Businesses that thrive and grow in the age of the customer are obsessed with customer delight: the most successful companies are reinventing themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. This business reality creates new imperatives for everyone inside an organization, and infrastructure & operations (I&O) professionals are not immune. So the question becomes, how does I&O participate in the transformation of the enterprise toward customer obsession?
The answer to this question is important, because technology's role in business is rapidly changing -- from a world in which Information Technology (IT) enabled a company to function more efficiently, to a world of Business Technology (BT), which we define as technology, systems, and processes to win, serve, and retain customers. Yet customer-facing technologies aren't always (or even often) the traditional role of I&O. So how can I&O participate?
How about starting with a simple dictum? Spend more time on technologies that will inspire and delight customers, either directly or indirectly. To start this journey, I'd like you to watch this short video of how a digital billboard has gone viral:
Apple's Siri for iPhone and iPad, Google Now for Android, Samsung S-Voice for its Android phones and tablets, and Microsoft's Xbox/Bing voice command have all played a role in popularizing the use of voice control. Forrester’s workforce survey reveals that 37% of information workers who have smartphones say they use voice command at least occasionally. So voice control is already a mass-market behavior.
But users haven’t truly embraced voice control just yet: Only 3% of information workers say they "use it all the time," while only 1% claim it's their "preferred way to use a phone." When they do use voice control, it’s for short-task computing activities like sending a text, conducting a quick search, or activating maps and navigation. As of today, voice control remains a nice-to-have, an adjunct to “real” computing interfaces.
But in a new Forrester report published today, we argue that voice control itself isn’t the main story. Rather, it’s about the new breed of data-rich intelligence – which we call intelligent agents – that will bring voice control to the masses.
Wearable computing devices (like Google Glass, Jawbone Up, Nike+ FuelBand, iHealth, and Samsung Galaxy Gear, among others) have made a big splash in the consumer market. My colleague Sarah Rotman Epps’ analysis shows that Google Glass could be the next big App Platform. Fitness wearables might be a bit overhyped, but it’s nevertheless becoming common to see people sporting Nike+ FuelBand devices everywhere you go. No less a tech industry luminary than Mary Meeker recently declared wearables the next wave of computing (see slide 49).
Infrastructure professionals are now all too familiar with the dynamics of bring-your-own (BYO) technology and devices: Their workers walk into the office with consumer technology all the time. This post is one in a continuing series on how consumer retail stores act as de facto extensions of the IT department in today's BYO world.
The rumors have abounded for more than six months: unconfirmed whispers that Google will open up its own major chain of consumer retail stores. The company has dipped its toes into the retail waters with Chromebook-focused kiosks in the U.S. and the U.K. over the past few years, with installations inside larger retailers like Best Buy, Dixons, and Currys.
A Google Kiosk in the U.K.: Not Yet Reaching Revolutionary Heights
Yet while kiosks – particularly those staffed by Google employees – offer some value in promoting Google’s products and services, the company has a much greater opportunity for late 2013 into 2014. Kiosks aren't going to foment a retail revolution. To quote the popular Star Wars geek meme, "these aren't the droids you're looking for."
No, it's time for Google to think big – to go gangbusters. To do something nobody has done as well previously. Why is this imperative?
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced today that he will be retiring within 12 months. My Forrester colleague Ted Schadler laid out some of the strategic challenges his successor will face in coming years. Here, I add to Ted's analysis.
Microsoft remains one of the great global technology companies, a solid member of theFortune 50. Although it no longer enjoys the reputation for innovation it did in the 1990s, it’s a critical player in every aspect of end user computing (including devices, software, browsers, development platforms, and services) and of other technology product and service markets.
As CEO, Steve Ballmer solidified Microsoft’s stronghold in enterprise solutions. Microsoft built and maintained — or built and made itself into a key challenger — in several enterprise markets. Microsoft Office remains a titanic success, even as it faces lower-cost competition from Google and others. Windows Azure has been cultivated into a full-fledged contender in the cloud services market. Exchange remains entrenched in enterprises, as do many of Microsoft’s Server and Tools offerings. Microsoft remains the company to beat in some of these markets, and has become a formidable challenger (e.g. as Azure takes on Amazon Web Services) in others.
I recently spent an hour with Hewlett-Packard executive Stephen DeWitt, a longtime leader at the company who is currently leading up HP’s enterprise marketing efforts. I wanted to learn more about the value proposition of products and services HP is selling to infrastructure & operations professionals and to understand HP’s vision of the future for enterprise customers.
