM suites or vice versa, however on the SAP side of the house there will be development in building lightweight ‘connector’ integrations for those customers that want to run Hybris alongside an existing SAP ERP or CRM infrastructure.
Customers will be able to buy from SAP or Hybris. In the near future, the on-premise edition of Hybris will become available on the SAP price list. For existing SAP customers looking at Hybris, this will give them the flexibility to contract directly with SAP and leverage their existing master service agreement. Given that Hybris will be available through both the SAP and Hybris sales channel, customers should expect price parity - it is unlikely that SAP reps will have much leeway to apply deep corporate discounting when selling Hybris.
With growth comes investment, so given that eBusinesses across the globe continue to experience double-digit compound annual online sales growth, it should come as little surprise that 66% of these same firms are planning to increase their investment in commerce technology in 2014. In my latest research report “Commerce Technology Investment And Platform Trends — 2013”, Forrester polled 49 eBusiness leaders to understand their investment and technology implementation plans for the next 12 months. Here’s what the top of the investment priority list looks like:
Omnichannel Execution. Omnichannel initiatives have become a major focus for every retailer and brand with a physical brick-and-mortar presence. eBusiness teams (and their counterparts in store operations) are rushing to implement the following programs among others: pickup-in/ship-to store, store inventory visibility, ship from store, and associate enablement.
eCommerce Replatforming. eCommerce platforms are the backbone of any digital channel, and replacing legacy home-grown systems or outdated (and often unsupported) platforms remains a top priority. With these platforms now supporting omnichannel programs such as “buy-online, pick-up in-store”, having a scalable and flexible platform that can support future growth is an imperative.
Our clients continue to realize sustained online revenue growth which means many eBusiness leaders have both the funds and backing to continue to invest heavily in commerce technology. Across the board, retailers, consumer brands, and industrial suppliers alike are significantly bolstering their capital investment programs to ensure they stay at the forefront of digital innovation while ensuring that their online, fulfillment, and back-office systems are ready to scale for anticipated growth over the next five years. Subsequently Forrester is hiring for a Principal/Senior Analyst to help us expand our coverage of this incredibly dynamic area.
It’s been more than two years since eBay’s $2.4B acquisition of GSI Commerce and behind the scenes a lot has been happening. Gone is GSI’s entrepreneurial founder Michael Rubin and in his place sits a new executive team that is now strategically aligned with eBay’s senior management and corporate strategy group. Historically, eBay has been a C2C company, but yesterday’s re-branding of GSI signifies that eBay is now deadly serious about providing a holistic suite of enterprise technology and services to leading retailers and brands beyond their core Marketplace and PayPal payment services.
On paper, the new eBay Enterprise is a "jack of all trades." For retailers and brands, eBay Enterprise represents a one-stop shop for enterprise commerce technology, commerce services, marketing services and outsourced fulfillment and customer care. Let’s take a closer look at these offerings and what they mean to eBusiness professionals:
Commerce technology. With eBay Enterprise, eBay is stepping up to compete with industry heavyweights in the enterprise commerce technology market. On offer are three core product lines:
Magento, the ever popular open source eCommerce platform purchased by eBay in 2010.
ECP (Enterprise Commerce Platform), GSI’s new platform (formally known as v11) which after almost four years of development is now finally operational and running live client sites.
A home-grown order management solution supporting omnichannel retailers managing order fulfillment and distribution across channels.
After repeated false starts of trying to build its way into the enterprise eCommerce space, SAP has finally decided to do a U-turn on its strategy and buy its way in. For years there has been intense speculation that SAP might acquire hybris, and behind the scenes there has certainly been much umming and ahing over the enterprise software giant’s commerce strategy. Hybris has been on a tear recently, and until today was widely expected to file for an IPO in 2014; however, the firm’s destiny has for some time been in the hands of its VC investors (Huntsman Gay Global Capital, Meritech Capital Partners and Greylock Israel). The decision to sell to SAP was likely influenced by these VC firms who, between them, have a controlling state in the firm. The value of the acquisition has not been disclosed, but given hybris’ strong earnings over the past four quarters (the bulk of which was directly from license revenues) and with the looming path of an IPO, we can speculate that SAP paid a substantial price tag — although the terms of the transaction are likely complicated.
So the big surprise is not why, but why now? There is no single answer to this question — but we can look at the factors that have increasingly piled on the pressure for SAP to change direction and pull the trigger on this acquisition:
With the increasing uptake of technology and online shopping, consumers are getting more comfortable using technology in the store, as well. Data from our North American Technographics® Retail Online Survey shows that consumers like to be informed while they are shopping — they want to be able to access product information instantaneously, and they want to be more independent shoppers (without the help of sales personnel).
The items at the top of the list are those that allow consumers to find product information quickly — with majority of respondents reporting that they found in-store price scanning and computer kiosks valuable (84% and 66%, respectively). The fact that self-checkouts were the second most valuable in-store technology exemplifies how consumers want to be more independent while shopping: It shows that they are willing to take on that responsibility themselves in order to get in and out of the stores quickly.
After almost 10 years at Forrester, I'm incredibly lucky to now lead the team dedicated to making eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals successful every day. And, more than ever, senior executives leading eBusiness efforts need help. Ubiquitous connectivity, new devices, and empowered consumers translate into very specific challenges. How do I drive commerce effectively anytime and anywhere my customers demand? How can I ensure a seamless and productive experience regardless of the channel employed? And, how do I align my people, processes, technology, metrics, and culture to support my customers?
If you or someone you know is interested in helping eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals with these and other challenges, please consider the following open positions for which we are hiring:
Bob Calderoni and Tim Minahan, Ariba’s CEO and CMO respectively, explained their vision for the future of supplier networks at the company’s Ariba Live customer event this week. The basic concepts, of a B2B community with value-adding services for sellers, such as prospect discovery and multi-customer e-invoicing, is one I’ve advocated to network providers for a long time, including in my report of internetwork interoperability (Enterprises Should Push Supplier Networks To Deliver Interoperability). The community concept is certainly fashionable at the moment, with lots of business-to-business (B2B) technology vendors trying to match the success of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and the like. The big question is whether Ariba can achieve the universal reach that the commerce cloud will need if it is to deliver value to its members.
Social media consumers don’t seem to be worried by monopolies. As my daughters tell me, people of their age have to be on Facebook to know what’s going on. There’s no point using other services like MySpace or Bebo (or, for older readers, Yahoo Groups, Geocities, Friends Reunited, and their equally overhyped predecessors), because everyone uses Facebook, and the community only works if everyone’s in it. It’s the same with B2B eCommerce — supplier-side members want to know about all the relevant parties (i.e., RFX’s), and party organizers (i.e., buyers) want to publish the invitation in one place yet still reach all their potential friends. In practice, this means the community must either be:
a) a broad stratus formation covering everything,