“It’s easy to think of HP as a ‘PC and printing’ company – and we’re obviously a huge player in those traditional product areas – but we have a broader vision for enterprises and for workers…all built around the new style of IT,” Stephen told me. “Our new enterprise campaign, for example, is going to introduce people to the degree of breakthrough innovation we are providing customers today, and how co-innovating with HP can empower your business in the dramatically changing world ahead.”
Q: What’s HP’s overall vision for enterprise solutions? How do you make that vision tangible and concrete for your customers?
HP is a portfolio company, from core to periphery, from cloud to the device. We work very closely with our customers to provide end to end solutions rather than just ad hoc or best of breed products, and we focus on solving for business outcomes and co-innovating with our customers.
When people think of futuristic user interfaces (Forrester analysts included), they often invoke the 2002 Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. The imagery in the movie offers a compelling vision of how next-generation technologies – gestural control, voice command, 3D visuals, multi-screen interactions – can empower computing experiences.
Where did Minority Report get this vision? From a man named John Underkoffler, Chief Scientist at a company called Oblong. He designed the computer interfaces in the film.
I had the pleasure of visiting Oblong’s Boston office recently, where I saw demonstrations of several technologies. Most interesting to me was the company’s Mezzanine offering, an “infopresence” conference room that the company sells to enterprises today.
The solution involves equipping a conference room (or multiples – it works as a long distance telepresence location) with a number of monitors (5 in the room I visited), teleconferencing equipment (industry standard products work well), and ceiling-mounted sensors (for interpreting gestural controls), and a whiteboard (a physical one, but visible to a camera). Workers control the room with a wand, which works via both gestural controls and a button.
Putting all of these things together, workers can collaborate both within the room itself and with remote teams (or remote individual team members). The resulting experience, in my view, offers two sets of benefits:
One noteworthy detail emerged from Microsoft’s quarterly earnings call yesterday: A $900 million write-down for “inventory adjustments” related to the underperformance of Windows RT. This result didn’t come as a surprise because:
Microsoft’s Windows RT strategy has long been puzzling. Launching the Surface RT device before the Windows 8-based Surface Pro offering never made sense – an insufficient number of Modern UI apps made the Surface RT hard to position and sell from the beginning. Samsung recognized the shortcomings of RT early on, exitingthe market a mere three months after RT’s release.
Microsoft still hasn’t convinced developers that Windows RT should be a top priority. Our survey of 2,038 global software developers revealed that developer support for Windows RT trails Windows 7, Windows 8, Apple iOS, Google Android, and even Apple OS X. For example, while 21% of global developers support or plan to support Windows RT, 64% say the same for “Windows 7 and earlier versions.”
Today, Samsung places much greater strategic emphasis on its enterprise business, which is now a “top three priority” globally for the company. Symbolizing this new commitment to enterprise customers, on June 11th Samsung openeda new Executive Briefing Center (EBC) in its Ridgefield Park, NJ office. The EBC offers enterprise customers and Samsung’s many partners an opportunity to experience Samsung’s vertically-optimized enterprise offerings in context.
I attended the opening, which enjoyed executive-level support from the President and CEO of Samsung Electronics North America Yangkyu (Y.K) Kim, President of Samsung Electronics America Tim Baxter, and Senior Vice President, Samsung Enterprise Business Tod Pike. I also spent an hour learning more about the Samsung value proposition for enterprise customers from Tod, including the excerpted Q&A below.
Samsung’s Enterprise Business Division focuses on a vertical strategy that includes Education, Healthcare, Retail, Financial Services, and Hospitality... and which isn’t just about devices, though their product offerings in hospitality TVs, notebook and tablet PCs, virtualization, wireless printers, and digital signage play a prominent role. Samsung also brings together enterprise-savvy partners like Crestron and Nuance Communications – along with numerous systems integrators and other channel partners – to deliver software, content, and services along with those devices.
I recently spoke with Tim Tuttle, the CEO of Expect Labs, a company that operates at the vanguard of two computing categories: Voice recognition (a field populated by established vendors like Nuance Communications, Apple, and Google) and what we can call the Intelligent Assistant space (which is probably most popularly demonstrated by IBM’s “Jeopardy”-winning Watson). In their own words, Expect Labs leverages “language understanding, speech analysis, and statistical search” technologies to create digital assistant solutions.
Expect Labs built the application MindMeld to make the conversations people have with one another "easier and more productive” by integrating voice recognition with an intelligent assistant on an intuitive tablet application. They have coined the term “Anticipatory Computing Engine” to describe their solution, which offers users a new kind of collaboration environment. (Expect Labs aims to provide an entire platform for this type of computing).